My first book obsessions that I can remember were the Babysitters Club books. I was allowed to order the “new” one with each Scholastic Book club order form sent home from school. My Dad built me a little bookshelf that had four sides and was the exact size of those books. I adored them.
We spent a lot of time in the library growing up and I remember eventually discovering Louis Duncan and Christopher Pike…those were probably the first authors I “followed” which just meant “reading all of their books at the library shelf.” I didn’t own a lot of books, other than the BSC ones. I don’t ever remember interacting with librarians outside the checkout process so I never considered there might be other books by those authors in other libraries. I wish I had because I remember being really sad when I finished them all.
In middle school I started taking books off my Mom’s shelf on the weekends we spent with her. My Dad had tons of books, but 98% of them were non-fictions. (He was very different from me in that he thought fiction reading was kinda pointless and was constantly irritated at my love of popular fiction.) My Mom, on the other hand, loved popular fiction and I read every Mary Higgins Clark, Dean Koontz, Danielle Steele, and VC Andrews book she had. I also started the Clan of the Cave Bear books which I remember being really into.
I didn’t read much in high school or college, although I really liked pretending I did whenever I had a crush on someone. I pretended to have read Camus, Kerouac, and Douglas Adams…which was a really hard thing to fake the days before the internet and googling information about the books you were pretending to have read.
After I had E and I was awake throughout the night a lot and struggling as a 19-year old new Mom, I rediscovered my love of reading. I didn’t join the library (I have no idea why) but I did find a used book store I loved and started reading Koontz and Auel again. For the next 15 years I would pop in and out of reading, but mostly popular fiction with a heavy focus on books written by Straight CisHet White Dudes like Patterson, Grisham, Dan Brown, James Rollins, and Nicholas Sparks. I did read some Patricia Cornwell in the mix, but mostly dudes.
In 1999 I picked up the Harry Potter books on a fluke. I had space on a credit card and needed some serotonin (that connection explained some massive debt I ended up with in my early 20s) so I went to BooksAMillion and saw the Harry Potter display with the first three books. I literally knew nothing about them other than I liked the display. I bought all 3 books and read them in one weekend. I obviously stayed up to date with those and read each consecutive one as they came out. I’ve read them all at least 5 times each and listened to the audiobooks even more. But I haven’t re-read them since JKR started loudly invalidating the Trans identity and experience because I just can’t really pick them up without being angry at her.
Sometime in E’s tween/teen years he read John Green’s Looking for Alaska and recommended it to me. I hadn’t read books with him other than Harry Potter and I wasn’t sure I would like this one but eventually I read it and became hooked. I would say that is what started my love of YA Fiction. I also jumped into the Green Brother’s Universe (aka Nerdfighteria) with two feet and have been there ever since.
It was probably around 2010 or 2011 when I started to consider that maybe I could use my love of books to start to expand my worldview a bit. Eventually this turned into deliberate efforts to diversify my reading, but it started very gradually and was influenced partly by joining a book club in 2010. It was a fluke how I ended up in the group – I was literally in the right place at the right time. But they are a progressive group of ladies and we are still gathering to this day and I credit them with a lot of my good discoveries.
Nowadays I really really try to avoid books written by Straight CisHet White Dudes.
I think my love of reading became something I really focused on nurturing in 2018 when I first discovered the Goodreads Reading Challenge. (Thanks to my friend Amy for bringing that to my attention.) Between that and my 6 months spending a lot of time in Knoxville driving my Mom after the seizure that caused her to lose her license (with nothing to do when she was at work) that was the year my reading really took off and became a thing that I was always focused on. I read 100 books that year.
Weirdly…my eating disorder recovery played a part because in recovery I had to stop the obsessively tracking of food and fitness. That was definitely a toxic trait that was not helping me at all. BUT…I love tracking things and so I shifted that attention to my books. I would find lists I wanted to read through our authors whose collection I wanted to complete. Last year I actually started a project to keep all of the important info from Goodreads and put it in its own notebook. It’s my Book Bullet Journal. And now I keep all of my current lists/logs etc in there and it’s my FAVORITE THING IN THE WORLD. It scratches that I need to track something without being related to food/fitness.
Books have also become a way to socialize. Before the pandemic I set up two book gatherings at a local pub where everyone just came ready to talk about one book they liked and it was great because it just ended up being an hour of people talking about books! I also just recently hosted a white elephant style book exchange where everyone brought one book. I don’t like hosting my own “book clubs” because I’m already part of one and I don’t like the pressure associated with them, BUT, I’ll join just about any book club I’m invited to as long as people actually talk about books. If there’s any jokes made like, “We call it a book club but really we just chat/drink,” then I don’t go because I like to talk about books and I don’t want to seem like a nerd.
And of course…last year I started my dream job: Working at a library. I have no official library training (although anytime anyone asks me what I would study if I could go back to college I say: Library Science) but it was a very entry level position at a very small library so it has been perfect. It’s the first job I’ve ever had where I actually was a little sad to go on vacation. I didn’t want to miss a chance to see any of our regulars!
I could see me being the woman who works until she dies now. There’s no part of me who longs for retirement. I want to work in a library forever. It’s made choosing what books to read a challenge because I see so many good ones, but I’ll take that as a “con” for my dream job.
In other words, me + books lived happily ever after.