Long before I became an author, I was, and still am, an avid reader. Since early childhood, reading has been a huge part of my life—so much so that I’m always perplexed when asked how I find time to “fit” reading in.

How could I not fit it in? Reading is almost as fundamental to me as breathing, eating and sleeping and, especially during life’s darker moments, delving into the pages of a favourite book is my go-to comfort blanket and feel-good remedy.

So, at this time of year when the nights are drawing in, and I’m curled up in a comfy chair with a mug of cocoa and good book, here’s to the reading life and some highlights from mine. 

My favourite childhood book…

Is actually a trilogy, the Emily books by Canadian author L.M. Montgomery. Although less well known than Anne of Green Gables, Emily is a young girl who wants to be a published author, and the series traces her writing journey from childhood to early adulthood.

As a child and young adult, I didn’t know any writers. Reading Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs and Emily’s Quest nurtured my dream of achieving publication—one that never died despite many years and career detours along the way.

The first book that made me cry…

As a tween, I sobbed over my grandmother’s copy of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Beth March’s illness and death were heartbreaking because I cared about the March family almost as if they were my family. 

The first book that scared me…

The Tale of Samuel Whiskers, or The Roly-Poly Pudding by Beatrix Potter.

Mischievous Tom Kitten being rolled up in dough by the evil rats, Samuel Whiskers and Anna Maria, gave me nightmares for weeks—and left me with a distaste for that classic British pudding, the jam roly-poly, that persists today.

Literary pilgrimages…

My favourite holiday is one that includes a visit to at least one place associated with a book or author to “see” it through a fictional lens. 

In England, I lived near Jane Austen’s home at Chawton, while the Georgian heritage in Bath that Austen depicted so beautifully in her novels was only a day trip away. I also travelled to the English Lake District to follow in the steps of Wordsworth and other Romantic poets and, despite the lingering terror of Samuel Whiskers, explore the places that inspired Beatrix Potter’s tales.

In the US, I’ve made pilgrimages to sites associated with Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House stories (more childhood favourites) and, at home in Canada, have visited L.M. Montgomery’s Prince Edward Island.  

And, of course, book boyfriends…

Although I’ve been happily married for over twenty years, there’s always been  something special about book heroes.

From Gilbert Blythe to Captain Wentworth, Rhett Butler to Jamie Fraser (and a host of others), fictional men have made me sigh, smile, swoon and (on occasion) seethe because when it comes to the world of the imagination, I’m an unrepentant serial dater.

Not only do I fall in love with the hero of each book I write, but as I delve into each new title on my to-be-read list, book boyfriends parade through my life in quick succession.

Happily, I’m not alone in my fondness for fictional men. A cursory scan of Goodreads reveals that from “men who define the word love,” to “nice heroes,” and “book boyfriends I wish were real,” readers everywhere create lists of what they like (and don’t) in guys between book covers.

So, happy reading, friends, in a comfy chair with a favourite book and beverage of your own!  

“Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.” – Anna Quindlen, How Reading Changed My Life 

20 Comments

  1. Roslyn Schindler

    A beautiful journey through your reading life, Jen. I enjoyed every word and image.

    Reply
    • Jen Gilroy

      Thank you, Roslyn. I appreciate you reading and commenting.

      Reply
  2. Kate Field

    What an interesting post – I love hearing about people’s favourite books! I haven’t heard of the Emily books, so I’m sorry they passed me by.
    I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments. I’ll always be a reader first, writer second, and if I could only choose one it would be reading every time. x

    Reply
    • Jen Gilroy

      Thank you, Kate. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. As for the ‘Emily’ books, it’s never too late! I suspect you’d enjoy them as an adult, perhaps even more than you might have in childhood.

      The’Emily’ trilogy is available on Amazon UK, including a (currently) free Kindle offer! x

      Reply
  3. Beth

    Love the phrase “I’m an unrepentant serial dater”, Jen! My heroes have always been detectives. I was convinced that I could thaw the frosty Holmes, admired the suave Lord Peter from afar, adored hard-bitten Spenser (who could cook!) and sighed over Lord Lynley. Come to think of it, why are Brit detectives so often of the nobility?

    Reply
    • Jen Gilroy

      Thanks for reading & commenting, Beth. I’m happy to know that the lure of fictional heroes crosses genres! Interesting that there is a class dimension to British detectives.

      Reply
  4. Lynn Folliott

    Another heartwarming post Jen. From the books you enjoyed as a child(and scared you), to your pilgrimages(I’ve been to some of those places to)and book boyfriends(on the same pages with you, for the most part).Thank you for sharing and I’m looking forward, as always to curling up with a good book and as always,leaving your post with a smile on my face…

    Reply
    • Jen Gilroy

      Thank you, Lynn. It’s lovely to picture you enjoying reading my posts & that they leave you with a smile. I’m happy this post resonated with you. Happy reading!

      Reply
  5. Jennifer Wilck

    We have very similar reading tastes, Jen (why does that not surprise me?)–and I loved Emily, as well. In fact, I wished I was her, for a time.

    Reply
    • Jen Gilroy

      It doesn’t surprise me either, Jennifer. Happy to meet another ‘Emily’ fan. Although I didn’t want to be Emily, I did want to spend time at New Moon!

      Reply
  6. Arlene McFarlane

    They say readers make the best writers!! Sweet post, Jen!

    Reply
    • Jen Gilroy

      Ahh…thank you, Arlene. xo

      Reply
  7. Susanna Bavin

    A lovely post, as always, Jen. Thanks for sharing your reading journey through life. Like Kate, I didn’t come across the Emily books, but I still have my Anne books on the shelf. I especially loved the section about your serial dating. I was dreadfully in love with a wonderful book boyfriend when I was 17 and was devastated when he was killed. Our reading lives are hugely important to us and your post is a gentle reminder of this.

    Reply
    • Jen Gilroy

      And thank you for always supporting my blog, Susanna. I’m happy to know that I have such good company in the book boyfriend department! As I just said in response to Kate’s comment, the ‘Emily’ books are available on Amazon UK, including a currently free Kindle offer. x

      Reply
  8. Anne Kinch

    Ditto for me, Jen, in your selection of favourite books (except for the book that scared you first – I don’t remember reading that particular one!) – I could never decide between the Anne or Emily books as they both touched a special place in my heart. I also enjoyed and identified with your confession of being an “unrepentant serial dater.”
    Hope English Rose is enjoying High School!!

    Reply
    • Jen Gilroy

      It’s wonderful to “see” you here, Anne. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I’m glad you enjoyed the post and am not surprised we share similar favourite books!

      Thanks for mentioning English Rose too. So far, she seems to be enjoying high school but it’s still a big transition for her…and me too!

      Reply
  9. Tanya A.

    Thank you, Jen, for this beautiful journey through literature. I remember the first time I picked up an Anne book and fell in love with Avonlea. I did read the Emily books and have them all in my basement. Really enjoyed your post.

    Reply
  10. Jen Gilroy

    You’re most welcome, Tanya. Thank you for reading and commenting. It’s always a joy for me to connect with other Montgomery fans. I still have all my “Anne” and “Emily” books too.

    Reply

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