The Reading Gene


I have many memories of my father that are book related. One of them was that he would always be trading books with his twin brother and they’d always ask each other when they’d visit if the other had any books to borrow. Another was the sight of him sitting in his easy chair, listening to a police band radio with one ear, and the other eye on his book, sometimes even looking up and keeping an eye and ear on the TV if there was golf or bowling on the screen. If there was a hockey game on, he wouldn’t pick up his book until the intermissions and couldn’t understand how I could read and watch hockey at the same time!

A few years ago, my home city of Halifax, Nova Scotia was building a brand new central library. They were raising money with a campaign called Share the Wow. You could donate to the library fund and receive a personalized book plate and then could put it in any book in the library that you wanted to. I decided to do that, and had it personalized in memory of my dad who died in 2006.

I knew what sort of book I would pick. We generally didn’t read the same kinds of books but he would read one I might recommend if it had a good story and wasn’t too “girly”. Primarily, he liked westerns and stories that took place during wars, fiction or non fiction. Dad especially loved to read about people that had fought in or lived through World War II. He was a boy during that period in Halifax, which was and is a major naval base. He remembers it vividly. He also worked with a man who was a prisoner of war and he found those stories interesting, too. He had some older brothers who were in the navy and the Merchant Marines during the war and he always told us about selling newspapers during the war when there was often an “Extra” edition of the newspaper with war news.

I received my bookplate and off to the library on its grand opening day I went. I found where the non-fiction books on military history were located and browsed until I found a likely candidate. It’s called Grandpa’s War in Bomber Command by the late Jack W. Singer. He was a Canadian from Ottawa that joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1944. He was assigned to No. 9 Squadron just after the D-Day invasion, after his training in England. He wrote it as a memoir for his grandchildren and it was later published. There’s an excerpt from it here. It seemed exactly the sort of book my father would have enjoyed so I put the plate inside the flyleaf.

I like to think that book is still there, a little piece of my dad on the page.

My love of reading comes honestly.  Books were always in our house, in our hands, on our bedside tables,  stacked beside the chairs and sofa where we’d have our favourite spots to sit. We feel out of sorts if we run out of reading material.  English class was never a chore when I was in school (though occasionally, the books I had to read for class were, but more on that another time.) The gene has only successfully been inherited by my niece who loves to read. One of my nephews reads sometimes, but the other’s interests lean towards gaming and he’d rather watch a movie or a tv series than read the book on which it was based. My husband reads but not as voraciously as I do and we do share some common literary interests.

I can’t imagine my life without the printed (or digital) word. Starting a new book is always a thrill of anticipation. Now, you must excuse me. My lunch break is nearly over and I want to read a few chapters before I get back to work.