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My Love Affair with the Novel

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One of my favorite memories is of my Dad reading The Lord of the Rings to me when I was about five. Of course the images I formed in my imagination didn’t match up once I read it on my own seven years later. But sitting quietly, listening to the soothing rhythm of my Dad’s voice as he read and peeking over his hands at the page, it was the start of one of the most positive things in my life.  

Of course like all love affairs, it's had its ups and downs. In school they diagnosed me with a reading disability and I spent years sitting through classes meant to help me improve my reading level; most of the time I was bored and unhappy.

The schools also had a program called Accelerated Reader which listed certain books for points; you took a test once you finished reading and were awarded points according to your test score. As part of the reading program in elementary and junior high school you had to have a minimum of points each month. I hated that program because the books I enjoyed were never part of it and I had a hateful teacher who wouldn’t accept anything that wasn’t on the approved list.  

My affair with the novel also suffered through high school as I found that reading cut into my extracurricular activities. Wonderful things such as sneaking out to parties, getting drunk, and ditching school left me little time to enjoy a good book. But when I found myself grounded I would always turn to an old favorite. Jane Austen, Anne McCaffrey, Patricia C. Wrede, Oscar Wilde, and J.R.R. Tolkien were stacked next to my bed. Even if I wasn’t reading much I carried a book in my purse, nestled next to my diary. I was armed against the world that way, prepared for doctor's waiting rooms and bus stops.   

I found myself reading much more as I got older, past the hormonal rages of my teens. It didn’t drive me crazy any more to sit at home on a Friday night and read like it once had. I devoured novels: fantasy, mystery, horror, science fiction, the classics, chick-lit, histories, fiction, memoirs, and biographies. I started to read three and four a week, always on the hunt for the next good thing.  

The problem with my love affair at the moment is that it has started to border on the obsessive, which is never healthy. I’ve filled the tiny apartment I share with my husband and two cats with books. Stacked three deep on bookshelves, piled on table tops, flowing along the top of the dresser, and piled so high on my bedside table, they reach the ceiling. I have a lot of books.

I’ve read a little over half and the rest are titles that I saw in bookstores, thrift stores, garage sales, antique malls, and anywhere else I can find them — I just had to have them. I buy them and plan to read them, and I will read them I tell myself firmly, but there is always another cover that catches my eye; another story line that seems to grab my attention.  

The saying is true, so many books and so little time. Depending on your beliefs there is an afterlife. Can we read once we are dead? I sure hope so.

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About Katie T. Buglet