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    Books for Our Palates

    "I ate them like salad, books were my sandwich for lunch, my tiffin and dinner and midnight munch." -- Beatty, the Fire Chief in Ray Bradbury's book, Farenheit 451

    Like how we acquire our tastes for food and wine, we also acquire our tastes for the books we read.

    When we encounter a new kind of food, we test it out by taking small bites. If we like it, we take a bigger bite, return for a second helping, or get the recipe and learn how to cook it.

    We raise our wineglass to our nose to smell a new wine, then take a small sip, roll it around our tongues. If we like it, we swallow. If we don't, we either spit it out (delicately and with finesse, of course) and try another wine that our taste buds will like.

    Same thing with the kind of books we read. We read one book, see if if we like it. If we do, we start to read books in that genre or books written by the same author. If we don't, we stop reading that book and try out another.

    Like any other child, I started with the fairy tale books. The earliest memory I have of the first books I read were the usual story books -- Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood.

    I thought Cinderella was too much of a girl, and I thought it was kind of sick to have Prince Charming marry a woman who was older than him by a hundred years. (In the book I read, Sleeping Beauty slept for a hundred years.) And I thought Little Red Riding Hood was either a little dumb or was in dire need of an eye operation when she couldn't recognize her own grandmother. So I didn't really like the fairy tales.

    I discovered William Shakespeare and Lord Byron when I was 13. That was when I acquired the taste for reading classic literature. I read Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo and discovered I liked books about betrayal and intrigue. I found Edgar Allan Poe and tried him out for a few stories. He freaked me out too much I just settled for his poem, Annabelle Lee, and his least freaky short story (in my opinion), The Cask of Amontillado.

    Then when I was 14, I had a very short affair with those pocket books that girls my age always had in their bags: the sigh-inducing Sweet Dreams Pocketbooks -- where unpopular girls get to have the hunks in their schools. I read several, then found out that I really didn't care much for the mushy stuff.

    I had my first taste of the political books by Karl Marx, Bertrand Russell and Dostoyevski when I was 16. When I turned 18, I met Robert Ludlum through his novel, The Borne Ultimatum. I found that I liked stories about espionage and the CIAs and KGBs. Even before Bruce Willis became The Jackal in the film with the same title, I already knew the jackal in Ludlum's books.

    When I turned 21, I got hooked on the westerns. My sister bought me Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove and thus began my affair with Woodrow Call and Augustus McRae, the two cowboys in McMurtry's novel. I hunted for the prequels of Lonesome Dove (Dead Man's Walk and Comanche Moon) and its final book, The Streets of Laredo. I felt like Call and Gus were my old buddies since I've read and seen them come alive in the four books -- from when they were just green cowboys to grown men to their old days.

    And just a couple of years ago, after a long battle, I picked up the Bible and started reading the Word. I find peace whenever I do.

    Like food, I've tasted a good assortment of books, and I find that the classics, the westerns, the espionage novels and the Bible are my favorites. They dominate my bookshelves. And lately, Natalie (Goldberg), Ray (Bradbury) and Julia (Cameron) have gained my following. All great authors of equally great books.

    Hence, I believe that the books we read, like wine, undergo years of aging, of us acquiring the taste for them. We ferment, we funnel, we sift the ones we like best. We read the books that make us full.

    Like in a banquet, many foods are laid on the table. It's like that with the books we like and read. We eat the ones that give our taste buds the tingles and our stomachs the satisfaction.

    What books does your palate like?

    Copyright © 2000 Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ

    Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ is the creator of WriteSparks!™, the idea and story generator for writers. Download your free copy today by going to this link.

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ

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