This morning I read a piece in the Washington Post that details the ten letters of "unvetted correspondence" President Obama reads daily. Written to Obama from the American people he governs - he considers these letters "among his most important daily reading material". These letters address a wide array of topics spanning from fan mail that offers support to citizens demanding jobs or healthcare. "Each day, 20,000 letters and e-mails addressed to Obama are screened for threats and then sent to a nondescript office building in downtown Washington. Hundreds of volunteers and staff members sort the mail into categories before a senior aide picks the 10 destined to provide Obama with his daily glimpse beyond what he calls 'the presidential bubble'."
It's amazing the amount of effort that the selection of these ten letters require each day. However, I think the importance Obama places on these letters says a lot about his commitment to the American people. " He gravitates toward messages that 'inspire,' and prefers mail that provides a 'counterbalance to business in Washington' and transports him someplace else." Kudos to you, President Obama.
Anyhow, this piece got me thinking about the importance of handwritten letters and why exactly they mean so much. One of my favorite books to page through, Other People's Love Letters: 150 Letters You Were Never Meant To See, is great because it offers a sense of intimacy to its readers; offers them a connection to the writer because of it's unflinchingly honest characteristics. One of my weekly addictions is checking the Post Secret blog - "an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard". (There are also a handful of Post Secret books that have been published.)
Again, there is something to be said about how personal handwritten letters are. I've been carrying around a handwritten letter in my wallet for about two years - not because I read it everyday but because it is so meaningful to me I want it to be with me always. What is it that makes handwritten letters so meaningful? Maybe because they are individualized and purposeful, reflective and emotional.
There is probably some sort security measure that prohibits the publication of Obama's letters, and if there weren't it would take a lot of work to get the consent of the writers to be published, however I think it would make for a really great book - a collection of the letters Obama read everyday. Is anyone on that?
It was finally announced that Audrey Niffenegger's graphic novel The Night Bookmobile will be for sale as of September 1st. Yay, just in time for my birthday!
So, for any of you who don't know what to get me...
"I've been making a list of things they don't teach you at school. They don't teach you how to love somebody. They don't teach you how to be famous. They don't teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don't teach you how to walk away from someone you don't love any longer. They don't teach you how to know what's going on in someone else's mind. They don't teach you what to say to someone who is dying. They don't teach you anything worth knowing."
I was thinking the other day about my relationship with books as a kid and how I was probably destined to become an English major since I learned to read. I was that little girl who never cared if I got grounded because I would simply retreat to my room and read the whole day through. My mother told me if she really wanted to ground me she would have had to take away my books, but, like any good mother, she could never bring herself to do so.
I was also that kid who wanted to read before I actually could. I used to memorize books that were read to me as a child and recite them while proudly stating I could read. Honestly. Pretty dorky; I'm surprised I had any friends.
Anyhow, I got to thinking about some of my first favorite books as a child and compiled this list:
Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. I remember getting this book from a Scholastic book fair at my elementary school and it was my introduction to poetry. One of my favorites:
Hug O' War
I will not play at tug o' war. I'd rather play hug o' war.
Where everyone hugs instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles and rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses, and everyone grins,
Any everyone cuddles, and everyone wins.
The Giver by Lois Lowry. My introduction to dystopian novels.
The Babysitters Club series by Ann M. Martin. If you were a young girl in the early 90's you have probably read every book in the series.
The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks. Toys coming alive behind closed doors is every child's fantasy. Did I mention Toy Story was also my favorite movie?
Around the World In 80 Days by Jules Verne. I had the kid's version with pictures which was basically awesome. My mom and I would read a chapter together before bed at night. I should also confess Phileas Fogg is the greatest character name that was ever written.
A few weeks ago a talked a little about fictional books and today I found this fun little quiz on Sporcle. I made it into the 78th percentile. How'd you do?
Side note: I'm very disappointed Shadow of the Wind did not make this list. Maybe because it's a fictional book and the name of the actual book in which it appears.
"It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it."
The image above is a close up of Oscar Wilde's grave in Paris, where thousands of his admirers, including me, have kissed it.
I mean not really but this morning on my way to work I was listening to NPR which featured author Sebastian Faulks and his book sounded very interesting.
"Sebastian Faulks A Week in December is a seven-day tour of London written in Dickensain style. Charles Dickens' rich cast of characters dealt with class conflict, wealth, poverty and true love. Faulk's modern-day characters deal with terrorism, greed, the internet and - because some things never change - true love".
They discussed what had inspired Faulks' novel and he went on to read this passage in his impossibly handsome voice - English accent and all - which basically sold me the book:
'And what about reading?' said Gabriel, as they move off again. 'You like reading, don't you?'
'Yeah, I do.'
'Dunno. I s'pose it's an escape from the real world.'
'But surely it's just the opposite,' said Gabriel. 'Books explain the real world'. They bring you close to it in a way you could never manage in the course of the day.'
'How do you mean?'
'People never explain to you exactly what they think and feel and how their thoughts and feelings work, do they? It's as though your daily life is a film in a cinema. It can be fun, looking at those pictures. but if you want to know what lies behind the flat screen, you have to read a book. That explains it all.'
'Even if the people in the book are invented?'
'Sure. Because they're based on what's real, but with the boring bits stripped out. In good books anyway. Of my total understanding of human beings, which is perhaps not very great...I'd say half of it is from just guessing that other people must feel much the same as I would in their place. But of the other half, ninety per cent of it has come from reading books. Less than ten percent from reality - from watching and talking and listening - from living.'I've always had the school of thought that books are an escape from the real world - as they are - especially those that offer a different world like the Harry Potter series or A Handmaid's Tale. But I also think Faulks explains very well that even if you are taken to a different world via your book, it also inevitably and simultaneously explains something about your own world.
I've been telling myself not to buy anymore books until I read my to-be-read pile but it's hard to pass up a half-priced book sale. And who doesn't love new books?
In other news, I officially need to get another book shelf. The one I have is full and the piles of books scattered about my room are starting to bother me.
Not to be confused with books that fall under the category of fiction.
A fictional book is a non-existent book created specifically for (i.e. within) a work of fiction. This is not a list of works of fiction (i.e. actual novels, mysteries, etc.) but rather imaginary books that do not exist.
So, there is such a thing as a non-fiction fictional book. Interesting.
And how about a non-fictional book? Is that just a real book?
My favorite fictional author: Julian Carax.
I am both excited and ashamed to admit I've succumbed to the temptation to read the Twilight series. After watching the first two movies and falling in love with Edward I had to pick up the books. I'm currently on the third novel and am delightfully engrossed in the suspenseful romance Stephanie Meyer has created. Yes it's corny and no the series won't change my life, but I am enjoying the story regardless of the ridicule I'm enduring while reading it.
I've also become inspired to create a list of 26 books to be read in one year - one book every two weeks - which I will start after I finish the Twilight series. I began compiling my list and am attempting to make it as well-rounded as possible to include books/authors I've always meant to read and haven't yet, classics and a little non-fiction. Suggestions welcome!
Lastly, I'm going to get a library card already. I'm pretty sure it's a requirement somewhere that every English major have one.
"Millions of books written on every conceivable subject by all these great minds and in the end, none of them knows anything more about the big questions of life than I do ... I read Socrates. This guy knocked off little Greek boys. What the Hell's he got to teach me? And Nietzsche, with his theory of eternal recurrence. He said that the life we lived we're gonna live over again the exact same way for eternity. Great. That means I'll have to sit through the Ice Capades again. It's not worth it. And Frued, another great pessimist. I was in analysis for years and nothing happened. My poor analyst got so frustrated, the guy finally put in a salad bar. Maybe the poets are right. Maybe love is the only answer."