This morning I read this essay at The Millions called In Our Parents' Bookshelves. I started thinking about the bookshelves at my parents' house, then I started thinking about what books were on those shelves, then I started thinking about the books that my parents read, THEN I began thinking about the books that everyone else in my family reads--my brother, sister, niece, nephew, brother-in-law, sister-in-law. And I began wondering: What the heck makes a reader?
I didn't grow up in a family of readers. We weren't a family of non-readers either, but we weren't avid readers. I take that back--I was an avid reader, but everyone else was an occasional reader. My dad read the Sunday paper religiously, my mom read the random inspirational guide. If I give my dad a book (any Tom Clancy, Lone Survivor, or those books like Why Do Men Have Nipples), we won't see him until he's finished the last page. So although he doesn't read often, he reads fast and voraciously. My mom's reading habits have grown, although she's turned off by all the swearing in books (which she is realizing is more often than not).
I don't ever remember my sister reading when I was younger, but she does read more now. My brother is the one who introduced me to Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, which forever changed my reading world, but his reading habits were, and still are, few and far between.
I remember summers rolling around and my mom taking me to the library so I could check out a stack of books at a time. When I was able to drive to the library, I remember barreling my way through every Vonnegut novel the Zelienople Public Library had on hand and going through interlibrary loan to get the ones they didn't have.
My brother-in-law reads a book here and there, my sister-in-law, on the other hand, easily glides through 3 or 4 books a week. She and I essentially have an exchange program going between us. My niece also plows through books like they're going out of style (she recently discovered Harry Potter), but my nephew doesn't have time to read--he's too busy defending us from pirates.
Ok, maybe listing my family's reading habits is boring, but I guess I'm trying to figure out the rhyme or reason of what has made some of us hungry readers and some of us readers of convenience? Is it a personality type? Is it a factor of upbringing? An influential person in our lives? Is it having crappy books shoved down our throats throughout high school and college? Or perhaps just the opposite? I mean, I would have never batted an eyelash at Barabbas or Darkness at Noon if a couple professors didn't assign them.
What do you think? Are you a reader or not? And either way, why do you think that is? What has made you take one road over the other?