This article about scrapbooks kept by Ernest Hemingway’s mother makes me think it could be time to go through a list of his books and choose one to read. I’ve spent most of my life thinking I didn’t like his writing. Now, I’m not so sure.

My only close encounter with a Hemingway book was For Whom the Bell Tolls. I tried. I really did. I just couldn’t get into it. I didn’t even want to enough to try hard.

I’m not sure I was even twelve.

There was a beautiful polished wood and glass bookcase in our living room, when I was growing up. The shelves had never tempted me, until suddenly one day they did.

I distinctly remember reading a little novel about visiting a cool little alien on his home planet at school when I was in the fifth grade. That was the first time I read because I wanted to, and not because of a teacher making read stuff I had no interest in. I’d never realized until that little alien introduced me to it that reading for pleasure was a magical vehicle that would take me not only anywhere on earth I might desire, but also far beyond the bounds of everything except my imagination.

I realize a lot of book lovers started their obsession younger than that. I had been put off learning by a series of scary inept teachers, so I was lucky I ever learned to spell, much less read. But once I started reading for pleasure, I never stopped.

So, I noticed suddenly that there were books in our house. I sat on the floor in front of the bookcase, opened its doors, mentally stepped through, and in some ways never came back out. Several of those books changed my life.

The first one I read was Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson. Ah. The discovery of mental travel. Out to sea, into the past, never again to be landlocked both in body and mind.

I don’t really remember what all was on those shelves, but another novel I distinctly, and fondly, remember was a hardcover romance by Emilie Loring. I believe it was titled Stars in Your Eyes. It was set in Mexico, and I learned about the arid climate, haciendas, and bullfighting. I was enraptured and started reading every one of her novels I could find, which was not all that easy, since she was prolific long before I was born.

She wrote beautifully beyond anything else called romance novels I ever read. Her stories read like old black and white movies, with vivid characters that could have walked off the silver screen right onto her pages. And she wrote compellingly, her elegant prose taking me wherever she wrote of next. Old-fashioned? Of course. The kind of old-fashioned that never goes out of style.

There is only one of her novels available on Kindle. I found it recently as a free download and so far have only skimmed a bit to reacquaint myself with my first beloved author. I was intrigued to see that some of my own writing echoes in pale strokes her turns of phrase. I love that all those novels of hers that I read long before I ever even suspected I would someday write fiction linger on a subconscious level to inspire me still.

Odd that an obscure novelist would have such an influence on me early on, while the revered Ernest Hemingway sent me slamming closed his pages and running outside to play. In hindsight, I think I was just too young. I can’t be sure, though.

There was also my mother’s high school French book that I used to teach myself intriguing foreign words. I was already familiar with bits of the language, because my mom taught me phrases when I was a very little girl. And she sang songs to me that she’d been taught in French class and taught them to me as soon as I could memorize and sing. I knew Clair de Lune and Frere Jacques as well as I knew Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. I don’t speak French, but fragments of it are practically embedded in my DNA.

Maybe it was just that Hemingway’s wartorn work was waiting for me to grow into it. I fell in love with the movie based on his WWI experiences, In Love and War, so there is hope. I know that what I’ve read of his life is impressive. The man traveled hard, fought hard, and loved hard. He lived an adventurous life beyond most of the powers of comprehension possessed by the rest of us. And if what his mother saw in him as a little child was borne of unvarnished truth beyond the rose colored glasses of maternal pride, he was born for the larger than life life of the infamously famous author he became.

Whether I end up an eventual Hemingway fan or not, I remain impressed by the eclectic little collection of books that bookcase housed in its corner of our living room. I’ve been told that many homes in this world have no books at all. It’s hard to imagine, in the same way I don’t understand when people tell me they don’t like to read. To each his own. And for me…all the books I can read in a lifetime.

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