Day 08 - A book everyone should read at least once
Ooh! Ooh! I know this one! The dictionary
I try to take some time to read the dictionary every week. I don't always learn words that I didn't already know, but I think it's fascinating to take a look at dictionary definitions of words. It is good for impressive words during Scrabble games, but also I like to know a lot of words so that I can say what I mean more specifically if I have to. Plus: words. What could possibly be bad about words? Words are wonderful! To know them is divine! Etc.!
The dictionary I use right now is Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed
My favorite part is possibly the tiny bit of etymology that one gets in the dictionary, but don't hold me to that.
...if you want a work of fiction that I think everyone should read, well... there I am stuck. Honestly, I don't think it's that important that everyone read the same thing. I don't think Shakespeare is all that amazing, and I don't think the "classics" are really that classic at all. I would never tell someone they had to read, like, Hemingway, or their life isn't complete. Certainly reading certain "classics" felt like a huge time suck to me, with zero practical benefit. I didn't even get the benefit of feeling like I was absorbing some kind of art that would make my inner life more rich. The Scarlet Letter
did not make my life more rich -- it just made me really annoyed.
(I was told in high school that I didn't like The Scarlet Letter
because I read it when I was nine or ten and therefore too young to understand what was going on -- but I read it around the same time I read The Handmaid's Tale
, which I'd understood just fine. I read it again anyway, at age 14, and again at age 20 -- understood it perfectly fine, still did not like it
, or think it was at all some kind of amazing work of genius. Yet still sometimes when people find out I didn't like it, I'm asked how old I was when I read it, like it would somehow get better with age. Although I will say that no one ever says that to me who's also self-identified as a feminist/womanist of any stripe. Interesting, right? Just my experience.)
The disappointment I felt when I read On the Road
and The Catcher in the Rye
-- two books a lot of people insisted were necessary
to my reading education -- is almost indescribable. So many adults in my life told me that they
couldn't wait until I was old enough to read Catcher
that I picked it up when I was 12 or so. Even the local librarian was encouraging when she saw me with a copy of it. I was shocked as hell to read it and realize that it was just about a whiny, pretentious kid with no problems except that he was really annoying.
(Also, I couldn't help but wonder if that was actually what all the adults in my life saw when they looked at me, and didn't trust an adult for many years after that.)
I'm not saying that these books aren't historically important to the way literature is written and the way published fiction "evolved" (for lack of a better word, which I guess is ironic considering my embrace of the dictionary!) -- certainly many books had a huge effect in their time, and continue to affect people to this day.
But I wouldn't say they are necessary reading
Instead of encouraging me to read Catcher
and Shakespeare, someone should have handed me a copy of We Who Are About To... by Joanna Russ
-- for a 12 yr old kid who read a lot of stuff with science fiction and fantasy elements, that would have been invaluable reading. And I wish I'd read Joanna Russ's How to Suppress Women's Writing
when I was a teenager as well -- I think it would have been invaluable to me at sixteen or seventeen.
Oh, you know what? I guess I think everyone should read Salt and Silver
-- talk about a good book! (Haha.) (Actually, it is
quite a good book, if I do say so myself.)
So... do you agree? Disagree? As always, feel free to post your own answers to the meme in the comments of this post, or link to your own blog entry.( Other days of the book meme )