G.P. Gottlieb and I first got to be friends at a Left Coast Crime conference. She writes the wonderful Whipped and Sipped cozy mystery series, featuring Alene Baron, who owns a coffee house in Chicago. Book number 3, Charred, just came out. She also is an interviewer on the New Book Network podcast.
I always loved reading the sagas of Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo, and Thomas Mann. They lasted a long time. I admired Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Leo Tolstoy, Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter, Murasaki Shikibu’s “Tale of Genji,” and Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. I adored all of Jane Austin, happily made my way through George Elliot, and fell in love with Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Later in life, I used to choose books based on their thickness – I wasn’t going to waste $4.95 on a paperback that I could finish in a few hours. I wanted big, thick, juicy novels that whisked me across the centuries, flew me over oceans and mountains, sent me deep into territory I’d never explored. As a child, I was at the library every week, determined to read most of the books. I had the idea of starting with one letter of the alphabet and cased the joint to figure out which letter took up more space than the others.
I know it sounds crazy now, but my totally unscientific survey (involving snooping around the library) proved that authors whose last names began with an “S” wrote more books than any other authors. If you’re wondering why you never had the idea, it’s probably because it’s ridiculous, but I read all of IB Singer and John Steinbeck, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and Jonathan Swift. I adored Irving Stone. And I skipped authors of just one book – I was only interested in authors who wrote lots of books.
Every week I’d check out a huge pile. During the week, I’d get home from school, grab a snack, watch Gilligan’s Island, and either practice piano or curl up with a book. Day after day. Sometimes I’d play with friends after school, but I’d always come home afterwards, finish homework, and go straight to whatever book I was reading. Weekends were great for getting more reading done, although there were chores, visits to or from the grandparents, and we reserved Sunday nights for the Ed Sullivan show.
I got into trouble a few times – reading instead of washing dinner dishes when it was my turn, or that one time at the doctor’s when I got so immersed in reading that my mother threatened to take my siblings and leave me there. She warned me that I’d have to walk home, got the three of them out the door and in the car, and decided to drive around the block so I’d learn my lesson.
Too bad that when I saw that the car had driven off, I figured I’d walk home. I didn’t realize that although the drive took ten-fifteen minutes, walking in my party shoes (because I was invited to a birthday party that afternoon) was going to take close to an hour. Also, who amongst us ever paid attention to directions at age nine? I didn’t notice the office erupt in panic while I was casually heading the way we always came from and was surprised when one of the doctors pulled up next to me and offered to drive me back to the office. Apparently, it had been a missing-child, all-hands-on-deck emergency. I got yelled at but still got to go to the birthday party.
In those days, when people asked me what I wanted to do with my life, I’d get a dreamy look on my face (according to my mother) and answer that I wanted to be paid to read books and talk to the authors. We’d all laugh and move on to discuss real things people did to make a living. Family members would say, “You’re just being kooky. A job like that doesn’t exist!” Fast forward about 55 years, and guess who just interviewed her 170th author as host for New Books in Literature, a podcast channel on the New Books Network?
You can read more about G.P. Gottlieb on her website at gpgottlieb.com and buy her books there, too!