What do you most like to read? (this could be a literary genre, or a type of material, like blogs, magazines, etc.)
I most often lean toward fiction set in a historical period and/or incorporates mythology or legend. The historical period does not matter as much as the pull of the story, so I have enjoyed The Other Boleyn Girl and its series by Philippa Gregory about England under the Tudors, The King Must Die and other novels of Mary Renault set in Ancient Greece, The Mists of Avalon and its series by Marion Zimmer Bradley about the legendary world of King Arthur, Merlin, and the priestesses of Avalon. The best part of this particular series is that Marion Zimmer Bradley tells the legends from the point of the view of the women in King Arthur’s life, all very exciting characters of their own (Bella Swan was not the first young woman to grapple with her own feminine power while acting as narrator!)
I do also enjoy non-fiction. I still feel accomplished if I read The New York Times “Week in Review” on Sundays (it was a class requirement when I was in High School; ironically, I sometimes get to read articles by a classmate and friend who was editor of our H.S. paper and made his dream of working for the Times come true).
I am often drawn to books about organizing anything from my time to my brain to my closet, such as Julie Morgenstern’s Time Management from the Inside Out or encourage me to look at life’s circumstances from another point of view, such as Kurtz and Ketcham’s The Spirituality of Imperfection.
I enjoy biographies of people who have overcome truly debilitating circumstances, such as the doctor, Jerri Nielsen, who performed a biopsy on herself at the South Pole and discovered she had cancer (Icebound) or the widow, Lisa Beamer, who wrote a celebration of her husband Scott’s life and faith; Scott was one of the Americans who fought against hijackers on Flight 93 on 9/11 (Let’s Roll).
I enjoy both fiction (such as Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera, and every conceivable Beauty and the Beast story) and non-fiction (scholarship by Mike Oliver, Tom Shakespeare, Lennard Davis, Sharon Snyder and the like) that deals with representations of disability in history, literature, art, or society.
And, last but not least, I read what my students tell me I “have to.” I figure I tell them what to read all year, they can return the favor once in a while. I have read every Harry Potter, Twilight, and Hunger Games novel. Although I like to tease, I really did enjoy them!
Do you have a favorite book/author/publication?
Different stages of my life each have been marked by a different, favorite book read over and over again: Right now, it would have to be Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, a story that reads like a cross between the work of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. In my college years, it was all about the drama, such as Shakespeare’s Othello and Euripides’ Bacchae (in the original Greek of course).
In my high school years, it was The Mists of Avalon (mentioned above) and The Firebrand (also by Marion Zimmer Bradley) in which the story of the Trojan War is told by the princess Cassandra. Cassandra’s curse is that she can foresee the future but no one will believe her. In middle school, S.E. Hinton’s Outsiders and J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye were like old friends I kept calling to visit. And in elementary school, and probably even now, my favorite author was the poet Shel Siverstein, the creator of The Giving Tree, Where the Sidewalk Ends, and many other great reads.
What's the last great thing you read?
I quite enjoyed Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. The narrator is a little boy who demonstrates traits of Asperger’s Syndrome although he has never bee diagnosed. He is very bright and creative, but has terrible difficulty with social interactions. He copes with the sudden death of his father by taking on a mission that will lead him through every borough of New York City in search of a message he believes his father left for him. It is deeply moving, surprisingly funny, and utterly epic (and I say this as someone who has studied Homer and Vergil most of her life). And it reads like a love letter to the best city on the planet, New York, New York, my hometown.
Where do you most like to read? Anywhere I can commit to staying awhile: lying down in bed, belted in on a plane, hunched over a table in a café or restaurant (especially if outside), plopped down on a blanket at the beach or in a park.
When you were in high school, did you like to read? If so, what?
My love affair with books goes back further than I can remember. I would covet them and collect them… but not read them. I almost hated the act of reading in high school. What I know now is that I was suffering from undiagnosed ADHD. All I knew then was that I was often distracted when reading and felt enormous pressure to finish complicated, often depressing, books for class while keeping up the rest of my honors schedule. Reading for fun felt like a luxury I had to sacrifice to be a good student. I still need to fight off the feeling I am a bad teacher if I read for fun rather than grading on a weekend or an evening, but I am getting better at finding a balance.
What is your most hated book and why?
I despised Lord of the Flies by William Golding when I first read it in the seventh grade. Even then, I realized that I was just too young to appreciate it. After all, where is the joy in reading about how a bunch of boys my age were left to survive on their own on an island and start turning on each other. In college, I picked it for a research paper because I wanted to give it another chance. My paper (about how pigs and poop served as symbols of the decline of civilization) was published in a journal, so now all of my memories are good ones.
And I would like to second Mrs. Dawson on Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. It was the shortest reading of the semester and I could not bring myself to finish it!