It's no secret that I love books. I love reading them, and I love writing them. When I think about where my love of books comes from, my mind immediately supplies an image of my parents. They nurtured my love of books by making sure reading was a huge part of my upbringing. Since my post this month falls on Father's Day, I thought I'd share how my dad influenced my relationship with books and how books influenced my relationship with my dad.
When I was very young, Dad served as a pilot in the U.S. Navy. He deployed when I was an infant. Luckily for me, I don't have any memories from a time when he wasn't around. After being honorably discharged, Dad found his calling in life: to be a medivac helicopter pilot. His new career allowed him to be at home more, and we fell into a daily routine that would continue for years: bedtime reading. When I was three, we favored books such as One Morning in Maine, Blueberries for Sal, and A Time of Wonder, all by the incredible Robert McCloskey. There was also the giggle-inducing Good Families Don't by Robert Munsch, a hilarious story about flatulence that went way over my head as a kid—I only laughed because Mom and Dad laughed.
By the time I was in second grade, we had moved away from picture books. Instead, Dad and I began a novel that would alter the course of my life: The Secret of the Old Clock. Oh, Nancy Drew. My love of mysteries flourished upon meeting her, and I give Dad major props for his inspired performances. Nancy, Bess, and George all had their own "voices," so I instantly knew who was speaking as he read. I can still hear his portrayal of Bess and her frequent exclamations of, "Nancy!" Poor Bess, forever trying to convince Nancy that her snooping was too dangerous, all to no avail.I eventually got so swept up in Nancy's world that I began reading her adventures outside bedtime. I read her books at the breakfast table, during recess, in the car, even once in the back of a helicopter. But just because I was reading Nancy Drew on my own didn't mean Dad stopped reading to me. By fourth grade, we had switched gears and were making our way through the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. We got to The Long Patrol (Book Ten) before we were sidetracked by a global phenomenon. Yes, I'm talking about Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. The arrival of the Harry Potter books sparked a big change in our reading dynamic. I could no longer wait for Dad to get home to read these books, so we started a “family book club.” Dad would always be a few chapters—or books—behind me, but we still discussed the events taking place and compared our favorite characters. As I outgrew bedtime reading and entered my teens, Dad and I would still find time to chat about our current read, which generally ended with me recommending a new series I'd just discovered, "Dad, you haaaaaave to read this." When I went off to college, our relationship with books evolved once more. I went to a school ten hours away from home, so Dad and I would load up the car for a road trip at the start of every term. We'd listen to audiobooks during those long drives from Maine to New York. At first, I would play DJ and swap out the CDs when necessary. We did this with Christopher Paolini’s The Inheritance Cycle series, along with The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons by Dan Brown. As technology advanced throughout my college years, I eventually plugged my phone into the car, and we'd listened to books via Audible.
The next big thing that would influence our relationship was Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series. Goodkind's books kept Dad and me connected once I graduated college and moved to Boston. I would regularly reach out to see where he was in the epic saga, lamenting the deaths of our favorite characters and sharing the triumphs of our beloved heroes. Goodkind's work pulled back the curtain for us on the fantasy genre. We would soon explore Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time and Patrick Rothfuss's Kingkiller Chronicles. Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin would quickly follow.As we celebrate Father's Day this year, I think about all the fictional worlds Dad and I explored and the time we spent together. I'll always be thankful for those memories, and I know that my dad’s reading to me at bedtime helped make me the person and writer I am today. He didn't have to read to me after a long day at work, but he did. His dedication helped foster a strong father-daughter bond when we could have very easily drifted apart. To this day, books still keep us connected. My writing tends to overshadow my free reading time, but Dad and I are still making our way through James Rollins's brilliant Sigma Force series. And what do you know? For once, Dad is actually a book ahead of me.
What are your favorite "bedtime reading" books?