Day 8: A book you love and one you didn’t
I think the first part of this is easier than the second part.
First, before I go any further, I need to say that I have a reading disability. It went undiagnosed all through my years in school, and it wasn’t until I was in college that I even heard about dyslexia or other similar disorders. When I first read about dyslexia and its hallmark symptoms, I cried tears of joy and relief. There was a word for what I had suffered in silence for years! I wasn’t “lazy” or “slow”. For years I hid this problem from all my teachers and my parents because I was ashamed. I was afraid people would think I was stupid because I couldn’t read as fast or as well as the other students.
As I’ve gotten older, reading has gotten easier and I’ve learned to enjoy it more. I can go at my own pace now and not be worried about deadlines, papers, and exams. Today, I read for me. I can finally enjoy reading in ways that I never did before.
There are also exercises to help train the eyes and to help with reading speed, fluency, and comprehension. I have a great app for that on my iPad and it has already helped me tremendously.
I’m really happy that our daughter takes after John in her reading skills and interests. Our son is more like me, and he struggles some. Luckily, he has a mom who understands how hard it can be. I try to help him as much as I can. He’s already a better reader than I was at his age. That’s encouraging.
Back to the prompt.
Once again, I’m an all or nothing person. Either I love a lot of things or I’m not familiar with them at all. In this particular case, I have a LOT of favorite books, but I can’t readily recall one I read that I don’t like. I’m probably going to have to dig pretty deep to find a dud. Finding a favorite won’t be terribly hard. Even though I have enjoyed a great many books over the years, one stands out.
The Plague, by Albert Camus.
I was first introduced to Camus in high school when I read The Stranger. Honestly, I was drawn to it because it was the shortest book on a long list of required reading during my junior year. I knew that even this short book would take me as long to read as a book twice its size would take anyone else. I went to the bookstore to get it and was immediately intrigued by its cover. The cover art drew me in. Once I opened the book, I could not stop reading it. Camus drew me into a completely new world. I was hooked. The best part was how easily I could read this book. The words seemed to fly off the page. No other book had ever felt that way to me.
The memory of this experience stayed with me. Once I was in college a couple years later, I had a chance to take a course called Existentialism and Politics. The course description stated that we would be reading the works of Simone de Beauvoir, Jean Paul Sartre, Paul Tillich, and Albert Camus. That was all I saw — ALBERT CAMUS. I wanted that course to have another opportunity to read, study, and discuss Camus. I was overjoyed to get into the class.
Of course, we got to Camus last…
For the first few weeks we slogged through the petulance of Beauvoir, the arrogance of Sartre, and the incomprehensibility of Tillich. I was doing okay in the class, but my heart wasn’t in it. I was waiting for Camus. I was waiting for The Plague.
When it finally came, I was not disappointed. I enjoyed the reading so much, and the discussions were lively and interesting. I was in the process of exploring my own spirituality and the book was asking so many of the questions I had in my own mind about the nature of goodness in people regardless of their faith, or lack thereof. At one point, the professor listened to my argument about a point in the book and announced to the class that my assessment clearly indicated that I was an atheist. I was shocked! I wasn’t sure where my path to faith lay, but I knew I was on one. To this day I’m not sure what to think about that.
I was incredibly proud of the paper I did on The Plague, and it was well received. When I have the chance, I hope to re-read The Plague again someday. I’m sure I’ll see it differently almost 30 years later, but I’ll never forget how deeply it effected me then.
Now that I recount the story of that class, I would have to say that the book by Paul Tillich we read is probably the driest and most difficult thing I’ve ever read. It is in the lead for my least favorite bit of reading ever, hands down. I hated it so much that I don’t even remember the name!
Reading has been a difficult task for me, but I’ve never stopped trying to improve my skills and keep learning. Had I given up in high school, I never would’ve gotten to read Camus and dive head first into his style of questioning the ways of the universe. I would’ve missed out on so much.