Monday, December 22, 2008

I'm a nerd

What can I say?

Books have always been a very important part of my life.
I read three or four at once.
I earmark milestones by recalling what piece of literature I was reading at the time.
I can have conversations based entirely off references and underlying content in early 20th century British children's lit (no, thank YOU Kingston upon Hull).
I walk out of movies saying, "that was a lot like this book I read one time..." and not the other way around.
Shakespeare is my homeboy.

Basically, I'm a freak.

In case you haven't noticed, the Universe has been sending some bad luck my way lately. I think it might be the rearing of the ugly head of the bad karma that obviously resulted in enjoying The Punisher; War Zone.
Wait. That happened after all the bad crap.

So anyway- bad luck.
The Other Molly recently experienced some car-related misfortunes of her own that involved a lack of suspension and the interstate. I feel for you babe, really I do.
Except did your car become a flaming ball of death? While you were driving it? Yeah, I thought not. I still win.
Molly's response to our mutual karmic funk was that we needed to go spend some time in an ashram in India doing Yoga and eating brown rice and chanting. You know, stuff like that. Also, it would be warm. Do you see why we're the bestest of best friends?
My obvious reaction to this idea (after I sampled prices of last-minute plane tickets to Bombay and considered donating a kidney to finance this little jaunt), was "that happened in that book that I love."
And then, I thought about how that book changed my life.

Yes, I read a lot. And every book I read has an effect on me. Whether it's light-headed infatuation, or nausea. I also remember practically everything I read.
Unless I'm being tested on it in a class. I've always wondered why that is...
Despite the sheer volume of not only the number of books I've read in my lifetime, but also my personal library, it seems odd to me that I can say about so few books what I said about "that book that I love" (don't have a conniption, I'll get to the title in a minute).
It really and truly became a huge part of who I am at this very moment.
Which is another way of saying... it changed my life.

Two years ago I took a class in which the professor had us write a paper about the ten books that were most important to who we were. Not necessarily life-changing, mind you. Just books that were significant to us.
I could only come up with seven.
Although my list was shorter than the suggested length (he didn't like the word "require" because it infringed upon our ability to think for ourselves...did I mention that he is one of my favorite teachers EVER?), I can honestly say that each of the books on it had a profound and lasting effect on me.
So, if you have any qualms about me and my personality...
Take it up with these guys.

1. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore.
Yeah, it sounds a whole lot like something that might be written on a leaflet that crazy homeless evangelists pass out on the streets. That's what I thought, too. Molly made me read it, and I honestly did not have high expectations. I was very, very wrong. It's a beautiful book about love and forgiveness and a whole new way of looking at religion, not to mention life. It's not preachy (which we all know I have little-to-zero patience for), but simply offers a very ingenious, and I may I say more tolerant, way of interpreting theological stories and teachings. Oh yeah, and Moore is the funniest freaking person on the planet. Funnier than me, even.

2. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
You know how sometimes when you're driving in the car and you're in a very emotional mood, whether it's angry or sad or happy, but you can't quite verbalize it and the suddenly a song comes on the radio and your eyes light up and you shout "that's it! That's how I feel!"? Total kismet, right? That's how this book was for me. Complete and utter serendipity (PS- isn't that a fun word?). This book is the aforementioned "book that I love", and it came into my life at a really difficult time. Without getting into too much detail, let's just say that I was struggling with some really painful and difficult decisions that had definite potential to turn my life upside-down. I've never been more afraid of anything in my life, but I also felt that if I didn't take these scary, yet necessary steps that I would not be able to be true to myself and what I needed out of life. Enter: Elizabeth Gilbert and this kick-ass book. After reading this true story of how Gilbert walked away from her life and consequently ended up living in Italy, India (ashram!) and Indonesia for three months each, I knew that if she could find the strength to turn her world upside-down, then so could I. What makes it even better is that she's not a character, she's a real person! Her story of finding herself helped me do the same (please note: I did NOT copy that from the dust jacket. I just really adore this book. And I'm really hokey sometimes.)

3. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
So, I may or may not have cried my way through the 18 hours it took me to read this book. I also couldn't put it down. It really is in a class of it's own. A young girl is sexually assaulted and then murdered, her family left to believe she has disappeared. She is sent to heaven, where she has to opportunity to observe her family and friends lives progress without her. She watches how her absence strains and changes them. She watches her murder remain unsolved and her killer uncaught. This story didn't just make me cry for the characters. I cried for all the real people who lived this, who are still living it. I cried for my mother. I cried for my sister. And I cried because I'd never realized before this book how very fortunate we were, we ARE to have escaped those nightmares.

4. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
This is one of my first memories of a "real" book. Rather, one that didn't have a plastic cover. In fact, it's cover was so old that it was in constant danger of disintegrating whenever someone would touch it. It's not the story so much that moves me, though that has merit in it's own right as well. My grandma would spend hours reading to me before I was able to do so myself. She loved the words on the page as much, if not more than I did. And this is the memory that reminded me that reading was a gift, and never a chore. She may buy my Christmas presents at the second-hand store, but at least she gave me that.

5. Dry by Augusten Burroughs
Let me preface my adoration for this book by saying that it should be required reading. For everyone on the planet. An autobiographical account of the author's own battle with addiction and rehab, and all the mental frames of mine that resulted. Much like other books in my life, this one fell into my world in the same sort of serendipitous manner. Reading it really helped me understand the emotional science of addiction, thereby enabling me to better understand certain people I love that were going through the same kind of thing. It also made it clear that in a way, we all go endure our own addictions and handicaps, and the obstacles that come along with those. Also, Augusten Burroughs is pretty hilarious, which makes this and any of his other books well worth reading. Clearly, I really have a thing for guys with great senses of humor. Too bad he's gay, right?

6. Into the Wild by John Krakauer.
Confession: I did not read this book until after I saw the movie. Result: I did not merely read, but totally consumed it. I think most of us know the story: privileged white kid shuns his opportunities and goes in search of meaning across America with no money, identification, or vehicle. Eventually he ends up in the Alaskan wilderness where he dies. This book is not the story of his death, however; it is the story of his life. In the short time he pursued this life of adventure and wanderlust, he touched the lives of everyone he met along the way. He was also able to develop his own ideas about harmony and family based on readings and philosophies of transcendentalist writers. The fact the it's a true story adds to it's fascination, and really has the ability to inspire whoever reads it (i.e. moi) to get up off their butt and make their mark on the world.

7. The Great Gatsby by F. Scot Fitzgerald
I think that this book gets a bad rep. Everyone I know considers it one of those novels that high school English teachers *make* you read, thereby making it the devil in literary form. Everyone except my mother. She bought it for me one year for Christmas for that reason. And because I love my mommy, I read it. This time, it was through the eyes of someone who didn't *have* to read it, but wanted to experience the same joy and rature that it gave to someone I admire. Let me tell you, it's a completely different story. All the nuances about love in a classist society are shockingly more apparent when one is not being graded on their ability to look for them. Not to mention the fact that the descriptions are completely...magical. I suppose the best way to appreciate something so timeless and classic is to understand why it became that way in the first place. Thanks Mom!

I've got some more possibilities to add.
I need to mull them over first.
Didn't you know? This is a very exclusive list.

Gonna go read a trashy romance novel now.


VintageMagnolia said...

On page 287. I read your post with trepidation, fearing that you would reveal some secret about the end of...The Greatest Book I've Ever Read.

Nada Nada said...

You're only on page 287?!
I read that sh*t in, like, a DAY

You're losing your touch, Bama.