Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Reflections on Books
I recently read The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I am glad I finally read this multi-layered classic, although I don't think I would read it to a child. Many people, however, have declared it their favorite childhood book; which got me thinking about influential books.
Influential books are not necessarily favorites. In fact some books that influenced me are barely remembered. I know I loved Walter Farley's Black Stallion series so much I named my son after a character in the book. I also know that when I tried to reread it as an adult I was surprised at how bad the writing now seemed. As a teenager I read Camus The Stranger and ended up reading The Plague, The Fall, and Exile and the Kingdom. The funny thing about authors is that you can fall in love with one and after a few books fall out of love. Or you can be introduced to one at the wrong time and latter meet again with a different result. The first time I tried to read Slaughterhouse Nine I couldn't make it through the book. About ten years latter I devoured most of Kurt Vonnegut's books. Timing is everything.
Yet, as much as I loved the books I don't remember the stories as much as the feelings I had when I read the book.
Sometimes it was a place that stayed in my head. Books can make a person want to travel. As a teen I read books that took place in Europe and decided that I would live there someday. I ended up living and traveling in Europe in my twenties. I wonder how many people have visited or lived in places that first caught their interest through a book?
Some books make one aware of the sadness in the world. In return the reader volunteers, becomes active in politics, or perhaps adopts a child. Maybe not when the book is read but sometime -- later.
One of my favorite books was The Broken Cord by Michael Dorris. The tragedy that was the author's life made this book even more poignant. The Broken Cord is about the adoption of and life with a child with fetal alcohol syndrome. I can't give you many facts about fetal alcohol syndrome. But I remember a page on how when looking back at his child's report cards the author saw the same goals (in which progress was supposedly made) listed year after year. It opened my eyes to how parents and teachers may delude themselves about a child's progress.
Some books are magic; we just don't know which ones they will be. That is why I encourage parents to read to their children. Once they see the worlds created by books, our children hopefully will be eager to explore them on their own. Books change lives.