Five Things I've Gained from Reading (Part I)

>When I was reading the NCTE Inbox entry on Five Things I’ve Gained from Reading I knew I had to answer the five questions for myself, I just hadn’t made a point to do so. So here we go, starting with the first question:

What piece of literature has stayed with you, even though you haven’t read it recently?

Every few years I have to go back and read Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha, a story about a Brahmin’s son and his journey toward understanding the universe and understanding self. This is one of those novels that found me at the right time in my life. Senior year of high school, my Western literature class. I was at a place where I wasn’t sure about my faith, and I was able to connect with Siddhartha as he traveled with the shamans, met Buddah, conversed with a man who lived on the river, lived as a wealthy business man and consort, and eventually made his way back to the river, all in order to find himself and figure out what he believed. I had been struggling with religion and faith for seven years when I read this novel. In essence, it validated my search for what made sense to me.

I sent one email to one friend, and used Facebook and Twitter to get responses from others on this topic.

In her email, S said that the novel with a lasting impression on her is Bridge to Terabithia. Recommended to her by her sister, Bridge to Terabithia may have been the first novel she read that dealt with death. She says,

I struggle with making sense of life and death. People’s impact on our lives, and then their withdrawal from our lives, whether by death or by paths diverging. Why bother letting people in, if eventually they are going to go away in some form or another? We let them in because we are better for their influence, we are changed, in some way. We need other people to help us become who we are meant to be.

The responses I got from Facebook were

  • Story of B by Daniel Quinn (And apparently CW’s readings of this novel follow the advice of Gordy from The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian on reading).
  • Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (JG’s mention of this novel made me want to pick it up again–and I started listening to the dramitization like crazy.)
  • The Stand by Stephen King — this came from someone who’s not the biggest Stephen King fan, too, so that was interesting.

I only remember getting one response from Twitter, and now I can’t find the series of tweets in which TF gave me her response.

The purpose of the question, Traci Gardner says in her post, is to show literature’s “enduring value to the reader.” A few of the people I asked responded to me with something along the lines of “I have to pick just one?” And I think that’s why I had such a hard time with this question. I’ve read so many books just in the last few months, and there are so many of them that have made an impression on me, or that I think are fabulous reads and would read again if I didn’t have a million other books on my reading list (which seems to gain more books than get ticked off). I couldn’t decide if I wanted to discuss Roald Dahl’s Matilda, which was one of my favorites growing up–so much so that the cover fell off. Or if I wanted to use Phyllis Curott’s Book of Shadows which is another about spirituality and self-discovery. Those aren’t the only two I wrestled with, but it came down to those two and the one I ended up choosing.

Hopefully, Part II will be posted without too much delay.

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