Like most people, I read to escape and to be entertained. (Sometimes I read to learn something, so I turn to non-fiction, but this post focuses on fiction.) When I start a new book, I look forward to the experiences it will bring and the characters that I will live vicariously through.
When I was a young person, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, a lot of what I read were books assigned to me in class– titles such as Johnny Tremain, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl, and then Animal Farm, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, The Great Gatsby, Brave New World, Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Crucible, and The Handmaid’s Tale in older grades.
Although I didn’t appreciate it at the time, now I realize the importance of why they were included in the curriculum– so students can explore characterization, plot, theme, voice, critical thinking– not for the purpose of forcing young minds to melt into a puddle of boredom and apathy.
Of course, the books that I found the most enriching weren’t the ones that were chosen for me. They were the ones I read for fun on the side, like The Chronicles of Narnia, The Chronicles of Prydain, the Dark is Rising series, DragonLance, the Clan of the Cave Bear series, Island of the Blue Dolphins, and then Daphne du Maurier, Dick Francis, Paul C. Doherty, Stephen King, Michael Crichton, and Clive Barker. Sometimes I dabbled in historical romance, like Harlequin regencies. I didn’t necessarily learn from them, but they provided adventure, excitement, intrigue, mystery and other “food” that nourished my inner-life and fueled my imagination.
What attracts you to a certain book? Do you look for specific genres? Or do you look for protagonists and their issues that speak to you?