For someone who loves biographies of artists so much, it has taken me much too long to decide that I might share with you my reading biography – how I came to reading and how it has evolved over time. I realize that I cannot write a reading biography without sharing some of my general biography, but for everyone’s sake I will try to keep it to the minimum. This is a major step into discomfort, but there are definite perks to having a blog that is widely unknown, hey?
I grew up as a Bulgarian immigrant child in Austria. My parents were around my age and had three small children when they decided to try their luck in the West. My mother was an academic and, to me, she still is one of the smartest people I have ever met. My father is her opposite in almost all aspects. I will just say that this combination led to my escape into the written world during the first ten years of my life. I am so thankful to my mother for all her sacrifices and every single day she has been with us – through literally the good, the bad and the very ugly.
I learned to read, write and speak my mother tongue Bulgarian simultaneously to German, and among my first and most cherished books are Bulgarian fairy tale editions. I devoured every book I could get my hands on, and I often read them multiple times. My library card was always full with stamps and I remember how sad I was that I could only lend out ten books at a time. I read books by Astrid Lindgren, Erich Kästner, Hans Christian Andersen and many more. I don’t even remember how my mother sparked my love for books anymore – they were just always a big part of our tiny home and my grandparents‘. My grandmother read to me many times as well, and I would listen to her dry and crispy voice for hours, wide awake and interested.
One of my favorite childhood memories is a rather quirky one, but I will share it anyway. It was during the only family vacation we did during my childhood, a trip to Halkidiki in Greece. We all got a terrible sunburn on the second day and my father put yoghurt on my front and back as well as my face. It was so painful that I couldn’t even lie down to sleep at night. So what did little Rossi do when she couldn’t sleep? She took out the two Bulgarian fairy tale books she had brought with her and read them in one go in the half dark room, sitting up on a chair. It was pure bliss!
The second decade of my literary life began with a book I posted on Instagram recently, ‘The Mists of Avalon‘ by Marion Zimmer Bradley. It must be classified as fantasy, but to me it was a parallel universe. Morgaine’s story on a thousand pages was my favorite book for quite a while – until Harry Potter set my heart on fire. I don’t think there will ever come a day that I will not list this series as my favorite book of all time. It accompanied me through my insecure, sad, happy and embarrassing teenage years and I re-read the series twice in my twenties. This was one arm of literary upbringing, but my mother and her fascinating mind collected and bought book after book throughout the years. When I was a teenager, I no longer went to the public library for books. I had my own first-class library in the living room, where I just needed to browse through the bookshelves and pick out whatever tickled my fancy. I read many classics and literary fiction that we would talk about and read later on in high-school long before I needed to, and I spent my summers with Goethe, Schnitzler, Austen, Dickens and many more. The Bronte sisters heave a special place in my heart as well. There were two years during high-school when I was a passionate advocate for Thomas Bernhard, an Austrian author and a fascinating artist to me. To me, he is one of Austria’s most important intellectual exports.
But then, at some point during my studies at university I stopped reading. I had to read, learn, and study by heart so many pages, slides and textbooks that I lost myself and my own needs in the process. There were many months during which every word I read was business and career related. I watched a lot of TV, films and listened to music for several hours a day, but I couldn’t bring myself to read. To be honest, I can’t even remember during which year Lisbeth Salander came into my life by chance, but my heart was racing along the hundreds of pages written by genius Stieg Larsson. His books were a game changer for me, because I had never felt such rage before while reading. The only reason the Millenium Trilogy will never triumph over Harry Potter is because of all the nasty and evil characters that inhibit Lisbeth’s story. If my heart were a room, the walls would be lined with bookshelves, the most prominent eye-level shelves devoted to Harry Potter and Jane Eyre, and petite Lisbeth Salander would sit by the window – enjoying the view.
During the last three years I have slowly found my way back to literature. I read interesting short stories collections, and since I’ve started giving my writerly dreams a legitimate space in my life, I’m also reading books on creativity, writing and personal growth.
I would classify myself as a short story writer for the time being, but I’m not leaning towards a particular genre as a reader or writer. Except for horror – I really cannot handle horror. Although I have been very structured and linear with most things in my life until recently, I just realized while writing this blog post that my reading biography might seem quite non-linear. This reminds me of something my mom often says about her children: ‘Oh God, you are all so different from one another, but I love you equally nonetheless!‘
My hopes for the next thirty years involve a lot more books, and a lot less worry.