I could, pretty much, read before I could walk. Seriously. I sound like some kind of freaky genius, and honestly I got normal later, but my mum just taught me to read very early (apparently I asked her to draw a picture and given that she too was severely artistically challenged, she wrote out the family's names for me, and the rest is history. I was, apparently 18 months). Either way, it's on medical record that I was reading fluently by 2.
This is not without its downside. All my mum's friends hated me. Well you would, wouldn't you? There's your lovely baby saying "hello-copter" or "rhinausages" (both L-isms) and there's smug irritating 2-year-old Plan B reading the front page of the Times. Not understanding it clearly, but that's beside the point.
Either way, books became my thing; my playmate, my refuge, my best friend. We lived in a wonderful Swallows and Amazons type lakey, tree-ey, wood-ey area. Did I play Swallows and Amazons? Or Children of the New Forest? Or Swiss Family Robinson? Did I b0llocks! I was far too busy sitting inside reading them.
And now, as an adult, it means I'm totally undiscriminating about what I read. I just have to be reading something. Pre-children I couldn't leave the house without a book, in case of a spare two minutes standing in the queue for the post office. Since children, however, reading's not somehow quite the same. My previous diet of two or three books a week is down to two or three a month, and that's if I'm lucky...
Which has got me to thinking. If I can't read as much, I must read better. I used to be able to read the same book over and over again because I'd have read it so fast the first time I wouldn't actually remember it later, in the same way I can wolf down a tub of Ben and Jerry's without actually tasting it. But that's no good any more, I need to savour my reading, to remember it, to appreciate those moments of magic when I'm absorbed into someone else's imagination.
So I'm going to record them. As from now, when I finish a book, I'm going to write it down. And although I'm certainly no literary critic, I'm going to jot down what I thought too. If only so I can remember.
So: book number 1 of 2010. The Storyteller, or the Hakawati, by Rabih Alameddine. Bought on a 3 for 2 deal in Foyles because it was fat and I buy books by weight not content. And, well, I'm not sure really. It's a story of stories, an Arabian nights; if Scheherezade were sitting by a hospital bed, wearing scrubs and waiting for her father to die. Three stories, one modern, one historical (ish), one fantastical, all intermeshed and interspersed with yet more stories. One of those books which doesn't have a plot because so much happens. I enjoyed it, but I'm not entirely sure why. And it made me want to visit Lebanon.
Next: from the sublime (ish) to the ridiculous (definitely) The Host by Stephenie Meyer, famous for Twilight... watch this space. Oh, and let me have recommendations...
Picture credits: The Bookworm, by Carl Spitzweg, found at www.oceansbridge.com. Oh, and Amazon.co.uk (but of course). Thank you.