For most of my reading life, I was very precious about my books. I didn’t like to lend books because no one treated them the way they deserved to be treated, and I didn’t like sharing the stories inside, either.
My enjoyment of these books was completely private. I hid what I was reading from my friends. I didn’t want them getting into my favourite books and either a) not loving them as much as I did or b) loving them as much as I did.
I still remember collecting the entire Animorphs series, and one month I had miscalculated my spending money and couldn’t buy the final Megamorphs straight away. Instead, I saw it at the New Releases section of the school library and made a mental note to swing by the display and pick it up on my way out, after I’d found the books I needed for class.
When I got to the display, the book was gone.
I was surprised and a little disappointed. I was supposed to be the biggest Animorphs geek in the school and now someone else had seen something on the cover that caught their eye and had borrowed it before me. Did anyone else even like the series? Didn’t they think the concept of turning into animals to fight aliens was stupid? (Admittedly, this was the reason for me retaining my fandoms on a lot of things, hoping other kids outgrew them or just grew too cool to care) Weren’t they trying to act too cool for a book series that had sold millions internationally?
It’s not like I didn’t get the concept of ‘the book’. I knew there were other copies available. I just didn’t want anyone else to enjoy these adventures and know about the worlds I was involved in. It was like I was the Penesieve children from Narnia, except instead of actually going to Narnia I was just reading about it and then when they came back to the real world that was like me not sharing my stories. It was like I was an exclusive book club of one. I didn’t recommend books and I didn’t share them, either.
It might have been that apart from my high school best friend, I didn’t know anyone who read as much as I did, so I didn’t actually know how to talk to anyone about what I was reading. But we were at that point in our friendship that we didn’t even know each other loved reading!
Turns out that my high school best friend had also seen the Animorphs logo on the New Releases shelf, had known how much I loved the series because the TV show had recently started on TV and it was all I could talk about. She’d recognised the logo from the books I’d brought to read on the bus and decided, as a prank, to borrow it before I could and read it herself.
After that, she and I swapped favourite books. She introduced me to really great Aussie YA fiction like Sabriel and Lirael, Tomorrow When the War Began, the Obernewtyn series; and grown up books like Desiree by Annemarie Selinko and Katherine by Anya Seton; and she was even my introduction to Harry Potter! I’m actually struggling to think what I introduced her to. She had a really great library, and my personal library at the time mostly consisted of middle-grade books I happily re-read for the millionth time, various horse books, and Animorphs! I do recall recommending Hunter’s Moon by Gary Kilworth – it’s a story about foxes, and I’m a bit obsessed with them, even though the book is a bit adult. Mostly what I ended up sharing with my best friend was musical theatre, and that’s another story entirely.
Funnily enough, even after reading the Animorphs book, we never really talked about the series at all. I did go on to write a major project about it two years later after the series had finished. I guess by then I didn’t really mind if other people read it. I’d had two years of sharing books with my best friend. She’s really opened my eyes and shown me some great literature that I still remember to this day.
And now I’m a blogger and it’s my mission to recommend books and spread book joy to everyone.
What was up with my need to keep stories to myself as a child?
I’ll never know.