Ah, the joys of finals week.
It’s a wonderful time of year, so wonderful in fact that Shanti @ Virtually Read is guest posting for me today so I can spend some more time on it. For all those of you coming on this journey with me, best of luck to all of you, and for those of you staying with Shanti, take care of our TBRs while we’re away and we’ll be back soon!
Hi Silver Words readers! I’m Shanti from Virtually Read, and I’m stepping in for Eli today. I thought I’d talk about a topic that (hopefully) we all love—books. Specifically, how lovely it is to read books that match your location.
I started thinking about this a few weeks ago, when I was on a camp, and I was reading a book that was about human’s complex relationships with nature. I took this book on a walk into the forest with me, as it started to rain. I held the book as I looked at a scar in the land where people had blasted it apart for rock. I read the book as thunder stormed outside my tent. It was lovely, because I felt like the place where I was helped me to understand the book. (The book, if you’re interested, was Upstream by Mary Oliver, a book of essays)
I’ve never read a book about New York while being in New York; I’m sure that’s magical (and I’m not going to get into the whole problem of most YA contemporary stories being set in major developed cities) But I have read books about mountains while being in the mountains; books about cities while being in cities; books about mundane, wonderful families while hanging out with my mundane, wonderful family. And in each case, the experience—where my setting and mood matches the book’s setting and mood—has made the experience of reading more.
Naturally, much of the pleasure in books is that you can explore people and situations and settings that are very distant from your own experience. That’s part of why I love reading. But when you share in the experience of the book, as you read the book—well, that’s pretty great too. I’m not advocating restricting your reading to your location, because that makes no sense. Books are powerful, though, because they reflect the worlds we live in, sometimes obviously, sometimes subtly.
When I read a book, I am given the power to consider the world which surrounds me, and the role I play in it, regardless of whether the book is something that literary critics dismiss easily, like Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, or something ‘deep’ and angsty, like the poems of Emily Dickinson. To me, this effect is strengthened when my surroundings and situation reflect the book, in obvious ways (e.g. reading Crimson Bound, about a magical Great Forest in a forest) or in harder to notice ways (e.g. reading 13 Little Blue Envelopes, about figuring out your identity in confusing situations, as you leave high school, which is what I’m doing right now).
Sometimes you don’t know how your life might intersect with the narrative of a book. But when you find that connection, it makes the book—and your own ability to think about the book—so much better. And sometimes you want to seek a story that matches your surroundings and fears. I thought I’d finish with a few different book recommendations for different settings.
The first time I visited NYC, I insisted on bringing my copy of Rick Riordan’s The Last Olympian (at the time, it was the coolest thing ever) and the only souvenir I got was a navy Yankees cap like Annabeth has :’) I loved this post, and thanks so much to Shanti for guesting on TSW! Be sure to check out her great blog by clicking the button to the left!