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December 29, 2011

Tami Hoag on her Lifelong Passion for Reading

Posted by Katherine

Tami Hoag is an American author who made a smooth transition from successful romance novels to wildly successful and best selling thriller novels. She is said to have more than 22 million copies of her books in print. She currently lives in Florida. Here Tami talks about how she discovered reading, and how this discovery has affected her gift-giving tendencies.


I was born with a love of books.  Where this trait came from remains something of a mystery to this day.  I do not come from a family of readers. Curling up with a good book was not a learned behavior.  My father was an insurance salesman who was lucky to have the time to glance at the newspaper after dinner and before his evening calls on clients.  My mother was busy trying to survive the adolescent years of my siblings (Teenagers in the ‘60’s.  It was a wonder she came out of that with a lick of sanity left.)

I am the youngest child, a surprise ten years after my sister.  Being that much younger meant I was left to entertain myself much of the time, and somehow, I discovered books.  I fell in love with books even before I could read them.  I would turn the pages and look at the words, and wonder what incredible things I could be learning if only I knew how to read. I would look at the pictures and make up my own stories in my head.  When my poor mother would finally have a chance to sit down at the end of the day, I would scramble up onto her lap and demand she read to me --- seeing how I couldn’t do it myself.  She would oblige for a story or two --- not nearly enough to satisfy me.

Nothing if not determined, I decided I would somehow figure out this reading business on my own, as the first grade seemed way too far in the future to wait for education to come to me.  Having mastered the alphabet, I would pilfer my father’s letterhead stationery from the drawer in his office and sit on the floor of the living room with paper and crayons, and randomly combine letters in an attempt to form words.  I would show my work to my siblings --- interrupting their homework --- and demand to know if I had succeeded in making words.

Looking back on it, it’s probably a miracle I lived to read the adventures of Dick and Jane for myself.  But as soon as I managed that, the world was my oyster, and there was no stopping me.  I read every book I could get my hands on --- provided there were horses in the story (my other obsession).  But my seasonal favorite was by far the Sears Christmas catalog.  I read that toy section cover-to-cover, making copious notes with item numbers and detailed descriptions of my wishes for Santa.

Not surprisingly, books were a staple on my Christmas list.  And, not surprisingly, the books I received still stand out in my memory while Barbies and baby dolls all fade into a blur.  I still have the beautiful picture book of horses by Marguerite Henry.  While getting ready to move recently, I packed up the ancient book about show jumping some relative dug out of a bargain bin in 1971, featuring famous horses and riders already long gone by then.  From storybooks to novels, I cherished them all, read them and re-read them.

Marketing geniuses had yet to invent the gift card when I was a child.  Receiving a book meant the gift giver had given thought to who I was and what I might like.  Horse stories were always a sure hit, but the introductions to other kinds of literary adventures were just as cherished --- and sometimes more so.  That special person had considered the importance of opening my young eyes to new worlds and new writers, to mystery and history and romance.

The world is a very different place today, and Christmas is a different experience, too.  We race through our lives at break-neck speed.  Our children grow up in the blink of an eye.  Technology has changed the way we entertain and educate ourselves --- and the way we shop, as well.  The Christmas shopping season is a breathtaking sprint of on-line shopping and racing from store to store for a mind-spinning search for God-knows-what.  How old is this niece or that nephew?  What are they into?  What do they like?  No idea.  Buy a gift card.  Let them pick what they want.

I’m as guilty as the next person.  I’ll be stuffing stockings with my annual gift cards to bookstores --- which will be happily received.  But come Christmas, I’ll be remembering fondly those holidays past when someone gave thought along with the gift, and I stayed up late sending my imagination through the magic doors that had been thrown open for me in the pages of a book.