Growing up, I spent every summer in Japan. July was monsoon season and I remember the rushing sound of rain cascading down the brass rain chain. Rainy days were for writing letters to my friends back home in Canada. Rainy days were also for reading.
Those muggy summer days spent in my grandmother’s house, sparked a love of reading. Through books, I journeyed. I went to the English and Welsh countryside with the Famous Five and to New York with Claudia and Jamie Kincaid. I time-traveled and shape-shifted. I lived in the Jurassic past and the atomic future. I lived in Macondo and the Republic of San Lorenzo. I lived as a prairie girl and a French detective. I lived in dire Dickensian poverty and great majestic wealth.
When I ran out, I went downtown and bought Japanese novels in translation. Soseki. Tanizaki. Oe. My books formed a nest around me on the tatami mat, right near my aunt’s Buddhist altar. A waft of sandalwood as the incense sticks burned.
I think, if asked, most devoted readers would be able to pinpoint the ‘spark book’ that ignited their love of reading.
I wanted to write a book about that spark, that electric first love. We may not all be bookish, but I like to think that there is at least one book for everyone—a book to be read endlessly, a book loaded with early versions of ourselves, a book we may never fully finish. Maybe it’s a book about a surreal baker’s kitchen or the story of a boy who peed on a war or a book that other people snubbed or overlooked but it’s ours, our good little book.