Authors and Me
By Katie Flood

Looking back through all the different stages I went through, I feel like I can position and identify myself by what I was reading at the time. I remember being a little girl and memorizing the short books my mom used to read to me so that I could "read" along with her by looking at the pictures to see where we were in the story. Cinderella was my favorite story that we would read together. I wanted to be just as smart as my older brother, who was already reading, and reading with my mom made me feel like I was catching up to him. As I moved into elementary school, I became addicted to the Baby-Sitter Club series. My mom became annoyed at constantly having to buy me a new book (as those books were easy to finish inside one evening), and encouraged visits to the local library. That was the beginning of a broadening of books I read for fun. As I grew older, I became more influenced by what my friends were reading, which series they were getting into, and also books my brother and sister read. The Anne of Green Gables series were great favorites during this time, as many of my friends were reading them as well. I loved reading things that had continuing stories, with familiar characters and plot lines. The Anne of Green Gables books were wonderful to read again and again because I could jump into different stages and parts of her life, depending on what kind of mood I was in.
As I moved into middle and high school, I became more interested in reading books that were considered more grown up and important. I read books that my English teachers recommended as good, or other works by authors we had read in class that I enjoyed. Senior year in high school I became very interested in James Joyce after reading the short story "Araby" from Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and read Ulysses as my independent project for my English class. Once I knew I enjoyed a particular author, I felt compelled to read almost everything by him. I tried hard to read many of Joyce's works, struggling through most of them and stopping just shy of Finnegans Wake. I took a class in Irish fiction here at school and was glad finally to have the help I needed to fully appreciate many of his stories I had earlier read for fun. I was inspired by the many Jane Austen movies that came out while I was in high school to read most of her novels, especially enjoying Pride and Prejudice. I also loved Eudora Welty, particularly the way her stories slowly develop characters at the expense of the plot. Welty novels are not full of action, but instead offer intricately detailed descriptions of emotions and feelings. I'm not sure how I stumbled into reading her works; I think I saw Delta Wedding at a bookstore and thought the title sounded interesting. A lot of the books I read in high school were chosen that way actually, by just seeing what looked appealing on the shelf and judging whether it would be worth my time to read it or not.
Once I got to college, reading for pleasure became something I did strictly on break and during vacations, as there was more than enough to read during the semester. As in high school, I stuck mainly with particular authors, working off recommendations from friends and teachers. The summer after second year I devoured everything by Willa Cather, after a friend said she loved Death Comes for the Archbishop; Cather's settings and characters were just so different from everything else I had encountered. One of my friends told me that her TA said Middlemarch was the best book he had ever read, so I had to read that last summer. I tried more of George Eliot over this past winter break with The Mill on the Floss, which I did not enjoy quite as much because the story was so depressing. Even still, I choose the books I read for pleasure mostly based on the author, which can be limiting in a sense because I generally gravitate towards the ones that are considered "classic." I want to try out different genres, so I have right now a cultural history of Russia that I am reading, because of my interest in Russian history and politics. I hope that I will continually be exposed to different types of literature and authors, and will choose to read not only what is considered "great," but also subjects that I am genuinely interested in.