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The Need To Read – Awkward Boy Week Rolls On

I used to be so macho.

“Do you really want to check this out?” asked the bookmobile driver.

I looked at the students behind me and nodded. “Yes,” I hissed. “Hurry up.”

The library was about 13 miles away from our house. I could usually gauge how many books it would take to get me through a long weekend, but not always. And there were those rare trips to the library when I just couldn’t find enough of what I wanted–or I’d already read most of the books that interested me at least once.

This situation was usually just an annoyance. But when I would get sick it could quickly become a crisis. I had asthma. When I would get sick, sometimes I would spend a week on my back. What was I supposed to do if I didn’t have any new books in the house, not read anything for a few days?

A house full of bookworms

Luckily, my sister read a lot too. During one particularly bad illness, I reached the low point: I crept into my sister’s room and grabbed a couple of her Sweet Valley Twins books. Do you remember those books? Essentially, they were all the same. Two blond sisters would have a problem. Lessons would be learned. Privileged, good-looking teens would hurt each other’s feelings.

Each book was about 150 pages, I think, roughly the size of a Louis L’amour paperback. I burned through most of the Sweet Valley High series in a couple of weeks. It wasn’t that I enjoyed them…but I enjoyed them enough to keep reading them.

But it didn’t stop there. In the next year, I read that entire series, all of The Babysitter’s Club books, and graduated to Sweet Valley High.

I told myself it was just my love of reading. Boys read. The end.ย  That was certainly a factor, but I got sucked into these endless serials. Just like I do with TV.

Any arc will do

Someone recently asked me if I watched the television program Bones.

“No!” I said, a lot more forcefully than I meant to. This person became defensive and started telling about this and that and how good the show was if I just gave it a chance.

How could I explain that the problem was that, if I gave it a chance, I’d probably watch the entire series, whether it was good or not?

Love of stories

That’s when I believe I first understood why I read all those books. I love stories. I don’t care how long or short the story arc is, but when I start it, I tend to be uneasy until I’ve experienced the resolution. Sappy, idiotic, sadistic, full of terrorists or blond twins or sexy female spies or a crew of babysitters, the actors and plots are never as important to me as the simple process of watching a story unfold or helping it unfold by turning the pages of a book.

But tell that to the bookmobile driver

She held my book up and squinted at the cover.ย  It was a special double issue of Sweet Valley High, in which the twins went to–I think it was France.

Anyways, everyone behind me saw it, but I took it anyways.

I had to find out what happened.


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  • crestina February 3, 2010, 3:44 am

    Hi, Josh, I always find comfort in knowing what happened in the end, no matter how complicated or bizarre the story was.

    I bet that when you’ll start watching “BONES”, you’ll find it a bit difficult to stop. ๐Ÿ™‚


    • Josh Hanagarne February 3, 2010, 10:50 am

      I believe you, and that’s why I’m staying away. I don’t want to make the time for it. I do. But I don’t.

  • Kris Wragg February 3, 2010, 5:12 am

    Bones is awesome ๐Ÿ™‚ I share your addiction, whether its books or TV’s I easily become hooked with series’s. When I was at University I ploughed through all of Star Trek TNG and DS9 in a year… thats a LOT of science fiction!

    My favourite book series at the moment is the Vampire Earth series by E.E. Knight, it’s great, I just wish I hadn’t read all the currently released ones as I now have to wait a year per book ๐Ÿ™ I can highly recommend giving the first book, “Way of the Wolf” a read to see if its your cup of tea!

    (I read the first two books in a weekend because I enjoyed it so much)

    • Josh Hanagarne February 3, 2010, 10:50 am

      Kris, I’m going to try that book, thanks.

      • Kris Wragg February 3, 2010, 10:57 am

        I think you’ll enjoy it Josh, the main character is also a bit of a bookworm ๐Ÿ™‚ But don’t blame me when you’re hooked and buy the rest of the series! (6 books I think now?)

  • Jaky Astik February 3, 2010, 5:34 am

    I’ve never read it, though. But, I read all I can read. In India, newspaper supplements are not just supplements but a story hubs too. They give out great stories, series of novels and a lot more. In love with reading, like never before.

  • Boris Bachmann February 3, 2010, 7:15 am

    I loved the bookmobile. I’ll never forget the lighting, the close quarters, and the smell. We moved when I was 8 and I never went to the bookmobile again, but every time I saw the bookmobile parked somewhere as we drove by in the family car, I was hit by a wave of nostalgia and a little bit of envy.

    • Josh Hanagarne February 3, 2010, 10:51 am

      I love it too. My library is actually talking about getting one going again, from time to time. I think I could be pretty happy driving one occasionally.

  • wendy February 3, 2010, 8:37 am

    Haha – I remember the bookmobile coming to our apartment complex in California.

    Sweet Valley High but not Flowers in the Attic? Now that was a good series ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Josh Hanagarne February 3, 2010, 10:52 am

      I know. It doesn’t make sense. And I read most of the VC Andrews stuff, even though I didn’t like it.

  • Jenny February 3, 2010, 9:28 am

    Oh sweet, sweet Valley High! Now I want to go get a Goosebumps book..

    • Kris Wragg February 3, 2010, 9:39 am

      Goosebumps books were great, especially those ones with multiple endings…. Flip to page 85 to see your fate!

    • Josh Hanagarne February 3, 2010, 9:58 am

      Me too.

  • Todd February 3, 2010, 9:40 am

    Admittedly, I was not a reader in my youth. I enjoyed the occasional book (Where the Red Fern Grows, etc.), but just couldn’t sit still long enough. Not to mention that I could only read five pages before falling asleep.

    It wasn’t until college that I started to actually enjoy reading. I was sick one week, and read all three Lord of the Rings books. Now I’m addicted.

    Better late than never, huh?

    • Josh Hanagarne February 3, 2010, 9:58 am

      Absolutely. And that was a fine gateway drug you chose.

  • Heather February 3, 2010, 9:45 am

    Serial novels. . . . DAMN YOU CHARLES DICKENS!!!!!!!!!!! Well, ok, maybe not. . . . but I read some of thoe Sweet Valley High books. I’ll read nearly anything, though. . . What more can I say. . . I’m an addict.

    • Josh Hanagarne February 3, 2010, 9:58 am

      Heather, have you read Drood by Dan Simmons? It’s about Dickens.

      • Heather February 3, 2010, 1:55 pm

        No, but now I think I need to! Must. . . hit. . .. local. . . public. . . .library. . . .website. . . . . Thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚

        • Heather February 3, 2010, 1:57 pm

          Hah! F*cking A! Cabell Public’s got it! So does my local branch in Ceredo! Neeeeeewwwwwwwwwww reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaadddddddddd! ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Srinivas Rao February 3, 2010, 9:46 am

    Nice. Now I feel less guilty for the fact I watched The O.C. religiously and still watch One Tree Hill, 90210 and Melrose. Good to know I’m not alone in my pop culture taste ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Josh Hanagarne February 3, 2010, 9:58 am

      You should still feel guilty about that. I was actually able to avoid Season 3 of Veronica Mars, but it nearly killed me.

  • Pauline February 3, 2010, 9:56 am

    I like to think that an addiction to reading is not a bad thing. Then I realize how much laundry is piled up, or that the dust is thick . . . but I read anyway: lots of newspapers, news magazines, at least 2-3 books a week, and my favorite blogs, of course!

    • Josh Hanagarne February 3, 2010, 9:57 am

      It is a superior addiction, no argument there.

  • Stacey Cornelius February 3, 2010, 11:15 am

    When I was a kid, I read some of the Nancy Drew books. Not wildly impressed by them, but they weren’t a series. I might have gotten hooked if I wanted to know what happened next.

    My adult reading addiction is Steven Brust. He has a series of relatively short books with swords, sorcery, sarcasm and psychic reptiles, and another written in the style of Alexandre Dumas (Three Musketeers). Same setting, completely different writing style.

    I don’t think I’ve watched TV in about two months, but I like Bones a lot. Great cast. We got so hooked on Battlestar Galactica we were watching back to back episodes on DVD.

    • Josh Hanagarne February 3, 2010, 9:46 pm

      I got hooked on Battlestar too. Good stuff!

  • Randy February 3, 2010, 11:17 am

    If you know anyone from the pre-tv era, radio shows were a great medium for storytelling. I remember when I was young my grandmother visiting and asking me which “stories” I watched on TV. I still use that phrase in a joking way when I end conversations, “Got to go! Have to get home to watch my stories.”
    My favorite books as a kid were also serials: Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series. (There are 20 in the series, I read maybe 10 of them before I “outgrew” them) When I went through my race car phase, Patrick O’Connor’s 5 Black Tiger books were awesome escapes.
    Comic Books were another resource. At one point I had the first 150 issues of Spiderman, Fantastic Four, Captain America, Sgt Furey and his Howling Commandos. (My mom threw them out in the early 70s. Still a sore point.) Back in the day, they were only 12 cents. I think comic book story telling and their narrative visual illustration were what got me interested in drawing and painting.

  • Joe DeGiorgio February 3, 2010, 12:22 pm

    Like Randy (and probably a million other young boys), comic books were my addiction. Especially Marvel’s Ghost Rider. I could never wait for the next one to come out!

  • Justin Matthews February 3, 2010, 1:47 pm

    I read every Nancy Drew book that I could find. “Read the Hardy Boys” I was told but I was convinced they were idiots.
    As for “Bones” the show blows. If you want to read some decent stories though, Temperance Brennan in the series is based on Temperance Brennan in Kathy Reich’s novels. The first one is Deja Dead and it is pretty darn good.

  • Craig Brown February 3, 2010, 2:14 pm

    When I was a 17 year old punk rockler I worked at Tower Books in Concord, CA. As any good teen in a bookstore does, we routinely judged people for their choice of books. One night (Tower was open until midnight) we decided to try a few of the authors we mocked, just to see if we were right. We got some funny responses from the customers when they came up to the counter and punk kid & metal guy were reading Danielle Steel and Jackie Collins….

    • Josh Hanagarne February 3, 2010, 9:44 pm

      I read a Jackie Collins book when I worked at a gold mine. It was the only book in the janitor’s closet. It had a well-endowed man in it named “Jump.”

  • Janette H February 3, 2010, 2:18 pm

    Anne McCaffery was my youthful vice. I read everything, which means I read the same story over and over and over. A few years back I came across a Dragon Riders of Pern book in the used book store. I figured it would be a great trip down memory lane. Unfortunately, I was embarrassed for my former self instead. Geez, who writes this stuff, and worse, who reads it?
    Me, I guess.

  • Megan Horton February 3, 2010, 6:56 pm

    Sweet Valley High! I always wondered how it was that you actually started reading my books. It makes sense that it was desperation.

  • Daisy February 3, 2010, 6:58 pm

    I get hooked on series, too, but not the Sweet Valley type. Right now I’m waiting for the next book after Brsinger! Eragon and Eldest were recommended by a 6th grade student, and I was hooked.
    You might enjoy Blue Balliett’s books: Chasing Vermeer, The Calder Game. The same group of characters, with a very intellectual streak.

  • david February 3, 2010, 9:23 pm

    I think my first real obsession with books were The Hardy Boys. You ever read those? damn those were good.

    Later on, I got obsessed with Stephen Coonts (Flight of the Intruder) type novels and ready every Coonts, Dale Brown, Clive Cussler etc book there was. Thems were the days.

  • Cat February 4, 2010, 11:48 am

    As a recovering T.V. addict, I understand this so well. If someone asks me if I watch a show, it’s not just that I don’t, it’s that I CAN’T. There is laundry to be done; meals to prepare; sleep to be slept; children to be bathed, etc. And of course, books to be read. I can’t watch television because I’ll never stop. I don’t have a digital converter for my T.V. so the temptation has been greatly reduced.
    I’ve almost never stopped reading a book because it wasn’t good. Like you, I just need to know. I remain optimistic about the author’s ability to redeem themself even when they have given my no good reason to maintain that belief. (Except that it’s an actual BOOK so someone thought it was good enough to publish. That obviously factors into the equation)
    I once read a Harlequin Romance because it was left in the fishing shack I was staying at in Mexico. Only true read-a-holics could understand this; I know lots of folks who come here will understand! c. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Josh Hanagarne February 4, 2010, 12:53 pm

      What was the name of that romance?

      • Cat February 4, 2010, 2:39 pm

        Ha! I don’t remember. The beach was much more interesting that the book…but I HAD to read SOMETHING. c. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Daisy February 4, 2010, 7:23 pm

    Today my students were browsing through the Bailey School Kids books in the school library. They were reminiscing and choosing some they hadn’t read yet. I told them my favorite was “Santa Claus Doesn’t Mop Floors. ”

    And then I thought of you and this post. It’s okay; the BSK books will only take you a few minutes each to read.

  • Andria February 5, 2010, 9:32 am

    Hysterical! I got a real kick out of this post. Not always one to finish what I started, I didn’t get stuck on too many series, UNTIL…I discovered Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. I’m sure you can’t have missed these, given the 12,000 or so pages of writing that went into them. The irony is that we’ll never know how the series was meant to end, given Jordan’s untimely demise (RIP, Jordan, you’re sorely missed). Actually, I wonder if he knew how he wanted to end the series too. And honestly, I don’t think I really cared about the ending, because I was hooked on the epic neverending continuation.

  • Rob February 5, 2010, 1:58 pm

    I also share this addiction. I secretly read Mary Higgins Clarke, Danielle Steele, and Nancy Drew when I ran out of books between library runs (and watched three seasons of 24 when I was “working” on my senior essay in college). I’m also hooked on children’s science fiction and fantasy. My favorite series right now is Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan. I like how he emphasizes the hard work and practice that leads to being excellent at what you do in life.

  • Wayne February 7, 2010, 12:38 am

    Some of the first novels I remember reading were the Happy Hollisters my Mom saved for me from when she was young and the Hardy Boys. My tastes turned to science fiction pretty early and I loved robotech and star wars. At some point I ran out of books and I too decided to try something off my sister’s shelves, Sweet Valley High. I was hooked after the first book and eventually read the entire series. I think I still have a picture I drew of Jessica. I like to think this started my love of books with strong female characters like Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Legacy series.

    Awesome blog by the way. Since I discovered this site a few weeks ago, it has been an incredible source of inspiration and motivation.

  • Ms. Yingling February 8, 2010, 6:14 am

    Thanks for a reminder that I shouldn’t blink no matter what book a student wants to check out. Will admit to asking students who had Last of the Mohicans in their hands “What made you pick up this book?” If it was the huge number of accelerated reader points, I suggested other things. I have a lot of boys reading “pink” books now and enjoying them, so I felt bad that the librarian gave you a hard time all those years ago!