This adventure of having students assign me books this semester has brought me wisdom and treasure from corners of the human imagination I could not have imagined and would not have found on my own.
I've been out of graduate school since the 1990s and so its been a very long time since people have assigned me books and expected me to read the book in a timely manner and report back.
For the past 20-odd years I've been assigning myself books. I know what I like. I know what I won't read and can't finish.
Example #1: Harry Potter books -- all, yes, definitely.
Example #2: The last book of 50 Shades of porn series. No. I couldn't take reading another word about this helpless codependent nubile girl in love with a flawed billionaire who basically can't get close to her without her agreeing to let him beat her. Even if you gave me this book for free, I don't think I'd read it. It just isn't the way I want to spend my free time.
Example #3: Every and anything by Irish writer Marian Keyes. Yes. I've been hooked since Rachel's Holiday (1997), a book about a "holiday" in rehab. Every single one of the rest of her books (even the memoir that has an extensive discussion on foundation samples) is smart and valuable.
Example #4: The last book of the series that starts with Divergent. I tried. I tried and tried again but this series leaves me so cold that as people die I don't cry, I don't care, and sometimes I just don't notice. Thumbs down. Maybe the movies will be better than the books.
Example #5 Anything and everything by Isabel Allende, Mirta Ojito, Margaret George, Phillipa Gregory, Wally Lamb, Toni Morrison, and Margaret Atwood.
Example #6: Cookbooks. No. I don't understand. Pictures of food, but no food? I buy a book and you tell ME to buy more things, and then you want me to work? I don't get it. No thanks.
Example #7: Book #11. I would by 100 copies of this book and give it away to the next 100 people I see.
Book #11 did not make me happy.
I need to be clear about that. I finished this book hours ago and I'm still not smiling.
This morning I ran early to breakfast so I could have a window of time to start the book. It was so good that my coffee grew cold as I sat motionless for almost 45 minutes.
The author of this book was used by the universe like a tree is used on a funeral pyre. This (sad? happy? brilliant? tragic? beautiful?) story came through him, changed him, and warms everyone who reads it.
When I came home from breakfast (with donuts and croissants, for the record, because the record matters) I was halfway through this 100-ish page book, and crazy to finish it.
My kids wanted to know when we would go here and get that, and return this, and fix that, and do the five other things I promised I would do today.
My tone with them wasn't kind.
I **have** to finish this. This author had a horrible stroke and was left so immobilized he could only wink his left eye. He dictated the story by winking out a code to his transcriber. Every letter, every word in this story is sacred.
They get it. I'm an introvert. When I feel big things and think big thoughts, I need to be alone to turn inwards and process them bit by bit until I'm ready to talk.
I can't stand anyone talking to me while I follow this author through Paris through his final stories as he ties up his life and looks (tragically? heroically? beautifully?) forward to being freed from the prison of his body.
Although I told the kids I'd be done reading at 1pm, I finished the book at 12:30 and sat in silence and sort out the rainbow of thoughts that paraded through my imagination after finishing this delicious work of art.