29 February 2012


Harold was my first love. He was four, pudgy and had perfect hair. He had a creative mind and a passion for adventure, and he had a thing for purple. I once went through a phase where I would only wear purple, so I found this quirk totally appealing.

My mother read me countless books every night before bed but, more often than not, I would ask for my favorite, Harold and the Purple Crayon. The book, originally published in 1955, was filled with 64 pages of adventure and mystery that all started when Harold decided to take a walk in the moonlight. There was just one problem – there was no moon. So Harold drew one.

But where would he go? That was the mystery. There was no path, so he drew one. With his purple crayon, Harold created a city, an orchard, a sailboat on the ocean.

Even before I could read, I knew every word. If my mother accidentally missed a page or intentionally skipped ahead in an effort to move the story along, I would stop her yelling, “Go back! You missed a page!”

Unfortunately, my love of stories did not grow with my age. In fact, it dwindled quite dramatically, but not until high school. In elementary school, I tested two grades higher in literature and, until fifth grade, I read at a higher reading level and attended classes with older students. In fifth grade, my teachers decided to hold me back in order for me to blend back in with my peers. I think that’s where it all started.

Reading suddenly became less about what I wanted and focused more on what others wanted me to see. In high school I was told which books to read and was instructed how to read them. Words like foreshadowing and symbolism entered my world and I quickly began to loathe them.

I learned to hate reading. Why did I have to read super long, boring books? Why did I have to think about what the turtle was supposed to symbolize in The Grapes of Wrath? Why did I read a book about an animal uprising and burning books? The only thing I learned about Kurt Vonnegut is that he was a creepy guy who wrote really weird stories. I had no interest.

High school literature classes scarred me for life. There, I said it. Sorry Mr. and Mrs. Esposito – your stories of your literary adventures and your slide shows were entertaining but I just couldn’t love being forced to read.

After a long break, I finally got back into books, at least the ones that interested me. If I was into writing styles and grammar, I read books on the respective subjects. When I became a manager, I read several books on management styles. I finally found my reading calling – non-fiction.

I decided that if something was true, I could relate to it in some way. Fiction books – the sci-fi and fantasy genres specifically – were stories in which I just could not envelop myself.

I have read personal stories and memoirs. My most recent read was by the great Diane Keaton. She wrote her memoir in parallel with her mother’s – a series of journals Diane’s mom created throughout most of her life, up until the end. After her mother’s death, Diane found peace reviewing her many boxes of journals and intertwined her own memories with her mother’s. Great book.

Something in me changed this week, however, and the Espositos would be proud. Within the last year, I added a line to my “30 Things to Do Before I Turn 30” list that challenge me to expand my reading repertoire. I decided that I should read from some of the literary greats.

So, when I finished Keaton’s Then Again, I decided to go for Everest, the 1,185-page megabook. 

When Paul and I were in the States for Christmas, we stopped into our favorite German Village bookstore, The Book Loft in downtown Columbus. The store itself is a narrow brick building that spans an entire city block. The store boasts more than 100,000 titles placed carefully on shelves and tables lining a labyrinth of 32 rooms on multiple levels.

Each room has a varied set of themes like Nature, Religion, Travel and sounds relating to most of those themes can be heard from 19 music players strategically placed around the shop. Hymns play in the Religion room, birds singing can be heard in the Nature room. The whole place is an experience.

Yes, there are maps everywhere and, yes, you will lose your friends.

Yeah, Singapore! 

On a bargain table on the porch, an old-looking book caught my eye. I have a love for old books and I will always buy a hard cover book over a paperback. If my book comes with a jacket, I throw away the jacket (sorry to all of those book jacket artists and photographers out there). I just love the hard book.

The book that called to me from the table was one of three books bound in a medium brown, almost leather cover. Gold ivy danced around a frame and a central circle stated the contents:

I have never read a book by either Brontë. Jayne Eyre was on the required reading list for one senior literature class but I was not in that class so I never read the book. The story of the orphan whose only living family members hated her and treated her as if she was less of a person than the servants is the first in my series of five sister novels.

Today at lunch, I had a perfect meal sitting outside, by myself, reading what I hope will be a fabulous book. I was surprised at my excitement when I opened the book to the first page. This isn’t a real-life story. This is a fantasy world that spawned after the sisters’ created a competition to see which the better writer was.

My enthusiasm comes from knowing that this is a book from one of the greats – a book that is supposed to change my life, or at least my mind, just by reading. Challenge accepted. 

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