Not sure how I started thinking about this but I suspect it came from reading Lies My Teachers Told Me. It looks at textbooks used in high school history classes and all the ways they are inadequate to the task of teaching students history in the correct way. It made me reflect on my high school experience (and perhaps the fact this year is my 10 year reunion has me thinking about it too) and that moved me more towards the books I read in English class (overall, I don't remember my history texts being the end all be all of my history classes). However, I soon realized limiting myself to books I read in class would leave out perhaps some of the most important. Books I stumbled into on library shelves, books given to me by relatives and friends and books that I, truth, can't remember how I found them anymore. All I know is these books have permanent spots on my bookshelf where real estate is at a premium and I revisit them often. They have influenced me in some fashion - be it they introduced me to a genre of books that greatly influence me or the book itself I met at just the right point in my life. So, here in no particular order:
Anthem, Ayn Rand
Of all my classes over the years, 9th grade English stands on its own. It was a unique group of people with a teacher who pushed us further than anyone had up to that point. He expected more from us and while we moaned and groaned over it, I remember "By The Waters of Babylon" being particularly painful, we enjoyed it. It's a class we still reference to this day and was the place I was first introduces to Anthem. This was, upon reflection, both a good and bad thing. Good because Anthem was pretty defining at the time. Think about, a bunch of freshman reading a book that is about creating individual identity, forging one's way outside of the safety of one's family and community, discovering how you are going to define yourself? It was also good because it introduced me to the dystopian genre, a genre I went on to devore over the following summer. This was before Hunger Games, Matched, Divergent. I had only the classics of the genre: 1984, Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World. It's a genre I still love today and kind of love that it's mainstream now.
Bad? Well, Ayn Rand comes with her own set of problems. Anthem is a novella and about as likable as Rand gets. It's because of Anthem I worked to read Atlas Shrugged so hard. I succeeded but I definitely did not like Rand as much when I was finished. What had been such a celebration of individuality and exploration in Anthem just became the story of selfish, insufferable, unlikable people in Atlas Shrugged. But, I still take a summer afternoon and read Anthem, if only to remember my 15 year old self.
Anne of Green Gables, L. M. Montgomery
I sadly have no idea how I found Anne. Was it a gift? Did I buy it myself? Did I, horrors!, watch the movie and Road to Avonlea long before I read the first book? Anything is possible. I just remember begging my mother to drive me out to Waldenbooks in 6th grade because I HAD TO HAVE THE NEXT BOOK. I even recall buying the last three books at the same time as I just knew I was going to read them in record time. What would my life had been like if no precocious redhead hadn't assured me there were no mistakes in tomorrow yet? Anne was the first fictional best friend I wanted, Gilbert definitely my first fictional boyfriend and Marilla the best aunt a girl could ask for. I wanted to live in these books so bad it wasn't even funny. And hey, they were educational as well. Thank you Walter for where you fought in WWI as I distinctly remember it helping me on a test in school. Anne also introduced me to more of L.M. Montgomery's books and short stories which I still pull out for comfort reads whenever I have the chance.
The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank
My aunt gave me this book in 4th grade. I have no idea why to be honest. Maybe she'd liked it as a kid and wanted to share it with me, her bookworm niece? For whatever reason, I am forever grateful. I didn't get this book at first. WWII was just a vague concept in my head, the Holocaust a word that I knew was bad but didn't really get why. Anne explained that to me. She also though was infallibly honest. I think we heroize her a bit too much. She was a teenager; she fought with her mother and her sister, she had a crush on the only boy she could, she was a brat at times, a saint at others. Her flaws were amplified by the situation she found herself in, as were her great moments. I appreciated her more when I was older and I marvel now. This girl, in hiding for persecution based only on her beliefs, wrote that, in spite of everything, she still believed that people were good at heart. One of my favorite moments of my semester abroad was visiting the Secret Annex and paying my respects to the dreamer who hid there. It brought into my world something I had only imagined in a book.
Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen
I came very late to Austen. Shocking I know and one of my best friend was the one who properly introduced me to her finally in high school. Once I'd had my first introductions, there was no going back. Austen's brand of romance, humor and tone hits such a perfect cord with me, I read a lot of literature simply because it is marketed as "Austenesque." I even read all the continuations, moderizations; I watch all the movies, no matter that I've seen five other versions. Hell, I own three versions of Pride & Prejudice on DVD. Well this isn't my favorite of Austen's work (Persuasion holds that honor), it was the first I read and therefore the one I owe for making me a Janeite.
Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Gregory Maguire
I think I found this wandering the aisles of Borders. I had read Wicked and enjoyed it though it was a dense read and Confessions sounded as if it were along the same lines. Not so. Confessions was a much more approachable book, a book with a much clearer plot and the lines of the story, while still grey, a bit easier to follow. It was not the first time I had read a revisionist novel (clearly since I had read Wicked), but it was the first time I grasped how cool the concept could be. Iris was my kind of girl; a brilliant, plain Jane, someone who is just trying to do the right thing and who, in a moment of weakness, thinks about doing the selfish thing. Many years later, Confessions would inspire my senior thesis ensuring that fairy tale retellings will always fascinate me and also remind me that nothing is as black and white as we would like.
The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery
I think perhaps I saved the best for last. The Little Prince is a book you have to grow into. I had a copy on my shelves from an early age though I've no idea where it came from. I had read it, enjoyed it and then forgotten about it. Then it was handed to me in 11th grade French class and suddenly it was a book of wisdom, of life lessons, a book I could always turn to for comfort, for hope, for a touch of whimsy when I needed it. It teaches you that there is always more than one way to look at something, that you must always tend your baobabs, and that sometimes, those things staring you in the face are the very things you were looking for in the first place. It is a story of trying to find one's way home and the things you discover along the way. While high school French class touched me in many ways, The Little Prince is the gift I treasure most and I'll pull out my copies (one in English and in black and white, one in French with the color illustrations) and remind myself of its lessons whenever I have a bad day.
Thursday, February 21, 2013
Thursday, February 14, 2013
(Disclaimer: I don't actually walk and read. I did try to perfect that back after I saw Beauty and the Beast and wanted nothing more to be Belle. Unfortunately, I lack the talent to walk any length of time reading and not hitting something or injuring myself. I reluctantly concluded I would never be as cool as Belle...)
|Lake Leon at Tom Brown Park|
Tom Brown seems to be, if not the largest, one of the biggest parks in the city. It holds the annual 4th of July celebration for Tallahassee along with being host to ball fields, Mountain bike trails, a dog park and a 1.5 mile paved trail, Goose Pond Trail. I met up with a friend one night after work last week and wandered from Lake Leon onto the Goose Pond Trail. Since we lost the light quickly, we didn't make it very far but we also stopped to enjoy watching the dogs at the dog park for a bit so I think we lost a bit of time there. But I liked what I saw of the park. I didn't see much of the extensive ball fields the park has since the walking trail where we started isn't close to them but the park was a busy place on a late Wednesday afternoon which is always a good sign. It was much busier than the park I've visited before but Tom Brown, as I said, it one of the largest parks in Tallahassee as well as more centrally located, right off Capital Circle. It also happens to be much closer to where I live so I hope to visit and walk regularly once we get over the spot of bad weather we're having (it's warm out but rainy and stormy for the next few days).
I also enjoyed having someone to walk with. I love my alone time, and I usually need more of that that the time I need to spend around people, but it's also fun to just walk with a friend and talk about random things, about work and family and home. It's also fun to take some time after work to unwind and complain a little if you need to. Normally, I don't have that decompression time to talk something out if I need to and I appreciated having it along with walking and feeling better.
Next, I want to feel up to a high power zumba class but I think I'm still a week or two from that. I watched one of the Step Up movies over the weekend which meant I was dancing like an idiot around my apartment and yeah...not yet ready for zumba! So, I'll keep walking. I also should work on getting over my fear of the treadmill so even when it's gross out, I can get some walking in as pacing in my apartment just doesn't do much. That said, I don't think it's the treadmill I'm afraid of so much as the odd people I run into at the small gym at my complex. Always nice people, just odd. I almost miss a large gym just for the anonymity they offer. I might need to think about investing in a gym again at some point but for now, baby steps!
In other news, I need to get back into my reading groove. When I feel crappy, I mostly want to lay on the couch like a slug and watch TV. But, since I'm feeling better, I'm getting back into reading. I got a bit dragged down too by The Cookbook Collector. I really wanted to like this more than I did but in the end, I was sort of ambivalent to it. It made interesting use of the dot com bubble followed by the bust and 9/11 but I just never much cared for the characters. Confession (AND SPOILER ALERT): I thought good riddance when she killed two characters on one of the planes that hit the Twin Towers. How awful is that?! For one thing, you can see it coming so the shock value isn't really there and two, one of the characters was awful, just completely unlikable and the other character I had nothing invested in. She could have never mentioned him again after she spent a chapter or two on him and I wouldn't have ever wondered where he went. Luckily, I followed it up with a fun historical romance of a girl who runs away to join a ballet company in Brazil in 1912 and then Libba Bray's Beauty Queens which is about a plane crash which lands the contestants of a teen beauty pangent stranded on a not so deserted island. I would tell you more but it's a book you must read to believe and I highly recommend it with a caveat - you need to be someone who likes snarky comments with a Mel Brooks sense of humor (and as someone with family members who do not get that humor, I always like to warn people where it appears).
I just finished Carlos Ruiz Zafon's love letter to books, The Shadow of the Wind. Seriously, I'd like to crawl into the library described in the first chapter and never come back out. After I finish one last library book, I need to start on the stack of books I've accumulated since Christmas as gifts and from book store sales. First up on the stack? A new Flavia de Luce novel (well, new to me, I'm a bit behind on the series). A little Flavia is always a good thing!
Monday, February 4, 2013
|Path at A.J. Henry Park, Tallahassee|
I love walking; I always have. My favorite cities are completely walkable from one end of them to the other. I love not needing to drive or catch a bus or subway. I love taking in a walk whether it's for pleasure or to get me from point A to Point B. I loathe running or really most other forms of exercise if I'm being honest but I adore walking. Sadly, Tallahassee isn't exactly a walking city. I wouldn't walk down my road if you paid me. It's a charming road but has no sidewalk or shoulder to speak of. So, if I want to walk, I have to find a place to do so.
Tallahassee also has, thankfully, a plethora of parks to choose from. Being unimaginative yesterday, I just picked the park at the top of the list on the website. A.J. Henry Park is in the northeastern part of the city and, like anything else, took me about 20 minutes to find amongst the really nice houses I drove through. It is a fairly small park on the shores of a tiny lake. There is a short boardwalk along the lake's edge, picnic areas which were host to two different birthday parties the day I visited, and then miles of trails through the woods. I wandered the woods for an hour, finding my way to a small ravine with a stream running through it. There were stairs down to the stream which I appreciated it as taking the steep looking trail wasn't really something I felt up to just yet. It was a beautiful day for a walk in the woods and while I ran into a few other couples walking, I seemed to have the forest mostly to myself which is really the best way to enjoy a walk.
My only complaint was the trails were not marked very well. I found posts with maps that had either been destroyed or weather had rendered mostly illegible. There were color coded arrows which would have been helpful if I'd known what trail I'd been on to begin with. I suppose I could have pulled out my phone and gotten the map from the parks' website but it didn't fit my mood so I just wandered. I think I mostly stuck to the green trail but really, I have no idea. A bit more guidance would have been appreciated but I didn't get lost so I suppose that would be considered a successful walk in the woods.
I hope to explore more of Tallahassee's parks in the coming weeks as I try to keep active more. Sadly, most of this week will see me walking on the treadmill though as I'm returning to work. Tomorrow will most likely be a very long day but I'm looking forward to getting back onto my usual schedule and feeling like things are getting back to normal.