Out of the Best Books

This is a guest post from Meg.  Our really smart friend…

I have been a bit quiet on the writing front lately. I blame it on a bit of summer laziness combined with pregnancy overheating. But the one thing I have been doing is reading. More like devouring books; I can’t stop! A few months ago, I read The Hunger Gamestrilogy. I couldn’t put them down, and read the books in one night each. I would definitely recommend them, but I have to admit that I was left wanting something a bit meatier to read. I didn’t have any specific criticism, but they are written for a young adult audience and only had so much going on beneath the surface. I realized that being home with toddlers and doing mundane chores was leaving my brain desperate for stimulation.

I thought I would jump into some tried and true classics, trusting that they would be more substantial (and also appropriate; I grabbed a popular book by an acclaimed author that looked interesting at Costco, and had to return it the next day after discovering the first of probably many very explicit scenes in the first chapter. Books written a century or two ago are generally safer in that sense). My first pick was Pride and Prejudice, which I had read in 8th grade, thought pointless, and promptly forgotten. I enjoyed it this time. I love that English upper-class culture, and it fed my Downton Abbey withdrawal, but was still more entertaining than thought-provoking for me. Next was The Count of Monte Cristo: some interesting themes on revenge, justice, and forgiveness, and not at all like the movie (the plot was almost completely different!). Then I hit the jackpot—Anna Karenina. I heard Tolstoy and immediately thought, “boring!” but I loved it. There were some slow parts, but I was so intrigued by the history and culture, and particularly by how the characters developed through the course of the [very long] novel. I think that our culture almost requires a happy ending for all characters that are not overtly portrayed as evil, regardless of their choices. That is part of what makes them seem shallow. But I felt that this novel was a commentary on how our choices as individuals and societies affect our souls, and I could easily relate to it because it centers on families.

I took a little hiatus and read some Jack Weyland books (Charly, Sam, and Adam’s Story–80’s Mormon fiction at its finest), then jumped into The Grapes of Wrath, another that I had abandoned in high school as excruciatingly boring. I think that life and motherhood have made these stories of family struggle so much more interesting and powerful to me. I felt so much for the mother! Reading these kinds of books doesn’t just pass the time; it leaves me feeling more elevated, grateful, and inspired to be different and better.

Now to my point in sharing my recent spree: I would recommend trying out a few classics that you might have brushed aside as boring or irrelevant. (You can get free digital versions of many on Amazon). You might be surprised at which books you fall in love with. And if your routine feels like it is lacking purpose, you may find that they bring into focus the broader world and your important role in it.

Also, you should read The Hunger Games if you haven’t already. They’re really good.

“And set in order the churches, and study and learn, and become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues, and people.”   -D&C 90:15

-Meg

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2 responses to “Out of the Best Books

  1. Meg! I loved this post. Bayba and I started reading Dracula (which is really surprisingly good), and a free download. A few years ago I was determined to buy all the classics I (cough) didn’t even attempt to read (Catcher and the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird) and honestly those two books are now my favorites. Unfortunately, lately I discovered that Lifetime has tv shows like dance moms and project runway streaming, and that has been the death of my reading.

  2. Ooh, I need to add Dracula to my reading list. I think I even have a copy lying around somewhere. It has helped that we don’t get a single channel on our TV, and I can’t turn on Netflix during the day or the boys want to watch Barney or Thomas…

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