This week’s blog hop from The Blue Book case is: How did you find your way to reading literary fiction and nonfiction?
This is an interesting question, and one I think about a lot, as I would like my stepdaughter to become someone who gets as much joy from reading as I do. My mother always read to us when we were little, and there were always books around the house. I believe a lot of them came from various clubs she would sign up for and then they’d send you a book every month or so. Maybe it was one of these clubs that sent these teeny little abridged versions of the classics, with some illustrations. Of course, my mother still has them in the attic, and I read them all. My father would bring novels home he had bought in the airport (he did a lot of traveling) and hand them to me.
I don’t know if any of this explains the sense I developed early on that there were a set of books out there that you were supposed to read and that I wanted to read them. When I think back, it seems like a kind of snobbery, but there it is. When I was young, I read a lot of science fiction mixed in with the classics. I remember loving Gone With the Wind and Catcher in the Rye, which I distinctly remember my Dad suggested I read. But I guess what led me specifically to literary fiction and nonfiction were the English classes I took in high school and then college. I very much liked the idea that there were something like messages to decode in literary fiction, or that they were heavier with the weight of their meaning and all the things that people had written about them than other books might have been. It’s odd to admit to this level of pleasure in conformity, but it was enjoyable to be reading the things that someone said I was supposed to read in order to become a fully cultured and literate person. Of course, then in college, it was fun to pick apart any sense that there are certain books you’re “supposed” to read.
If I wasn’t hooked already, being an English major in college and writing essays about texts is what forever hooked me on literary fiction and nonfiction. I’ve been out of college for 15 years now and I still miss sitting down to write an essay about a book. I loved the idea of being able to say something clever and original about something I had read, and that’s probably part of what drove me to begin blogging.
I think today, I like reading literary fiction because of the sense of community it brings. I like knowing that there are other people out there, some of them close and some of them far away, reading the same thing. It’s an ephemeral community, in that you don’t actually know everyone whose in it, but imagined communities are still quite enjoyable.