The exact moment I became a book geek has been immortalized forever on film, in the photo that accompanies this article.
I don’t remember which book I was reading at the time; I just remember that I didn’t want to put it down. But it was a nice day outside, and I also wanted to ride my bike. So why not do both at the same time? It was a terrible idea—I fell down a few times and skinned my knee through my very fashionable denim jumpsuit. Rather than admit defeat, I decided that I could still read on my bike if it wasn’t moving. I put down the kickstand and kept turning the pages, perched on the uncomfortable seat.
I ignored my parents as they took the picture, because I was a Big Girl and it was beneath my dignity, but I’m so glad we have it. It’s become part of our family lore. I will forever be known as the girl who tried to read while riding her bike. For me, it’s a source of pride.
I wanted to read immediately, from a young age. It was something I needed to do. My parents indulged me, teaching me easy words from recipe books and newspapers while they cooked dinner, as I perched on the kitchen countertop. For years my mother would read to me each night before I went to bed, until I began to read independently. I hated being told to turn out the lights, so I obtained a flashlight and kept it under my pillow so I could read under the covers.
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As I grew up, I devoured every book I could get my hands on. I frequented two different libraries—the one at my elementary school, and the public one in my hometown—because just one library couldn’t possibly have enough books. The librarians at both locations all greeted me by name and set aside books for me they thought I’d like. One librarian even sent me a post card from the house of Anne of Green Gables when she was on vacation there, knowing I loved the books and had checked them out many times.
I read everything from Nancy Drew to Jane Austen to Agatha Christie. I even majored in English literature in college in part because it meant I got to read novels for homework. The syllabi for my classes pushed me to go outside my reading comfort zone, whether it was Beowulf in original Middle English, Shakespeare, or James Joyce (though I’ve yet to finish Ulysses).
Even though it’s harder to carve out time to read as I get older, and there are more demands on my time—professionally, socially—reading is an essential part of my daily life. In a world with so many digital distractions (Netflix and Candy Crush, anyone?), books continue to be where I find comfort and inspiration. Bookstores and libraries are my happy place. I haven’t read on a bicycle since that fateful day, however. I now prefer to read in safer places—like a comfy chair with my dog curled up next to me.