Hey hey! Welcome to day 13 of the #UltimateBlogChallenge. I am surprised that I have made it this far, but far is better than not at all! I hope everyone is doing well and staying sane during this really hard time. I know I’m not.
I’ve been feeling low lately. Not having a choice whether to go somewhere, fighting being sick, Dodson seeming to get better, then worse, then better again due to his own stress over the situation… it’s a lot. One thing that did bring me joy today was a Comfort Reads conference call that my lovely friend Meka held today. It was really comforting being able to bond with a group of people over my love of reading, as opposed to bonding just because we’re all stuck in quarantine. Shout out to the American Council for the Blind’s ACB Radio for hosting these conference calls, they really have been a highlight in the past few weeks.
On this call, we discussed our comfort reads, or more simply put, the books we fall back on when times are rough. For me, I am a psychological thriller junkie, but my comfort read is The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. Really, if you haven’t read his book and watched his Ted Talk, you are missing out. Not only did I get to speak about a book that has helped change me into the person I am today, but I was almost in tears just sharing this little bit of comfort.
The conversation eventually moved away from comfort reads to childhood favorites, and this is where the emotions really got me. I got to share how I read Where the Red Fern Grows and how I sobbed and yelled at everyone that life was so unfair. I got to geek out over my love for Harry Potter, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Bridge to Terabithia. If you can imagine, a lot of these books were tearjerkers for little anxious me, who carried more books than actual homework and who read under the desk while the rest of the class learned the states and capitals. I wanted to share with you guys a few books that have really stuck by me after so many years of reading them.
1. Where the Red Fern Grows: This book is one of those books that every elementary school teacher probably has in their classroom. Depicting a story about a boy working hard to get his two dogs, then growing and learning with those dogs until the end, really, really brought out the empathetic side of me who curled up on the ground crying and punching my books for the way the book ended.
2. Bridge to Terabithia: This book and later, movie adaptation shares how acceptance, friendship, and loyalty bonds people together, teaching kids to love despite all the circumstances. To me, this book and its visual counterpart, left me bawling. (Is anyone sensing a theme here?)
3. The Harry Potter series: Ravenclaw, all the way. I fell in love with these books when my fourth-grade teacher, who is the reason I read at all, introduced them to me as a challenge since I was quick to get through the books. I will admit that at first, I was a little weary, bored and uninterested, but let’s be real; getting a kid’s attention just involves a little magic. From that moment on, I was hooked. My nerdy Ravenclaw status remains a part of who I am, and I am grateful to Mr. Davis for giving me this part of my identity.
4. A Midsummer’s Night Dream: Yes! Your girl reads Shakespeare! I… didn’t really like any of Shakespeare’s work, but this play had my heart in freshman year of high school. I read it at least once every year since. It has always felt… somehow different from all his other works, but my love for this play has never dwindled.
5. A Thousand Splendid Suns: Okay, this book is not a kid’s book, but my AP Lit teacher assigned this book to us right before a research project. It… is a tough read. It discusses how women in Afghanistan were treated and the circumstances that the Taliban imposed. Included is the horror of what the conditions were for everyone. This one… really shook me. I remember writing my paper, being frustrated and downing cup after cup of tea, (oh yeah, I went through a tea fad). This book taught me a lot about not truly knowing everyone’s circumstances and that humans were complex beings and not easy to deconstruct. It brought me to tears, it made me angry, it made me humble and able to recognize the privilege I held as an American girl.
6. ANY BOOK BY JOHN GREEN!: Okay, hear me out about this one. I started reading John Green books in the midst of high school, where not only was I confused, I was also lost and extremely vulnerable. I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere and that my thoughts were too complex for anyone to understand. I found John Green and his writing in a time where I really needed validation of who I was. He provided that through Hazel Grace, Will Grayson, and Alaska Young. His novels are my guilty pleasure read and I am not ashamed of that. Often, I find myself reciting quotes from The Fault in Our Stars to the people around me or sending clips of myself reading quietly to a friend from my favorite passages. These books validated who I was in a time where I had no sense, no clue, no direction. Thanks, John Green.
This is just a very short list of the books that have brought me grief, joy, anger, but have also cultivated my need for information, imagination, and understanding, not just for myself, but for others. I learned to love and extend grace through these books; how to look at any animal and want to love it despite everything. I learned acceptance through these books. I learned that it is okay not to be okay and that feeling lost was perfectly normal. I learned that loving is complicated as all hell, but only the ones who keep coming back are worth a second glance.
What are some of your favorite books? What have they taught you, or what have you taken away with you?