1 book that changed everything

One of my favorite things in life is reading.

Reading, curled up in a comfy chair. A blanket round my feet. A cat trying desperately to get between me and the book.  And a mug of tea somewhere in arms reach. Rainy or cold days are a bonus.

But honestly, my favorite way to read involves other people.

I was first introduced to group readings by my Uncle Bill.

Uncle Bill was a mathematical genius. He was the type of guy who was always being invited to Denmark for major mathematical theorists meetings (all expenses paid, major guest speaker etc…) and stuff like that.  He could walk onto any college campus in the country and instantly get hired by the mathematics department. He would always tell them: I’m just here for a few years then I’ll be going away.   You see he hated normal life.   He wanted to spend his life hiking and thinking.   So he would work for a few years, save up enough money and then quit and go hit the trails again.

Anyway, the point is that we never knew where Uncle Bill was at any given point.  We couldn’t contact him. He would contact us. Sometimes it was a phone call,  but more often than not he would just show up, knocking on the door.  Once it was in the middle of the night.  He always brought ice cream. He loved ice cream and he knew we did too.

and….. he loved to read.

One summer, when I was between second and third grade, he stayed with us the whole summer. Some time during that first week he pulled out a book and sat the whole family down after dinner and started to read to us.

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.  Not a dirty nasty wet hole filled with the ends of worms and  an oooozy smell, nor yet a dry bare sandy hole with nothing to sit down on, or to eat.  This was a hobbit hole.  And that means comfort. …”

After a chapter or three he closed the book and said it was time to stop cause he was getting hoarse. My brother and I begged him to keep going, but he couldn’t. So my mom took the book and started to read. After she couldn’t go on, my dad picked it up.  When daddy got tired the adults closed the book and said “okay, that’s it for the night”

“No!” both us kids cried. “WE can read !!!!” so the book was passed to us and we struggled through and each of us proudly read a few sentences. Now all this had given Uncle Bill enough of a respite that he could go on, so he read one more chapter and then we all went to bed.  I think he strategically stopped in the  middle of the encounter with the three trolls.  Good call on his part.

The next night, after dinner my brother and I eagerly made a beeline for the couches and pulled out the book. “Read! come on everybody. let’s READ”  After an appropriate show of reluctance, all three adults were seated and we dove back into the fantastic world of Bilbo Baggins, dragons, elves, trolls etc….

The T.V. never once got turned on that whole summer. After we finished the Hobbit, we moved on to the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy,  then to Mark Twain. It was an amazing summer.

It’s been a long time since that first family reading time, and it is still my favorite way to experience any book.  My husband and I regularly read to each other and we are eagerly awaiting the time when our eight year old is ready to participate.  Ginny tells me that she doesn’t like reading aloud, but it’s a skill I think everyone should have, and this is a great, non-critical environment for her to learn.

But you can’t push this kind of thing.  She has to be ready, so I wait until once more in my life, the Hobbit, the book that changed everything,  sits on a side table in my living room, waiting for dinner to be over and for the family to gather round.

I love tradition.

What book opened your eyes to the joys of reading?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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