I chose my online moniker more than 10 years ago when I joined Flickr. I ran through various options, including some I had used before, such as “The onion girl” – the cheesy idea that there are many layers to me, shamelessly stolen from a novel of the same name by Charles de Lint – but none felt like me until I hit on “Nose in a book”.
It’s not an original term, and I’m not the only “Nose in a book” on the Internet, but it’s a phrase that has described me all my life. As a young child if I was going to flout rules, there was probably a book involved: reading through my meals despite the “no books at the dinner table” command; reading in bed long after lights out (I always had a torch and books stuffed down the side of my mattress); even reading when I had invited a friend over to play, and leaving my sister to occupy the poor guest. My parents, being reasonable sorts, didn’t actually mind this type of rule-breaking (though some of my potential friends probably did) and would tease me gently about it.
(When my younger brother developed the same habit, my parents were less kind about it. Possibly because I had simultaneously performed well at school and in my various hobbies, while he was…less committed. Or perhaps it’s because he exclusively read fantasy books they’d never heard of, while I read titles familiar to them – for a few years I often read the same books as my mum, including some I’m not sure I was really old enough for.)
I remember going to the town library, maxing out my library card, and reading half those books by the next day. I remember re-reading certain books obsessively long after they were a bit young for me (including The Ghosts of Motley Hall, which like the TV series it was based on was never exactly a classic to begin with). I remember reading aloud to both my brother and sister because it allowed me to combine reading with spending time with them. (I should note that the three of us are quite close in age so we’re not talking about reading Allen Ahlberg to toddlers here. One Christmas I decided to read A Christmas Carol to my brother, so every morning for a week I would go into his room first thing and read a chapter. I have no idea if he enjoyed it, but I did!)
Inevitably, as an adult I no longer race through 10 books a week and I almost never reread a book. And while overall I’m much happier now – as an adult I found the confidence, friends and social skills I felt keenly my lack of as a child – I do miss that focus, the way I would fall into a book and not emerge for several hours. For all the great times I have in my life, I’m still happiest when I have my nose in a book.