Last night, I did something I never thought I would ever do: I asked my step-daughter to put the book down and go to sleep already!
Now, before you lynch me or put me in the same category of book burners and fundamentalist christians, let me explain.
She’s 8. Her bedtime is 8.30. She loves to read. And her imagination doesn’t have an off-switch. So if we let her read until she’s tired, she’ll still be reading at midnight. And then we have to deal with the consequences. So when I saw the light shining from under the door (again) at 10pm, I had to do the unthinkable.
Normally, I’d be quite happy for her to read all night. Let the stories invade her mind and set fire to her imagination. She is a voracious reader and, at 8 years old, she’s reading well beyond her years. She had to beg us to let her read the second Harry Potter book, and I think we’ll probably relent on the third book as well before she hits ten.
But her mum and I just can’t handle the almost-teenager-like reading hangover that results from a late night. So we have to limit her, like a crack addict, to small doses per night.
Her reading list at the moment:
1. Bridge To Terabithia – I’m reading this to her. I don’t think you ever get too old to have someone read to you, and it helps me bone up on my American accents.
2. The Hobbit – I started reading this to her, but she started making very clever “guesses” about what was going to happen next, and I found that she’d read the whole thing over a couple of nights of subversive torchlight reading.
3. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. She quotes from Philosopher’s Stone all of the time, so it was only a matter of time.
4. Brer Rabbit Tales by Enid Blyton. She read 15 Secret Seven books in two weeks and was re-reading the Faraway Tree, so I figured she was up for something new.
On top of these, she still reads the grade-two level readers her school gives her, which I agree with educationally (I was able to teach her how to read comics properly, for example) but wish that the school could challenge her a bit with reading.
We were pretty dismissive when we gave her Esio Trot to read and she returned to me in an hour saying it was great and could she have another one. Almost half-heartedly, I’d ask her a question about what happened in the book. She answered promptly. Surprised, I tried something a little more analytical. She had it down pat. From then, I’ve just watched in amazement as she worked her way through dozens of books over the past couple of years, making incredible comments on genre and comparisons to other books. My year 10s can’t do it, that’s for sure.
But I didn’t start this to rave about my step-daughter, who you don’t know and doesn’t enter into Finding Damo in the slightest. I was going to use it as an introductory stepping stone and got carried away.
So… Hop! Next stone.
I used to read in bed as a child. I utilised the torch for my own illicit reading. But I was often found, fast asleep with a book on my face. I’m pretty sure it still happens sometimes.
I read The Hobbit in Grade 3. I read the Wizard of Earthsea in Grade 2 – Mum was studying it for school and we were travelling through Queensland and it was there so I read it.
I read Bridge to Terabithia in Grade 5 or 6 – the teacher was giving me and a couple of others books to challenge us as the regular reading was way below us. In primary school I found Encyclopedia Brown, The Three Investigaters, Biggles, Blyton, Asterix and Tintin. As I got older, I devoured all of the Doctor Who novelisations, Judy Blume (Forever was an experience, I can tell you!), Victor Kelleher and Douglas Adams.
Scarily enough, I didn’t discover Terry Pratchet until university. Dave and I had been introduced to a MUD (multi-user dungeon) on the Internet, and we were having problems with some of the quests. “Oh,” said a helpful player, “that one’s straight from the books.”
“There are books?” I asked, to the general hilarity of the online world. Soon after, Dave and I were annoying the crap out of a busload of people as we read Reaper Man and Small Gods on the way to Queensland. And now I’m on the organising committee for Nullus Anxietas IV.
There are a few novels that completely changed my life.
The first, I just finished again, this time on audio. 47 hours of unexpurgated Stephen King. The Stand. A work of genius that draws me in, over and over. I think I’ve read it at least once every two years since it was published. And yes, the re-release was better.
IT, I’ll lump in with The Stand. It is King’s mind at work. But these two, above all of the others, make me come back and read them for the sheer depth of the worlds he created. I also read Christine and Pet Sematary on a regular basis.
Ben Elton’s Stark was the first book I’d read that didn’t have a happy ending. It shocked me, but also opened me to the possibilities. It was incredibly well written, great characters and then… what the hell?
Tad Williams’ Otherland series blew me away. It’s slow going in places, but again, the story had a scope that I hadn’t seen in a novel or series for a long time. That one’s due to my aunty Joan, who put me onto them.
Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time gave me a new insight into magic. It was a world that touched on hundreds of different mythologies and wove them into an incredibly complex world. And then Jordan wrote books 7-10 (which were unnecessary). And then he died. Brandon Sanderson has revitalised the series, and I’m really looking forward to the last book.
Clive Barker was another writer who pushed boundary after boundary. Imajica redefined horror and fantasy for me. He wrote about things that I would never have the courage to write about under my own name. He’s not for the weak hearted, but he is an incredibly good writer.
I could go on. I might. But as a youngster, these books changed the way I looked at the world. I still like to get back to them on occasion to revisit writing that makes everyone else look bad. Don’t attack me for the people I’ve left out. I could add at least 20 more books that have also changed my life, but this was meant to be an off-the-top-of-my-head account and these are the ones that came to mind.
Oh, by the way: I’ve written ten more pages of Finding Damo. Word count to come when I’m home.