Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Sara and Melissa talk about....Reading!

We are starting a new column series to get more personal with our readers. We chose an easy topic for this month, as you can tell. ;) We're open to topic suggestions, so please don't hesitate to share those in the comments. We'd also love to know if you can relate to anything we've said or hear your own thoughts on the topic. So don't be shy. :) We look forward to getting to know you as much as we're letting you get to know us.

Sara Steven:
There Are Rocks in my Socks, Said the Ox to the Fox, by Patricia Thomas, is the first book I can recall from my childhood. My grandmother introduced me to the ill-fated ox, who is swindled by the mischievous fox, all while trying to find a way to remove rocks from the poor ox’s socks. The alliteration had me hooked, planting the proverbial reading seed within my preschool sensibilities every time she’d share it with me, later becoming a bedtime reading tradition I carried on with my own sons. Books were, and still are, one of my favorite forms of relaxation and entertainment.

I discovered historical romance novels at the tender age of ten. My stepmother had plastic bags full of paperback bodice rippers, and I still can’t believe she let me read them. Maybe she thought I would skip over the racy parts, but of course I never did. In middle school, I discovered a fellow fan and we would check out the local used book store a few times a week, the two mile walk more than worth it. The owner allowed us to trade books, which meant never having to pay a single penny for good smut. Sometimes we couldn’t wait, criss-crossing our legs and sitting on the dusty floor in dimly lit hallways, delving into our latest finds.

My biggest influencer, though, would have to be The King. Stephen King’s The Stand changed my world. I can’t remember how I found him, or what prompted me to read any of his novels, but when I did I’d lock myself away for hours, often foregoing eating and drinking until every single page was accounted for. The Stand was my first foray into Kingworld, which led me into reading nearly every single other book he’s written. Except for the Dark Tower series. I wasn’t as into fantasy fiction in those days, but I’m willing to give it a go now.

I’ve always viewed the choice to read as a choice for a reprieve, a potential escape from the outside world. The gentle tones from my grandmother when she morphed her voice into who she imagined the fox would sound like, the stark flowery historical romance scenes that stole me away for many an hour, or the many macabre situations that are so incredibly true blue King did that for me. I could slide into someone else’s world and either fill their protagonist’s, or at times, the antagonist’s shoes, or pretend I was yet another character in the literary world. The journey can be a solitary one, or it can be enjoyed with others, in reading and sharing the same books, in appreciating the same genres or introducing a friend to a genre they’ve never read before. In that way, reading can connect us. It can remind us of our past memories, found within the pages of a book, give us relatable experiences, and can ultimately make us feel something deep, and tangible.

Melissa Amster:

Ever since I was a kid, I have always enjoyed reading. What enhances the reading experience is having friends with whom to share it, whether that is exchanging books, recommending books, talking about books, etc. I’m currently in a book club and even though we don’t always agree on the books that have been chosen, we enjoy spending time together talking about them. However, sharing the experience with friends goes back a long way.

I remember exchanging books with my childhood best friend. We would recommend different books to each other and share our books whenever we got together. In our middle school years, we both enjoyed Sunfire romance novels (historical fiction for middle grade readers) and would share them with each other.

Toward the end of seventh grade, I became obsessed with V.C. Andrews novels. I told a friend about them and whenever we hung out, we’d end up sitting and reading the books while in the same room. It became our thing for a while. Fast forward to college, I learned HTML and made a website to celebrate my V.C. Andrews fandom. I also started an online fan club and met a lot of girls (and even some guys) who were as obsessed as I was. I am still friends with a few of them. One went to the same college as I did and we would meet up for lunch regularly. We still e-mail each other about V.C. Andrews (along with some other topics) to date.

During my senior year of high school, I became friends with a freshman because I would randomly run into him at bookstores or the library. He was in the theater class I was assistant teaching and we all had to act like someone else in the class. I chose him and made it all about reading. We connected after that and are still close. We didn’t talk about books as much in high school, but we later bonded over Wally Lamb’s novels, even going as far as singing “I Know This Much Is True” to the Spandau Ballet tune and adding “by Wally Lamb” in at the end. He introduced me to a variety of books after I graduated college and we would sometimes read them at the same time so we could discuss them. I know we did that with Memoirs of a Geisha. Nowadays, he teases me about reading too much chick lit, even though I do read other genres. I even got him to read Me Before You!

I tend to connect with people at work through books. There are some people I may have never thought to talk with until I learned that we had books in common. With one woman, our first connection was because of Jodi Picoult. Since then, we’ve shared books and recommendations and spent long amounts of time discussing our favorite books. There’s another woman with whom I occasionally get together for lunch so we can discuss books. I love sharing books with my friends and colleagues at work. I even helped start an office “little free library,” which is just a rolling cart with shelves in our break room.

A few years ago, I connected with a blogger on the other side of the country through Goodreads. We’re opposite of each other in age and gender, but we have so many favorite reads in common and we have sent each other books several times, as well as introduced each other to new authors. I worry that I’m contributing to him spending way too much on books, but that’s his choice too. :) I also reconnected with a blogger with whom I went to high school. Even though we traveled in different social circles, I always thought she was nice. So I was glad when we connected on Facebook and even more so when she said she was starting a book blog. We recently posted a joint review for Mary Kubica’s latest novel. I love her blog and enjoy hearing her thoughts on books, even if we don’t always agree.

I’ve connected with some friends I met locally because of books. I meet up for lunch with a woman who lives near my office and we mainly talk about books. We originally met because of a mutual friend who is also a bookaholic. I think she had posted something about The Baby-Sitters Club and we connected because of that. I recently had lunch with another woman I met through a friend, as I found out she lives locally and likes books too. Of course, that was also our main topic of discussion.

My shared reading experience extends to family, as well. My mom and sister both enjoy reading and we recommend books to each other and share them with one another. My mom and I went to see Jodi Picoult together back in 2012, which was a special experience for both of us. I’ve even introduced them both to some authors with whom I have connected, such as Pam Jenoff or Mary Kubica. I also bond with my mother-in-law over books and have recommended so many of them to her. She’ll recommend some to me, as well. I’ve been listening to a book that I know she read recently and I look forward to discussing it with her soon. All three of my kids love to read. Even though we have different tastes in books, I enjoy seeing their enthusiasm and going to the library with them. I’ve already been saving up The Baby-Sitters Club books for my daughter and love when my sons read books I’ve enjoyed in the past. I really enjoyed sharing Wonder with my kids, since I loved that book. I’m hoping my daughter will pick it up again soon and not be able to put it down this time.

I created Chick Lit Central after reconnecting with Melissa S. via Facebook back in 2008. We kept talking about all the chick lit authors we both liked (i.e. Marian Keyes, Cecelia Ahern) and it inspired me to form a community to discuss chick lit novels with more women (and men). I actually started the blog in 2010, but I had started a group on Facebook in 2009. It didn’t receive much traction to begin with, until I started the blog. From there, I have met so many people who share similar book interests. My connections with people I’ve met through this blog have either been for a short time or have spanned almost the entire ten years. It has also strengthened my bond with Sara, which is why we are now starting this new column series together. Aside from the books we read for the blog, we talk about many others outside of the ones we’re planning to review. And I’ve gotten to know so many great authors. Authors are the best kind of celebrities. They really connect with their readers and I love working with them on interviews. I’ve gotten to know publishers and publicists over the years, as well. I even hung out with one of them at Book Expo a while back. I also reconnected with another high school acquaintance through the world of publishing. Overall, sharing a love for books with everyone here has been an amazing experience. I can’t believe it has been ten years already! And there are still so many great books to look forward to in the coming years. I’m thankful to have so many people in my life with whom I can share my love for reading.

Your turn! Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section. We look forward to hearing from you.


Bonnie K. said...

Congrats on your 10 years with Chick Lit Central. I never really had a connection with someone other than my mother when it came to reading. I was considered bookish and very smart by my classmates. LOL It wasn't until Facebook that I could connect with others that loved to read.

Dianna said...

What a fun post! I love knowing how books impact people's lives.
I share a lot of my books with my coworkers, friends, and family. It's kind of my little gift to the world. :)

Cindy roesel said...

What a fun addition! Congrats on ten years! ��