As you know, I am on my way to become a literature professor, although I still have a couple years ahead of me. That means I kinda *have* to be an avid reader. I have realized over time that I have several reader personas, and the one that manifested first in my life turned into the most guilt-ridden one.
As a little girl, I read everything around me. I’m aware of how cliché this sounds, but it’s simply true. However, the least-cliché part of this story is the type of books that I was devouring. From a very young age, I developed a passion for mystery novels, especially vintage ones, like Agatha Christie’s, which I obviously read in French at the time. The first Agatha Christie I read was And Then There Were None, that my grandmother bought me as a reward for helping her paint some flower pots. I still remember her taking me to the bookstore, which had a very small mystery selection, and how drawn I was to this particular novel. Funny enough, the cover was nothing to write home about, it was a simple yellow cover with a feather on it, but as soon as I read the plot summary, I was hooked. I also remember finishing the book the next day, and asking my mom for more of the same. She bought me all that she could find in our little bookstore, and thus the hunt began. My dad liked going to garage sales and flea markets to find vintage motorcycle-related items, and I loved going with him to fumble through the old books. One particular vendor had a lot of Agatha Christie as well as Mary Higgins Clark, but I stuck to the author that I knew and loved. Soon enough, I owned more than 15 of her novels and short stories, which I read right away but frequently re-opened on sunny days, all the while laying out on my parents’ terrace.
One of the embarrassing aspects of my passion for thrillers is my everlasting reluctance to try out a new author. I am a big believer in the idea that if something is working, there is no need to change it. What kind of self-proclaimed avid reader doesn’t like to discover new authors?
Sup, Agatha? Thanks for the ride, gurl.
I literally refused to pick up a book from a writer I didn’t know, which is, I know, a stupid attitude. I still do the same thing, to some extent. I’m not a very adventurous reader when it comes to reading for pleasure. Academically, though, I love discovering new theoricians and new authors, because the new things are likely to provide me with new ideas. But I’m completely different towards my guilty-pleasure books. I know what works, so why stray?
So, I already confessed that I loved Agatha Christie as a child. It’s not ALL I read, but it constituted most of my bookshelf. Growing up, I discovered new authors and got attached to different genres as well. But the thing is, I’m still REALLY into mystery/thriller novels. It’s a somewhat embarrassing thing to admit, when you’re an aspiring academic. Mystery is not considered a noble genre, especially in French literature. The plot possibilities are limited, the characters are always the same type, and the writing itself is often cringeworthy, even more so in more recent thrillers. But the truth is, I love it. I thoroughly enjoy the breathtaking plot twists, even the ones that I half-expected. I love the feeling of reading a book, page after page, without taking notes, or trying to link it to a theory by Foucault or Barthes or Edward Said. I love the freedom that a mystery novel gives me. I can bring it in my purse when I’m waiting for my boyfriend during a teethcleaning, or waiting for my car during an oil change. It transports me to a cool world where anyone could be a hero, when their family is threatened.
As a young teenager, I started reading in English. At first, I briefly abandoned the mystery genre to pick up a few Nick Hornby books. The first book I read in English -besides the bilingual Roald Dahl short stories that are the training bra of the young English speaker- was About a Boy. As it turns out, I bought it at a flea market in the South of France, and I was in such a rush to read it that I overcame my car sickness to read all of it during the road trip back to Normandy. Faithful to my principles, I stuck to Hornby for a while, until I came across a striking summary while shopping for books online. A widower who sees his supposedly deceased wife on a security camera video after 8 years, what’s not to like about that? This was my first encounter with my soon-to-be favorite author, Harlan Coben.
Well, hello there.
From then on, I was addicted. I had my dad order all of his books online, and for the first few years, I wanted them only in the paperback edition that you can see above, because I somehow felt it was important for my bookshelf to look flawless. I fell in love with both his recurring characters, and his stand-alone novels. I fell in love with his writing and learned a lot about English just taking it in and observing the idioms and the way he used his words. I liked his work so much that I even did something pretty embarrassing, with hindsight, that I may or may not confess to you later on.
Now, I don’t care so much about the edition, as long as I can read the newest Coben book every Spring. This year, I bought it on Amazon right away. One of my lit professors asked me to be a guest speaker in her French class, and to thank me, she sent me an Amazon gift card. I hope she never knows that this is what I used it for:
I’m pretty sure this is NOT by Victor Hugo. Thanks, Professor G.!