For Leslie Jordan, being encouraged to read was "probably the greatest gift my mother ever gave me."
Speaking with PEOPLE on Thursday at the 2021 National Celebration of Reading event at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., the 66-year-old actor said he was just 6 years old when his mother first began taking him to a local bookmobile.
There was no public library nearby while Jordan was growing up in the suburbs of Tennessee in the 1950s, he shared. The Call Me Kat star was particularly fond of the bookmobile's air conditioning, which his family didn't have at the time either.
"I'd just lay on my stomach and read those books 'til they ran me off," he explained. "They'd likely run me off — tell me 'You got to go.' "
In fact, Jordan is still a big fan of visiting libraries to this day. "People aren't going but I love to go there," he told PEOPLE. "I can just wander forever. I just love the library."
Reading has been an important part of Jordan's life for decades. Despite being an actor, the Cool Kids star finds much more joy in books and magazines than watching television or movies.
"I think that when you read, you're never bored," Jordan said. "You know, when you have a love of books, that just seems to solve problems."
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He added: "I can't imagine a life without books or words, so that's probably why I'm passionate."
One of Jordan's first loves in reading was biographies. Now, he reads "just about everything," though mysteries and true crime are currently among his favorites.
"I love Agatha Christie. … I love murder mysteries," he told PEOPLE.
"I don't know, I'm just so interested in human nature and this and that," the actor continued. "I think that's why I like murder mysteries, too, because it's so much really about human nature. And why would that person do that?"
Watching TV and reading a good book, he added, simply are not the same. "If I watched those shows on TV, I can always figure it out," he said. "But for the books, it has to be true crime, not fiction."
Jordan was among dozens of big names in attendance at Thursday's National Celebration of Reading. Other invitees included former President George W. Bush, Eva Chen, Meena Harris, Lupita Nyong'o, Tim Shriver, and New York Times best-selling author Mateo Askaripour.