"We Read To Know That We Are Not Alone" (Kaitlyn's Blog)

KaiTLyn James
Memoir Contributor

It took me awhile to learn how to read. I remember my mother being frustrated that I stumbled over words even entering first grade. To be honest, I don’t truly know when children should know how to read, but every child in my family, except for poor me came out of the womb with a book in their hands. In fact, I have clear memories of little brother reading off street signs at the tender age of three (talk about sibling jealousy! That made me furious!!).

Reading is a cornerstone to my family. We swap books amongst each other, we all have bookshelves littered with our favorites—many have been read countless times. It was my great grandfather who instilled this value in us; he read every spare moment he had. He would have books stacked on books in his lap, switching between them at his leisure. When he died in 2004, he was in his favorite armchair, reading a book about the Second World War. Before he died, he carefully marked his page and closed his eyes. My dear papa couldn’t imagine, even in death not being able to find his page.

Though it took me longer than most, once I began to read on my own I never stopped. I gobbled up every word on every cereal box, shampoo bottle, book, and whatever I could get my hands on. To this day I am still an avid reader. I love slipping off into my own imaginary world for hours at a time; nothing is more soothing to me than a good book and a cozy blanket. In elementary school I read probably a book a day. I love the Accelerated Reader program at my school (getting to be competitive over something not athletic was a breath of fresh air to a kid like me), and because of all this practice I read well beyond grade level by the time I entered third grade.

I read biographies, thrillers, cheap romance novels, young adult fiction, historical fiction, you name it.  I average about five books a month, not including the reading I do for my doctoral program.

Reading on a PhD level is among the most difficult things I have ever had to do. The comprehension skills necessary to understand some of the writers assigned to me is unimaginable. I am grateful for such a background in reading to be able to wade through some of what is handed to me. Sometimes, I get frustrated when I have to read and reread to know what is going on. In fact, over the last year my vision has worsened tremendously because of how often I am poring over books and computer screens.  It’s worth it though; I truly believe the appreciation of reading is one of the most important values that can be instilled in an individual. No matter the style of writing you like to read, it will have something to offer you for life. As Oscar Wilde said, “It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”

Below is a list of my top ten favorite books, which I can currently think of, in no particular order!

  1. Bridge to Terabithia — Katherine Paterson
  2. Before Women had Wings — Connie May Fowler
  3. Gone Girl — Gillian Flynn
  4. Girl, Interrupted — Susanna Kaysen
  5. Lamb — Christopher Moore
  6. Me Talk Pretty One Day — David Sedaris
  7. The Great Gatsby — F. Scott Fitzgerald
  8. The Other Boleyn Girl — Philippa Gregory
  9. Mrs. Kennedy and Me — Clint Hill
  10. Let’s Pretend this Never Happened — Jenny Lawson

There are so many other books I treasure, but I know for a fact I could read each of these over and over again. I hope you too have a list of books that you hold dear, and that you feel the need to consume the words of others. Reading is a magical experience, which cannot be compared to television or movies. I hope that my daughter will develop my same love of books and that she will pass that down to her children as well.