Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sunday Salon - February 10

The Sunday

My reading thoughts today are a reflection of the types of books I have been reading lately, all of which are good, but depressing. First there was The Road, by Cormac McCarthy (linked to my review), a post-apocalyptic novel about a father and son...well, just surviving. This morning I just finished The Sky Isn't Visible From Here by Felicia C. Sullivan. I will be reviewing this book on Tuesday as part of the MotherTalk's blog tour. It is a memoir of Felicia's childhood living with a mother addicted to cocaine, and her own personal struggle to overcome addiction. Not the cheeriest of topics. And now, I have just started The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison for the My Year of Reading Dangerously challenge. Morrison is an amazing author, but not quite known for an upbeat story.

After I stopped and thought about it for bit, I realized that many of the books I read and love are downright heart-wrenching. One of my favorites of 2007 was Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, about the disintegration of African culture due to colonialism. A Woman in Jerusalem by A.B. Yehoshua, another favorite of 2007, revolved around a woman killed in a suicide bombing...and no one even noticed she was gone for days.

So why do I spend countless hours reading about horrible, awful events? Why do I frequently emerge from a book that I read for pleasure and thoroughly enjoyed, saying, "Whew, I need to read some light fluff now! That was hard!" 

To answer that question, I must look at the reasons why I read. Yes, I'm a voracious reader, but why? One reason goes back to my early experiences as a budding reader. As a child I devoured books. I loved exploring new world's through someone else's imagination, it helped to stimulate my own. This still holds true. Imagination is a wonderful thing, and I love reading what other people come up with.

But, that's not the only reason. Books also call attention to perspectives and people that are different from myself. They highlight aspects of society often overlooked, truths that are hidden from most. Even if it is fiction, these are stories that need to be told. And, more importantly, they need to be heard. 

I don't want to read a book that sounds like it is about myself. I like to explore different view points. And, books that tackle serious, difficult subjects are not just sad...they are often inspiring. They challenge my own way of thinking, and that is what I love about them.

To end on a lighter note, here is my
Book Coveting Around the Blogisphere:


Iliana said...

I do like some of those gut-wrenching books but I admit I have to have much lighter fare afterwards. But I definitely agree with you that those hard stories need to be told and heard - well said!

Literary Feline said...

Very well put! I sometimes find myself drawn to heartwrenching stories. I agree with both you and Iliana that these are often stories that need to be told as well as heard. Even in fiction lies truth. And as you said, it is not unusual for even the saddest of books to be inspiring.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I do know what you mean. One of the things that I valued about 'Half of a Yellow Sun' was that it made me remember the Biafran War, which was something at the time I thought I would never forget and yet it is horrifying how soon such terrible events vanish from the minds of those who are not directly caught up in them.

3M said...

I was a little afraid of Morrison until I read The Bluest Eye. Now I'll be able to tackle Beloved at some point.

Nyssaneala said...

iliana - my upcoming lighter fare book is Lean Mean Thirteen. I'm looking forward to diving into it! But it has to wait until after I finish My Bluest Eye, and read Book Thief for a March group discussion.

wendy - well said!

table talk - I had not heard of the Biafran War before reading Half of A Yellow Sun which was a bit humbling as I thought I was fairly knowledgeable on Nigerian history. Your right, we as a society are quick to forget horrific events. Out of sight, out of mind mentality, right?

Michelle - I'm giving Morrison a second chance by reading this book, and I'm starting to be very glad I did!

Teddy Rose said...

I just stopped by to tell you that I have given you an award. You can pick it up at

Eva said...

I don't like reading books about people like me either. :) In fact, I barely read any contemporary American fiction! (I can't think of the last one I read)

I agree that the most difficult books are often the most rewarding-The Book Thief, Half of a Yellow Sun...I could go on and on!