For this week’s Weekly Geeks, Suey asks:
There seems to be a bit of a theme going around the bookish blogopshere this past little while. Have you noticed many posts and lists and ponderings about books from our past? To go along with this trend, for this Weekly Geek installment, I’m asking you to think back to the moment when you realized “I am a reader!” The moment you felt that desire to read everything! The moment you knew you were different than most of those around you and that this reading thing was for real.
While I’ve always been a bookworm, my love for books and reading has grown stronger over the years. I don’t remember learning how to read, and I don’t remember any “aha” moment as a child. I just remember always reading.
While I don’t have any childhood memories to write about, I do have a pivotal moment as an adult that I’d like to share. I’ve talked about it before, usually whenever Lisa See’s books are mentioned, but I don’t think I’ve ever used it as a Weekly Geeks post.
In 2006 I went back to school to get my Master’s in History. Not for any particular reason, but just to do it. Cal Poly had a brand new MA program in History and I wanted to be a part of it. I was still working full-time for the County (the same job I have now) and the plan was to take 1 class a quarter for 5 years.
Boy, did I read a lot that quarter. But the thing was, I didn’t read anything for pleasure. It was all stuffy academic texts. Occasionally in class we’d discuss historical fiction or graphic novels (such as Maus), and I discovered that the majority of students (and the professor) looked down on these types of books, claiming they had no place in the study of history. I felt a bit out of place, and I was starting to not like the ivory tower attitude I was constantly encountering.
So I made it to the end of the quarter (and I got an A- in the class, for the record) and I even registered for my next class. Then I had two weeks off. And I read Lisa See’s Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, which is a historical novel set in China. We had read about foot-binding in class, but See’s book brought the practice vividly (and gruesomely) to life, something the articles never managed to do. And I realized that I enjoyed that one book way more than anything I had read in the past three months…and that it was informative as well as entertaining. And then I thought long and hard about what I was doing, and whether I wanted to spend 5 years surrounded by people who didn’t seem to appreciate books like See’s. And then I dropped the class and quit the Master’s program.
Because I realized that I was a reader, not a historian. I would much rather spend my free time reading for pleasure than studying. And I’d much rather spend my money on books (and travel. Okay, and shoes.) than on another degree. (Of course, if someone wanted to pay my way through library school, I wouldn’t say no.)
I firmly believe that you can gain just as much from fiction as you can from non-fiction…and that not all non-fiction has to be stuffy, academic texts. I’d much rather be reading the books I choose, and reading because I feel like it, not because it’s assigned. I’ve read more in the past four years than I have at any other time in my life. I’ve become more involved in blogging, and in the book blogging community. I’m hanging out with people who appreciate books and what they bring to our lives. I’m happy.
I’m a reader.