23. Read books that are out of your league

30 May

How’s it going? Me? I’m just moving in with the bf soon (Oh thank you, no need for congratulations!) The business of moving has taken up a lot of my free time and the little bit of free time I have left has been spent lying in bed sighing the stress out of my body, but I’ll persevere with the blog updates!

Here’s the latest one:

23) Read books that are out of your league.

I was inspired by this recent Forbes post, and while the business-oriented tone of the article leaves a rusty copper aftertaste, I DID find a lot of merit in the advice that a person should read books that are difficult.

The great news is that books that are out of your league are very easy to find because there is always someone smarter than you who’s written one. I don’t mean that as an insult, but I do mean it as a warning to approach these books with a great deal of humility and respect before you decide they’re a load of bs*.

The first hard book I ever read was Hamlet which was assigned to me by my favorite teacher of all time Ms. Lange. I was in sixth grade and she expected us to read and then perform Shakespeare’s classic. You have to bear in mind that we were public school kids and pretty idiotic at that. The closest I had gotten to fine art were watching repeats of Sesame Street with grandma.

I loved Hamlet even if I only understood about half of it. Ms. Lange walked us through the basic plot and I was swept up in the tragedy, the betrayals, the madness–most of which came from the Mel Gibson adaptation–and I devoured more books.

After Ms. Lange and Junior High I was placed in an AP high school class where the teacher handed us Les Misérables, which is a 300+ chapter monstrosity, and we were to finish it without any hand-holding. I read it all, devouring the suffering souls of the characters within, even if I didn’t 100% understand all of it.

I learned that It’s not correct to say in absolute terms that you know how to read because there are phrases and sentence structures that I wasn’t prepared for when I was younger, and which my eyes must have glazed over, but which now can unfold beautifully from years of experience with reading.

I read Moby Dick on my own because I’d heard it was THE classic, and I was disappointed that no one had assigned it to me. Reading the Herman Melville novel opened my eyes to a new way of writing, similarly to what Hamlet did to my Junior High perception of books. I simply didn’t know expressing yourself in that way was even an OPTION.

Don’t mistake my love of hard books for sadomasochism either; I’m not afraid to admit that I didn’t understand 100% of what I was reading at all times, but I did enjoy the almost forbidden nature of enjoying these stories that seemed like they weren’t meant for me. It turns out that it’s a great skill to have, the will to forge on through pages of tough stories, because the stories also toughen you up for any potential challenges in life.

Read books that are out of your league because there will be things presented to you that are out of reach, and the presenter will shake his head and say “it’s too complicated for you to understand,” but you’ll be well prepared to reply “maybe, but I can try.”

*I’m calling out Infinite Jest as a pile of BS. I tried reading it and had the distinct impression I was being conned. Maybe I’m right, or maybe I still have some growing up to do.

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