I picked up my current bedside book, Midnight's Children, but it's one of those books that requires concentration so I had to put it aside rather quickly. I needed something simple, easy, and short - why not The Book That Changed My Life: 71 Remarkable Writers Celebrate the Books that Matter Most to Them. A series of essays, each no more than 2-3 pages in length, all about great books - perfect!
This is the perfect "go to" book. It's one that you can read in snippets (or all in one sitting like I did), leave in the bathroom, in the car, or wherever you might have a only a few minutes to read. In my case, it was perfect for the few minutes of concentration I could pull together between bouts of misery.
Of course, some essays were more enjoyable than others. My personal favorites were the authors who were inspired by non-fiction - that's so me! But the one I liked best of all was written by author Paco Underhill. He wrote about his grandfather reading to him, about being entranced by Horatio Hornblower, about his bike rides to the library, and about the secrets he kept from his parents so he'd be allowed to go. It was excellent.
I challenge anyone to read this book and not be moved by some of the stories. Even non-readers may find inspiration here - many of the essays are about how the writer went from non-reader t0 book devourer.
Here are a few things that caught my attention as I read:*
- "We read in order to travel, or be borne, to that other place and thus interrupt the curse of having only one life to lead." (p51) Exactly what I would have said if only I were so eloquent!
- In talking about her teaching epiphany one author said: "The truth, as I came to see it, is that once you fall in love, really in love, with that first book, you'll never be able to stop. There will still be plenty of time to introduce the classics." (p54) I wish more teachers thought that way. This is why I encourage people of any age to read what they ENJOY first; only then will they come to love reading.
- "Typically, people don't easily budge from their opinions of what an author is saying (usually because they haven't read the book and never will)." (p58) Now THAT is something that gets me really angry. How DARE you (not you, dear reader!) speak out against a book because of what someone ELSE says about it? If you've read it yourself, then your opinion is valid. Otherwise, shut your mouth. (Sorry for that bit of a rant - this is one of the few things that really gets under my skin!)
- After being denied a chance to see A Clockwork Orange in the movies, one author "discovered that there was no 'rating' on books - anybody could read anything." (p143) What a revelation! I remember rejoicing in that reality myself, especially as a teen. And this topic is all over the blogosphere right now, in the form of "age banding" for books.
- And this one made me laugh out loud ... "the [book I picked up] was a memoir of the author's impoverished childhood. At that, I admit I had a politically incorrect thought: please, God, deliver me from another impoverished-childhood memoir." (p151) HA! I'll be honest here - I love me a good memoir, but I'm really tired of the abuse/drugs/abandonment thing. I'm sorry, but I really don't want to read about that any more (did I ever?!). When publishers contact me I give them a list of genres I'm interested in and I state very clearly that I don't want any "I-overcame-by-horrible-childhood" books. Is that really bad?!
- One of the essays reminded me that I really want to read The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman. It's been on my TBR list ever since this, but I had sort of forgotten about it.
* I think I'll be doing more reviews like this. I've used this format before and it seems to work for me.
I'd love to post your review here - just give me the link!
Things Mean A Lot