Sunday, May 2, 2010

Reading with a purpose. . .or not

I always listen with great interest and attention to the titles of books my friends read. When we go around our stitching table and tell what good books we've been reading, I usually have as my bedside book something in the category of an English cozy or Scotland highland mystery by M.C. Beaton or a great mystery or gothic romance. My current book of choice is Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House. It is light and nice and enjoyable. In comparison to the books some people read, it is definitely on the softer side, without serious themes or passions. I sometimes feel like I should read more serious books in my leisure time, but then I realize that I read enough serious books as a part of my job.

Actually, my serious reading comes from the novels I teach to my junior and senior students. My juniors are just finishing The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. It is a brilliant, harrowing insight into the Vietnam War. It is memorable and the themes it embodies I don't think any of us, my students or me, will ever forget. Reading (and in my case re-reading) this book with young people and listening to their wonderful insights into the thematic aspects of this novel make reading and discussing this book even more remarkable to me.

My seniors are reading Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. This is the penultimate descent into the darkness that exists within everyone. It is a book that challenges the reader and is one of the most difficult literary experiences that one will ever undertake. I can never say that I like the book, but I am glad that I have experienced this book. Teaching this book is often an exhausting lesson for teacher and student, but after reading it, I can honestly say that a person never looks at life in the same way again.

I believe that all reading is important, but I suppose that after the novels that I teach, my choice of English cozy, highland mystery, or gothic romance is a balance to the intricate works that I cover each day in my classes. For me, reading for enjoyment is an escape. I cannot imagine what life would be like without reading. Reading is a challenge at times and an escape at other times. The next book on my leisure list to read is The Tale of Halcyon Crane by Wendy Webb.  It should be a great read, and one that I look forward to beginning soon.


  1. Oh my! I can see why you go for lighter fare in your free time. I began THE THINGS THEY CARRIED on the recommendation of a friend of mine -- a high school English teacher -- and was blown away by the writing -- till I got to the scene with the water buffalo calf (I think that's what it was) and just had to put the book down, Powerful, powerful writing.

  2. I guess I didn't realize that you were a literature teacher ~ wow! That was my most favorite subject in school! I love to read too! Thanks for the book nods ~ will check them out! Blessings to you dear!

  3. HI! Glad you are back in business Jon Lee! Heart of Darkness sounds interesting- will have to check it out! And Elizabeth Berg is at the Orland Library sometime soon- you should go- she is awesome!!! See you Tues!

  4. I LOVE reading about other readers books and reading habits!!! I have not read that Tim O'Brien book but I really need to. There is new novel out about that war. It is called Matterhorn and is getting good reviews. See you tomorrow for stitching and book talk!!!

  5. I agree with you re: "Heart of Darkness". It's a heavy read and I like the 'fact' of reading it more than the book itself. Does that make any sense? It like "Moby Dick" or "Little Women", it's not the subject or the themes or style, but it's a book that combines with other books you've read to round out your description of yourself as a Reader. I'm afraid I'm babbling!