On Being a Bookworm

I’m a total bookworm.

Since childhood, my favorite thing in the world to do is curl up with a good book.

I read every Nancy Drew book (old school, not the remastered “Nancy Drew says like and totally” bullshit) and remember Black Beauty and Velveteen Rabbit were my two favorite books as a kid. The first author whose entire collection of books I remember devouring was Judy Blume. Are You There God It’s Me Margaret, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Blubber, Deenie, and ah yes, the Catholic schoolgirl-forbidden classics like Forever (SEX!?!),  and Wifey, which we’d hide in the library bookstacks to sneak a peek at, since obviously, checking them out would have sent us straight to hell.

Speaking of hell, my next favorite author was (and is) Stephen King. I read Cujo first, having checked it out of the library when I fell in love with it’s bloody-dog-snout (who says you can’t judge a book by its) cover. I stayed up late at night reading it under the covers with a flashlight because I shared a room with my two sisters. I went to school exhausted from lack of sleep but the book had me totally gripped. Stephen King had me at ‘fuck.’ It was the first time I’d seen it in print. My dad asked to read it after me and the first night he began reading, my parents forbid me to read Stephen King again. Luckily, they weren’t stalking my library card records though, and I proceeded to sneak King books into the house, hide them under my mattress and read late into the night. Something about it being ‘forbidden’ made it even more delicious.

(Note: More recently I found Stephen King’s book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft to be absolutely brilliant and inspiring. I love the fact that it’s written as a memoir- go, read!!)

My always-far-more-cosmopolitan friend Liz introduced me to V.C. Andrews and the Flowers in the Attic series and we thought Judy Blume was bad? Incest had to be the most forbidden thing we as Catholic school kids could find to read. More mattress hiding ensued. I think there was probably a book-sized impression on the underneath of my mattress. I always had a ‘mole book’ too- the book I was allegedly reading in case my parents asked. It was probably Beverly Cleary or old Nancy Drew I’d finished years before.

I also read every single thing Erma Bombeck (I am kneeling down and crossing myself right now) ever wrote. I remember reading her newspaper column as a kid, and I’d use babysitting money to buy paperbacks of The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank and If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?  In recent years, I enjoyed reading Forever, Erma which is a great compilation of her writing. The way she captured humor in everyday life and her strong voice as a woman and mother have always been my biggest writing inspiration. Random Erma quote: “Seize the moment. Think of all those women on the ‘Titanic’ who waved off the dessert cart.” God, I love me some Erma.

I also love Erica Jong- she is another trailblazer of a woman writer who published the controversial Fear of Flying in the 70s- her much more recent book Seducing the Demon (a memoir on writing while being a mother) is also very inspiring to me.

Although life and kids get in the way of reading time,  I don’t think there’s ever been a time I haven’t been reading a book (because- what better way to escape life and kids?). Patricia Cornwell, Mary Higgins Clark, John Grisham, Dan Brown…you name it… and I love me some chick lit- Jennifer Weiner, Lauren Weisberger, and my favey flave: Jen Lancaster.

Here’s me and Jen Lancaster while she is signing her book Pretty in Plaid to me at her book signing in August. We were supposed to ‘dress 80s’ so I went preppy and bought a plaid (get it?) Lacoste skirt (also note extreme blue eyeshadow)- when I saw she was also wearing preppy collar shirt and pearls, too? I almost died. Meeting her was a dream. There were 300 people at the signing but my sister in law and I had gotten there like three hours early (eating dinner and drinking martinis before the signing in DC, hello!) so we had #1 and #2 wristbands, so we got to meet her first! Way cool. When she met me, she said I ‘looked cute.’ Wherein I, like Rudolph upon hearing this same comment from Clarice the chick reindeer, began hopping all over the bookshelves at Barnes and Noble shrieking “I’m cute! I’m cute.” Ok, I didn’t, except in my head. I did give her a Pajamas and Coffee magnet and ask her if I could email her for a article (we have 20 million readers a month!) but I never heard back from her. Bummer. But her books ROCK ROCK ROCK, so I order you to go stalk her blog and then buy and read all her books.

In other reading news, I have to report that I just started subscribing to the New York Times. No offense to my more local Washington Post and Baltimore Sun, but honestly, if those papers got any thinner I wouldn’t be able to find them in the grass on Sunday morning. I switched to the Times because I thought I wanted to be one of those people who begin sentences with “I read in the New York Times this weekend, that…” Ok, ok, I’m not going to actually do that. Too often. But I love it. I could literally feel my IQ going up when I read the first issue- and the magazine? Ohmygod. I can see why the paper has a $6.00 cover price (it did give me a double-take..) just for the magazine alone. I only get the Times on Sundays (can’t afford the rest of the week plus no time to read!). One of my favorite sections is the Book Review. This weekend Maureen Dowd reviewed The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown (which I just finished) and her review was spot on what I was thinking about the book (essentially that Brown is a great storyteller, but not a great writer). And oops, I think I already just did that ‘I just read in the NYTimes…’ thing. Sorry!

Right now I am reading Crazy for the Storm by Norman Ollestead- a memoir by a guy who was the only survivor in a plane crash on a mountain in a blizzard at age 11. It’s amazing. I have been in a major memoir phase lately. I’ve read Manic by Terri Cheney, Her Last Death by Susanna Sonnenberg and Candy Girl by Diablo Cody- all excellent. And I am finding once you’ve read a bunch of gripping memoir, it’s hard to go back to fiction because truth is always stranger.

PLEASE write in the comments section and recommend authors and books to me. My teenager got a job working at the library which I love because I can take books out more often (and maybe get them back in on time). My reading queue (a pile on the nightstand next to my bed) is EMPTY (rare, horrifying) and I need to line up some new stuff asap!

The best part? I don’t have to hide the books under the mattress anymore.



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