The Books of My Numberless Dreams

How I came to read

Posted on: November 18, 2006

I often wonder how I came to be such a voracious reader. I tend to believe it was destiny. My mother must have been something of a reader before she had me in her early thirties, as she had a decent collection of books, by Jamaican standards. (Or by anyone’s as who reads these days, whatever the country?) But I never saw her read more than one or two books a year, in addition to her Daily Bread. She encouraged me to read and she says she read a lot during her pregnancy. But she read a lot during my little brother’s pregnancy and everyone has encouraged him to read yet he has no interest. Not even Harry Potter could convince him.

I did not need much. I loved books, the pictures in the books, the words on the paper, the paper holding the words, the covers holding everything. I read a lot of Fairy-tales From Around the World and Enid Blyton books. Her books dominated my little collection for some time: The Tower in Ho Ho Wood, The Naughtiest Girl in School, and assorted tales about white English children with pets in the woods meeting brownies, or spoilt, curly blonde heroines reformed by good-hearted talking toys. My father gave me a much cherished collection of Caribbean folk-tales that I still own. It was the only vaguely Jamaican book I owned, before grade 9, along with the tale on The White Witch of Rosehall.

At prep school in some of the classes we had our own class library. During any free sessions if I wasn’t chatting I would go over to select one. These were usually (American?) English reading comprehension texts filled with many excerpts or short stories, some of which were not at all bad. Or we’d get a chance to take a book out of the small school library. On my grade four report card Mrs. Grey commended my impressive reading habit but cautioned that I should choose more appropriate reading times. She had caught me with a comic book–I’m tempted to think it was a Christian one–tucked inside whatever boring text we were using that day.

I was made for it. In a similar fashion I took to classical music after I enrolled in music classes. No one else in the apartment listened to it. I never heard it at any of my friends’ houses. I only heard it at church–we were Anglicans–and at music school. This was enough for me to search the radio dial, and to eagerly await Disney’s Young Musicians Symphony Orchestra on tv every summer. I was made for music. I was made for books.


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