Thursday, January 5, 2017
"The Resolution of a Bookdragon"
New year, new you, blah, blah, blah, I like the person I am. I'm a bibliophile, a bookworm, a devourer of books. No, scratch that. I'm a bookwyrm--a veritable, voracious bookdragon. I've always loved books. When other kids were playing baseball and blowing up frogs, I was reading, exploring the wonderful world of my imagination, stretching my synapses. I could get lost for hours in the tales of Tarzan, the conquests of Conan, and the mysteries of Mr. Holmes.
I stayed up to the wee hours of the morning devouring page after page until the batteries in my flashlight died. I insisted on re-arranging my personal library by the Dewey Decimal System. My local library has threatened to cut me off. No, I haven't resolved to read more: I read a lot, so what kind of New Year's resolution does a bookdragon make?
I like a challenge. Well, as long as I don't have to get dirty, or sweaty, or leave my house before 9AM. A perfect challenge for a bookdragon is a book challenge. A book challenge? What's a book challenge? You may have heard a friend talk about his search for a science fiction book written by a person of color, or someone who needs a mystery that starts with the letter Z.
There are lots of good ideas for a book challenge. You can read a book that won the National Book Award, read a book that you choose by the cover, read a book translated from another language, read a book from a genre you don't usually read. A good book challenge can take your reading to places you never thought it would go.
Maybe you aren't a bookdragon, and that's OK. You'd like to start with something a little simpler? How about a book duel? Don't worry. You don't have to get up at dawn and you don't need a second. It's not hard at all. You just ask a fellow reader to suggest one of their favorite books, and you read it.
In return, you recomend a book of your choice, and they read it, and then you discuss it. This can also be a great way to learn about someone. My father-in-law mostly reads histories about dead, white guys. I read a lot of speculative fiction. I chose the science fiction classic The Forever War for him. I was given Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill.
I already knew that Winston Churchill was a great statesman, and crucial to Allied effort in World War Two. I didn't know just how much of a bad-ass he was. As a young man, he traveled to Africa to cover the Boer War as a journalist. He was taken prisoner, escaped, traveled hundred of miles alone in enemy territory. He signed up for service and returned to liberate the men with whom he had been imprisoned.
The Forever War, written by a Vietnam veteran, however, is not just a science fiction novel about Vietnam, but a novel about war, soldiers, and why we think we need them. My father-in-law remarked that The Forever War is as much about the war as Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.
It’s a novel about the tedium and futility of war, the brutality of combat. It’s a realistic look at the military from the perspective of the fighting man, and about the isolation a soldier feels when returning home. We both agreed that every war is different, and every war is the same.
A New Year resolution should be personal. It should challenge you. Perhaps, you would like to hone a skill that has dulled from lack of use. As an American, I don't have much opportunity to use my high school German class. I'm not visiting Germany anytime soon, but I can still sharpen my language skills.
You could chose to read a book in a second language. No, you don't have to start with Goethe or even Voltaire. If it has been a while since you have parlez-vous français, you could start with J.K. Rowling. That's right, Harry Potter.
I love the Harry Potter books, and they have been translated into several languages, but you can pick any children's book you remember fondly, and create a new memory. It's a great way to exercise that sedentary second language.
Like any voracious reader, I have a stack of books by my bed, the famous "to-be-read pile". I recently started a long-ago hoarded book, meant to be read in the cold of winter. A friend suggested Feed by Mira Grant back in 2015. I love her recommendations, but I just didn't get to it to until now. I absolutely loved it! I asked myself why I waited so long? Well, it was because I was reading other great books, of course.
As a bookdragon, I do have a hoard, and my personal resolution for the new year is to periodically choose one of these books from this dusty stack and do what I planned to do all along, read it. This upcoming year, resolve to read more, whether it's a non-fiction book to improve your skills, or an epic fantasy to escape reality, because a true bookdragon would never dream of reading less...
Kevin Coolidge resides in Wellsboro, just a short hike from the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. When he's not writing, you can find him at From My Shelf Books & Gifts, an independent bookstore he runs with his lovely wife, several helpful employees, and two friendly cats, Huck & Finn. He's recently become an honorary member of the Cat Board, and when he's not scooping the litter box, or feeding Gypsy her tuna, he's writing more stories about the Totally Ninja Raccoons. Be sure to catch their next big adventure.