Reading Out the Library

Monday, March 8, 2010

Before you can be a great writer, you have to be a great reader.

I spent most of my growing up years in a small town in the Eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan (or the U-P, as we called it). DeTour's school library was equally small, and I quickly read every fiction book in it. Over and over and over.

Every other Saturday we drove to Sault St. Marie, Michigan (the Soo) and went to the library there. That library let you check out only six books at a time, and I had them all read within the first few days. And, as with the school library, I soon read out the Soo library. Again and again and again.

Since books cost money, I didn't own many. My personal library consisted mainly of juvenile paperbacks purchased at school through the Scholastic Book Club. I did, however, have subscriptions to American Girl, the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and a weekly British magazine called Judy.

I made good use of whatever opportunities I had to read something new. In visits to my cousin, I read through her collection of Cherry Ames books (think Nancy Drew as a student nurse). When visiting my grandparents, I devoured the books my mother read during her younger years.

Then I reached junior high and discovered Mama's books from her high school and college years. The back of our house had an enclosed porch that my parents used for storage. But shelves covered one wall, and Grace Livingston Hill, George Elliot, Charles Dickens, and William Shakespeare lived there. For me, those books were diamonds and rubies and sapphires that I mined while curled up in one corner of the room on an old couch. I also read a few of my father's books, but his taste ran to non-fiction and theology, and mine didn't.

I've always been a murder mystery fan, and I must own every Agatha Christie book ever published. Then when I became an adult I rediscovered middle-school novels. For a while, I claimed that I was reading them for my children's sake, but I still enjoy them as an empty nester. Classics by the likes of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott, Lucy Maude Montgomery, and C.S. Lewis, and more recent books by authors such as Rick Riordan and Richard Peck and, of course, J.K. Rowling.

So many books and so little time . . .

* * *

Who are your favorite authors?


Project Journal said...

Hi Kathryn!
I saw your comment on Seekerville and decided to check your blog out : )

Favorite authors!? Too many to count.....Lol! I really love Jodi Picoult (she lives in my town!), Nicholas Sparks (gotta love romance), Cleo Coyle, and MANY of the Love Inspired authors (such as Cheryl Wyatt, Mae Nunn, Sandra Robbins). That's just a couple out of (what seems like) a million! Lol....

In your comment on Seekerville, you mentioned that you have a Kindle. I was just wondering what you had to say about the Kindle? I am a high school senior and really want one for my birthday (next Monday!). My dad might be getting one as a birthday/graduation gift combined (because of the price). Would you recommend this product? I think it looks really cool! You can let me know here or on my blog ( or email me if you want (if you want to do this, so it's in more detail or whatever, let me know and I'll give you my email). I'm on a lot, so I'm around : )
Thanks and nice post!!

Kathryn Page Camp said...

Hannah, I LOVE my Kindle. My biggest problem is that I keep putting new stuff on it and then can't decide what to read next. Books by contemporary authors often cost about half of the hard cover price (although sometimes more than the paperback), and there are a lot of books--especially the classics--that you can download for free. The free ones aren't always as easy to navigate around, but you get used to it (and, after all, they are FREE). It's an easy way to carry lots of books in a small space, so that when you finish one you can start another. And in the long run, it's more expensive than the library but cheaper than the bookstore.

Project Journal said...

You brought up a lot of good points. I think I really would like it if I had it. I know I'd use it, but I think I would still want to balance it out with regular books, since I have so many left on my shelves to read, you know? More like from here on out I'd buy primarily for the Kindle, instead of in regular books. Exceptions can be made however : )

Do you have to use a credit card to buy the books or can you use gift cards too? My mom doesn't like me buying up a bunch of books on her cc *grin*

Kathryn Page Camp said...

Amazon's gift cards work for Kindle e-books. And you won't give up paper books altogether, even if you want to. For one thing, not all of the books you want to read will be available on Kindle (although a lot are). Also, like you, I have a lot of books on my shelves waiting for me to find time to get to them. So I kind of go back and forth between the two media.

Project Journal said...

Thanks for all the great info!

I'm soooo glad to hear that gift cards work.

Yes, I know I'd still read paperbacks.

Thanks again!

Janine Harrison said...

Dear Kathryn,

Favorite authors? As Hannah, above, stated, "too many to name." Still, if I had to write the first ones that come to me, they would be:

Adrienne Rich, Barbara Kingsolver, Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Junot Diaz, Mary Karr, Sherman Alexie, Gloria Naylor, Patricia Smith, Nikky Finney, and Charlotte Bronte. J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien should be included too.

As a reader, I yearn for a combination of mental stimulation and emotional intensity, vivid imagery, depth and surprise, and fresh and flowing use of language. If structure serves content in an unusual way, all the better.

Even though I have much reading with my daughter, Jianna, ahead of me and am looking forward to Laura Ingalls Wilder, Caddie Woodlawn, The Secret Garden, S.E. Hinton, etc., I can look into the future with near certainty and state that like you, I will covet those childhood reads even as an empty nester.

"A room without books is like a body without a soul." - Cicero It's hard to find a room without a book in my house, and for that, I'm truly thankful.


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