Flash Friday: On Books

Friday posts are part of an ongoing series of short nonfiction essays inspired by ordinary events. Each piece is an original, stand-alone essay of less than 500 words.

I wasn’t always not a reader. Before I finished the latest book, which took me more than two weeks to read and for which I now owe at least a dollar in library fines, I hadn’t read a book in a couple of months. The one before this I didn’t even finish, and the one before that I can’t even remember. When I was a reader that would never have happened. Back when I was a reader I could’ve told you every detail about the last book I read.

Before I stopped reading books, I read them all the time. I read them to my kids when they were babies, and we read books together up until they started middle school. Back when we were readers, my daughter begged for Madeline and my son rushed us with Curious George. Before we were a family of readers, and we sat together with chapter books and National Geographic and Calvin and Hobbes. We read newspapers and the New Yorker and Sports Illustrated and yes, People magazine. Before Apple came into our lives, my husband and I spent entire Sundays reading two newspapers and finishing that week’s book so we could each start another one on Monday.

Before I met my husband, I knew I’d marry a reader. Before that, I worked in a bookstore – a real bookstore, not a Crown or Barnes & Noble or Borders. This bookstore, Kroch’s & Brentanos, trained its staff on titles and authors and bestseller lists and Publisher’s Weekly reviews. The book clerks (that’s what we were called) ranged in age from me, a recent college graduate, to a 50-something man who worked there more than 20 years. Before I worked there I went in to browse every Saturday afternoon, because back then I looked for books even though I couldn’t afford them because back then I was a reader.