Getting Lost

I have always loved to read. Some of my earliest memories involve books. My mother and older sisters frequently read to me when I was a toddler. I often say they taught me to read before I started kindergarten just so they wouldn’t have to listen to me pleading in a whiny voice.

Will you read to me?

You can ask them if it’s true. I suspect it might be.

As a child who found it difficult to walk and impossible to run, reading allowed me to explore the world. I would sit on the floor in my parents’ living room listening to the “Greatest Classical Composers” albums (we had the entire set) while reading about Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven. Beethoven amazed me then as much as he does now. Imagine hearing the Ninth Symphony in your head and not being able to hear the performance as you conduct it? I would memorize trivial facts as I read. These will help me if I ever succeed in becoming a contestant on Jeopardy!

When I was in the third grade, Mom and I read the Little House on the Prarie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder each night before I went to bed. We would alternate the reading responsibilities. Mom would usually fall asleep when I was reading, which allowed me to get an extra chapter or two completed before she awoke with a start.

It is easy for me to get lost in a book. Once I start a compelling story I can stay with it until the end, ignoring food, responsibilities, and other people. In high school, I did not have much time for free reading during the school year. However, each summer I spent many hours in the sunshine, my face buried in a book because Mom questioned me if I spent too much time inside.

“How long are you going to sit there reading? Can’t you see it’s beautiful outside?!” 

Inevitably, this would make me take my current book out to the backyard or garage. Mom complained less about me spending the day reading if I was outside.

I blame my sister Caroline for my love of a good spy thriller. I stole her copy of Robert Ludlum’s book The Bourne Identity the summer after ninth grade. I was hooked. As soon as I was done, I checked out every Robert Ludum book in my little hometown library. They were my escape. In those pages, I visited the world beyond my little town – France, Russia, England, and more. Is it any wonder I wanted to be an exchange student and explore the world?

I discovered Frederick Forsyth during my year as an exchange student to Australia. My first host family gave me a bedroom with a full bookshelf. One rainy Saturday morning, alone in their house, I opened The Day of the Jackal after breakfast and quickly found myself lost in the story of an assassin’s attempt to murder Charles de Gaulle. I didn’t emerge from France again until my host parents returned home for dinner. That night, I questioned them about Europe, the reasons they decided to leave their home in Holland, and why they chose Australia. Reading fosters cultural growth and informed conversations.

Although I love spy thrillers, I get lost in other genres too. For several years, the Harry Potter books served as my “I’m-reading-all-day-leave-me-alone” books. I was one of those adults who eagerly bought my copy as soon as I could, although I never waited up to buy one at midnight. I do have standards.

In 2005, I purchased my copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince as soon as it was released on July 16. I was unable to read it right away though. I was hosting the Ms. Wheelchair America pageant here in New York, and the contestants were arriving. I was surrounded by people reading the book throughout that week – pageant contestants, their families, volunteers, other hotel guests. I avoided spoilers and begged everyone to stop discussing the book whenever I was around. The book was my reward for making it through the week of the national pageant. That following Saturday, I started reading at 7:15 AM and stayed lost in Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic until I finished the book at 12:40 AM Sunday. I collapsed exhausted on my pillow, as if I had been running from Lord Voldemort along with Harry, Ron and Hermione.

This weekend, I devoured my latest “I’m-reading-all-day-leave-me-alone” book, The Black Widow by Daniel Silva, the latest in the Gabriel Allon series. I have read all sixteen books in this series, so starting the most recent one is like becoming reacquainted with an old friend. There is the art restorer/master spy and his loyal team, as well as characters from prior novels. This time, Silva created one of his best villains – a terrorist named Saladin.

These days, I consume most books in audio format so I can accomplish other tasks while “reading.” Yesterday, I turned on my computer and hit “play” after I stirred my morning coffee. As the narrator (the wonderful George Guidall) began, I picked up my yarn and left my apartment for Paris where the opening plot scenes occur. Throughout the day and into the night, I was transported to Israel, Syria and Washington, D.C. Anyone observing me might have seen a woman crocheting in her upstate New York apartment while listening to an audiobook. Truth is, I was following my friends as they attempted to foil a terrorist scheme. I am not going to give any plot spoilers, but listening to this book felt a bit too much like listening to the news at times. The author included a forward to the book to explain how he almost delayed the book release in light of recent events in Europe. I’m glad he did not.

Today I am back to reality. I am attending to my responsibilities – “adulting” as some call it. It would be so easy to get lost in another book. There are four waiting for me on my iPod. But they will wait until next weekend, or the next time I need to escape my life for a day or two.

How about you? When did you first lose yourself in a book? Has it happened recently? What book should I try the next time I want to get lost?

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19 thoughts on “Getting Lost

  1. Cool post! Have you ever thought about classical music as telling a story itself? One thing I’ve been having fun with lately is listening to a piece of music and imagining who the characters might be and what they might be doing if this was a movie score to your favorite book! You can also imagine your own stories. It’s great for creativity and inspiration!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! I especially love the romantic classical composers (Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn, Rachmaninoff, etc.) because their music tells so many stories. It is nearly impossible for me to listen to any music without thinking of a story.

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      • That’s so interesting to hear! I wrote my honors senior thesis on how you can connect to preexisting literature with classical music in order to gain new analytical insights in both the music and literature. Also, Rachmaninoff is one of my favorite composers!

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  2. Little House on the Prairiiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeee! Among my favorite rereads, along with Nancy Drew! My mom and I used to read Shakespeare in my bed, because the character I’m named after rocks! 🙂 And I, too, shared the all-night-long binge-read phenomenon of HP! Sigh…

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  3. Wow, yes! I also lost myself in the Little House Books as a kid, and the Harry Potter books as an adult. One of them came out in mid-2003 right when my son was born, and I used to nurse him and read HP at the same time. Nursing was challenging for me and having those books to read while I was doing it was great. (And he read the whole series to himself a few years ago).

    Did you read any Madeleline L’Engle as a child? I loved A Wrinkle in Time, and I’m actually re-reading it again now to study the structure and pacing and how it’s put together. How did something written in 1962 that breaks all the rules and was rejected from dozens of publishers stand the test of time so well?

    Also, have you read any Jodi Picoult? If not, I think My Sister’s Keeper is a book you could lose yourself in. But it’s also terribly sad and tragic, not light summer reading to keep your spirits up.

    >

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love the Harry Potter audiobooks. The series was my 2014 summer listen, even though I had read them all.

      I read A Wrinkle in Time but I need to re-read it again. I don’t remember loving it, but I know I probably would now.

      I’ve read some of Jodi Picoult’s books, but not My Sister’s Keeper. I think I read too many in a row, because I started to find them formulaic and predictable.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve only read a few of Picoult’s books; there was one, Salem Falls, that I couldn’t finish. I don’t know if I’d call it formulaic, but it wasn’t my thing. MSK was different; the ending was, for me, unexpected and quite shocking. I like that she tells stories from multiple viewpoints. That doesn’t always work, but it did in this case.

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  4. Read many of the Ludlum books. My first “big book” was The Mists of Avalon, told from the women’s point of view in King Arthur’s court. I loved hearing how your love of reading evolved. Fun!

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  5. I loved this post–you have a gift for describing the story without giving it all away. My favourite book of late (thanks to a recommendation by Ros) is The Secret Life of Bees. It’s a great audiobook, too–look for Jenna Lamia’s narration. She was also part of the audio cast for the version I heard of The Help, and I think she does a fantastic job.

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    • I haven’t read that one either! I’ll add it to my list. At the moment, I’m in the middle of Modern Romance by Aziz Anzari (sp?). Not sure if I’ll make it to the end. The content is interesting but he’s not a great narrator. Not everyone who writes nonfiction should narrate their own audiobooks. Except for me, of course. When I finish my book, it will be brilliantly narrated.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Little House on the Prairie was a staple of my growing-up years, as was Anne of Green Gables. I’m wanting to try out that Gabriel Allon series, after reading your description of it. I’ve been listening to more audiobooks (a skill I’m working on, since I am a habitual speed-reader, and much more visual than auditory). Your story about the Half-Blood Prince was mine when The Deathly Hallows was released. Haven’t felt like that about a book since then!
    If you like speculative fiction, like steampunk, Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker and Dreadnought are two of my favorites. A good combination of intrigue and alternate history. 🙂

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    • Thanks for the recommendations. I love that my “to-read” list is growing. Don’t tell anyone that was my rationale for writing this post!

      I also loved Anne of Green Gables. My relationship with my bestest best friend was much like Anne and Diana’s friendship as a child, and I related well to the story. I was so happy when Anne and Gilbert finally got together!

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