A True Bibliophile

When this prompt came up, to interview a bibliophile, I could think of no one more fascinating than my FaceBook friend, Debra Reynolds Perri. We met on FB over a ‘correct grammar’ post – auspicious, to say the least. Debra often posts about the book she is reading, and she speaks with reverence of her books. When I asked, she quickly agreed to answer questions for this post. I’m just going to let her answers come in her own voice.

Approximately how many books do you read in an average month? I would say twenty. I used to try and read a book everyday but sometimes that is not possible, i.e. with the length of the book and what else is going on in my life. I don’t feel I’ve had a good day if I haven’t read at least two or three hours – and some days, I read most of the day. My goal is always 500 pages a day but I do fall short of that many days. Not long ago, I read a series of books with about 6000 pages and I read them all in a week’s time – just could not put them down.

Do you keep a list of the books you read? – Last year, I decided to keep a reading journal and be diligent with all the books I read, a description of them – what I liked and didn’t like – and I rated them on a scale of 1 to 10. My goal had been to read 100,000 pages in that calendar year. I fell short – I believe my total was 71,000+. The one thing I didn’t like about that was I felt everyday that I was just reading for the page count and not the enjoyment. I kept thinking I have this many more pages to read today and that took something away from the experience. This year, I did not do it – but I found I missed it – and am going to start again on January 1, 2016.

What is your preferred genre? – You know, I think about that all the time and I can’t pinpoint one particular genre. I used to read history and historical books most of the time – and a lot of novels. The older I get, the more non-fiction I read. There is nothing better than an enormous biography. I do read a lot of books on political campaigns and books like those of the author Eric Larson. I have a collection of books on Theodore Roosevelt, who is the most fascinating man! I have strong political opinions and read about the people I like and admire. Not to be too political but a year or so ago, I read a great book on Ann Richards, the former governor of Texas. That was just pure bliss! I read every one of Vincent Bugliosi’s books. My favorite fictions authors are Margaret George and Sharon Kay Penman. It has been a thrill to actually talk to Sharon online. One of my favorite historical characters is Richard the Lionheart and I had ordered Sharon’s book and was expecting it on a certain day. I had a migraine that day and had to go to bed. All I could think of was, when I wake up, I want to find that book on my living room sofa – and it was there. I posted that story on Sharon’s FB page and she sent me the nicest response.

My earliest memory is the Bookmobile. It came to our school every week and there was a limit on the amount of books you could check out. There was a series of history books. The first one I remember was a biography of Martha Washington. They had blue covers. I always took out the maximum number allowed and they never lasted until the next week. When I was in the fifth grade, I had read many more sports books with an emphasis on baseball, than any of the boys in my class and was chosen to lead the panel discussion on baseball. The boys were annoyed. I keep a legal pad next to my computer with a list of the books I “NEED” and it never seems to get any smaller.

Oh, of course, as a girl I read all the Louisa Mae Alcott books and the “Little House” books. I remember going to visit someone at Christmas and, it goes without saying, taking my book with me. A beloved character died and I started to cry. My aunt told me that was ridiculous. I remember calling my mother to tell her why I was so upset and that my aunt was being very harsh. She said, “People like her just don’t understand us.” What a thrill to have a parent like that.

At my mother’s funeral I told the story about reading “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I was a teenager and it was in the hottest part of the summer. No one had air conditioning then and I read upstairs in my bedroom with my canopy bed and a fan blowing right on me. This was a Friday and, as a special treat, our family always went out to eat on Friday night. I explained to my mother that I could NOT put down the book to go out. I had to keep reading. It was, to me then, life or death. My mother left me with my book and brought home take-out for me. What a great story.

With my son, my rule was “If you can read it, you can read it.” His father and his grandmother were very upset with me over that as they felt sure he was reading inappropriate things. I may have been wrong in doing it – but he says it was one of the things that made me such a good mother. Can’t beat that!

Where do you like to read – I like to read at home. I can take books wherever I go and, of course, I do – but I feel most comfortable and happiest curled up on the end of my sofa – next to a table that holds my ginger ale, my pens and journals, a good lamp – and the quotations books. Oh, when I read, if I find something I want to remember, I take a little post-it note and put it in the page of the book and write down page numbers. After I have finished the book, I go back and copy those sections into my quotation books. I have filled quite a number of them and love to go back and read them.

What else do you want to share – I am sure I have said way too much already. Books define me. I cannot be happy until my stack of waiting books is very high. I, actually, feel panicked if I don’t have plenty waiting. I used to tell people, “I would sell myself before I would sell my books.” That raised some eyebrows. When someone asks me what I would like for Christmas or my birthday, I say an Amazon card please. My husband always buys me books – but something else as well and I just think, gosh, think of the books I could have had with all he spent on that!

I am so glad I asked Debra, and that she agreed to answer my questions. I don’t think I know anybody who enjoys books better than she!

Beth Kozan


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