Anja Snellman

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Roni Rekomaa/Lehtikuva

AN ECLECTIC READER

My Reading Life

Anja Snellman started to devour books as soon as she learned to read at the age of four. Her family lived next to the local library, which became a second home to her.

“Everyone in our slightly peculiar family loved reading, and the library was also my safe haven where I could escape whenever my father was having one of his drunken episodes,” Snellman says.

At four, she was too young to be issued with an official library card. One of the librarians cut out a round card from paperboard and wrote Anja’s name on it. Little Anja was given permission to borrow books with her customized library card.

“I treasured that card,” Snellman says. “It was my most valuable possession.”

SNELLMAN HAS BEEN an eclectic reader from the very beginning. She started with books about cats, dogs, cows, dinosaurs, and other animals. Through the Moomins, Pippi Longstocking, and Pelle No-Tail, she soon proceeded to the likes of The Old Man and the Sea.

“I was a loner and observer throughout my school years. I was ashamed of my poor and peculiar family and my father’s drinking,” Snellman explains. 

“At the same time, I wrote elaborate adventure stories at home, in the vein of the Famous Five series by Enid Blyton.”

BY HER TEENS, Snellman had reached Freud and Nietzsche on her reading journey.

“I was rebelling against everything, and I took an interest in psychology and philosophy as some sort of statement against conventional lifestyles. At some point, I discovered Mika Waltari and August Strindberg,” Snellman says.

She wanted to be challenged as a reader, and Ernest Hemingway and Karen Blixen fulfilled that need. 

“I was fascinated by authors who were not trying to build a prestigious ivory tower. Instead, they were adventurous and restless souls who wanted a different kind of life.”

THE MORE DIVERSE her reading list, the better Snellman feels it keeps her brain moving. She reads “everything”—from children’s books to literary fiction and classics, and from nonfiction to newspapers and magazines.

“I like to read several books at the same time, and I read poetry every day, at breakfast or lunch, or when riding a tram in Helsinki, instead of browsing the phone.”

Snellman says she is the literary equivalent of an erotomaniac.

“What would that be? A bookomaniac? Readomaniac? Anything goes, at least occasionally.”

This article is partly based on Anja Snellman’s interview with Radio Helsinki.

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