What book got me into reading?

Someone asked that on Facebook. To me that's a little like asking what meal got me into eating. I can't ever remember a time when I didn't want to read, and can barely remember the time before reading.

I have a memory of the family sitting outside our house on 12th St. in Bend. My older brother, Mike, and older sister, Tina, were talking about the books they were reading. I remember yelling, "I want to read!"

Mom turned to me and said, "You're too young, Duncan. You'll learn to read next year in school."

(Hard to imagine a parent doing that today, eh?)

Anyway, I wanted to read so bad that I remember memorizing a book about a big container that held a refrigerator that the kid turns into a fort. How I memorized it by not reading, I can't tell you. Maybe I asked it to be read so many times that I got it all down. Or, more likely, I filled in the blanks.

That might have been the beginning of my creative career.

I inhaled books for the rest of my childhood, hundreds of Scholastic type books that are impossible to remember now. I have memories of a few childhood books like "Rabbit Hill" and the Doctor Doolittle books, but mostly they are a big blur.

I was talking to another book person the other day about how I've been keeping track in a journal since I was about 30 years old of the books I've read and how unwieldy it had become and how I needed to enter it in a program where I could cross-reference titles and authors and dates and how that would be a huge amount of work.

She mentioned Good Reads and how she kept the list there, and how she'd gone into the past and tried to reconstruct the books she'd read.

That doesn't compute. That's impossible.

I have the sense, right or wrong, that I read more before I was 30 than I've read since. Probably much more. I know one year I read some ridiculous amount, dare I say 200? (I was agoraphobic at the time and more or less a shut-in.)

Anyway, there is no way to count the number of books and I don't suppose it is a contest.

Twice in my life I did make the effort to increase my reading. In both cases it was because my writing had taken the place of reading.

The first time was because I couldn't read without seeing all the mechanics of it. I forced my way past that, eventually.

This second time it's probably because my own fictional worlds took the place of books. So once again I'm forcing myself to read more; a book a week, and so far this year I've been managing it. Ironically, I'm trying to be more critical, learn some new tricks, but if the book is working I find myself sinking into it without awareness of technique.

This isn't humble bragging. This is just the way it has always been. Reading has always been like a parallel and separate existence along with my real life and I can't imagine not doing it. When someone says they don't read, I feel sorry for them. Really, like they've just told me they've amputated both feet.