Nancy Drew And Lifetime Reading

nancy drew lilac inn

by Jessica Weber (’14)

The first full book that was read to me was Charlotte’s Web. Every night before bed my mother would promise another chapter, and together we would revisit our favorite animation film in its original form. I remember the final chapter distinctly, not for its contents, but because the days of listening to my mother read aloud were over. I had decided I was skilled enough to read on my own, and soon thereafter I started A Horse Called Wonder, the first of many from the Thoroughbred book series. I followed the character of Claire through her personal struggles and riding successes. Eventually my girlish obsession with horses faded, and I moved on to Nancy Drew books.

I cannot remember exactly how I came across my first copy of the books, but I do remember reading The Secret of the Old Clock and being entranced. As I opened each new book of the series, I was confident in Nancy’s ability to somehow escape the danger she found herself in and solve the mystery by the final pages.

After reading every Nancy Drew book in my small private school I begged my mother to take me to the Pasco Public Library. This did not take much convincing. She chauffeured me to the young-adult books and left me there while she went to the Danielle Steele section. I generally despised being left alone in public places, but I did not mind when she left me there. As I sat on the floor searching for new mysteries to solve, I realized how many more books were out there to be read. I paused and inhaled their musty book smell. I reveled in their symmetrical spines on which Carolyn Keene’s name resided, and gazed into their brilliant yellow covers. Led by the colorful photographs, I settled on The Clue in the Jewel Box.

At first it was difficult for me to choose only one book, but my mother reminded me that I could always come back. And I did. About once a month, my mother would take me down Sylvester Street and up 12th. We’d use the crosswalk from the Memorial Public Pool to the library, enter through the familiar doors, and walk directly to the back where Carolyn Keene’s collection lived. I’d scan the spines for mysteries unsolved and reminisce about the mysteries I’d already figured out.

During my first visit to Santa Barbara, California I was carrying The Mystery at Lilac Inn through the airports and on the planes to and from my aunt’s house. I received smiles from older women who noticed what I was reading, and warm comments from a woman who scanned my boarding ticket. It seemed as though everywhere I went, women much older than I seemed to understand the magic that rested between the book’s pages. On our final flight home from Salt Lake to Pasco, a man stopped me and asked me what I was reading. Without a word, I turned the cover of The Mystery at Lilac Inn to his view. He laughed and asked me why I was reading such an old book. I replied with an “I don’t know” and walked away. I did not understand how some people didn’tt feel the same way as I did about reading.

Jessica Weber is a senior who fits the tea-drinking, book-loving English major stereotype. She even goes as far to dabble in other adventurous activities such as gardening, knitting, and cat-loving. Jessica is the editor of the forthcoming Laura’s List and plans to pursue a career in publishing.

Nancy Drew cover is from here.

One thought on “Nancy Drew And Lifetime Reading

  1. It is too late to go now, but “Acres of Books”, a used bookstore in Long Beach CA, had nearly all the Nancy Drew Books in all the series, as well as nearly all the Hardy Boys books in all the series. I took Barbara and Susan there on a rainy Saturday afternoon when the Fox Hills WaldenBooks did not have the Nancy Drew book she wanted. Alas, “Acres of Books” is no longer, its former location now a part of the Blue Line platform in downtown Long Beach. It was literally acres of used books, with a dimly lilt labyrinth of rooms with tall shelfs of books, arranged in narrow aisles, all lit primarily by skylights and low wattage bulbs dangling from the ceiling on the same wire that brought their power. It was all dominated by that pervasive smell of old book must. While their cash flow could justify staying in business it could not support a move to new digs when the LA Metro condemned their property. They folded.

    When the discussion turns to mystery writers, I always comment that among my favorites is Franklin Dixon. That is usually met with a blank stare by the mystery reader who came to mysteries as an adult, or a good laugh and “mine too”. Unless it is a female and then the agreement over who was better, Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys ensues.

    The books also serve to tie together generations; my mother read Nancy Drew as a child, as did my sisters, my wife, and my daughter. Barbara was particularly impressed that her grandmother had read them.

    That old Stratemeyer syndicate turned out some good stuff.

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