Tuesday, July 23, 2019

My Reading Journey

Let me set the scene. It was a warm Sunday in July. Actually, thanks to Amazon, I can tell you it was the 23rd of July in 2017. My husband and sons were on day two of an eight day trip to Canada. The world closely resembled a dumpster fire, kind-of similar to now. Anxiety, my old friend, was sky high. As I walked the dogs that morning, I left a message for my friend Cindy on my Voxer app. I figured she’d listen to it later as she made her way about her day in Pennsylvania. I wish I’d saved her reply, which came while I was still walking, but alas, I didn’t. Suffice to say, she suggested I download a romance book to read, that maybe it would help me to relax and let go of worries. I loved reading young adult books, but in romance I was guaranteed a happily ever after. Cindy somehow knew that I needed that, more than I’d ever realized.

Today I sit here typing this blog post on July 22nd, 2019. Seven hundred and twenty-nine days ago I downloaded my first romance book to my Kindle App. Since then, on Amazon alone, I’ve read five hundred and five books. That doesn’t count rereads; that doesn’t count the books I’ve purchased at our new independent bookstore, Hartfield Book Co.; that doesn’t count books I’ve borrowed from our local library in print or ebooks; that doesn’t count any of the picture books, middle grade books, or young adult books I’ve read. Simply on one app, I’ve read 505 romance books in 729 days. 


In a few weeks I’m joining forces with my local bookstore, Hartfield Book Co., to celebrate romance books for Bookstore Romance Day, something that independent bookstores across the country are doing on August 17th. I’m honored to be a part of this. One thing I hadn’t realized when I started reading romance books 729 days ago was that there was a stigma in the eyes of some when you declared your love for this genre. 

Weird, right?

I can’t remember when I began reading romance books. As a junior high student, I know I devoured this series as fast as they could come out:

I don’t remember talking to a lot of people about my reading, I read for my own enjoyment. I loved the characters in these books and my heart would be crushed when relationships would break up. For that reason, maybe they weren’t true romance books. According to Romance Writers of America, a romance book must…

  1. Have a love story as part of the central storyline.
  2. Have an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending, or the happily ever after. (Otherwise known as a HEA.)

So, I’m not sure if Couples would be true romance books, but they’d set me on the path.

Meanwhile, I was surrounded with reading role models. My parents read every night before bed. My friends read, though we didn’t typically discuss books. My grandma had a stack of these books next to her armchair in her living room. 

I knew my grandma read romance, though I think she bought them used at her auction. It wasn’t a big deal, just what she read. 

As I reached high school, my reading taste changed. I was busier with more homework, so I read for pleasure less. When I did read, I typically could be found with a book from this author:

I was obsessed with Steel and read everything I could that she’d written. 

In college I found less and less time to read. Once in awhile I’d go back and read an old favorite from Steel, reread Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, that I loved, or share mysteries with my parents like books from Dick Francis or Mary Higgins Clark. My reading life wasn’t consistent, but being a history major meant a lot of my daily reading was for school.

It wasn’t until I was pregnant with Luke that I began to devour books again. I found a series called The Mitford Series by Jan Karon that I loved. Here was a sweet romance story between a pastor and his neighbor set in a small town in North Carolina. Not a traditional romance, but the elements were there. 

Flash forward from Karon’s books I read in 2002 until now, seventeen years later. I’ve read a lot of books over the years. I devour picture books on a regular basis. Depending on the year, I read more or less for my classroom. But in the last two years, one constant in my reading life is my love of the romance genre. I’m always reading a romance book, no matter what else I’m reading. 

Being a romance reader has had benefits I hadn’t anticipated. One, it helps when I’m stressed or worried. Reading has always been that safe place for me, but some of the books I read in the young adult or middle grade categories definitely wouldn’t be considered to have a HEA. Whether it is the world we live in or the age I am, I need the majority of the books I’m reading to be that safe place to land. I need to not have to worry about my characters being alright, and I’m ok with that. This reminds me that depending on their life outside of my classroom, my students might need lighter or heavier books to read.

The other thing romance has reinforced for me is the lack of judgement we need to have around reading. I’ve always allowed my students to read whatever they desire, but that is a constant discussion with colleagues and parents. Whether it’s graphic novels, rereading books, audio books, or what have you, I’m here to support their reading, not shame them for it. 

So how about you? What genre do you love reading? Share and we can obsess about books together. And if you need a romance book recommendation, check back on the 17th or send me a message, I have lots of thoughts on that.