My addiction to the printed word began with Dick and Jane, a primer used to teach reading for many years. Graduating to the Bobbsey Twins, my sister and I collected the whole set, every birthday and Christmas we asked for a book.

Next came the “Five Little Peppers” and “How They Grew.” Elsie Dinsmore was too perfect for my taste, nobody could be that saintly. Heidi transported me from the backwoods of Maine to the magnificent Swiss Alps. “Black Beauty” taught me of the worst in men, cruelty to animals and the best in mankind in its love and kindness to our fellow creatures.

Luckily, our mother and father believed that reading anything, within reason of course, was better than not reading at all. Enter the comic books. We brought them with every spare dime we had: Archie and Jughead, Superman, and Captain Marvel.

When the Sunday paper came, there was a wrestling match for the funny papers, as we called them. Sprawled out on the living room floor, we read Dick Tracy, Li’l Abner and Snuffy Smith.

Discovering the books by Louisa May Alcott, I entered the magical world of Meg, Jo, Amy and Beth in “Little Women.” It remains one of my favorite books to this day. I followed Jo as she married the professor and started a boys school in “Little Men.”

“Under the Lilacs” was another favorite of mine by Miss Alcott. “Jane Eyre” and “Wuthering Heights” carried me to a world of misty, mysterious moors and dark and dreary manor houses. As a teenage girl, I loved these tragic romances.

When I ran out of reading material, I raided my brother’s bookcase and found out I liked adventure stories: “Swiss Family Robinson,” “Treasure Island” and “Moby Dick.” I learned of the Wild West from Zane Grey and fell in love with the rugged cowboys. From Jack London’s books, I came to admire the frozen north and the lone wolf.

Dickens invaded my comfortable world and exposed me to a cruel world of poverty, greed and crime. I shed tears over “Oliver Twist” and “David Copperfield.” From “Great Expectations,” who could forget the picture of Miss Havisham still in her decaying wedding gown in the cobwebby, dusty room where the wedding cake stayed uneaten on the table — everything left exactly as it was for years after she was abandoned at the altar?

At our house, it was best never to leave a book you were reading unguarded; it could be snatched and taken off by the book thief to his favorite reading hideaway. Some books had two or three bookmarks in them at the same time, and that made it hard to find your own place.

In later years my dream came true, and I ended up working in a library surrounded by all the books by the authors I loved. Paradise. 

– Special to the Telegram