Today I think I found the crux of what kept me from reading much of anything outside of Japanese manga during my high school years and the comics for a year or two after I entered college. It all had to do with the library that I had access to.
My parents live in a small town in Indiana (currently, I’m living here as well) and amazingly we have a small library. When I was a kid, I went there once or twice a week, always switching out books, and loving reading. I read all the time. Then as I got older and started moving out of the kids section, I realized that there wasn’t that much there. In fact, there was next to nothing, unless I was a massive Stephen King fan (which at that age, I was too much of a wimp to be), or if you loved political biographies. So I stopped going. I was hoping we could get a membership to the library in the next city over, abut ended up extremely disappointed because while they had a MASSIVE selection of books, it was extremely expensive to get a membership ($65 if you didn’t live in city limits), so of course, I was well out of luck.
From that point through middle school, I didn’t have anything left to read. I was a kid, I didn’t have money to throw around at the lone book store in town, so I couldn’t get anything new to read unless it was my birthday or christmas, which were within just 15 days of each other, which meant I could only add to my collection once a year. The middle and high school libraries were so devoid of anything but research material that it wasn’t even worth trying to get anything there that was fiction, and the non-fiction were things like dictionaries and encyclopedias, or books on certain subjects, but written in the 80’s. Nothing that would pique the interests of a high schooler.
At that point, I became nothing short of apathetic towards reading books that weren’t manga. Really, it’s quite sad when I look back on it and that was the case, but it’s something I can’t change. But then, I got lucky. My first year in college, I heard about The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. I knew a movie was coming out, and I was finding myself wanting to read the source material for the movie before it came out. I couldn’t find an individual copy of the book, but I did find a leather bound copy of The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide, which had all the stories that Douglas Adams wrote in the series. I read it and finally I became interested in reading again.
I read a bit more through college, but not a ton. I was busy most of the time, so my reading time was limited. Comics came to the forefront, and honestly, I couldn’t be happier about that. Alongside the now growing collection of books on my shelf, I have a collection of graphic novels that I absolutely adore. Brian Azzarello’s Joker got me going, Alan Moore’s classic Watchmen soon after, which lead into Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, into Brian K. Vaughan’s Y: The Last Man, and then to the series that’s had me all kinds of crazy for the last two years, Brian Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim. I think those gave me that perfect stepping stone to finally go out and try to find good stories in full on novels (though that should NOT be seen as those not being legitimate stories that are good, or that all novels are flat out better than comics or graphic novels).
That leads us to now. Well, actually that leads us to a few months ago. I started realizing that my time in college is coming to a finish, but I hadn’t done much of anything reading wise. I was about to loose access to a ton of books, but I also wouldn’t have as much money for books and such as time went on (at least as long as I was still planning to go into production). So the seed for the 52 books in a year challenge started to germinate. Now I’m in the thick of it, and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve got books lined up already, a couple more on their way in now, and I’ve still got access to this bigger library for a half a year still. I think it’s time I expanded my mind a bit and start reading some stuff I’ve never read before. Which reminds me, I should probably hop off and get more into Juliet, Naked before The Daily Show comes on.