To read or not to read, that is not my question. Reading is a necessity to me just as breathing and eating. My dilemma about reading is what to read – classical or contemporary, fiction or nonfiction, reading for purpose or reading for pleasure. I would like to read a wide variety of books, but I know I don’t have the time to read all the wonderful books in the world, so often I agonize over which book to choose.
When WenQing launched the book club at the forum, I decided to put the other books aside and focus on reading The Great Gastby for a while. However, reading The Great Gatsby is more like a job than a fun activity; even though I tried to stay the course, I was sidetracked several times, stealing a few moments to read some “fun stuff”. Yet I felt a great sense of satisfaction and elation after completing a chapter or understanding the hidden meaning of a sentence in the book. Reading the “hard stuff” is indeed like a mental exercise, which keeps our minds agile and alive, just as a physical exercise does to our bodies.
As my memory starts to fade, I am amazed to find that the books that are stuck in my memory and survive in my mind over the years are those time-proven classics – To Kill a Mockingbird, Jane Eyre, The Awakening, The Grapes of Wrath, and many others. A timeless classic is like a time-machine that transports us to the past or the future, and a pathway that leads us to a world without any geographic boundaries, so even though one and half centuries have passed since Charlotte Bronte wrote her Jane Eyre, we can still feel the breeze of love and warmth of compassion while reading it. Through reading, one can truly transcend cultures, nationalities, and times to arrive at a place where one can experience the universal human emotions of love and hate with people of another time and place.
I started to read with a main purpose of improving my English several years ago. I admit that I have learned a lot of English through reading. But I come to realize that I have learned a great deal beyond English. The real meaning of reading is not about learning grammar and acquiring vocabulary; the true meaning of reading is to learn life lessons from the books and to empower ourselves with the wisdom of the great minds. For instance, there have been countless times that I have to remind myself of a famous quote I learned from To Kill a Mockingbird, whenever I have hard time in a relationship, whether with my husband, my children, my bosses, my colleagues, or someone at the forum (just kidding, haha). This famous quote have echoed again and again through my head and kept me in line over the years:
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
I am glad that I read To Kill a Mockingbird when I was in my thirties, so that I have been using it since as a moral compass to help me navigate through the maze of human relationships. Reading indeed can change people’s life, for better or worse. In my case, reading has made a positive and long-lasting impact on me, so I am a better person than I was one, five, or ten years ago.
Here are the ten books that have changed my life:
1. To Kill a Mocking Bird (Harper Lee)
2. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (Carson McCullers)
3. Outliers (Malcolm Gladwell)
4. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
5. The Awakening (Kate Chopin)
6. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
7. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
8. The Joy Luck Club (Amy Tan)
9. The Good Earth (Pearl Buck)
10. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)