On Reading, Good Writing and Being Grateful

| May 25, 2011

Have you ever read a book so good, so well-written that you wanted to hug it? Maybe you slept with it tucked safely under your pillow? Every word in every paragraph on every page was the most beautiful, truest part of a whole you could ever imagine? I’m pretty sure we have all been there.

Summer vacation has always been a time of literary luxury for me, because I make it a point to give myself time to read. During the school year, and while I am taking courses, I have very little time to read anything for pleasure.  If I do, its hard to really get into a book, and normally I end up feeling so guilty about taking a few minutes away from work that I will opt to put the book down. But during the summer I can take my time and luxuriate my way through gorgeous books. Its my time to get back in touch with subjects that I love, reread old favorites or delve into new literary experiences with unfamiliar authors.

This summer, I started my reading review with Cormac McCarthy. His writing is unfamiliar to me, but so many people have told me to check it out through the years that I feel I would be doing myself a disservice to waste any more time away from his books.  And although I have also heard that his writing can be violent – something that I generally avoid, but find myself drawn to in prose this year – I went for it anyway.

At this point, I am about 3/4 of the way through All the Pretty Horses, the first in the author’s Border Trilogy, and had my first book-hugging of the summer this morning. McCarthy’s writing is breathtaking – I can smell the rain when it comes in over the desert, I can feel the gritty dust and heat of the arid Mexican landscape. I used to ride horses western-style as a child, and this book holds some surprising relevance for me, despite the fact that I never crossed the border between Texas and Mexico or worked on a farm breaking horses. I can remember gripping the saddlehorn when the horse broke into a gallop, or how  the calves of my jeans would be sweaty – not from my own sweat, but the horse’s – after a long ride on a hot day. I love a book that can bring back memories, but also transport me to new places. Cheers to authors who can help us fall in love with writing!

I feel grateful because I can read and write. It seems like a funny thought, but aren’t those skills we should be grateful for? I think there was probably a time in my past when I took for granted these abilities. Now, when I understand how so many people worldwide have little access to these tools, and even children and adults within our own country struggle with them, I feel that I am grateful to be able to appreciate good writing. I hope I can extend my own love and appreciation for reading and writing to my own students. Only time will tell.