My relationship with books started as soon as I understood those weird black shapes on white paper meant something. I recall very clearly my first lesson in reading out of a Dick And Jane primer, with my classmates and I gathered around our teacher, Mrs. Braswell, in a half circle. We were in the first grade. I was instructed to read the first page by sounding out my letters. I remember how I gripped the book and stared down at what I now knew were words. A “picture” version of talking. I remember my heart racing as I read out loud to the others, sounding out the words on the page.
S-EE. D-ICK GO!
Remember that? Oh. Some of you might be too young. Anyway, that’s how I was taught. Phonetics I believe it was called. Once I got the hang of it, I couldn’t get enough. Read, read, read, that’s all I wanted to do.
I went through different phases of what I liked. From the Little House books, to my horse loving phase with My Friend Flicka, Black Beauty, and National Velvet. I read so many books it’s too hard to list them all, but I distinctly remember moving on from Little House and horse books to stories like Call Of The Wild, Old Yeller, and The Yearling. Eventually it was Harlequin Romance. This was around the time I was thirteen. I wish I’d kept count of how many of those I went through. At least three a week – for a long time.
The next genre was Horror. I read The Exorcist when I was about fourteen and babysitting for a couple down the street from my parents. I was so scared, I couldn’t move off the couch to go pee. When the couple came home, I shoved the book under my coat to sneak it back home with me where I resumed my odyssey of terror into the early morning hours. I returned it the next night – it was a weekend and they wanted me both nights – trying to remember where I’d found it. I’d been so rattled after spending hours with it before they got home, I couldn’t recall, so I just flipped it to the back of their closet. Which wasn’t far away enough, in my opinion.
After that I was hooked on that adrenalin rush of fear. I bought anything and everything that said it was about “posession.” That phase lasted until I started hearing things in my room (probably my gerbils) and having very bizarre nightmares. I then went on to books like Sacajawea, Ride The Wind (fictionalized account of Cynthia Ann Parker’s capture by the Comanche) Long Knife, Pocahontas, Walk In My Soul and there’s no way honestly to recall all the fictionalized history books I read either.
Here is my current “collection.” Some of these I’ve had for close to thirty five years. (the fictionalized stories of Cynthia Ann Parker, Pocahontas, etc, for instance) The dresser in the middle with the books? That’s “part” of the notorious TBR pile. Minus a few in my bedroom and one other one.
This is by no means, all of the books I’ve ever owned. I’ve given away tons over the years, but many of these are hardcover I can’t bear to part with.
Despite the shifting between various genres, and my ever changing tastes, there is one author, and one author only I can honestly list as the one who hooked me for the longest – and the one I’ve bought the most books by. Stephen King. I have, and I just counted, thirty one. No. Other. Author fills up my bookshelves like this. I became enamored with him thirty three years ago. I was pregnant with my son and a friend in the neighborhood – also pregnant – introduced me to his work when she told me about The Stand. Most people came to know him through Carrie, but The Stand it was for me, and I was hooked.
You can’t see two on the very end to the right. I have a few he wrote under Richard Bachman, and one he wrote in collaboration with Peter Straub. I think that one is called The Regulators.
And now, I have this, too:
Oh. My. God. Right??? I pre-ordered it and it came yesterday. I’ve not purchased a Stephen King book in…years. There’s something about this story though, that makes me hope for a Cujo, or Misery, or Delores Claiborne. A terrible story, but believable. Not like some of his more strange works – the stuff he wrote when he was drinking mouthwash and doing other self-medicating activities. I’m anxious. Anxious because I SO want this book to live up to my old expectations. I remember how excited I used to get knowing a Stephen King book was due. I was almost like those people camping out for Black Friday sales. I burned rubber to get to the bookstore to get my copy. I began reading it immediately – even while I tried to “savor” it for as long as possible. I was always sad when I finished.
I want to fall back in love again with his work. I want to re-ignite that dry mouth, and sinking feeling I used to get as I followed his characters into hell. I don’t want to be let down. I’m in the middle of reading two other books at the moment, so, that much has changed too. I haven’t even peeked at the first sentence – something I would have thought impossible thirty some odd years ago.
What author have you loved enough to buy their books by the dozens? Is there anyone out there as prolific as Stephen King that can support your “habit?”