Todays Booking Through Thursday's prompt reads:
Since “Inspiration” is (or should) the theme this week … what is your reading inspired by?
To be honest, I have never really thought about this before. So as I pondered the answer to the weekly question I found myself reliving my past.......
I enjoyed reading as a child, but I did not enjoy English class. My love in high school was foreign languages and travel. I would rather learn how to say the same expression in several languages than to try to discover the hidden symbolic meaning of a river in literature. So this passion translated to a major in French and dreams of international travel to exotic places. By my junior year I had returned to reality: I was going to marry when I graduated and decided that life in America with my husband was better than overseas travel alone. I also discovered that I really enjoy Constitutional Law - and in my senior decided to add Political Science as a 2nd major (most students choose to coax by their senior year --- I choose to add a 2nd major. Sometimes I wonder about me.....) Anyway, IF I were to read all the texts that were required, I had to read 500 pages a week for the entire year. Needless to say, upon graduation I was BURNT OUT and vowed I would not pick up another book for 6 months. In reality, it was closer to a year.
I am a type-A, singularly focused personality. When I read husband/wife quizzes in pop-culture magazines, I tend to answer the questions like the husband - not the wife (told you --- I often wonder about me.....). I am NOT a multi-tasker like most women, I am very goal-driven and I am rarely emotional/affectionate. So, my reading tends to be compartmentalized; I read in spurts and usually tend to read all the same "genre" at one time. Our 2nd year of marriage found me commuting an hour one way to New York City. One evening, before leaving Grand Central Station, I decided to buy a magazine to read on the train. What prompted me to pick up Bon Appetit I have no idea, but I devoured that magazine on the trip home. I began to cook which quickly led to gourmet cooking. For the next several years most of my books were inspired by recipes (mostly desserts) and the thought of becoming the next Martha Stewart. I even tried my hand at catering.
Fast forward about a decade and we have found ourselves in Kansas (a LONG way from Greenwich Village, NY let me tell ya!) and through a series of family trials and tribulations, have come to know the Lord. This led me to be inspired to read all I could get my hands on regarding God's mercy and saving grace (I was raised Episcopalean and attended parochial school for a number of years. I had "head knowledge" of the Bible, but NO heart knowledge. I knew Him as a God of "thou shalt nots" rather than as a God of love. Still working on improving that ......). I joined Bible study groups, read the Bible and devotions, was truly totally consumed with this new passion. This eventually led me to discover the "self help" section of the bookstore. I never knew such an area existed! I was in heaven --- for a control freak like myself I loved reading about all the wonderful ways I could actually control my life - and my reactions to life. Fiction at this time was thought of as silly --- why read about something imaginary when I can read non-fiction books that will truly affect my life for the better (naive, I know....but that was the mindset at the time).
Again, another decade later and I now find myself in a career that I never "wanted" but can not imagine giving up. I started teaching 6th grade and as part of the literature curriculum I taught Tuck Everlasting and My Side of the Mountain. I had never "taught" literature before (remember, I did not like English) nor had I ever been a part of a bookclub --- so talking about a book after I read it was foreign to me. Thank goodness for the internet. I did constant research for lesson plans of these two novels (still can't give up that love of "self-help" non-fiction books, although now they tend to be within the education industry). Through teaching these books I discovered the wonderful truth that Fiction can actually lead to self-discovery and appreciation of the human condition. I also discovered that the "Children's" section of the library is not just for children (as my very black and white brain originally thought). There are wonderful picture books and YA novels that can teach and entertain adults as well.
So this now brings me to the present......what inspires me to read today? I am still very much controlled by the classes that I teach. Since I teach at a small, private, Christian school - I must be very selective in the novel studies that I present to the students. I do try to slowly, but surely, stretch those boundaries because I think the students need to learn to read and discuss controversial subjects with a Christian worldview. This will better prepare them for the real world. I am also controlled by the classes that I take in an effort to earn my Masters degree. This summer I plan to take a class on writing (LOTS of books for that class which I will post later) and a pedagogy class on Shakespeare (4 plays to read and study for that). In my free time what do I choose to read? Well, true to my "one genre at a time" personality, I spent quite a bit of time this fall reading mysteries -- mostly cozies and police procedurals. I was inspired to try this "new" genre by reading about an independent bookstore in my local area. The article was persuasive, and the pictures of the store so inviting, that I decided to go and check it out. I am thrilled that I ventured outside my comfort zone!
I am also inspired by a desire to read the classics. It is one of the items on my list of "things to do before I die" -- that is, to read several of the classics that I somehow missed in my youth. I not only learn more about myself and the human condition, but I am mentally challenged by the diction and yes, subtle symbolism (funny how life comes full circle, isn't it?)
Lastly, I am very much inspired by the reviews of others. It goes without saying that many of you have inspired me greatly in the few short weeks that I have been a part of this wonderful booking community. I have also discovered a wonderful magazine that I truly LOVE -- Bookmarks. If you are unfamiliar with this little treasure, it is published every two months and reviews the reviews of books. Sounds redundant, but actually it is very thorough, easy to understand, and right up my ally. My husband gave me a subscription for Christmas and I was in heaven. I have also discovered a new website that I think I might use in the future called the Literature Map. You insert the name of an author that you enjoy and it will recommend other authors who you might also like.
Wow -- that was quite the stream of conciousness and I probably lost all readers by the 3rd paragraph. It was a good cathartic exercise for me, however, and I now need to go teach two of the novels that have truly become "old friends": The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and the Hobbit.
Have a great Thursday!