Thank you for everyone’s kind thoughts on my last post. My work stress is diminishing (I had to give a few presentations to large groups of school children about the library’s summer reading program. I wore my crossword Converse (at left) to give myself a little boost! Needless to say, I’d rather be blogging for anyone to read than speaking in front of an audience! After all my fear and worry, it went alright — the kids would start to cheer whenever I’d show them any kind of movie tie-in book. On the one hand, we want them reading through any means, especially over the summer when if they don’t read, they lose some of what they’d learned, but… it makes me wonder if books are no longer seen as pleasurable for the sake of stories, imagination and language, but merely a means to continue to live in the fantasy world of the movie. Hopefully books like this will help kids eventually love reading or at least find it less of a struggle.)
That aside, I’ve been thinking of ways to make this blog more my own and move it away from trying to be just like everyone else’s book blog.
For starters, I’ve had an idea for a while to write posts about books that I’ve read in different genres. I like understanding the appeal behind these different types of stories and since my husband has a sci-fi bookshelf (with also graphic novels and comics), a horror bookshelf and we share a mystery bookshelf (all of them tall, black and skinny in the gothic corner where he keeps his Wonder Woman action figure and a bust of Frankenstein), we discuss them often!
I’m also thinking of writing shorter reviews sometimes at least. (I do worry that I’ll have my right to book blog called into question if I don’t post reviews some of the time!) I also thought of an unofficial way to join in on interesting challenges, by only reading one book on the topic instead of ten or even three. Nymeth’s 1930s Challenge was great this way because there was no signing up, just reading even one book. I ended up reading 3, simply because there was no pressure. Whereas all my other challenges started to weigh heavily with their longer lists of required reading.
This reminds me of a rare nonfiction book that I absolutely adore (I only have three books in this category): The Day I Became an Autodidact by Kendall Hailey. It’s probably not easy to find but read it, oh readdd it! I read it several times in university, the first time showed me there was something I could do besides getting a proper career, something like reading and writing my life out, and the second time through helped me see that it wasn’t impossible. She writes about getting yet another required reading list in high school and realizing that what she’d rather do, instead of going to college for more endless required reading, is to skip all that, stay at home and read the books of her choice. Crazy, but then she goes on to write about all the other famous people who’ve done it (Tolstoy, Milton), who have been autodidacts, that is, self taught. She also goes on to write about how she reads the Greeks and Romans and whatever else catches her fancy and starts to write a novel, a play.
This is part of what drives me to take my reading seriously, to push myself to read the difficult important books. I didn’t learn everything I wanted to in university and there’s still an endless amount more to know about people, life and stories within the pages of a good book. 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (the second of my absolutely adored nonfiction books) is also indirectly about discovering the classics on your own, without a teacher or a class to guide you, and finding the ones that speak to you. Obviously I think these will vary from person to person. Helene Hanff loves John Donne. I like Marcel Proust and Jane Austen (and have never studied either in university although I often wish I could).
Anyway. Here’s something on ‘required reading’ from The Day I Became an Autodidact (quote taken from here since I unfortunately don’t have my own copy):
I read (rarely skimming) everything school tells me to from the middle of September to the middle of June, but the summer is mine. And being told what to read during summer suddenly made me realize that I don’t really like being told what to read during the fall, winter, and spring either.
I do want a little motivation to read some more George Eliot this year (but I’ve already read more Virginia Woolf and Elizabeth Bowen than I’ve read in years!), but apart from that, I’m looking forward to finding more books that are intelligent while also being enjoyable to read instead of stressing over all the classics I haven’t read yet.