2016 and I’m Baaaack… Again… Seriously… For Reals This Time… Probably

New Year.  New Resolutions.  Well, new month in a new year.  So, I’m still a little late.  

February. It is what it is.  Hey, I’ve been super busy. Hulu isn’t gonna watch itself.

Obviously, this year, I will be exercising frequently, cutting carbs, giving up my history of quick and harsh judgements, reading daily, saving money, and initiating a program for #worldpeace.  That goes without saying.

(I began using #hashtags ironically.  Now, I legit can’t stop using them).

I am also recommitting to my blog.  #noexcuses

So, what shape will the blog take this year? It will most likely be a continued mashup of mommery in Grand Rapids, a renewed reading reviewry, a space for my continued philosophical pursuit of justice in the blight of humanity (aka “rants about stupid folk and their stupid behavior”) and a personal record of the (spoiler!) growing bear pack. (Not me.  No, not me).  

Oh, and let’s not forget: my altogether awesomery.  

Enjoy.

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Rant: Facebookery “I Read It on the Internet, So It Must Be True.”

I’m baaaaaaaaack!!!

I have emerged from hibernation because, spoiler-alert, I’m infuriated again.

This…

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It’s been making the rounds of my newsfeed. Another precious reminder for people to do their research before funding the corporate bigwigs and campaigns and already-bursting-pockets when they think they are helping out Johnny-on-the-corner. Well, I agree with the sentiment. You should definitely understand how your money is spent when you consider any charitable donations. I would suggest doing your research.

Ahem. DO YOUR RESEARCH. if you did, you would find that this very popular picture, this picture that has been trolling around share sites and social media, this picture that uses quite specific figures to delineate charitable misconduct… IS COMPLETELY INACCURATE.

If you were to DO YOUR RESEARCH, you would find that sites like snopes.com and charitywatch.org completely discredit the purported information.

Ah, yes. And so we come to the crux of the problem: Time and time again, folks on the internet request that you “do your research” when faced with any question. Of course, that “research” is completely legitimate if you found it on the internet! Of course, if you go into your “research” with any preconceived opinions, you will, regardless, find completely unbiased resources. Of course, if you use your “research” to sway an opinion or provide proof for your unconventional stance, that “research” is obviously from a reliable, accurate source.

Except…

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Now, you might be shocked to find that irrefutable resources have to compete with far less reputable ones. Especially on the internet. Have you heard the saying…?

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Well. I’m hear to tell you: THAT IS WRONG.

Once upon a time, doing research required a visit to a library, exploration of scholarly journals, perusing of current encyclopedias. Now, if you read it on Wikipedia, or a blog, you can be guaranteed that information is up-to-date and accurate. NOT.

Yes, genuine scholarly research can lag behind more current resources. Even instant and recommended media generally has a bias, but if you tackle any issue with the knowledge that such biases occur, you can still approach a topic with a degree of surety, even on these internets.

This problem has been surfacing so often lately. Frankly, it’s contrary and unethical. People claiming that you need to “do your research” then provide links to various, unmonitored, disreputable articles, blog posts, and sales-garnering sites.

I see this most often in arguments that rise from differing opinions on parenting topics; breast-feeding vs. formula, co-sleeping vs. cry-it-out, etc. But, it most especially “scorches my agates” in the immunization debate. Time and time again, I see references to sites that claim dangers in the current recommended immunization schedule. Now, regardless of my opinion on this topic, I can provide data from my “RESEARCH.” I tend to use resources like: the Centers for Disease Control, a public, government entity. Or, the World Health Organization, a global, medical network. That’s not to mention the various physician associations like the American Academy of Pediatrics. Of course, if you do your “research” you may find a differing opinion on sites like www.naturalnews.com. So, let’s put our thinking caps on and decide which sources might be more likely to provide verifiable, well-regarded, accurate information. Hmm…. Any thoughts?

The problem with the “do your research” proposal? It’s being used to support cockamamie ideas and give credence to distorted fallacies. And, all-too-gullible audiences make assumptions that you have “done your research” and drawn appropriate conclusions. Of course, there is no immediate differentiating between the reliabilities of that research in the available scape of a newsfeed or forum.

In the immunization argument? We have created a debate where there is none. When did my fellow SAHMs become better-informed than the CDC, WHO, AMA, and numerous other well-established and well-regarded acronyms? When did we decide that we should make important decisions based on anecdotes and fear and mistrust of authority?

I recently followed an online forum that, honestly, scared me. Comments included such gems as:
“Unvaccinated children or people in general have better immune systems. Your body is intended to fight these illnesses off.”
“What’s the point of vaccinating if they still get the disease they prevent? Hmmm…”
“I disagree 100% with the herd immunity concept. Sorry, but it’s not totally scientific.”
“Don’t believe what big pharmaceutical tells you… big pharmaceutical shells out BILLIONS of dollars each year to autism case. If that isn’t admission I don’t know what is.”
“I want longitudinal research before I let my kid be the guinea pig.”
“If you think pharmaceutical companies do not miss lead people look up the Tuskegee trials.”

I’m going to assume my readers can see the errors inherent in these comments and not voice my individual concerns for each. This was a small sample of a far greater population; A mere peppering of ill-conceived, argumentative Facebookery.

This topic of immunizations is not a parenting issue, at least not solely. It is a matter of public health and safety. Time and time again, moms credit themselves will the ability to make informed decisions and, therefore, the right to choose against the medical establishment. Here in Michigan, this freedom has done a disservice to the public as lowering rates of immunization and increasing outbreaks of serious, transmittable diseases threaten the health of the elderly, the young, and the immuno-compromised. A recent mLive article confirms that vaccination-waivers are a credible threat to public health. And, a significant source of dismay for myself: that so many moms and dads are making questionable decisions based on unreliable information and flaunting their capacity to do so, over better-informed and more reliable, more sound outlets.

Ugh. I can only hope that science, and more significantly, critical-thinking will prevail.

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Rave: Hoffmaster State Park

We finished our 2014 camping season with a trip to Hoffmaster State Park on Lake Michigan between Grand Haven and Muskegon.

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We had beautiful weather for our fall camp. It was warm and sunny. We also enjoyed a serious element of solitude and privacy. We camped in one of the loops that offered electricity. Camping in late-September, early-October can be unpredictable in terms of temperatures. We figured if we had extreme lows, we would best have power for our other comforts. Actually, the overnight lows only dropped to the mid-fifties or so. While it was pretty brisk in the mornings, sleeping was very comfortable. Further, there were only two other campsites in use on our loop. A loop of about 40 campsites. And our “neighbors” were parked pretty far away. We chose to camp on a couple weekdays, which definitely allowed for choice spot availability, clean bathrooms, and some serious peace and quiet.

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Hoffmaster was a great choice for hiking. They offered three separate trails with varying degrees of difficulty. Since they all passed near the beach and dunes, there was a climb and descent on each trail. And some sand. And some woods. The park was divided by a creek, so there was opportunity for drop-fishing too. Dune climbing took some work and, more than once, my legs felt pretty rubbery. But, we were able to catch some beautiful sunsets over the Lake and Duck enjoyed some time on the beach.

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The sites were pretty rustic. Our campsite was in the midst of an oak stand. It was great because it provided the perfect balance of shade and warmth. However, fall does just that; “fall.” We were a couple weeks ahead of the leaves but, Oh. My. Acorns. We had to spend a lot of time under our awning because the falling acorns were bombing us. I swear, the squirrels were trying to chase us out by pelting us with acorns. Seriously. I got a welt from one that hit me in the back of the neck. Both the Den and our truck suffered from the noisy bombardment. We made Duck wear her winter hat so she would have some protection. Fortunately, it was her “Let It Go” hat…

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And, Queen Elsa serenaded the campground quite thoroughly.

We all enjoyed the trip and it was a great way to close out our camping season. It is important to note, however, that Hoffmaster is usually under alcohol restrictions during the high season. After Labor Day, the restrictions are lifted. Thus, it would not be an option for us during the peak times. Camping sans beer? Haha. That’s like camping without baked beans. Never. Now, to winterize the Den for next year. It’s bumming me out. Winter is coming…

Hoffmaster State Park, Muskegon, MI- 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Here are some additional recent campground reviews:

**I would like to note that we try to support the State Park system (regardless of their intolerance toward a wee tippling) because: 1. It is generally less expensive. With a $14 annual Park Passport, you can enter the parks for free. And, depending on the amenities, campsites usually range from around $14 per night to about $28 per night. In the high season, you can usually save between $10 to $20 per night by avoiding the franchised or private campgrounds. 2. Also, it has been our experience, the campgrounds are often situated in a more secluded locale. Less traffic = more privacy, more wildlife, more serenity. 3. Pure Michigan, duh.**

Newaygo State Park, Newaygo, MI- 4 out of 5 stars.
Very rustic and woodsy. Nice, private sites. Clean pit pots (vault toilets) and hand pump wells. Disc golf course. Access to Hardy Dam Pond (which is pretty big water, surprisingly). Small sandy, gradual beach area. Personal note: When we went, we stayed in a tent over a Memorial weekend. It was freezing. Seriously. Coldest camp ever. Newaygo itself is, um, “quaint.” We took a backwoods route to the park and passed a neighborhood that could kindly be referred to as “Little Meth Town.” Ok. Probably not. But, there were paradoxically many trailers and many BMWs. Something fishy, methinks… We really enjoyed the wooded sites and the lack of amenities. There is something to be said for properly “roughing it.” No alcohol restrictions!

Van Buren State Park, South Haven, MI- 3 out of 5 stars.
Meh. A nice beach area on Lake Michigan that’s an easy walk from the campground. But, during our stay, there was some concern about nuclear run-off in the water. No biggie… NOT. The campsites were pretty open and pretty small, lacking in privacy. The bathroom facilities offered showers but needed updating. That said, South Haven is absolutely lovely and totally makes the stay worthwhile. No alcohol restrictions!

Allendale KOA, Allendale, MI- 3.5 out of 5 stars. See my previous review, here. No alcohol restrictions!

Hungry Horse, Dorr, MI- 3 out of 5 stars. Pool, laundry, game room, bouncy thing, playgrounds, nice camp store. Some meadow areas, some wooded areas. Electric and water. The decor was a wee outdated, but kitschy. They offered nightly movies in the Gazebo. Beer Bear really liked this campground, but I thought it was sort of a “concrete campground.” They did have a few nice trails around the property but I mostly felt that it was an outdoor motel more than anything. Definitely a family-friendly choice and very near Grand Rapids while remaining off-the-beaten-path. Not much to Dorr though. No alcohol restrictions!

Huh… “No alcohol restrictions!” features prominently as a characteristic of our choices. Weird. Chug-a-lug.

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Rave: Geocaching

Geocaching. Essentially, it can be summed up by this: We use multi-million dollar satellite technology to find Tupperware in the woods. And, it’s awesome.

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I had first looked into it last year during one of our camping trips, but we neglected it in favor of drinking and eating at the campsite. (Shocker). In any case, Duck was pretty young and mayhaps wouldn’t have enjoyed traipsing through the woods with us.

Fast forward to this summer: Duck and I were trying to make the most of our time outside. Lots of nature walks, lots of playgrounds, lots of parks. On a whim, I decided to download a geocaching app onto my smartphone to add an extra element onto our outdoor exploration. I told Ducky that we were going on a treasure hunt. We had a nearby cache to go check out. The beginner-friendly app made it really easy to locate. Having some idea of what to expect, I had brought along some cache trinkets to exchange at the site. Once I found the “treasure,” I let Duck choose one of the cache gifts and I signed the log book. We deposited our cache gift and replaced the stash as we had found it. Easy Peasy.

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Our first deposit. Yes, that’s a tiny plastic Chippendale. Best future cache find ever?

After our first find, we began checking the app for nearby caches more consistently. They are everywhere! It’s been a lot of fun trying to locate them, whatever they may be: ammo cases, peanut butter jars, mason jars, camo cans. Generally, since we are still amateurs, we try to find caches that are relatively large, relatively easy, and relatively easy terrain. We have not found any nano caches yet. These are usually hidden in “fake” screws, rocks, etc. and they are teeny-tiny! We tried one cache at a local park with a difficult terrain but both Beer Bear and I just ended up scraped and bruised, sore and tired, and dirty, dirty, dirty. Most likely, we will avoid difficult terrain for awhile. Another difficulty in searching is the avoidance of “muggles,” regular folk who can catch you exchanging at a stash. You don’t want the cache to be inadvertently discovered and, consequently, disabled, dismantled, or destroyed.

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While I know someone will enjoy our tiny, plastic Chippendale as a true cache treasure, there has never been a more fitting find than the duck for the Duck.

Thankfully, Beer Bear has a knack for finding the caches. Usually the app will reliably put us within 15-20 feet of the cache, but we have often had to use hints and the online entry-log for valuable info. For instance, we have often searched and searched the “big tree at the fork” or whatever, only to find that someone before us moved the cache to a better hide at the “little tree below the fork.” It’s useful to be flexible and take your time.

It’s been exciting learning more about the activity and getting involved with the community of fellow-cachers. Here, in West Michigan, there is quite a presence and we discover new caches regularly. We even found our first pathtag recently on a trail. A pathtag is a tradeable and trackable coin that geocachers can personalize to leave behind. Finding our first one was pretty exciting for me. Because I am a dork. Whatever.

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See? It’s my awesome pathtag. We are practically pros now.

Mostly, it’s been fun getting out and doing something different with Duck. She gets excited whenever we announce that we are going “treasure-hunting.” We always let her choose the “prize” from the stash. She even gets to keep them in her “collection,” a little door cubby in my car. Except for the pathtag. That is mine, obviously.

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Duck picks the prize. She’s super selective. Once, she overlooked a set of walkie-talkies for a marble… Um, whatever.

If you have the opportunity and the desire, try to find a geocache near you. You can download the free app to get started. We have enjoyed adding another activity to our life outdoors and we are planning to hide a few caches of our own. If you ever find a bearpack trinket, you know where it came from…. Go outside and play!

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Rant: ARTPRIZE

While I believe ArtPrize is a great event, it is far from perfect.

My complaint: the crowds. First, a ridiculous amount of visitors crowd into the city. This increases the traffic exponentially. Grand Rapids is relatively traffic-free. It’s not that waits don’t occur, they simply pale in comparison to regular rush-hour/construction/weather-related/seasonal jams elsewhere. If you have ever sat on I-696, I-96, or US-23 in metro-Detroit on a Friday afternoon in the summer when everyone has decided to leave work an hour early to beat the traffic; you know what I mean. If you have ever been on I-75, I-4, I-95 when the sudden influx of snowbirds have migrated south in their silver or gold Lincolns and Cadillacs and Buicks, complete with beaded seat covers and lack of turn-signals and proportionally deficient maximum speed-limits; you know what I mean. If you have ever been tailgated, cut-off, or passed with a baleful look and colorful language by a rear-wheel drive sportscar in a complete whiteout and zero-visibility, only to creep by the very same vehicle mere miles but unfortunate and irritating hours later as it is towed across the now-closed outer two lanes from the median ditch; you know what I mean. If you have permanently affixed an unkindly gesturing hand out your driver window as the well-coiffed in their import vehicles have ignored the “Left Lane Closed in 2 Miles… 1 Mile… 1000 Feet… 500 Feet” to favor a self-indulging zipper merge; well, you know what I mean. So, when I claim that Grand Rapids is relatively traffic-free, it’s a real, apparent blessing.

Therefore, with the mass influx of visitors during ArtPrize, the city undergoes a traffic transformation that can be extraordinarily frustrating on a typical commute. Simply finding parking can be an enormous challenge as “Lot Full” signs litter an otherwise easily-navigable city.

And the traffic frustrations are not limited to vehicular crowding. The foot traffic is outrageous. Waits in lines become regular. At the grocery store, pharmacy, post office, park, funeral home, wherever. It seems that whenever you have an errand to attend to, hundreds of other folks have decided to do so at the exact same time. The bus system is overloaded even with specially-provided extra routes. Restaurants are on a consistent wait. And with the time spent in check-out lines, you should be able to bone-up on every celebrity scandal and miraculous-appearance-of-Jesus-in-toast from the past ten years.

All of which are minor complaints respective to the claustrophobia imparted by the ArtPrize proper visitors. The venues can be so stifling, it’s absolutely anxiety-producing. Even the outdoor installations can be so surrounded that the horde is impassable. I mentioned the experience of feeling physically separated from my stroller, an altogether not unusual experience in an environment of such extreme population density.

But, I could really get past the presence of all the new people, if they weren’t “those” people. Ugh. Art can bring out all sorts of people, families, spectators. It is known, however, for attracting a certain set. Those folks with their air of superiority. Free-trade-coffee-carrying, hand-dyed-scarf-wearing, bobbed-gray-hair-rocking, haughty-gazed, supercilious “art folks.” The judges and jurors with their perplexing critical favorites. The tourists with their imperious make-believe grasp of bewildering artist statements. And, especially, the artists themselves; with their unrealistic and arrogant view of the significance of their work and the correspondingly-expected promise of the respect it should garner.

For example: yesterday, Duck and I explored several more venues including our traditional riverside route. Outside of the Gerald Ford Museum was a musical art installation. It was essentially a large-ring xylophone or glockenspiel, if you will. The observer was invited to take a hammer-mallet-thing and hit the metallic bars as they ran around the ring. In doing so, you would produce the song “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” Of course, as Ducky witnessed several people perform the melodious route, she clamored for a turn. We got in line. We waited. She picked up a hammer-mallet-thing and approached the installation- instrument. And, the artist came over, took her hammer-mallet-thingy away, and advised me that it was not a device for toddlers. Inevitably, Duckers started throwing a fit. The artist told me he was making a sign to that effect, but it simply wasn’t meant for the younger-than-ten-crowd. Usually, I can respect the requests people make of me as the parent of a toddler. You want to enjoy your dinner at a restaurant? We try to keep her quiet and entertained. You want to watch that movie? We won’t bring her to the theater until we can reasonably expect her to behave. You want to hear the gospel? Churches have actually have a kid-friendly room, just for us. But, there is a point at which I am no longer expected to make your life conveniently free of my hip-high nuisance. You, sir, are an asshole. You created a large-scale, outdoor installation in a park. That installation is essentially a giant, interactive, musical instrument. That instrument plays a childhood-favorite, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” Yes, I can totally see how it was not meant for toddlers. (I’m looking at you, Tom Kaufmann, dumbass creator of the Music Go-Round).

This is only one instance of a pervading pretentiousness that shadows the ArtPrize experience. While I tore my screaming child away, I’d wager that I received only a couple of sympathetic glances. The rest of the spectators assumed condescending shrugs of disapproval. Of my child’s behavior. Of my inability to control her in such an preeminent and ostentatious environment. The ArtPrize habitat breeds highfalutinry. Almost every piece includes “DO NOT TOUCH” signage, if not blatant barriers. Even the 3-D installations. Made of unique materials. Outside. So, what you’re saying is: the elements can wreak havoc on it and birds can crap on it, but my two-year old can’t touch it? Well, that’s dumb. Just dumb.

Art is a sensory experience. Oftentimes, the experience could be enhanced if you would just let us “see” your piece, in every sense. I understand that you fear damage, but let’s assume that the crowd you hope to attract is respectful and avoids making any mistakes. I’m not suggesting you subject your beautiful canvas to the whims of the masses. I’m simply suggesting that your large, outdoor, indestructible, metal dragon should be enjoyed, photographed and, well, fondled if your audience chooses to do so.

Your audience. Because that’s what is too often forgotten by the artsy-fartsy. ArtPrize is for everyone. It is designed as a social experience that includes the entire public. The appeal of the event is inherent in the idea that popular opinion matters and that art isn’t just served to us by the critical elite, to be digested as directed. ArtPrize is a great event… But the highfalutinry has got to go.

Lest I give you the impression that the event is nonetheless anything but enjoyable overall, a few more favorites from yesterday:

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Birch Grove by Judy A. Steiner can be seen at the Courtyard Marriott

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The Wind by Gil Bruvel at the Grand Rapids Public Museum

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Further proof that ArtPrize is fun… For everyone.

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Rave: Whitecaps Baseball

TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME!

The Detroit Tigers are in the post-season! I love baseball. On almost any given day, from April to October, you can catch a Tigers’ game on the radio. Baseball is the easiest game to follow without actually watching, thus making the activity far more portable. Weekends on the lake, weekends camping, nothing is complete without some Tiger Baseball in the background.

And, we love some Tiger Baseball! Growing up, it was an integral part of summer. My bachelorette party was held at a game. When we lived in Royal Oak, before our move to GR, we were mere minutes from Comerica park. Our first date as parents was to a spring game. Duck’s first months coincided with baseball season, I have fond memories of listening to games whilst snuggling with my new babe. Beer Bear’s very own doppelgänger is a former Tiger, Magglio Ordoñez. (For real, the resemblance is so uncanny, it inspired a radio-show contest).

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It has been a sad fact that, since moving to West Michigan, we haven’t been to a single game. That said, we have had the opportunity to support our local team, the West Michigan Whitecaps. It has been great. They are a minor-league team for the Tigers, so we maintain franchise affiliation. Further, the tickets are cheaper, the venue is smaller, and the entire event is a family-oriented affair.

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Last year, we took Ducky to her first baseball game ever. It was relatively inexpensive at $10 for two adult lawn seats. The ballpark was easily navigated, even with a wobbly toddler, and there were no restrictions in what you could bring in. (Ok, no outside alcohol, but we’ve been to stadiums that limit the size of your purse. Hard to haul all you need in a diaper bag then). Throughout the inning breaks, there was constant activity for the kids. Races, games, mascot fun. Afterward, we enjoyed a great fireworks display.

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This season, we attended a couple of themed-games. First, Running Bear joined Duck and I for Star Wars Night. In addition to the regular fun, we met with several intergalactic fellows. Duckers also got her very own light saber. And, she fell in love with the mascots. And, of course, another fireworks finale.

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#hansolohomerun #inagalaxyfarfarawaygame #usetheforceout #theempirestrikesout

Some weeks later, I took Duck to a special mom-daughter date: Princess night. Oh. My. God. It was awesome. The ballpark was positively filled with princesses! Little girls came in their royal finery, several Disney princesses roamed the concessions, we received tiaras and wands at the door. They offered “fantasy” photos complete with dress-up clothes and exotic backdrops. A cosmetics and hairdressing team was performing makeovers. And, fireworks.

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#takemeouttotheballroomgame #partofyourworldseries #letitgowhitecaps #iwalkedwithyouonceuponadream

I am so thankful to have a great local option for some family fun, franks, and fireworks. We are looking forward to getting to know our other minor league teams, the Grand Rapids Griffins and NBA-Development team, the Drive.

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Readery: Ten Books That Changed Me

So, there’s a challenge floating around the internets right now. (Surprise, surprise). It’s titled: “10 Books That Changed Me.”  Most people who have posted used their ten favorite books. Or, as wisely observed by Alexis Kleinman (in the article here), the ten books these folks would like you to believe are their favorites, thus implying some inherent literary superiority and simultaneous pompous douchebaggery.

But, that’s not even the challenge, is it?  Setting aside the obviously problematic readery-one-upmanship, and resulting challenge duplicity, the list simply does not ask for ten favorites.

10 Books That Changed Me (and How They Did So):

1.  The Witches by Roald Dahl. In fourth-grade, our teacher read this aloud during storytime. She was a fabulous reader and, with accompanying voices and perceptive interludes, her enthusiasm was contagious. (Thank you, Ms. Powell). When she finished reading The Witches, I went to the library and classroom bookshelf and methodically read through the entire (children’s) Dahl canon. It was marvelous. I maintain that Roald Dahl offers some of the most imaginative children’s literature in existence. It is never mundane. It challenges wit and convention. And, my introduction to Roald Dahl led me to be a reader of varied tastes. I am as comfortable in the world of myth and sci-fi as I am in thriller and horror and romance. I attribute my forgiving treatment of genre to my early introduction to originality and Roald Dahl.
2. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. Allow me to be clear:  this is not one of my favorite books. Not even in my top twenty. But, I will forever remember this book as my introduction to Literature with a capital “L.”  In the summer before sixth grade, I was mired in a reading bog. I had read through the important children’s literature and I was perturbed by what was available as Young Adult fiction. Think: Christopher Pike, RL Stine. Essentially the same books with different cover art. I must’ve been complaining to my mom because she handed me a copy of Of Mice and Men. Steinbeck was an entirely new experience. And, I never looked back.
3. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. This is one of my favorite books. But especially because of how it affected me. The story is incredibly, incredibly sad. It’s about third-world poverty and loss and the human condition. Reading a story that generates such powerful and raw emotion?  Yes, please. There is no better outlet for grief and pain and devastation than floating away in someone else’s imagination. An imagination that’s rife with sordid imagery and inconceivable tragedy?  Even better. As I read this book, I gained a newfound sense of humility and a wiser sense of humanity. Such beauty in well-captured sadness.
4. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. It was the first chapter book I had ever read.
5. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. Another favorite. It is incredibly refreshing to learn that you can still be surprised as a reader. Shriver met with my exact literary aesthetic. Which I have been trying to define for years.  Furthermore, she wrote a beautifully composed tale. (Whoa, Kevin. Just, whoa).
6. Hamlet by William Shakespeare. (I know, I know. It’s a play. Don’t be a challenge-nazi). In my freshman year of college, I wrote my term paper on Hamlet. “Alas, Poor Ghost:  The Haunting of Elsinore.”  The paper examined whether or not Hamlet’s father’s ghost was malevolent. It was my first attempt at proper literary criticism. And, it seemed well-received. I even had the opportunity to present it at an undergraduate conference.
7.  Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? by Dr. Seuss. When Ducky was just a wee babins, this was the book I read to her the most. Rhyme, repetition, sounds; it has a lot to offer for a little one.  I will fondly remember this as Duck’s First Book.  (Not to mention its reminiscent effect on my own childhood).
8. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. I read story after story after story. This compilation inspired my love, gratitude, and appreciation for short stories. They are such a unique challenge to an author. I love a novel, but my respect for short-story artists is immeasurable.
9. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. Having read the book and seen the movie, I had to reassess how I gauged the quality of film adaptation. Readers always seem to find flaws in adaptations based on fidelity. In other words, the movie sucks if the plot diverts from the book. But, honestly, I loved this book and I loved this movie. They were incredibly different in terms of story. Being able to ignore the nagging community that pans movies for plot divergence is a much healthier outlook on two entirely separate mediums.
10. Fahrenheit-451 by Ray Bradbury. I don’t know why, but I remember this book as being the first book that challenged my ever-present optimism for the future. I had read plenty of other stories that explored depressing future vistas. For some reason, this one stuck as the preeminent one. It’s hard (and important) to consider the fate of humanity and the extremes of which we are capable.  I would like to think that we humans are inherently good. Fahrenheit-451 challenged this thinking. It’s not in the recognition that the individual is capable of depravity. This is likely an obvious conclusion if you watch the news. It’s the imagined communal villainy that struck me. What a bleak outlook… And a jarring one. Bradbury: one. Katie’s naïveté: zero.

I’m sure I could list many more books that changed me, steered me in a different direction, etc. This sample is a fairly poignant reminder of what books are capable of. For me, at least, it has been an exercise in self-enlightenment. How about you?  What are ten books that left their imprint on your life?  What impacts have they had?  

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