For as far back as I can remember, I have been a reader and collector of books. I love the feeling of having a book in my hands, feeling the grain and worth of the paper beneath my fingertips. The feeling of cracking open a new book is something that I can't quite explain. Part of it is apprehension-Will this one be as good as the last? Another part is fear-What if I can't finish it? What if it isn't good enough?
But those feelings soon disappear as I am sucked fully into the language. The words find a way to envelope me and draw me in. Soon, I forget those feelings. It is only me and the pages in front of me. The words become sentences, which become paragraphs, which become a tale that devours me and remains in my mind, even after I close the back cover and return to reality.
So yes, I am a reader. A devout one if I have anything to say about it. And to say I have a favorite genre is difficult, although I do tend to lean towards fantasy. There is something about magic and the unbelievable that seems to draw me in. I do love other genres. I even crack a romance novel open from time to time. We all need a little romance in our lives.
It was obvious to me when I started applying to colleges that I should pick English as my major. I loved to read, and I loved to write, so what could be more perfect? In my college english classes, I got my fill of both. I was introduced to new authors, new ways of thinking, and many, many new worlds within the covers of books.
I would say that my exposure in those college classes are what sparked me to broaden my horizons and to venture into new realms of literature. Essentially, I put my hands on anything and everything I could, trying to soak up as much literature as I could handle.
Since leaving college and battling the real world-love, unemployment, engagement, financial issues, etc-I have some to find that one safe haven still open to me is the act of opening a book and not knowing what story I will find there. I find myself often defending my reading. I do read quite a bit and not everyone is such a lover of books. With today's media, who can really blame those naysayers? Nonetheless, I still find solace in the comfort of literature.
Which brings us to this place. A few months ago, I began entertaining the idea of beginning something like this. A blog to write about the books I was reading. I tossed the idea around a bit before dismissing it. After all, who would read it? And who would care what I would have to say about books that no one else had read?
But with the help and inspiration of two people-Matt (my fiance) and Christine (my personal trainer)-I decided, why not? I had decided to start a blog. But after thinking it over, it wasn't much of a challenge. I already read quite a bit, but its usually just things I am interested in, an eclectic mix of fantasy, fiction, young adult novels, and historical writing mixed together. Why not offer myself a real challenge?
Why not embark on a literary odyssey?
An odyssey, if you remember back to your high school English classes and the reading of Homer's great work, is a journey filled with small adventures and catastrophes along the way. Each of these triumphs and failures impacts the journeyman (or woman in this case). They battle monsters, self-doubt, demons from their past, and new obstacles thrown in their way. An odyssey, it seems, is the ultimate test of self-will and determination. An odyssey is just what I need.
Here is my own odyssey, an odyssey that will take me through the finest works of literature. The challenge for myself is to read the classics of literature. Those books your english teachers told you were good and praised beyond all comparison, but all you could think about was how so-and-so told you that you were cute before fourth hour and how were you going to wear your hair to the upcoming dance.
The truth is, so many people read a few of these and most of the time, its because they have to. I think it is rare for a person to pick up a volume, such as Crime and Punishment to read just for fun (remember, I said "rare" not impossible). But who do you know that has read all of the classics? Not just Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird or Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet for a high school english class, but the wonders of Thomas Hardy, Leo Tolstoy, William Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Woolf, Burgess, and the list goes on.
So this is the challenge to myself--to read the classics.
There is more to this than just saying I am doing it for the hell of it.
- This is a challenge that I hope can inspire me to move beyond the negativity I have had towards myself. Since graduating college and being unemployed in my field, I have many moments of doubt in my decision to be an English major. Perhaps by reminding myself of the many reasons why I went down this path, that negativity can disappear.
- I want to do something that no one else I know has done. That might be a selfish or spiteful thing to say, but I want to claim something as my own. This literary odyssey of mine is really a journey for myself and I want to accomplish it, no matter what.
- I really am a teacher at heart. Since I cannot land a teaching job in the real world, who's to stop me from trying to teach online? I hope, that if I have readers, I can teach them about the works I am reading, and perhaps get them to try to read these novels on their own.
- I want to find a greater purpose for myself. I want to be more than myself. This is probably the hardest thing to explain, but perhaps in time I can make it clearer.
- Lastly, I want to learn and who better to learn from than some of the most influential people to have ever lived? These authors have won awards and recognition, they have taught millions before me, and they have touched the hearts of many. I want to feel worthy of them, to feel like I understand their language and their stories. I want to take their words and understand how they were feeling as they wrote. And perhaps in time, I can find the courage to write my own stories-the ones that have been in my head since I was a little girl holed up in my room with a book in my hands.
That is my challenge. And I hope you are along for the ride.