What is your earliest memory of reading?If you ask my family, I'm sure they would tell you that I learned to read before I learned to crawl. Clearly they exaggerate, though that's not far from the truth. By the time I got to kindergarten I could read on my own, and while I was no prodigy, I wasn't just reciting favored simplistic books from memory. I'm too young to remember the details, but I was always in and out of the library checking out as many stacks of books as I could; Curious George and Amelia Bedelia quickly turned into The Babysitter's Club novels and the Book-It stickers kept a-coming.
My first vivid memory of reading, however, was the year I moved to a new school district and began 6th grade. For some reason or another I found myself checking out J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. I devoured the book in a few short days, and despite being angered that there were no (read: absolutely none) female characters with which to identify, I was checking out the book for a second time once I had placed it in the drop box and saw it back on the shelves. I read The Hobbit a second time, and a third time, and even a fourth and fifth time. It was adventurous and fantastic and like nothing I had ever read before. It was a grand quest, full of perilous tasks and creatures. And despite having all of the appeal of an "adult" novel, which to my middle-school brain meant being tattered looking, with a so-so cover and - most importantly - lots of pages, it had a whimsical quality to it that made it feel more like a sophisticated children's book and thus easy to grasp.
The Hobbit was my bridge into reading real novels. And while I continued to enjoy previous favorites, my old books started to pale in comparison to what kinds of adventures I now knew were out there.
What is the one thing you love the most about reading?I love the fact that reading can transport you to another time and place completely. I was always a daydreamer - swimming around with my cousin in the pool pretending we were mermaids, and climbing the "Mt. Everest" that was our neighbor's snowy side yard - so it was in reading that I could leave behind normal life for one of adventure and be someone who I wasn't, see sights I couldn't from my porch.
It helps that while reading you create images in your mind of what you see. A writer can describe a character or setting, but it takes shape in your imagination based on the mental images you create from those words. It never ceases to amaze me that sometimes my mental picture is the same as someone else's, which I think is the mark of an impressive writer (case in point: some of the scenery in the Harry Potter movies looks exactly as I pictured them! Which tells me that J.K. Rowling created an extremely rich and detailed world that so many people could envision the same thing from just her words!).
What is one thing you love least about reading?Man, it takes work! It's not as easy as passively popping on a movie (though, I would argue that all movie-watching isn't purely passive, but you must admit, it takes less general effort) and when you spend so much time reading so many pages only to be let down by poor writing, or a bad story, or a terrible ending, it feels like a personal waste of time. I'm working on learning to say "no" and close a book before it gets to that discouraging point.
When did you know you had fallen in love with reading?In my 11th grade English class we had to read The Great Gatsby. I read the book, took the quizzes, and completed the activities, but it was still just a book for class. Sure, I could point to the themes and describe the characters, but I wasn't mature enough to analyze the novel as a whole in the literary sense and so my "enjoyment" of the book ended at "I read the book, it wasn't a bad book, I passed the quizzes".
Then one day it just clicked. I don't know if it was a quote, or discussion, or a nugget of observation that a classmate pointed out that stuck in my brain and just became embedded there. By the time I read the final lines of The Great Gatsby I realized that no, I don't like any of the characters. No, I don't agree with their lifestyle and treatment of others. But that doesn't mean I don't empathize with Gatsby, that I don't feel for him. The moment I was able to feel that struggle, that emotion, I fell in love with one fictional man's story and how all that it took to convey that tragic beauty was a few exquisitely crafted words.
What keeps you going back to reading?I used to just read for the stories. That's not to say that I don't read to enjoy a good story even now (because I do! All the time!), but I've come to realize there are many reasons why I read. I read for enjoyment, I read to think about things, I read to empathize, I read to perfect my own craft, I read to learn, I read to appreciate words. And yet for whatever reason I read or reread a book, each time I open the cover there is something new to be plucked from the pages, even though the words themselves have not changed. The book I read as a 15-year old girl holds a different meaning to my 23-year old self. The book I read when I was once in a rut now reads as something beautifully hopeful rather than a commiserating crutch. I read because as I grow and change, the stories do too.
What advice do you have to a novice?My advice is two-fold:
1. Don't feel ashamed of what or how you read. Plenty of people will dismiss the books you like, plenty of people will have differing opinions. Some will claim that certain genres are meritless, or say that you read too slow. Screw. Them. Read what you want to read and read it because you like it. If you need to read slower to remember things, read slower. If you want to write in your book, write in your book. If you want to not finish a book because it's dreadfully boring, don't finish it. You are in charge of your own reading habits.
2. Take notes. Writers and thinkers once used commonplace books to jot down all manners of things, from examples of literary elements to thoughts on a book. Heck, they probably even wrote down quotes that they thought were just plain cool. Start a journal! Make a new notebook in Evernote! Write in your book! Use a sticky note (or twenty)! You never know when you'll want to come back to a moment in a story whether for a paper or a piece of art for your wall. Maybe it'll inspire you to write something of your own one day!
You can find Kristin over at her blog, on twitter, on Goodreads, and on Youtube. Love reading? Share your thoughts in the comments.