Most readers have a favorite book or movie from childhood. Those of us who arrived at being writers had many favorites. To choose a single favorite book from childhood that actually influenced who I am today? Aye, there’s the rub!
We had little money but we had the public library and I bicycled there almost every Saturday morning, along with a best friend who also loved to read. Oh, how we loved to prowl the stacks, barely even whispering when our paths crossed. In those days, you absolutely did not talk in libraries, not without getting shushed, so very different from most of them today.
Each library cardholder was allowed to borrow three books a week but I also had my dad’s library card! Hah! So I chose three books for me and three more for me, putting the travel books, spy novels and such on his card.
Obviously, the librarian had it figured out but since Dad had signed my application with me, it was ok, at least in those days. I don’t know how much she was bending the rules but there was never an objection. I always brought all of the books back on time. I’m sure she recognized a bookworm when she saw one. Besides, it takes one to know one!
I didn’t read Shakespeare or any other great literature on my own time. Great literature almost always means school and homework, and by the time I reached high school, I hated classrooms with a passion. I could hardly wait to graduate and get out of that stifling, rule-bound environment. Instead, I read what I wanted to read: Swiss Family Robinson, Treasure Island, What Katy Did, Little Women, The Borrowers, Grey Owl, The Oregon Trail, The Secret Garden, and more.
I’m not sure how I ended up as an adult in other stifling, rule-bound environments but I did! Perhaps we all do and that’s why we’re so attracted to the life of a freelancer. It’s still hard work – very hard work – and there are rules to follow, but rarely do we have to set a jarring alarm clock. Even a clock radio can blast you across the room when an early morning talk show host gets to gabbing 10 seconds earlier than usual after a shorter musical selection that morning.
The childhood book that influenced me the most should have been one about a writer’s life and I don’t remember a single one that stood out like that! So perhaps it was those travel books, or the books about animals, or how to learn Spanish. The book du jour was always my favorite! Now if I had grown up in a home where books did not exist, that would also have influenced who I am today. Every child in the world deserves books!