I wish I could say I come from one of those families where a relaxing evening together is everyone curling up in a corner of the living room with their books. I don't, and if I'm being completely honest with myself, I'll tell you that I've only recently been okay with that.
So how did I become a reader? All credit goes to the woman in the picture with me. That's my grandmother and she singlehandedly raised me a reader.
Growing up, my grandmother always liked to read, but between doing chores--washing clothes in the ringer washing machine and hanging them out on the line to dry, wringing chickens' necks for dinner, and, as the oldest child, helping her mother care for two younger brothers--she didn't have much time. She married young and had my mother even younger, and with that brought more responsibilities. But even if it took her a month or two to get through a novel, she never stopped reading.
By the time I came along, Granny wasn't working as much and had a little more time to herself. Until she taught me to read, she was the only reader in the family. I like to think she saw an opportunity to mold me into someone she could relate to and that's part of why she worked so hard to instill a love of books in me. I like to think she didn't have to work too hard at it.
Although we seldom share the same taste in books, the mere fact of having another reader in the family was enough to forge a strong bond. Despite my efforts not to show favoritism, my grandmother is my favorite person in the family and everyone knows it. And everyone knows it's because of the magic of books.
Granny likes to read those romances that are thick enough to be doorstoppers, whereas I prefer more modern fiction--the typical 330 pages type of book. As I've gotten older, Granny has become more interested in what I'm reading. Maybe it's because I'm just so enthusiastic and I can't help telling anyone who will listen about the latest great book I've read. I convinced her to read Love in the Time of Cholera, One Hundred Years of Solitude, and A Lesson Before Dying, all of which she has enjoyed as much as I did. I've had less success convincing her to read the first Harry Potter book, but I'm not giving up hope yet.
So for her 74th birthday, I asked her what book(s) she wanted. She said, "I want that book you've been telling me about for weeks with the blind girl--the book that's won all the awards--and that new Harper Lee book." So after her birthday dinner at Outback, we took a trip to Books-A-Million.
I was so glad she chose All the Light We Cannot See and Go Set a Watchman. I've already read both of those and it's no secret that I love discussing books with people. I bought them for her and was as excited to give them to her as I've been to give any gift. I felt that, by buying her books that I've already read and loved, I was giving myself a gift too.
Granny's birthday was just last week, so she hasn't finished either book yet, though I'm so looking forward to geeking out with her when she does. Geeking out is truly the gift that keeps on giving--you can still re-live the excitement and wonder of a book weeks, months, and years later.
Usually when I'm buying books as gifts, I buy the person a book I haven't read but I know s/he will like. But I'm going to start making more of an effort to give people books I loved (and that I also think they'll love, obviously) because I don't want to miss any geeking out opportunities.