Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Reading Is Fundamental

June 5th. The last book I finished was All the Light We Cannot See, and according to Goodreads, I finished it on June 5th.

It's not that I haven't been reading in all that time. I just haven't finished anything. Americanah, Record of a Spaceborn Few, Women Heroes of World War II, and a Obama-Biden bromance parody called Hope Never Dies are just some of the books I've started and haven't managed to finish. I intend to finish all of them so I guess technically I'm reading four books at once? Sounds impressive, except I'm not actually reading any of them. I've moved on to another one called Dietland, recommended by a friend. It's promising. I might finish it!

Reading slumps are a thing, y'all. But if you think that's going to stop me talking about books . . . well, you haven't been paying attention. I follow a blog called Reading Every Night (mainly because it's such a great blog title) and she just did a post on the top ten books she "learnt" something from. (Those silly Brits and their "English.") Great idea! Here are mine in no particular order:

1. I read Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for the first time in middle school. It taught me that I could read and enjoy "hard" books. At the time, it was the longest book I'd ever read and slogging through the dialect was no joke. I've reread it several times since and practically minored in Huck Finn analysis in college. Go on, ask me something. 

2. That Godless Court by Ronald Flowers and Religious Liberty in a Pluralistic Society edited by Michael Ariens and Robert Destro were the textbooks I used in a religion and the Supreme Court class in grad school. I learned more about how our country functions (or doesn't function) in that single semester than in a lifetime of listening to grouchy relatives bellyaching at the dinner table. Listening to Nina Totenberg read Supreme Court transcripts is now my favorite part of NPR. Also? Antonin Scalia was terrible at his job. Awful.

3. When an undergrad lit class assigned Emma, I rolled my eyes so hard they almost popped out of my head. Some how, some way, in all my young-adult certitude, I had become convinced that Jane Austen was just a fluffy romance writer. Yes. I know. I am properly ashamed. I wasted no time making up for my error, though, and had a difficult time concentrating in my last semester of college because I was too busy reading her entire bibliography, which taught me how far we've come and how far is left to go.

4. True Grit (Charles Portis) taught me that Westerns could also be literature.

5. The Dispossessed (Ursula LeGuin) taught me that Science Fiction could also be literature.

6. "A Worn Path" (Eudora Welty, short story) taught me that stories could be as delicate and nuanced as a Da Vinci painting. It's the story that made me an English major and set me on my path.

7. The Sherlock Holmes stories taught me that just because an author or book is canon doesn't mean it can't be critiqued.

8. Dog Songs (Mary Oliver) taught me what I've suspected all along: Dogs are worthy of poetry.

9. The People in the Castle (Joan Aiken) taught me that grownups should read fairy tales, too.

10. Mr. McMilikin's Mountain taught me that parents get tired of reading the same stories over and over but they'll do it for you anyway.

That's just a random sample of some of the books that have influenced me. And you? What books have taught you an unexpected lesson?

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