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Wednesday
Nov172010

Development of a Reader:Why Do You Read What You Read?

 

My brain is fried. Not from Nano--though that hasn't helped the brain mush--but because my kidlet has decided to completely switch his personality on me overnight. One day this past weekend he woke up and decided everything he ever loved/enjoyed is now everything he hates. So we're dealing with monster, raging tantrums 2-3 times a day for the last few days. I'm starting to wonder if I should call an exorcist. *sigh* We're going to the doc's tomorrow for his 3-yr old well visit, so hopefully she'll have some insight. Everyone say a prayer that he's in a growth spurt or something and this is temporary. I miss my lovely, happy child.

 

So, I thought it would be fun today to do a rewind post. Below is my very first post I ever did on this blog--when I was speaking into the void and  had no followers. Hope you enjoy and I look forward to hearing about your own journey to your reading tastes...

 

Why Do You Read What You Read? (My very first post.)

 

 

As I start this blog, I found myself wondering how I became such a book-obsessed dork and why I prefer certain types of stories to others. Looking back, I've decided that reading development is kind of like that Plinko game from the Price is Right--certain people and book experiences bump you in one direction or the other. Some of us land in the $5000 slot and become lifelong readers of every type of book, others land in zero and miss out completely, and many of us fall somewhere in between finding a particular reading niche. 
Here's how my Plinko game went:


4th grade: Inspired by my mother's love of mystery novels, I start reading James Howe's Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery  series and Betty Ren Wright's The Dollhouse Murders .
 
Result: A love of stories that scare me and make me laugh. This also leads to me being  convinced that my room is haunted by an evil stuffed monkey that has sat on my shelf since  toddlerhood. Monkey gets evicted to the attic, I sleep on the couch for six months (seriously.)

A Wrinkle in TimeThe Neverending Story

5th grade: My teacher, Mrs. Hymel, starts reading a chapter a day of Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time  to the class. I'm hooked. I go to the library to get the book because I can't tolerate waiting for her to finish. I proceed to read the rest of the series in rapid succession. When I'm finished with those, I move on to The Neverending Story  by Michael Ende
Result: My love for both fantasy and series books is planted.
6th grade: We're assigned to read Where the Red Fern Grows
and Bridge to Terabithia . Amazing literary books. But both tore me to shreds. I had just lost my grandmother who I was extremely close to and books involving deaths just shattered me.
Result: I develop a respect but also a wariness for literary fiction. In addition, I acquire a lifelong aversion to novels that kill off the dog. I go on a binge of R.L. Stine horror books (such as The Baby-Sitter (Point Horror Series)) and Roald Dahl  instead. I also began to indulge my budding interest in the paranormal. My science fair projects for this year: ESP and Poltergeists.
Flowers in the Attic (Dollanganger)
9th grade: I dig through my mom's book collection and pull out V.C. Andrews' Flowers in the Attic  and Petals on the Wind . These books were depressing, full of drama, gothic, darkly romantic, and totally addictive. (Ironically, they are now be re-branded as YA.) But why do I remember these? Because in the second book there was (wait for it) sex. Gasp. I was a very naive at fourteen and found this to be so scandalous. This is the first time I remember hiding the spine of the book while I was reading in public just in case. Of course, I went on to read like twenty more books by Ms. Andrews.
Result: Discover that romance + sexy + darkness = awesomeness
10th grade: I realize that most of my favorite horror movies started as books. I go through a Stephen King and Anne Rice phase. I also read a "based on true events" book called The Black Hope Horror: The True Story of a Haunting  that scares the bejesus out of me. I have to remove the book from my room at night so I can sleep.
Result: Decide psychics, monsters, vampires, and ghosts are by far way cooler than  normal humans.

9th grade-12th grade: My teachers beat us over the head with the classics because that's their job. I know now these books are works of art, masterpieces, etc. But as a teenager, I thought all of them (outside of Shakespeare and Poe) were big giant suckfests.

Result: I raise the stock of the Cliff Notes company (allowing me to ace all English tests and papers) and am further turned off by the term "literary."
And what do I do with the time I should be using to read my assigned books? I write my  own romance novel because clearly there is no chance of actual romantic interludes in my own angsty life. A hundred and fifty typed pages of sappy teenage indulgence is born and titled Kismet. My male protagonist bears a striking resemblance to Joe McIntyre of New Kids on the Block.
College: I start off with a double major: Psyc and English, but feel overwhelmed. I drop English because it's not as "practical", but still sneak in a few classes. LSU offers a Vampires in Literature class. How frigging cool is that? Not only do I get the chance to read stacks of vamp novels, I get the chance to write short stories about them, too.
Result: Regret dropping the English major. Promise myself that once I get settled in my psychology career, I will try to write in my free time.
So now, years later, where does that leave me?
Reading and writing the same things I grew to love as a child. My Plinko chip landed in the voracious reader of genre fiction slot. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not closed off to the literary side, but honestly its not the first thing I pick up. 
So, I'm curious. What books from your past guided your tastes? Can you remember that first moment or first book that really hooked you on reading? Or something that turned you away from a certain genre? 

 

Reader Comments (18)

Oh my gosh, I love this. And so random—The Dollhouse Murders and Bunnicula were some of my first real reads too. My grandfather gave me both of them when I was a kid.

Very cool post! (And sorry about the kidlet thing... no fun)

November 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMeredith

I am so inspired by this post that I think I may just be a big copy cat and write about the same subject tomorrow.

I was also an English major for a while...then I switched to Zoology because it seemed so much more practical to aim to be a Marine Biologist (did I mention I went to college in the middle of the midwest where the only ocean we saw was during sprng break?).

So here I am in the glamorous world of laboratory research, trying to hold a meaningful conversation with a dish full of Schwann Cells. And thinking about going back for that English degree.

November 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTeri Anne Stanley

Interesting stuff. I can't remember when I started reading, probably whilst still in my crib! I still have a vivid memory of Berenstein Bears and See Spot Run, along with every Ladybird Book I could get my hands on. I suppose my taste in literature must have evolved eventually because I also remember reading those VC Andrews books! What were my parents thinking?! And Judy Blume too.
I still love to read just as much as I love to write, the trouble is finding time to do both!

November 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine West

I remember this post! For me, I can't pinpoint an exact book that pushed me in one direction or the other for my reading preferences. I just know that one day I picked up some fantasy book or other and I was hooked. That's pretty much all I read after that point. Now I've branched out into reading paranormal. But it's mostly YA still and I prefer it that way. (Though I am still unsure I can write a convincing YA protag.)

Thanks for sharing again. Hope the little one is okay.

November 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie McGee

Oh, I loved all these books too! I totally plowed my way through VC Andrews as well...but I always thought they were YA, no?

I was always a heavy reader but I think the first time I really ignited on books was when I discovered Enid Blyton. She was so prolific, which meant series after series. Awesome stuff.

After that, I pretty much followed the trail you list!

November 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSierra Godfrey

I've been reading your blog and have been waiting on a post that I could jump into the discussion. I am so new to writing that I didn't have much I could say before now...

I grew up on a steady diet of Nancy Drew mysteries up until middle school when I discovered fantasy and science fiction. I read books by Terry Brooks, Sharon Shinn, and Tamora Pierce. (I freaked my mom out on a regular basis because of these "adult" books)

In high school I nabbed my mom's Harlequin Romance books because I had questions and began to read YA books. Now I'm a die hard YA fan but I read a little of everything.

November 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTrish

You're going to laugh about the first book that hooked me on reading but I'll tell you anyway. It was Conan by Robert E. Howard. It definitely affected my writing style and made me love fantasy novels!

November 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

The Shannara Trilogy by Terry Brooks and Frank Herbert's Dune. I've been a scifi and fantasy nut ever since. Just now getting more into the YA genre though, all because of my followers....

November 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRezden

My older sister and I used to have "sleepovers" where she'd read Babysitter's Club, Sweet Valley High and Christopher Pike books to me (still wonder if my mom knew how scandalous those CP books were...).

I now read a mix of chick lit and literary fiction - and still prioritize recommendations from my big sis :)

Oh and I definitely went through an intense VC Andrews phase as well.

November 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

Agatha Christie was my first love. I started reading her stuff early on, I think I was eight or nine. I own every book she's written, and have UK and US editions on the short stories, since they're different.

With as much as I love her stuff, I still wonder why I don't write mysteries.

Hrm. *rethinks career choice*

November 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterannaliterally

I actually love the classics, but the only problem is that they don't keep coming out with more. (Obviously.)

This was a great first post Roni! I'm sorry about your boy-here's hoping he's better tomorrow!

November 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOddyoddyo13

I loved reading Bunnicula when I was in grade school! I also remember reading a lot of Scholastic books and ordering books from Scholastic while in elementary school.

Wow, what a flashback! Thanks for sharing the memories!

November 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJeffrey Beesler

Bunnicula! I was seriously beginning to think I was the only one on the planet who loved that book!

I will say my reading/writing was strongly influenced by Judy Blume and Robert Cormier. I remember going back and reading "Then again, maybe I won't." by Judy Blume as an adult. (I had read it as an 11 year old the first time.)I called my mom and said, "Did you have ANY idea what I was reading about?"

She said,"Well, you didn't ask any questions so I assumed you either didn't understand it enough for it to be an issue or you understood it fully."

I am still not sure how I feel about that logic!

Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War is the first book I remember not having a tidy, happy, ending. I read everything I could by him.

I have been tempted to go back and read those as an adult, but I don't want to ruin it.

Great flash back post.

November 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDawn

I loved this post! I'd have to do some real soul searching to come up with an outlined list as you have but: Forever by Judy Blume comes to mind as early reading material. A Winkle in Time, a book enjoyed as a child and I wish to re-read. VCAndrews is wonderful, I believe I discovered her in 8th or 9th grade. Later, Stephen King and Dean Koontz became my favs and for the most part continue to do so.

November 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCher Green

As a kid: Everything from TRIXIE BELDON to WIFEY. Hah!

November 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnita

So glad I'm not the only one who thinks "literary fiction" sucks!

In my opinion, those books are only "classics" so that teachers will shove them down our throats.

Otherwise, seriously, no one would read them. :)

November 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShana

THAT'S where that drinking game's name came from!

Two years ago I received some bizarre shot-cup and plastic-chip-falling-down-wooden-bars-based game called Drinko in a White Elephant Party. We all downed whiskey for the game, though I wasn't quite sure whence the name came...(binko maybe?)

November 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commenter52 Faces

I just love your blog! I follow you on Twitter as well and wanted to share the writerly love. So, I gave you a blog award. Go by www.melissaddean.com and pick it up!!!

November 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa Dean

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