I've been a bit out of sorts on the reading front recently. I have three books I'm currently reading. The one I've been reading the longest is a David McCullough book - The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris. It's deadly dull, particularly if, like me, you don't find Paris or France to be the center of your cultural universe. I'd have to say the one thing that interested me the most (and not in a good way) was the story of Samuel F.B. Morse. He was an alumni of my high school and the math building there is named after him. I enjoyed math, even though it seemed that every class I had was on the third and topmost floor. I loved trudging up three steep flights of stairs in Morse Hall on weekdays and every other Saturday. And Morse Code - how could you not appreciate that. My nine year old Girl Scout self learned Morse Code and was fascinated by it, though the only letters I remember now are TMOEISH - do you know why? As genius as Samuel Morse was on the telegraph front, he was an absolute and utter piece of crap as a human being. He was racist, anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic, and anti-semitic. That part of the Samuel Morse story was never taught in school, but I'm glad I know about it now.
And now I must go off on a tangent. I never learned about the flaws of our heroes in school, when I was a kid. (High school and college were a different story.) I'm like most American kids. We learned the party line and if we were studying someone in school, that person was Good. The Pilgrims were Good, even though the real first Thanksgiving was to celebrate the victory over those "heathen savages" and didn't feature natives and Pilgrims eating turkey and singing Kumbaya. My kids know about that mostly because I find Thanksgiving to be a repugnant idea and I can't keep my mouth shut about how really we are celebrating genocide committed by white Europeans, which is highly inappropriate.
I'm also not a fan of Columbus Day, Christopher Columbus, or explorers in general. This year in school, the little guy studied explorers during the late fall. As part of that unit, each student had to do a project on an assigned explorer, and this culminated in a living wax museum where each student is dressed as his/her explorer and gives a little presentation to parents who wander among the exhibits. It's kind of like a science fair for social studies. I have to admit, as I walked through the classrooms and halls where the exhibits were, it made me feel a little ill to see a bunch of ten year olds dressed up like genocidal sociopaths. When I got to my offspring, Vasco Nunez de Balboa, I had an off-script conversation with him. I asked if I could ask the explorers questions about their lives. And my little Vasco was trying not to strangle me in front of his teachers. I could tell he was agitated that I might ask inappropriate questions, so I said I just wanted to ask things about whether they missed their families while they were out exploring, or whether they got seasick, it's not like I was going to ask Christopher Columbus whether he got a thrill out of chopping off the hands of Tainos in Puerto Rico and making them wear the severed hands around their necks. Whoops! My little Vasco looked stricken. He whispered, "I knew he was bad, but I didn't know he did that." Oh, I wanted to hug him, but it would have crushed his aluminum foil conquistador armor. He's just fine now. I feel a little better, knowing that kids are learning that people aren't 100% good or 100% bad. There are many flawed heroes and protagonists, and it's good to understand that at an age-appropriate level.
Back to the books...the other book I've been reading for a while is the latest Game of Thrones book, A Dance with Dragons. I devoured the first four books of this series, and I was a faithful viewer of the HBO tv series. This book bogged me down to the point where I stopped watching the show. I just have the overwhelming feeling of who cares, they are all going to die no matter what they do. It's hard to work up the enthusiasm for that. It's tough enough to go through the regular bs and hopelessness that happens in countless tiny ways during a regular work week. In my free time, I want something hopeful and entertaining. I do read and watch sad stuff, but I tend to gravitate to things were there is something that touches me in a way that Game of Thrones no longer does. I bawled my way through The Fault in Our Stars and, though there's nothing nice about kids who are really sick, I felt like I learned something and felt something and my life was richer for having read it. That's what I don't get from Game of Thrones.
Finally, I've been reading Diana Gabaldon's A Breath of Snow and Ashes (Outlander, #6). I think this is the last Outlander book I will read. They are verbose, poorly edited, and boring. I can only read a little bit every now and then before I ask why I am torturing myself with this crap. In this book, it's like no one is even trying. She's writing about Fergus holding something in his hands, and (Sorry if this is a spoiler for you, but if you haven't read these books yet, just don't bother.) anyone who has read all five books before knows that Fergus lost his hand in book three. By the next chapter, Fergus has lost his hand again and has his hook back. This book is like one of those styrofoam cakes they have in the windows of bakeries. It's all covered in fondant and fancy flourishes, and underneath it's just crap that will make you sick if you are stupid enough to eat it.
That brings me to my recent dilemma. I've had little luck in picking out books and I would never, ever do another reading list of books that were being made into movies. That was a tough lesson to learn in 2014. I thought that would be such a good idea, because the two books I'd read before the list came out were Unbroken and Wild, and they were easily the two best books of the lot. I searched and searched to find some sort of list of books I could tackle for 2015, but nothing came to me.
Then it hit me - all those classics that I always said I'd find time to read. I'm going to read some of them this year. I've got my homemade chocolate chip cookies, milk from the dairy, and The Lord of the Rings from the library. I must confess, I'm over 50 pages in and it's just starting to get interesting. If I like this one, I will read the others in the series. I've seen bits and pieces of the movies, and I'd probably watch those in the appropriate order, from start to finish, after I finish the books.
Given my love for the British series Sherlock and the American series Elementary, I ought to include some original Sherlock Holmes as well. Funnily enough, it will be one of the few times when I saw the movie or tv show before I read the book.
And what else? What other classics are out there that you always wanted to read but have never actually started?