Connecting Through Literature

One of the best ways to connect with others is to have something in common, and frequently it’s a common “favorite” like a book or a movie. It’s fun to talk about a favorite thing with someone who is equally enthusiastic!

A few weeks ago I visited my 12-year-old niece. She’s never too revealing about anything that happens in school – the conversation usually begins with “What are you learning about this week?” with the answer of “Oh, nothing…” But occasionally she’ll talk, as was the case on this visit. As I read over her shoulder, I asked about the story she was writing. It was a school project related to a book they were reading as a class. She handed it to me – “It’s about this millionaire who dies, and one of the people in his will will inherit everything…but he was murdered and it’s a mystery to find out who did it.” Uh, how did he know who killed him when he wrote his will? “I don’t know! We’re not finished the book yet!”

I was happy that she was happy reading. She’s a fantastic student at the top of her class, but she’s not as enthusiastic about reading as I was at that age. Fortunately, she has way more friends and more physical hobbies like dance and soccer. But something was nagging me about this book…it sounded familiar. Nah, it can’t be…

As a kid, I used to buy books stacks at a time when we could afford it. Of those hundreds, I eventually saved ones that I really liked and gave away the others. By adulthood, I had about 14 of my old books – not counting a shelf full of Robert Heinlein novels that straddle the “young adult” and “adult” fiction categories. I looked at my bookshelf, and found what sounded a lot like my niece’s book. After a quick call to confirm the title, it was the same book!

The Westing GameThe Westing Game by Ellen Raskin won the Newberry Medal in 1979, and I probably read it shortly thereafter — the same age my niece is now. As I paged through it, I couldn’t remember anything about it at all, but the fact that I still had it meant that I must have really liked it. The book isn’t just a mystery, but a “puzzle mystery” where the reader tries to solve it by finding various clues scattered throughout the novel. Consider it my early prep work for my future as a genealogist!

Finding that minor connection with my niece was nice, and it led me to wonder – how many of our present likes (or dislikes) are similar to those of our ancestors? My niece is now reading what is called a “modern classic” on the cover of the latest printing, which puts it into the realm of the old days when her old aunt was a kid. As a former English major, I have read and loved many classics that go back a lot further than 1979! My ancestors didn’t leave any records or diaries of the books they enjoyed, but maybe, just maybe, I re-discovered one of their favorites many years later.

Will your descendants know what your favorites were as a child or an adult? I didn’t even remember my own old favorite until I was reminded by a 12-year-old!


Tag, I’m It – A Book Review Meme

This isn’t quite genealogy-related, but I love books so it’s fun anyway.  I’ve been tagged by The Virtual Dime Museum for a book meme.  Here are my answers…

What issues/topic interests you most–non-fiction, i.e,cooking, knitting, stitching, there are infinite topics that has nothing to do with novels?

The non-fiction topics that interest me the most and find their way to my bookshelves the most often are religion, history, and travel.  If a book contains all three of those topics rolled into one, it’s a must for me!  I also read a bit on health topics (alternative medicine), classic film, genealogy, and writing.

Would you like to review books concerning those?

I don’t actively seek out “book review” jobs, but I wouldn’t mind it, especially if I really enjoyed the book.  I like to talk about books I loved.  Reviews are a bit harder when you didn’t enjoy the book – unless you really hated it, then those are easy!

Would you like to be paid or do it as interest or hobby? Tell reasons for what ever you choose.

As someone who writes for fun and for money, I can tell you that it’s infinitely more fun to be paid for what you write.  A book review is actually harder than one would think, and since a lot of thought would have to go into it, I’d rather be paid.

Would you recommend those to your friends and how?

I do recommend books to my friends all the time, either in conversation or in email.  Most say, “Who has time to read?”  I actually wanted to begin a third blog that would deal mostly with books I’ve read and the topics they cover.  As I was reading about 2-5 books a month for a while, this seemed like it would be easy to do.  But, this blog has taken up a bit too much time – I’ve found I haven’t been reading as much, so starting another blog just doesn’t make sense right now.

If you have already done something like this, link it to your post.

I haven’t.

Now I’m supposed to “tag” ten other bloggers.  Lidian, just how many bloggers do you think I know? 😉  I think all of my blogging friends have already been tagged, so let’s just read all of their responses!