In this month’s Allen County Reads, Laurie Proctor, minister emerita at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fort Wayne, shares her love of reading.
"My parents were rather voracious readers and I’m sure their habits influenced me for the good. I can’t imagine life without reading books."
When I was three, my mother, father, and I moved to a new post-war development in what was then the little town of Belmont, California, south of San Francisco, the city of my birth. As soon as we moved, we began making trips downtown to the library which was located in city hall. We went to the library every week and checked out the limit which I think was seven books. When I was old enough (I think I had to be able to write my name), I got my own card. The librarian, who lived around the corner, said she loved my parents because they kept the circulation count up. The library later moved into a much larger facility closer to where we lived, and I went with my parents or rode my bike by myself.
I had a two-book set of fairy tales by Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm. I looked forward to waking up very early on weekend mornings, before anyone else was awake and sometimes before the sun was up. It was a treat to read these tales in bed in the quiet part of the day. Later I read Nancy Drew mysteries, but other than those, I did not have a favorite genre such as horse books, which were common among my girlfriends. Our fourth grade teacher read Beverly Cleary’s Henry Huggins series to us. They were such fun and I probably read some of those and others like them.
I was a good reader, near or at the top of my class which is ironic given that I scored very poorly on a reading readiness test that I took before kindergarten. My parents did not censor my reading so I moved onto “adult” books at a relatively young age. I read Peyton Place when I was thirteen (not that I really knew what was happening) and Psycho when I was a sophomore. I think I took my reading cues from my mother, although I never acquired her love of sci-fi.
My love of mysteries has grown over the years. For a time in my 30s and 40s I sought out women authors writing about women detectives such as Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky, and Nevada Barr. Later in life, I have been attracted to detectives’ stories with male protagonists who are reflective, wondering about the meaning of life. My favorite authors include Henning Mankell, P. D. James, Michael Connelly, Louise Penny, and Ian Rankin. I’m a fan of British and Scandinavian mysteries as well as those by Carl Hiaasen, whose characters could not be described as reflective, but they are enjoyable.
Mysteries provide a counterpoint to the non-fiction writing into which I plunge, tackling various subject areas. Politics and social criticism are favorite topics. When I was studying for a Master’s Degree in Earth Literacy at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, my reading was heavy with science and environmental books. Then it was gardening, especially sustainable efforts, and always cookbooks, although I admit to reading at them, not cover to cover, as the mood strikes me. I almost forgot my obsession with self-help books of all kinds: decluttering, diet and health, time management. And then there is Zen Buddhism.
I am now in two book groups. I joined both primarily because I enjoy the people, but also to challenge myself to read more fiction. Given the times in which we live, I try fiction from other cultures as a way of understanding people.