My (and Mother’s) Life As a Reader

Although I am not officially participating in Melanie Holtsman’s Blogging Challenge, I liked the title of this post. My friend Chrissy Hellyer’s response on her TeachingSagittarian Blog convinced me to write one of the same title and create a list of “My Life As a Reader”. I really enjoyed compiling the following list (in random, not chronological order). I think it was a wonderful reflective exercise about how important reading has/is to me in my life.

As I was compiling this list, I asked my mother in Argentina to also share with me her life as a reader, as I wanted to look at similarities and differences…maybe due to the generation gap…or maybe because I love collaboration…or global connections (I am in the US, my mother is in Argentina)…or because I am so proud of my mom that she is maneuvering her way online and has figured out how to share a document with me on Google Docs… or because we live in a time where  it is simply possible…

  1. The first book, “Mein Esel Benjamin”, I remember was a book about a little girl in Spain finding a donkey and becoming best friends with it.
  2. My favorite author as a child was Enid Blyton (Chrissy: You and I would have talked for hours about her books via Skype between Germany and New Zealand…if Skype would have been around back then 🙂
  3. I owned all the Famous Five, Mallory Towers and the Twins of St. Claire (“Fuenf Freunde”, “Dolly” and “Hanni und Nanni” as they were called in German).
  4. I was thrilled, when on a layover at the London airport, I found a bookstore. I bought the English version of Enid Blyton books (not available in the US) for my daughters.
  5. I spent every last “Deutsche Mark” of my allowance buying books.
  6. I remember hanging out for hours at the one wall book display at a local department store in Heidelberg browsing the books. The concept of coffee shops, armchairs and comfortable seating in books stores did not exist yet.
  7. My favorite genre is Historical Fiction.
  8. I read fluently in German, Spanish and English.
  9. I could read and understand what the story is about in French, Italian and Portuguese.
  10. I am not a “library” kind of person. I like to own my books to re-read them.
  11. I jumped on board with e-readers as soon as the Kindle came out.
  12. I LOVE reading on my iPad.
  13. I dragged my book collection from Europe to South America and then to North America with me.
  14. When I travel home, my suitcases fill up with books until I reach the airline weight limit.
  15. One of the last memories I have with my father is going to the bookstore “Hugendubel” in Frankfurt, Germany to browse for books.
  16. I read “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon during the pregnancy of my third child.
  17. The first Barnes and Noble bookstore I ever went into was in Rockford, Illinois.
  18. I used to read at least 10 (picture) books a day to my children when they were little.
  19. My children always (mostly) received books as presents from me on their birthday.
  20. Going to Barnes & Noble was a favorite outing for me with my three little girls.
  21. I don’t like reading “bad” translations of books.
  22. I prefer reading a book in the original language the author wrote it in.
  23. “Jauche und Levkojen” is the book that makes me feel close to and reminds me of my grandmother and her life in East Prussia.
  24. I am usually disappointed when watching a movie after I read the book.
  25. I was reading “Harry Potter” as I was flying back from my father’s funeral.
  26. I maintain a “Books I Read Around the World” Google Map to keep track of the book’s location/setting.
  27. I created and maintained a book recommendation site for German speaking parents who raised their children abroad: Sprachhexen (German word for Langwitches)
  28. I imported and sold German books in the US via the Sprachhexen site and Ebay.
  29. I used to at least spend 1 1/2 hours EVERY night reading (30 minutes) to each one of my daughters.
  30. I tried to read as much as possible German books to them.
  31. I frequently write about book related issues on my blog.
  32. I am experimenting with different “note taking”/ visualization techniques when reading a book.
  33. I am reflecting on the process of buying, storing and reading books nowadays.
  34. I enjoy being able to “carry” around all my e-books in one place.
  35. I LOVE my book shelf from Ikea.
  36. I do most of my reading online and in digital form.
  37. I do like the smell and feel of a book in my hands, but I KNOW that I will get over it as I am enjoying the advantages of e-books.
  38. I love to read in bed.
  39. I started reading online in 1991. It was a Mommy-to-be support group on the Prodigy Bulletin Board group of “Babies to be born in January 1992.
  40. I started reading blogs in 2005.
  41. I started reading Twitter in 2007.
  42. My first “Geek” book was “The FrontPage Bible”.
  43. “The Diary of Anne Frank” was the book that inspired me, like so many other girls, to start writing a journal at age 11. I also give her credit to prepare me for becoming a blogger decades later.
  44. I keep an inventory of the books that I read, have read (since 2008) and plan on reading on Shelfari.
  45. I only read a manual as a last resort.
  46. I can read (not great) old German type.
  47. I was able to read and understand Spanish long before I stared speaking it.
  48. The first book I read in Spanish was “El pajaro canta hasta morir” (Thornbirds) by Colleen McCullough. The next one was “En el nombre de la Rosa” (In the Name of the Rose) by Umberto Eco
  49. I remember that we read, in my last English course in HighSchool, “The Cather in the Rye” by J.D.Salinger. I learned the English word “phony” with this book.
  50. The one and only book I ever read in French was called “La Maison des Hirondelle”.
  51. I don’t like to read subtitles in movies.
  52. One of my favorite books I read as a teenager was “The Source” (Die Quelle) by James Michener.
  53. A book that went down in family history for my daughters was “Once upon a Potty”.
  54. I loved reading “Bibi Blocksberg” books to my girls.
  55. The only comic books I have enjoyed reading were/are “Asterix & Obelix”.
  56. As teenagers, I used to read two magazines “Bravo” and “Maedchen” until I moved to Argentina.
  57. I have over 500 RSS feed subscriptions in my Reader.
  58. I collect travel guide books of the places I have been to and would like to travel to.
  59. I have read books to my little niece (who lives in Brazil) via Skype.
  60. My favorite authors in the Spanish language are: Mario Benedetti, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Isabel Allende.
  61. Some of my favorite author in the English language are: Noah Gordan and Ursula Hegi.
  62. I took many Hispanic literature classes for my undergraduate degree and LOVED reading authors of different Latin American countries and periods in history.

Here are my mother’s notes to “Her Life As a Reader”

Her notes are written in German (my translation follows in parenthesis).

  1. Als kleines Kind in Ostpreussen kann ich mich kaum an Buecher erinnern,  die mir vorgelesen wurden. Vielleicht nur an Geschichten, die mir erzaehlt wurden und Maerchen, wie die der Gebrueder Grimm und Hans Christian Andersen. ( I can barely remember any books that were read to me as a young child in East Prussia. There were only stories told to me, fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson.)
  2. Nach dem Krieg und nach der Flucht gab es kaum mehr Buecher.  Als ich anfing zu lesen (in der Volksschule) fielen nur alte abgegriffene Buecher von Freunden und Bekannten in meine Haende,  da erinnere ich mich, dass ich immer wieder “Die Deutschen Heldensagen” gelesen habe.  Es gab lange keine Buecher zu kaufen und man hatte auch dafuer kein Geld. In dieser Zeit fiel dann auch der Klassiker  “Heidi” von Johanna Spyri. ( After our flight, after the war, there were not many books around. When I started reading in Elementary School, I only got my hands on old used books from friends. I remember now that I started reading “German Heroic Sagas”. For a long time we could not buy any books, nor did we have the money. During that time I ended up with the classicer “Heidi” by JOhanna Spyri in my hands.)
  3. Dann kam die Epoche der Karl-May-Buecher. Ich glaube, die habe ich zusammen mit meinem Bruder Norbert fast alle gelesen.  Sie haben mir das vermittelt,  was ich mir immer wuenschte,  Reisen und Abenteuer zu erleben. ( Then came the period of reading the books by Karly May. I believe that together with my brother Norbert, we read all of them. They gave me what I always dreamed of, traveling and adventures).
  4. In dieser Zeit kamen wohl auch die ersten “Heftchen” heraus:  Kurzgeschichten,  Mickey Mouse von Walt Disney.  Die waren billig und schnell gelesen. (In the same time, the first magazines came out. Short stories, Micky Mouse from Walt Disney. They were cheap and a fast read.)
  5. Waerend meiner Schulzeit (Gymnasium)  habe ich mich auf die Schulbuecher konzentriert (ganz besonders Geschichte).   Geographie war auch mein Lieblingsfach und ich habe viele Reiseberichte gelesen, eines davon war von Sven Hedin, dem Schwedischen Entdecker.  In der Schule habe ich dann auch mit den Klassikern: Goethe, Schiller, Lessing etc. Bekanntschaft gemacht (nicht mit besonderem Interesse in der damaligen Zeit).  Wir mussten immer Gedichte auswendig lernen! (I concentrated on textbooks during my High School years (especially History)/ Geography was also one of my favorite subjects and I read a lot of travelogues. One of them being from Sven Hedi, a Swedish explorer. In schools I read most of the classics: Goethe, Schiller, Lessing, etc., with little interest at that time. We always had to read and learn poems!)
  6. Mein erstes Buch,  dass mir meine Freundin Karin Eckstein zu meinem 18. Geburtstag geschenkt hat, hiess:  “Ein Baum waechst in Brooklyn”. (My first book, that my friend Karin Eckstein gave to me on my 18th birthday, was ” A Tree grows in Brooklyn”.)
  7. Dann haben wir Teenager auch die neuesten “Liebesromane” (Schundliteratur, wie die Erwachsenen es nannten) ausgetauscht.  Ich erinnere mich nicht an einen einzigen Titel! (As Teenagers we exchanged the newest “Love Novels”(Trashy literature, as the adults called them). I can’t remember one title.)
  8. Waehrend meiner Zeit in England (1959/1960) habe ich kein deutsches Buch gelesen.  Mein erstes Buch in englischer Sprache war: ” Pride and Prejudice “. (During my time in England (1959/1960), I did not read one book in German. My first book in the English language was “Pride and Prejudice”.)
  9. Weitere deutsche Buecher:  Romane von Johannes Mario Simmel.  Waren die Bestseller in den 70er Jahren.  “Hurra, wir leben noch”  war wohl das Bekannteste. (More German books: Novels by Johnannes Mario Simmel were the bestsellers of the 70s. “Hurrah, we are still alive” is one of the more famous ones.)
  10. Romane von Hans Habe:  “Off Limits” und “Wie einst David”  sind zwei, an die ich mich erinnern kann. Diese Romane hatten alle mit der Nachkriegszeit zu tun, die ich ja indirekt auch miterlebt habe. (Two novels, I can still remember by Hans Habe are “Off Limits” and “As once David”. All of these books had to do with the post war times, which I indirectly lived through as well.)
  11. Dann kamen historische Rome hinzu, die mit der Vertreibung und Erinnerungen an die verlorengegangene Heimat zu tun hatten:  ” Die Muecke im Bernstein”  und “Jauche und Levkojen” (Then came the historic novels that had to do with the banishment and memories of a lost homeland: “The Mosquito in Amber” and “Jauch and Levkojen”.)
  12. Dann gab es eine Zeit, in der ich nur “Krimis” gelesen habe. Es waren so viele, dass ich auch da mich nicht an die Titel erinnere. (Then there was the time when I only read thrillers. There were so many, that I don’t recall one title.)
  13. Die Zeit in der meine beiden Kinder klein waren,  habe ich nicht allzuviele Buecher gelesen.  Es waren wohl nur Informationsbuecher ueber Schwangerschaft/Baby und moderner Erziehung.
    (I did not read many books during the time when both my children were little. There were mostly informational books about pregnancy, babies and modern child rearing.)
  14. Nach der Uebersiedlung in meine neue Heimat (Argentinien) haben mich alle meine deutschen Buecher begleitet.  Sie standen in all unseren Wohnungen und Haeusern auf Regalen fuer alle zur Verfuegung.
    (All my German books accompanied me after I moved to my new country (Argentina). They were available in all of our apartments and houses on shelves, available for everyone.)
  15. Jetzt gesellten sich natuerlich auch die spanischen Buecher dazu. Es dauerte eine ganze Weile, ehe ich sie verstehen und lesen konnte.
    (Then books in Spanish were added. It took a while until I could understand and read them.)
  16. Das Buch von Garcia Marquez: “Hundert Jahre Einsamkeit” habe ich in einer Nacht/und dem darauffolgenden Tag verschlungen.
    (I read the book”One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez” in one night and the following day.)
  17. Ich muss gestehen, dass ich mich (heute bin ich 70 Jahre) nicht mehr an alle gelesenen Buecher erinnere. Wenn ich sie sehe, oder ihren Titel hoere, dann faellt es mir wieder sofort ein.  War es ein fuer mich ein spannendes und interessantes Buch  erinnere ich mich auch an die Handlung.  War es dies nicht, ist mein Gedaechtnis blank!
    (I have to admit that today (at 70 years old), I can’t remember all of the books that I read. I remember only when I see or hear of a title. If it was an enthralling and interesting book, I can also remember the plot. My memory is blank if it was not. )
  18. Es kommt auch sehr selten vor, dass ich ein Buch 2 oder 3 mal lese.  Dies passiert nur,  wenn ich das gleiche Buch in einer anderen Sprache lesen moechte.
    (I seldom read a book two or three times. It only happens if I want to read the same book but in a different language.)
  19. Bei jedem Besuch bei meiner Tochter Silvia in USA stoebere ich mit viel Lust und Interesse in ihrer Bibliotek, um  ihre “Lieblinge” zu lesen.  Ich erinnere mich an die Zeit, in der ich alle Baende von Diana Gabeldon verschlungen habe.  Da sie auch in USA immer Zugang hatte, deutsche Buecher zu bestellen,  haben wir uns beide richtig satt gelesen.
    (I poke with much interest around the library of my daughter Silvia when I visit her in the USA. I remember the time when we devoured the books in the Diana Gabaldon series.)
  20. Das Schoenste ist, abend vor dem Schlafen im Bett ein gutes Buch in der Hand zu haben. Auch heute ist es noch eine liebe Angewohnheit vor dem Schlafen zu lesen und ich tue es jeden Abend.
    (The best thing is to hold a good book in your hand before going to bed at night. I have the same custom still today.)
  21. Waehrend des Tages,  lese und informiere ich mich mit meinem Laptop, den ich seit 3 Jahren besitze.  Es ist fazinierend, mich in meinen drei Sprachen zu orientieren,  wie ich es gerade brauche.
    (During the day, I read and inform myself on my laptop that I have owned for the past three years. It is fascinating for me to orientate myself in three langauges, depending on my needs.)
  22. Trotzdem gehe ich jeden Samstag zum Zeitungstand, um mir mein “Argentinisches Tageblatt” zu besorgen.
    (I nevertheless walk every Saturday to a newspaper stand to buy the “Argentinean Newspaper” in the German language.)