If you’re an AAR old timer (I’ll let you define what that means), you may be wondering if I fell off the face of the earth. Short answer: Yes, yes I did. Short version for those who don’t avidly follow my life: I was a managing editor and then publisher of AAR for years (1998-2016-ish). In 2014 my marriage of 25 years ended, in 2015 I met the love of my life, in 2018 he died. Now it’s 2020, and even with a world that has had no bottom since 2018, I am still on the planet. The seismic shifts in my world have drastically affected my reading, though.
That got me thinking about reading journeys. If you mapped your life out, your reading life, what would it look like? How has it shifted and changed? How does it continue to evolve? What events in your life have driven the changes? Here’s mine:
- Childhood – I realize I am a reader. I don’t actually remember not being a reader. I read outside when my mom tells me to “put down that book and go outside.” I stay up reading when I am supposed to be sleeping. I win the summer reading contest because I read 77 books (Yay! I win a stapler because it is 1978.) This is the year I read every Carolyn Haywood book. Do those still exist? Later I read every Nancy Drew. My father offers to pay me cash money if I read something besides Nancy Drew, and I decline to take him up on this offer.
- Teen Years – I realize I love history. I read historical fiction, and Sunfire Romances. I go to my favorite B. Dalton so often I could almost shelve books for them. The summer after my first year of college, I work there, so I do shelve books for them. I read romance on the sly, but I feel guilty about it. I read classics for fun. I also realize I am a writer. I write pages and pages in my journals along with truly terrible poetry and an equally terrible novel which no one will ever read (including me, unless I get really bored one night, get drunk and read it as performance art for laughs).
- Twenties – I have four babies, and read romance. Lots and lots of romance. This coincides with the birth of the internet, so I find my people and start reviewing romance too. I am a lot more confident about my reading choices, confident enough to read what I want to read instead of adapting to someone’s else’s idea of what smart women read. I finish college and go to grad school during this decade, but mostly I am a stay-at-home mom. The kind who reads when babies nap, or reads with one eye on the book and the other on the non-napping baby (her name was Abigail).
- Thirties – I work part time for most of this decade (full time toward the end) and read lots of romance. As I increase my work hours, there is less time for reading. I am also managing AAR and then publishing it, which also takes a lot of time. But reading romance during this decade still feels like a cause.
- Forties – my reading slows down even more, for many reasons. I work full time, and then I get divorced and can’t seem to read at all. I spend way too much time on social media and read everything in tiny doses rather than book-size doses. Then I meet my love and still can’t seem to read at all. Gradually, I start reading on the train while commuting to work. Then Mike gets cancer and I read in the hospital, but I have gone off romance, possibly because I am living it, possibly because after two decades of reading it I kind of feel done.
- Now – I turned fifty in February. Mike died when I was forty-eight. And since he died I have trouble focusing on anything that is fiction. Instead, I have an endless capacity to read books about grief, dead people, and the afterlife. But I also enjoy other non-fiction (Melinda Gates’ Moment of Lift, Tara Westover’s Educated). And after years of hearing patronizing comments about how I should quit reviewing books and write my own, I did that! But not a romance – or, not exactly – a memoir about my crazy, romantic love story.
What does your reading journey look like? Has anything about it surprised you?