Next Item on the list…
To read 52 books in one year
It seems like a lot. Which it is. But I want something difficult, and almost unachievable. If I don’t make it, there is always next year. Now for an explanation. There is meaning behind every dream…
I LOVE reading. Always have. I don’t remember when reading clicked for me. I’ve always been able to recognize words. I remember sitting in my booster seat in the back of my parent’s red Saturn, driving down the street and seeing signs. I would challenge myself to see if I could recognize every word. I remember reading my book out loud to an older kid on my school bus and not recognizing the word “island.” But then feeling so proud of myself, knowing the word every time after. It fascinated me, words. Then stories. I would start a book and get engrossed in the stories and characters. The books I was choosing got longer and longer and the challenge to see how fast I could get through a book began. It was exciting.
I remember when “Chapter Books” became my biggest accomplishment. My favorites were the Junie B. Jones series and Magic Treehouse or the American Girl Doll book series. Then I started figuring out genres I enjoyed. Mostly Fiction, especially Historical Fiction, and of course Fantasy. (What kid in the early 2000s didn’t like Fantasy? Harry Potter ruled the world.) As I got older more genres were added to that list. Romance and Literary Classics were at the top. Now it is memoirs and Non-fiction with dashes of the original favorites.
My required reading assignments never were homework to me (even the papers in college). I would always read ahead and have to remind myself constantly to stop to answer the worksheets that went alongside. I would win awards for reading the most pages, or gaining the most “points” from the computerized book tests we took.
My favorite time in elementary school was when the teacher would read aloud to the class after lunch. I will always remember The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo and sitting in my 4th Grade class with Mrs. Helvy.
In high school I spent two whole summers searching every discount book shelf for books on the AP Literature list. My Mom would carry the many pages of listed books in her purse. Then I read as many as I could to “get ahead.”
Books and stories saved me. Many times. They saved me from boredom. They saved me from feeling inadequate or not cool (surprisingly…) They gave me a way to connect to people, even adults, by being able to share common interests or a love for a classic children’s novel. They also saved me from loneliness.
When I was 13 my family made a sudden move from California to Utah. It was the middle of the school year with no warning. I remember the day we left our home in CA we stopped at a Barnes & Noble on the way to the expansive freeway. My Mom had promised to buy me a book, which was rare as libraries are a thing and books are expensive, as a reward for helping pack and not fighting too much against the move. I chose Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. Admittally I loved it. I read probably the first 100 pages on the drive, completely taken away from my current situation that I despised. The main character also was moving, in the middle of a school year, to a new place with no friends. There was not much more comparisons after that, but I loved the book. I loved the world. It also gave me something to talk about with other girls that I was meeting at my new school.
Summer came and I had found very little friends in my month and a half at my new Utah school. I had church acquaintances but no one I felt close enough to consistently make plans with outside of weekly youth activities. I was also the only girl my age…Boys were gross at 13. But I did find the library. Weekly, my Mom would drag us kids out of the house, or I would ride my bike in the 100 degree heat to the library. I would scour the YA section, usually picking random books from the “Newly Released” section based off of their covers. I loved long series because they would take longer to get through, and you got more time with the characters. I would usually check out 3-7 books at a time and drag them home in the plastic trash bag the librarian would stack them in.
That entire summer in my small, air-conditioned room with the radio on to the local pop station I sat on the navy blue, corduroy, pull-out couch that was placed under the front window. I read so many books that summer. I also listened to quite bit of Linkin Park and Katy Perry. But those books saved me for ultimately a very lonely 3 months.
Books and stories have saved me from anxiety. I feel those panicked feelings bubbling and I listen to the speeding thoughts going through my head. When I pick up a book and allow myself to dive in completely I feel calmer. I don’t feel like I’m wasting my time, as I do when I watch Netflix or browse Facebook. I am discovering a story, a world, and people.
In my opinion some of the most admirable people, specifically women, are authors. Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Louisa May Alcott, J.K. Rowling to name a few. They all challenged the world by creating stories. Not only are their books a joy to read and the characters important to me and so many others around the world, but their own personal lives are inspiring and relatable. Do you know anything about Louisa May Alcott’s life and her personal views? Rowling’s struggle to find herself? You should. It doesn’t matter when they lived, what genre of literature they wrote, or even why they decided to write. We are all human, and words are one of the best ways to share our personal humanity to others. Thankfully authors are brave enough to share those words.
Stories are the reason I was driven to performing. I like to think that books started that. The amount of individual stories are innumerable when looking at plays, musical theater pieces, operas, art songs, and song cycles. Themes cross over multiple genres and over centuries. As a performer, I can find myself in almost every character I have encountered. There is a thrill when discovering a story that is paired with incredible music, or some beautifully written dialogue. Then to share it using every skill set imaginable is a whirlwind.
Stories can show us that there is a way to survive and live. Through the good and bad. Our entire lives are compiled of our own individual stories. Which is why I think they are worth sharing. You never know who you can have a connection with. And somehow seeing moments in our lives especially difficult ones as stories they seem smaller, simpler, but significant.
After I finished college, dealing with mental health and a slew of changes in my life I could feel myself wanting to go back. To bring back a simplicity into my life. Books came back. They have allowed me to slow down. I have found the feelings of being engrossed in a world that is not the one that I am sitting in, which I have missed. There are moments where I feel as if I am the same girl who sat on that pull-our couch 10 years ago. I have the same insecurities and fear of being lonely.
I want to discover more books, stories, and authors. I want to finally read those novels that have been sitting on my bookshelf for years. I want to share these stories with you.
So here’s to the next item of my Bucketlist. I don’t think it will ever stop. I will always have some sort of reading goal. I technically started in May, but have procrastinated sharing because it is scary to share…
Join my challenge, see what books I am reading, and what I think of them at my Goodreads!
Thanks for the Adventure books!