The Power of Books

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This morning the Summer Invitational started off with storytelling.  Each of us were was asked to bring an artifact – something that represents us and tells a story.  People brought photos, wind chimes, a dog leash, a Schrader/Presta bicycle tire adapter, and lots of books.  Considering this is the Writing Project, I guess it isn’t too surprising that we brought a lot of books.  Many of us love to write and therefore it makes sense that we would also love to read.  Individuals shared cookbooks, mystery novels, and even some historical fiction.

In my case I brought two things – my iPad and a cookbook.  I brought these objects because each of them in their own way demonstrated my own personal love of reading.  At the moment my iPad has over 40 books on it ranging from the Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner to the complete Sookie Stackhouse collection by Charlene Harris.  The cookbook I brought with me, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, is actually the toughest book I’ve ever tried to read for personal pleasure – and I’m still not done.  However, it was one of my introductions to the connection between science, history, and food.

Its quite ironic that I am writing this blog post from the courtyard of Voorhies Hall at UC Davis because this is the place where I fell in love with reading for the second time.  Needing to fill my schedule with a few extra units, my junior year of college I took a SciFi literature class in this very building.  I don’t remember much about the class other than the fact that we read the Red Mars/Green Mars/Blue Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson and that I discovered a genre I found quite interesting.  Science fiction fit well with the other classes I was taking as part of a Biochemistry degree and because I understood the science taking place in the book I found it believable.

I mentioned that this particular class kindled my love for reading the second time.  I actually don’t remember the moment I fell in love with reading the first time, but I grew up surrounded by books.  Whether it was Dr. Suess, Clifford, the Berenstein Bears, Highlights for Children or even an encyclopedia, I fondly remember a childhood where I was always reading.  I read Sideways Stories from Wayside School and pretty much everything by Louis Sachar .  I even loved the Bradbury’s engagingly bizarre Something Wicked This Way Comes.  However, it all ended with The Hobbit in junior high – that damn book.  I still hate it and any related movies!  My teacher at the time was helping us work on making inferences.  She kept saying, “read between the lines.”  Convinced that meant squinting really hard at the clear space between lines of text until extra words popped out, I became really frustrated.  Why she was telling us to do this?  It never worked, I had no idea what she was talking about, and I kept getting all of the inference-based comprehension questions wrong.  Since this was a gifted and talented class that carried with it certain social cache, I was terrified to ask for help.  So from that point on I never really read another book until my SciFi literature class.  Its amazing how well one can get by with Cliff Notes in high school!

SciFi Literature was only the beginning.  After taking that class I enrolled in Gay and Lesbian Literature, the Bible as Literature (Old and New Testament), and Shakespearean Literature.  Each of these classes were very different, but they all held one thing in common – I was immersed in literature and content that was completely new to me.  As I look though my book collection today, whether it be the print based texts on my book shelf or the digital ones on my iPad I notice a pattern – that I love to books because each of them is a gateway into a new and novel world.

Joe

Note: This is just my first of many Area 3 Writing Project entries.  While I am posting each one here publicly, please know that ultimately they are just a draft and that I might come back and edit periodically.

Photo: iPad iBooks in Stacks at LA Library by Steve Garfield on Flickr

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