In 1988, author Robert Fulghum’s collection of essays, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten was a New York Times bestseller. It remained a bestseller for nearly two years. The now-famous list of things learned is continually re-printed, updated and posted throughout the internet. Clearly, this was a book that resonated with readers in a way that supported them in maneuvering through the day-to-day experience of living.
More recently, in the New York Times Review of Books President Barack Obama was quoted as saying: “[T]he most important stuff I’ve learned I think I’ve learned from novels…”.
This is something that definitely resonates for me. I was fortunate to have great parents from whom I learned about life. In fact, it was my mother who instilled me and my siblings a great love of reading novels. And it is always a wonder to me how much wisdom I’ve found in them. In his NYT interview, Pres. Obama went on to say about novels: “It has to do with empathy. It has to do with being comfortable with the notion that the world is complicated and full of grays, but there’s still truth there to be found, and that you have to strive for that and work for that.”
It is easy for me to quote from novels that help me be comfortable in a complicated world full of grays and truth.
For instance, from Mary Stewart’s The Crystal Cave: “The gods only go with you, when you put yourself in their path.” This, from a novel about young Merlin in 5th century Britain, was encouragement for me, a kid from the South Side of 20th century Chicago, to seek out new adventure and have the courage to go out into the world and explore.
And this from the Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wind in the Door book two in her Time Quintet: “Don’t try to comprehend with your mind. Your minds are very limited. Use your intuition.”
And, though technically not novels, just about anything Dr. Maya Angelou has written, including this gem from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: “Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between.”
Books offer so much to each reader and when the reader joins in the exchange, wonderful experiences happen.
In May 2016, author Shirley Sacks and BooksEndependent hosted the first annual “Fabliss Week” holiday with a Facebook Event. The inspiration sprang from Shirley’s novel. A theme was assigned to each letter of the word “Fabliss” and for seven days participants were invited to celebrate living their own fabliss life by incorporating the theme for the day: Fearless, Adventurous, Bold, Loving, Independent, Silly, Serene.
One reader shared about remembering to be Loving in the care of her elderly father. Another was Adventurous with adding a new puppy to the household and going for a hike surrounded by bigger dogs – and having great fun, too! Even the author got in on the Adventurous action – bicycling for the first time in 30 years!
A book has done its job when it engages the reader to take action! Or to think differently, try something new, explore far horizons or simply understand themselves, life and the world just a little more clearly.
And who knows, if we read enough novels, perhaps we, too, could learn enough important things to make it to The White House, just like our President.
posted by Valerie C. Woods
on June, 09