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A Reading Addict

| March 8, 2019 | 0 Comments

I have an addictive psyche. I am addicted to overeating and buying shoes, but I am not addicted to alcohol or coffee or sodas. At times I have mastered food and shoes, but not my earliest addiction: reading. Long before I could read, I took a book with me wherever I went. Our bathroom had lots of reading material, as did bookshelves, coffee and end tables.

As I child I was even addicted to the daily comics in the paper. My father read them to me. I remember “Rex Morgan” and “Mary Worth,” “Blondie and Dagwood,” “Major Hoople,” and “Out Our Way” from the early 1940s. My addiction to the comics was so strong that my parents sent me care packages of two or three weeks of comics when I was away at boarding school. I remained addicted to the “funny papers” until the Doug Manchester purchased the San Diego Union Tribune. I cancelled our subscription and gave up the funnies cold turkey after a nearly 70-year addiction. The two or three times I have peeked at the comics’ section since 2011, “Mary Worth” and “Rex Morgan” hadn’t progressed very far.

I cannot go anywhere without a book. I remember the day I learned to read. As a scrawny, tall, buck-toothed only child, I had mastered the alphabet and the sounds the letters made with the rest of my class. One day the teacher passed out “Fun with Dick and Jane.” We began reading it aloud. I caught on instantly and became lost in the saga of Dick, Jane, Spot and the parents. By the time it was my turn to read, I had nearly finished the book and had no idea where we were. Everyone laughed at me. When I returned home from school, I picked up the library book my mother was reading. Wow! I could read and understand enough of the words to get the gist of the story. From then on, I borrowed and bought books, which I read voraciously. I don’t read for information. I read the way I eat. I gorge on books.

Apparently, reading addiction is contagious. Several of my elementary school friends also became addicted. Our entire neighborhood became the setting for “Anne of Green Gables,” the village of Avonlea in Nova Scotia. Anne Shirley, an orphan, was sent to work for a brother and sister at their farm Green Gables. Since she created her own world, my friends and I also named trees, pathways, woods, and forts after each of Anne’s favorite haunts. I still adore “Winnie the Pooh” and Milne’s wonderful poems from “When We Were Very Young” to “Now We Are Six.” I fell in love with Marguerite Henry’s books and Walter Farley’s. If I loved an author, I read everything he or she had written. I can remember checking out of the school library a book a day and three on Friday for years. In college I rationalized my over-spending on books by saying I needed to read all the books by each author to get a decent grade. My parents cheerfully wrote checks.

I also discovered that when John Ruskin wrote that girls’ reading should not be censored; they will choose what is good for them, it was true. Perhaps he didn’t intend his statement the way I interpreted it, but at age 10 I picked up A “Tree Grows in Brooklyn.” I was shocked when a man exposed himself to Francie, the little girl in the story. I have re-read the book numerous times, but I have never found that particular passage. I have found sex scenes and unwanted pregnancies, which went completely over my head as a ten-year-old.

Lately, I have been purging my bookshelves. At 78 it is time to divest myself of my excesses. I own many books that I would be embarrassed to take to “the home” should I go there. If I don’t think a book is worth re-reading or keeping as a reference, I donate it. Actually, I discard cartons of books.

The books I keep are either beautifully written, have fabulous plots, or were loved in my childhood. As an adult I once bought all the horse books of a friend’s teenaged daughter. I still have “A Little Princess” and “The Secret Garden.” I cried in “Little Lord Fauntleroy,” but I didn’t keep it.

One of my adult favorite books is “A Portion for Foxes.” It has a fabulous plot, it is funny, and it gives a discerning look at the old south. Best of all it is full of horses, dogs, and foxes. Rita Mae Brown’s books are keepers for the same reason. I don’t care if I keep her mysteries, but the tales of her family and fox hunting are wonderful.

If I finish a book that I enjoyed, I go on line to find used copies by the same author. I grow anxious when I don’t have a stack of unread books waiting. Now, as I watch people around me die of old age, I am also afraid I might not finish all the books I am waiting to read. How perfect an ending would be if you closed the final page of a book you love, just as you close the book of your life.

Don’t miss the March 28 Garden Club meeting when Greg Rubin speaks about native gardens. He is a landscape designer who specializes in low maintenance, high fire-resistant, beautiful landscape designs. Meetings are at Mission Hills United Church of Christ at 4070 Jackdaw, from 6 until 8 p.m.

These books, according to Barb Strona, are either beautifully written, have fabulous plots, or were loved in her childhood.

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Category: Education, Life Style, Local News

About the Author ()

Barbara Strona is a native Californian who grew up in the Mid-West and Los Angeles. She and her architect husband, Carl, came to San Diego in 1968 and have lived in Mission Hills since early 1971. Barbara received a Bachelor of Arts from Scripps College with a major in English, and a minor in Art. She attended UCLA graduate school and received a General Secondary Credential. She taught English in Los Angeles, Pennsylvania, and at Point Loma High School. She has been a Realtor specializing in residential sales since 1984. Her passions include her job, reading, writing, foreign languages and foreign countries, animals (feathered or furry), theatre, and her family: husband, two adult children and two grandsons.