This should come as a surprise to exactly nobody. I think all writers should have an innate passion for the written word (and if you're a writer, and don't love to read, I'd recommend a new career, like accounting). My first word--scratch that, my fourth word, after "mama," "dada," and "doublestuforeo"--was "book." Early classics of my life as a reader include such fine tomes as Big Dog, Little Dog and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. And who could forget that fine literary masterpiece found in only the most expensive and elite of preschools, Hop on Pop? Yes, even from my youngest, diapered days, I was something of a book snob.
As I got older, I became acquainted with an unpleasant sensation that would stay with me my whole life. As a kid, I first chalked up this unpleasantness to spoiled milk or an especially sour pickle. Eventually, I recognized it for what it really was: book envy. Why did the other third grade class get to read Freckle Juice while I was stuck slogging through the uberdepressing Bridge to Terabithia? How was THAT fair? Why did my cousin Lori have more comic books than I did? And in fifth grade, I had it on good authority that Miss Bennett's class sometimes got to go to the library twice a week, while those of us stuck in the dregs of Mrs. Gustafson's class were only allowed one precious library visit a week, and only if we didn't throw a temper tantrum about how Miss Bennett's class got to go more than us. It felt like I never got to go!
I formed friendships based on book-swapping potential. In our younger years, the Bouchard twins had a fine selection of Sweet Pickles stories; as I headed to middle school, it was Carrie down the road who had an impressive collection of Sweet Valley High books. (My mother thought they were not worth the paper they were printed on, which made the adventures of the Wakefield twins all the more precious to get my hands on.) (Update: Mom was right.) Laura had a formidable stash of Dean Koontz, Meghan had an impressive true crime library, and if my friends were mad at me (fights that arose sometimes when they suspected I was using them for their books--fights I ignored because I was too busy reading) I could always raid my sister's stash of Stephen King. Hey, these friendships weren't all one-sided: I held the distinct honor of being the gal to go to if you were hankering for some steamy Harold Robbins. Even then, though, I was a terrible snob. If you wanted to read The Adventurers or A Stone for Danny Fisher, I'd hook you up, but if you wanted something dumb, like The Lonely Lady, I had no time for you. It's a good thing I had books, because I went through a lot of friends during those years.
As an adult, I decided it was time to refine my interests: you know, select just a few authors or series or genres to call my favorite. So I finally announced it to the world: I did not care for sci-fi or fantasy. Except Harry Potter. Oh, and the first few Outlander series books weren't bad. Plus, I really enjoyed books 1 -32 of the Star Wars novelizations. But that's it. Otherwise, I won't touch it. Except Neil Gaiman. Ooh, and the Dune series. But otherwise, sci-fi leaves me clammy.
It turns out there's nothing I won't read (including cereal boxes, ketchup packets, and mattress tags). Sure, I have my favorites: I tend to devour anything about any member of the Kennedy family; anything by Wally Lamb, John Irving, Stephen King, Thomas Harris, or Michael Crichton; true crime in small doses (I wept when I heard Joe McGinniss passed away earlier this week) and anything about Manson; English history and historical fiction; and anything and everything by Erma Bombeck or Berkley Breathed (both conveniently located in the humor section). And yes, I've even been known to pick up a romance or two, but remember, I'm a book snob: I won't read a romance novel unless it has a bare-chested Scotsman in a kilt on the front. I have my standards, after all, and objectified Scotsmen are de rigueur.
I once met a man who told me he loved to read, but never had the time. I knew he was a liar--he didn't love to read. True readers know you make the time, even if it means you wind up asleep with inkprint on your cheek, your slack face marking the page where you left off. I dumped that guy. Then I met one who took me out on romantic dates to used book stores and library book sales. I married him.