Reading Up

In my carefree, younger days, I was an avid reader. Since the whole mom thing began, not so much. But now that my kids are older and I don’t really have to pay attention to them, with the added bonus of all the eternal time I spend at their practices, I can find moments to sit and read books again. Annnd finish them. Woo hoo! So today, just for fun and a change of pace, I am writing short thoughts on books I’ve recently read since I don’t belong to a book club or anything where I can share my oh so valuable insights.

I tend to steer toward the classics so I know what the heck people are talking about when literary references are made. Hence, I finally read Orwell’s 1984 because I wanted to know who or what Big Brother is and why is he watching me? I can’t recommend this book, but I can’t not recommend it either because it is well written for its genre. If you are looking for lighthearted, this is not the story for you. Not one character is likable. Like, at all. I thought maybe the main guy would turn a corner into somebody worth caring about, but no. I had such high hopes for him too. There’s nothing much good about the world in which they live so that’s probably why they’re all unhappy, nasty wretches. Yet, despite all its depressive aura, it was an interesting read. The weird thing is, I can’t quite get past the notion that it feels like we’re beginning to live in the society described in the book. Before reading the book, I had this nebulous idea that Big Brother had something to do with the government watching what the citizens did. It is, but the whole Big Brother thing is a bit more sinister and disturbing than just that. The ending stuck with me for a few days—quite unsettling. So, yeah, I didn’t like the story or the characters or the world they live in or the ending or anything about it, but it wasn’t a bad book.

After that, I bought a book that I thought would be an easy read. Everyone was gushing over it. Ughhhhh. I hated it. I read Gone Girl. The mystery in the book seemed interesting enough—wife goes missing, husband’s fault or not? I picked up on the “surprise” before the twist was revealed. Despite the hook, I simply cannot recommend this even though you’ve probably either read it or seen the movie by now. Again, none of the characters were likable to me. At the end, I think I was supposed to have a teeny tiny bit of sympathy for the one main character, but nope, no feeling. The other main character is so whack-a-doodle and thoughts so crass and calculated and mean, and everything about the couple is toxic, I just couldn’t muster any care to care. I made it through the whole thing, but I felt a bit like taking a shower to wash it all off.

Then my daughter got me Uncle Tom’s Cabin as a gift. I had no idea what to expect so I was surprised when I liked this book. It was certainly sad and horrifying in parts, but it touched on real emotions I could connect with—unlike the other two books. Mostly, I was super curious to find out what it means when someone is called an Uncle Tom. I still don’t understand. Uncle Tom is the Christlike figure in the book. He didn’t sell out his fellow slaves. He didn’t turn his back on them. He didn’t harm them. On the contrary, he took good care of and showed love to everyone around him. He sacrificed his life for escaping slaves by refusing to give them up—he gave up his life for their freedom. How then is he a white man sellout? If you want to call someone a Sambo or Quimbo, I would totally get it, but for the life of me I still cannot grasp why being called an Uncle Tom is derogatory. In all seriousness, somebody please explain this to me, preferably someone who has actually read the book.

I wanted to read Go Set a Watchman, but first I felt like I had to reread To Kill a Mockingbird. I hadn’t read it since I was a teenager, but I remembered that I liked it. Still a good read all these years later. I’m sure I enjoyed it more this time around because I understood the issues a little better. I find it interesting how the author used the innocence and immaturity of childhood to shine a light on racial injustice. I recommend this one.

So now I’m about halfway into Go Set a Watchman. Not sure on this one yet. It seems like I just got to the interesting part so we’ll see how it turns out. Before that, I had started reading Moby Dick, but I think I’ll wait until summer on that one. It’s about, you know, the ocean and a boat and a whale — sounds summery to me.

Isn’t it fascinating how you can hear something so much and still not quite know what it means until you read it for yourself? Sometimes a phrase or symbol is close to what you thought, but you never realized the depth of its meaning. Other times, you question what you’ve been told over and over and over again because it doesn’t match up with what the author wrote. Even though it takes time, going to the source is quite helpful to understand something in its full context.

Have you read anything good lately? I’m going to need a new book to read sometime after August.

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