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Friday, July 22, 2011

My Gratitude Journal: Books

One of the best ways there is to learn about good writing is to read it. As an English major, I was assigned so many of the "Great Books," some of which seemed greater than others as I struggled over them in the wee hours of the morning.

Some I loved from the beginning. THE SCARLET LETTER was set in a community I didn't understand with old, often difficult language, but I adored it. Hester Prynne has become a favorite friend I can visit whenever I wish and not even Demi Moore could ruin her for me.

Other favorites grew on me over time. I liked Louise Erdrich's LOVE MEDICINE when I first encountered it, but after years of re-reading and then teaching the novel, I learned what a remarkable achievement it is.

When you're reading as a writer, even bad books can be instructive. I won't name any of them here, but I've read a few I didn't pass on after reading them. I consigned them to the trash, under the morning's discarded oatmeal.

Yet I learned from reading them. Bad books show me what NOT to do to a reader, and I've tried to remember the lessons I've learned.

It's rare that a published book is bad enough to make me give it to the oatmeal before I've finished it, but that occasionally happens. Poor writing and abusive language can combine to make me bury a tome beneath the eggshells. When that happens, I always wonder who would have considered it worth the trouble to publish.

Books are instructive. Books are friends when it's lonely, escape when I need it badly, and great classrooms. Hooray for great books, good ones, and even the less stellar efforts.

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