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My life as a teenage book addict, or, Sarah becomes a reader
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My life as a teenage book addict, or, Sarah becomes a reader: 07/10/16


In the summer between seventh and eighth grade, three things happened. The first was that I wanted to re-read a book I had enjoyed in sixth grade and realized I couldn't remember the title. The second was that I had to read a biography over the summer and write a report for eighth grade. The third was that I began to keep a list to prove a very stupid television commercial wrong.

As I've written about my book diary numerous times, and probably will again come June 2017 when I hit my 30th anniversary of list keeping, I will leave that part of this story. That, though, leaves events one and two: forgetting a book title and having an over the summer book report on a biography. Both of these events happening simultaneously went on to influence how I read and how I choose what to read.

The book I had forgotten was The Active-Enzyme Lemon-Freshened Junior High School Witch by E.W. Hildick. It's by no means a brilliant book but I was instantly in love with it as a child. It's about a pair of sisters who while home sick with the measles decide to become witches. Whether they do or they don't, is really left up to the reader.

But the point here is how I chose the book. It was a two-fold, impulse decision. First of all, I loved the cover art. It featured a girl with wild hair, a smug cat, and chalice of some sort. Across all of this is a triangle. Inside the color, the girl and the cat and the chalice are done in realistic colors. Outside of the triangle, the colors are blues, greens, and purples, making the girl and the cat seem magical and otherworldly. Then there is the ridiculously long title that is eye catching, fun to say, difficult to remember but instantly recognizable. The book ended up being one of my first re-reads so that I could re-experience the magic, and have the title written down the next time I got the itch to read it.

Now on to the biography. The biography was supposed to be on a role model in our life — a celebrity or hero who has inspired us. I've never been the sort of fan who gets wrapped up in the lives of famous people. It's not that I'm against learning about artists, musicians, athletes, and so forth, it's just that in that sort of situation, I'm not going to instantly come up with a name of someone I have to learn about.

Yet, I had to read a biography and I only had six weeks to read it and write a report. To make sure we had a book before summer vacation, we had to check it out from the junior high library. With the same attitude I have with tearing off stubborn bandages, I decided to just pick a book and get the process over with. It didn't matter which book. So I closed my eyes, spun myself around and stuck my finger out. The book I chose was Walt Disney: an American Original by Bob Thomas (which for a long time was also sold in the book store on Main Street in Disneyland). I loved the book. Yes it's basically propaganda and marketing but it was fun to read and I got a good grade on the assignment.

Reading books that are picked at random from a library tends to result in picking books that are backlist. The books that are available on the shelf for random browsing are the ones that are no longer circulating well. If they were newer or still super popular, they would be on the hold shelf or the new shelf, or the "lucky day" shelf (a shelf of popular books that can't be renewed because they are so popular).

The library wasn't my only exposure to old books. I grew up with in a house full of late 19th century, early 20th century antiques, and a father who ultimately became an antiques dealer. While old books wasn't his speciality, they were always there in the antique stores and malls we stopped at while on our family camping trips. It follows that if old books at the library are fun to read, antique books might be too. These I would buy with my babysitting money, chosen for their title, their construction, their affordability (usually, although Don Quixote I did end up buying on layaway), and any interesting illustrations.

    In summary: how I chose books:
  1. I am a sucker for a cleverly designed cover.
  2. I go for unusual or wordy titles
  3. When in doubt, pick at random
  4. Older books, or those that aren't especially popular but still speak to me
  5. Beautiful antique books

Social media, book blogging, being a parent, and a librarian, all now influence my reading choices but the lessons learned in my teenage years continue to lay the foundation of how I chose the books I read and blog about.

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