Friday, June 28, 2013

My Reading 6-11 Years Ago

Since I've been BookTubing, I realize I've mentioned "my early 20s" like eleventy times. I promise I'm not one of those really sad people that lives mostly in the past. I'm quite engaged with my present, but I do admit, I was doing some kickass reading in my early to midish-20s, and that reading has shaped my choices today.

So here we go. I chose "6-11 years ago" because that's roughly age 21-27. This encompasses the beginning of my online book endeavors (Yahoo! Groups) through the end of my undergraduate degree and the time throughout my graduate degree. There was a LOT of bookish experimentation going on. *snork*

The Beginning of a Comeback

I stopped reading for pleasure in my late high school years and early college. I had boys on the brain, what can I say? But luckily, I wised up and picked up reading for pleasure again in 2001 with this book. Rodin: Hands of Genius by Helene Penet. I was a studio art/graphic design major at the time, and I was totally taken with reading about artists in general.

I followed that book up with A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. I'd fallen in love with the Modernists in high school, and Hemingway airing all their dirty laundry was great fun.

Next up, a highly experimental book with Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves. Incidentally, I was also in love with his sister's music. Her stage name is Poe, and her album, Haunted, is a soundtrack to the novel.

The Next Phase

Once I was officially re-established as a reader, I got heavily involved in Yahoo! Groups and found a community of readers who are still here blogging today. I'm so thankful to have had their influence at this time in my life. I read some amazing books for which I have serious nostalgia.


The Bust Guide to the New Girl Order by the publishers of Bust Magazine. I was way into women's studies during this period, and I was an avid Bust reader. This is a collection of essays from the magazine, and I adored it.

Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross is a historical fiction novel introduced to me by one of those Yahoo! Groups. It was also the first opportunity I had to interact with an author! Donna Cross did a wonderful Q&A chat with our group, and I was smitten.

I also red The Red Tent around this time period, and had the good fortune to correspond with Anita Diamant. Not only did I love the retelling/retooling of a Biblical tale, the historical details swept me away. And this is probably also the root of my fascination with books about midwifery.

The Hours by Michael Cunningham was not only beautifully written, but it came to me in a time of great loss -- after both of my grandparents passed away. It allowed me to feel longing and loss through the three interwoven tales, but I also found it immensely hopeful.

The Grad School Years

These were analysis-heavy, as one might imagine. But all the while I was reading required books (many of which, I loved), I was also developing some habits that are quite apparent in my reading now...

I quickly fell in love with Anthony Bourdain after I read Kitchen Confidential. But it was A Cooks Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines that really solidified my love of food-related non-fiction and amplified my love of travel writing.

501 Minutes to Christ: Personal Essays, by Poe Ballantine, opened me up to independent voices, undersung writers, and my delight in reading personal essays. This independently-minded drifter had me at the first page. This was also a time in my life that I was opening up to independent and small press publishers.

Two of my enduring loves are short stories and Simon Van Booy. I read The Secret Lives of People in Love before it was ever picked up by a mainstream publisher. What a delightful find!

And these were the days of graphic novels. Oh, so many graphic novels. Ones that I love and recommend to everyone.

What has been the most formative time period in your reading? When did the reading interests you have today really take root?


  1. Oh my, What a wonderful batch of books. Wonderful reader. I can barely remember my twenties. I also went to grad school -- and in English. I spent a lot of time catching up on classics I thought I should have read.It was a different time -- the canon and all that. After a course in James, I spent one winter reading a very long biography of Henry James and then every James I could get my hands on. But a few then-contemporary novels also reached me. I remember falling in love with John Fowles, particularly The Magus -- but I read everything else too. Then somewhere near the end of my 20s I discovered mysteries and my reading changed forever. I loved Elmore Leonard then and love the Leonard inspired tv show Justified now.

    1. Thanks, Barbara! I thought they were. They've definitely stuck with me. I had a slightly different experience in grad school as I devoted my time to bastardized genres like children's lit and graphic novels. Now I do find myself itching to catch up on some of those missed classics. I just made my Classics Club list and posted it at the top of my blog with its own page tab.

      I haven't read Fowles, but I have The French Lieutenant's Woman and The Collector on my intended list. I also like James and have some of his work there as well.

      And YES! Justified is a great show. I need to read some Elmore Leonard. A friend of mine did his dissertation on Leonard (at least in part), and it was fascinating.

  2. Those are some fab books! The Red Tent and Pope Joan? Amazing. The Hours? Fabulous!

    It's been forever since I was that age. (It seems so anyway) I think it was around those years that I decided to start reading more classics.

    I did a lot of experimenting as well, dipping into all sorts of genres. Oh wow, I remember reading nearly every celebrity bio that came out around then as well.

    1. Right??? Those three books are a trifecta of awesomeness that sticks out in my mind the most: Red Tent, Pope Joan, The Hours.

      And I'm a little behind the curve. I read some classics then. A significant amount, I suppose, but I have more of an urge now.

      And I haven't gone through a celebrity bio phase. I just always want to kick them in the teeth.

  3. My comment isn't even about the books, but about Poe. Back when I was in Alabama a friend and I worked out together a couple times a week. One thing we did was an abs class that used Poe as part of the soundtrack. I've been trying for years to remember who it was, thanks!

    1. LOL, I'm glad to have helped you find her! I used to work out to her music almost exclusively at Baylor because I loved the techno-like songs on the Haunted album. I really need to re-buy it because it's long gone, and I still know I love it.

  4. Holy Hell, how did I not know this about Poe? I love her so dearly and never even knew she had a brother - someone dropped the ball (mainly, me) on that one.

    This was such an interesting post, Andi. I've been sitting here at work contemplating my reading habits of yesteryear. I started to love reading in high school - such books as All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy and The Secret History by Donna Tartt enchanted me. In college, I learned to love the classics (as all English majors do, do they?). I swooned over the Brontes and Austen. I didn't have a ton of time for personal reading until post-college where I pushed off the classics and read all the cheesy urban fantasy I could get my hands on - vampires and werewolves, and fairies, OH MY!

    All of these things have influenced the way I read now. I love beautifully written, classically inspired, urban fantasy stories - haha! You know, vampires with depth. But really, I think the thing that remains truest to myself as a reader is my love of genre - particularly well-written genre tales. Sciene fiction and fantasy are my heart and soul more than anything else, even if I don't read enough of them!

    1. Thanks, Brooke! I only knew about Poe because there was a Dallas radio station that did a mix of one of her songs and Danielewski reading part of the book over it. It was wicked cool and I was hooked from then.

      You read some great stuff in high school! I was hooked on classic authors like Flannery O'Connor, Ray Bradbury, Aldous Huxley, Shakespeare, and Dickens during high school. At that particular time I had no idea what I wanted to read of the contemporary stuff in a bookstore. Was totes clueless.

      And isn't it great when all of those formative reading experiences gel? Yay!

  5. I wasn't aware I could adore you any more than I do, but really Andi. Pope Joan and The Red Tent are two of my all time faaaaaaaaaaaaavorites. I read both when I was 22-23- nostalgia? Check. Fabulousness.

    1. Squee! I'm so glad we share a reading brain. Brain Sharing Reader Syndrome, that's its official name. Fabulous!

  6. I loved this post! I was particularly interested in the graphic novels part as I've read Maus recently and am ready for some more graphic novel experimentation!

    My formative reading years were definitely 15-20. I read a lot of classics and 'ideas' books and started to have my own ideas about things like politics for the first time. plus I was still living with my parents so I had a lot more free time to read then than I do now

    1. Thanks you, Sam! I have graphic novel recommendations aplenty! I'd be glad to share. :)

      I definitely read a bulk of classics during that age range, too. Even though I fell out of reading for pleasure in those late teen years, the items I read for school were profoundly affecting.

  7. Wow, so you just listed a whole big stack of my favorite books from my early 20s. The Red Tent, A Moveable Feast, The Hours, Maus, this post makes me happy. I love that certain books just hit you at the right moments in life.

  8. Very cool post, Andiloo!

    I don't think I have a period I could call my "formative" reading years. I've been through a lot of phases, though, and overindulging in certain genres to the point of burnout (not once but 2 or 3 times) certainly led to my habit of trying to mix up my reading to prevent ever letting burnout occur, again. So far, it's working. I did go through a classics phase in my 20s, when I realized that people kept referring back to titles that "everyone read" in their high school and college lit classes. I had almost zero lit classes -- world lit in HS and that was *it*. So, I missed a lot of books like To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye, 1984, etc. I started collecting classics and reading them rabidly. One that really stands out in my mind is Rebecca. I remember reading that on the tiny porch of our apartment while my 5-year-old played. It was probably the book that really got me revved up about classics.

    You wanted to know all that, right? ;)

  9. Very interesting post, Andi! I've been a reader for almost as long as I can remember, but there were definitely periods where I read like a machine and times when I was more focused on other things.

    My teens were definitely VERY influential on what types of books I read. I think I'm always chasing that thrill I had as a teen reader where you're totally engrossed in a book and feel like it's your entire world, you know?

    I was also part of a message board back in the day before blogging. It's funny, but I still have friends whom I follow and chat with who were on that board. Do you keep in touch with anyone who was on Yahoo Groups?

  10. What a fun post, Andi! My reading has changed over the years and all I can say is that I always look forward to wherever my new reading interests take me! I hadn't not seen that Bust book on essays - must find! Love Bust Magazine.


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