Winter Reads

To keep in line with the spirit of my "trying to not hate Christmas" theme I was going for this season in my blog, I am going to officially transfer that over to a "trying to not hate winter" theme. After all, it seems appropriate to do that today since today was the day my sister and brother-in-law took down the tree  - leaving behind a significant trail of pine needles (which I then swept up and liberated into the backyard).

There is now a gaping hole in the living room, which is ironic since that is how the living room usually is 11 months of the year. Why is it always so hard to go back to that after a month of this tree living with us? Who knows...

Regardless, Christmas is over. But winter is not (Although it has been for the past 3 days here... I know it won't last. It's been so nice here that actually I've had some issues with allergies. weird). 

What do I love doing the most in the winter? Reading. (Well, and drinking tea and eating soup). For the past few weeks, it's all I can do not to watch the clock at work so I can race home and get to the point of the day when I can sit on the "small couch" and read. This winter has been like one long hibernation- not of sleep but of reading. "Bookworm" might be an understatement here. (I am also trying to watch less tv and maybe just use less screen time altogether, so books are a nice alternative). 

I've always liked reading, thanks to my mother and our weekly visits to the library. However, in high school and the first few semesters of college, I gave books the cold shoulder. Reading was fine, but it was never something I wanted to do after studying or attending classes. It was something saved for summer, and sometimes not even then. 

I kind of fell into my writing minor (later major) when I signed up for a gothic/mystery lit class at Bluffton. I can't remember why. I am pretty sure I was not even in the English department yet. But that class was what changed everything. 

We read a lot of strange books in that class (and two - The Woman in White, and The Mysteries of Udolpho - tied with Moby Dick as the most boring pieces of lit ever written, but ones that still manage to be significant in ways that are beyond my comprehension).  But this was also that class that introduced me to the surprisingly great read- Dracula (and also the reason why I will never read Twilight)and made me revisit Frankenstein, which made me love it even more. This was also the course that introduced me to Agatha Christie and for that I will always be grateful. (Plus Cindy - our prof - gave us tea and cookies on Fridays. It was awesome). 

From that, my passion for literate continued to grow. Graduating from Bluffton was a little devastating since it meant I could no longer sit in Lamar Nisly's novel courses and discuss underlying themes hidden between the pages of our current read with my peers. 

Since then, I have not joined a book club (since I am not always looking for the current book trend). But since graduating, I have been making a list each year of what I want to read - hoping to continue to dive into great works of fiction. 20th century American lit is my favorite, but I have been trying to expand that a little - but not withholding from a few Agatha Christies and popular novels thrown in there just for fun. (Besides, after enduring Withering Heights for a few weeks, one needs to indulge in some "fluff"). True, it's not the same as being in a novels class (and whenever I read Hemingway, I am sure I am missing what is really going on). Still, I love the power of literature (and thus far in my life my "reading list" remains to be the only serious goal that I am able to follow through on). 

Two days ago, I finished The Hunger Games. Though this trilogy started off as a pick from the "fun" category, I realized how much more significant it was as I read along. (You might laugh at this, but I still hold it as true). Here is why. There have only been two books in my entire life thus far that have made me cry. True, I cry a lot, but not usually from what I am reading. Thus, I count these books to be significant. Those books are: To Kill a Mockingbird and The Hunger Games.  I can't remember at what point the former made me cry (though I know it was somewhere within the novel itself).  But when I cried at The Hunger Games, it was after I finished reading the last page. This may be odd behavior - but I will explain why. 

The Hunger Games, though extremely violent, is a powerful story. I understand people's reluctancy to them because of all the violence. Rightly so, as these books show the depths of evil humans are capable of accomplishing. It is not the violence in them that makes them powerful - as we humans are not unfamiliar with this (i.e. the "games" Rome held in the Coliseum, the holocaust during WWII, the genocides in Africa, etc...) It shows how far we are able to fall from grace. These books are not powerful because of that, but rather despite our evil nature, we are still have the ability for good, for healing and for grace. That is what makes these ugly stories beautiful. The character, Peeta, is proof of that. Although he is far from any sort of "Christ" figure here, he remains probably the most intriguing character in the story because his voice is one that speaks of something other than hate, murder, and fear. His character speaks of a life that can exist without giving into evil. 

There is a passage at the end of the final book, Mockingjay,  that I really like (no worries for those who haven't read the books, this is not a spoiler alert) when Katniss, the main character is talking to Plutarch. 

"Are you preparing for war, Plutarch?" I ask

"Oh, not now, Now we're in that sweet period where everyone agrees that our recent horrors should never be repeated," he says. "But collective thinking is usually short-lived. We're fickle, stupid beings with poor memories and a great gift for self-destruction. Although who knows? Maybe this will be it, Katniss." 

"What?" I ask. 

"The time it sticks. Maybe we are witnessing the evolution of the human race. Think about that." 

This is a huge stretch, but I do believe there are parts in these novel that speak of anti-war ideas, whether the author meant to or not. I didn't really think about this too much until towards the end when Katniss realizes (after thinking about the destructive means both sides used)  "The truth is, it benefits no one to live in a world where these things happen."  That is a very loaded sentence and true Katniss is very suicidal at this point. But I think it particularly screams at society to never again become this violent version of ourselves. 

As I write this, I find myself thinking about the other books currently in my top reads (To Kill a Mockingbird, East of Eden, The Help, The Power and the Glory, The Secret Life of Bees, The Bean Trees) and all of them revolve around this theme in some sort of way. I find that I am drawn to books like this not because of the destruction but because of the small glimpses they provide that there is something greater than our own human nature - our ability to overcome it.  Think about that. 

It's a new year, which means a new reading list - one which I am still building. But I am excited to see what new reads this year will bring. 


  1. Ahhh... I miss that Gothic Lit class with Cynthia. It was probably one of my favorites classes at Bluffton!

  2. You gotta admit that Dracula was way more interesting when it was read by me. Right?

  3. Yay Deb! It was awesome.

    Yes Drea! Everything was. I forgot how you read to me a lot my stuff from various classes. :-) you're a champ. I miss you.


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