Reading has always been a pleasure of mine. My favorite books for a long time were the Laura Ingalls Wilder series as I enjoyed the wild adventures the young girls in the stories had whilst living in either a forest or a prairie, their experiences when pioneering to their final destination, and the warmth and comfort the inside of the little homes would bring to the family. However, in the seventh grade, while perusing the shelves of Chaucer’s Bookstore, my eyes came upon a familiar title-Pride and Prejudice. I pulled the book out by its spine. The warm cedar background on the cover displayed a softly painted woman with ivory skin, pinned back hair, and an elongated neck. I held the Oxford’s Classic paperback in my hand and flipped to the back side to read the description. It seemed compelling enough. I flipped the book over again and glanced at the fine black ink within the white rectangle and read the name Jane Austen. Of course this book sounded familiar; my mother had read it before. Excited to be interested in a book my mother had read, I skipped past the rows of wooden bookshelves and dodged the piles of books on the carpeted floor. I spotted my mother and told her that this was the book I wanted and a nostalgic smile came upon her face.
At home, I began reading the story. However, much to my surprise, the book was difficult to follow as the prose was written in the antiquated English of the nineteenth century of which Austen was a contemporary. I was unable to comprehend the first, second, or third pages. The sentences were just too long, taking up a full paragraph at times, filled with words I had never heard of before. Some of the sentences just didn’t seem to make any sense, thus forcing me to reread them over and over again. I set the book down.
But, I did not give up entirely. Determined to impress my mother by reading a classic, I went to the library in my home. A beige wooden frame with simple carvings and a glass screen sheltered our fair collection of books. From Bronte to Bradbury, paperback to hardcover, worn to pristine, many books reside in this armoire. My eyes skimmed across the spines--leather, canvas, paper. I was searching for a familiar title. At last, I discovered Gone with the Wind. This book I knew my mother had read at my age. I pulled the large, slightly disintegrating, book from its tight quarters. The yellow dust jacket desperately hung on to the canvas hardcover. I carried the book back into my sunlit bedroom and sat on the forest green leather chair and rested my elbows on its mahogany arm rests. I opened the book to the first page of the first chapter and was pleased to understand the simple prose. However, another problem surfaced; the story did not hold my interests. I set it down and resumed my search. This time I went to my mother’s bedside where many books lay piled with bookmarks sticking out of them in different spots. I pulled out Moby Dick. Why I thought this book would be better than the last two I attempted, I will never know. I returned to my bedroom, which was darkened by grey from the passing clouds outside my windows, clouds that mirrored my mood of frustration. I opened the first page. This time the book surpassed the first two I chose in that it wasn’t only difficult but also uninteresting. Why weren't the adult classics appealing to me? I felt unintelligent, dull-witted, and ignorant.
Both embarrassed and sorrowful, I lamented to my mother; however, despite my expectations, she was not disappointed. Instead, my pragmatic mother was able to alleviate this new found stress by explaining to me to take things one step at a time, to choose books that interest me, and that the only way advanced books will become easier is by starting small. Having assuaged my anxiety, I asked my mother what I should start with and much to my surprise, and after she made me assure her that I found the book interesting, she recommended Pride and Prejudice. I explained to her again that the book was difficult for me to comprehend because of its language. However, she told me to persevere and that I would get into the flow of the book’s language after a chapter or so. Still interested in the novel, I went back to my bedroom and began reading. I flipped through the lightweight pages until I reached the first page of chapter one. The first, second, and third pages remained difficult; however, I persisted. By the second chapter I was truly beginning to understand the story; it flowed as steadily as the misconceptions of Mr. Darcy’s disposition.
Not long after entering Longbourn and leaving Pemberley did I make a list of adult classics to read. There are approximately 100 books on the list, ranging from old to modern classics, Shakespeare to Salinger. So far I have made lots of progress with this list!
However, there are still some books that I find to be too demanding of my patience. Recently, for example, I tried to read Virgil’s Aeneid for my AP Latin course. I found the book to be extremely arduous and I could not get through it without the aid of a book on mythology, a dictionary, and a summary book to fully comprehend what I was reading. More recently, I began reading The Castle by Franz Kafka and much to my regret, I found the story to be painfully slow tempoed. I ended up putting it down. Usually when I find myself reading a book that is boring or overly complex, I get very frustrated. It makes me feel ignorant and thus disappointed in myself as I want to be a well read person. However, my mother introduced to me her theory that when a book doesn’t hold one’s attention, set it down as it means that it is not the right time to read that particular book. Essential to this is perseverance, as it is important to return to the book that was at one point difficult and eventually complete it. She reinforced this with her experience in reading the book Middlemarch by George Eliot. She had tried to read the former book quite a few times before she finally completed it, and it currently stands as one of her favorites. Lately I've come to trust that if a book disagrees with me in the moment, I should not despair, but set it down and I will read it at the appropriate time. Who knows, maybe it will even become a favorite…….