I love November. It’s the perfect time of year when the leaves turn (if you live in a part of the world where that happens) and the weather gets cooler (ditto) and you know autumn has arrived because beautiful overcast and rainy days spot the horizon (most places). It’s a time of plentiful things (my birthday for one), when we are looking back on the year’s accomplishments and celebrating one of the best holidays ever (Thanksgiving, of course). Let me share a few of my book blessings…
During Thanksgiving we celebrate all the things we love: family, faith, purpose in life, and blessings. We gather together and through our family traditions share with each other our gratitude. As a writer I have many other things I’m thankful for as well. The written word and our total exposure to education is a major blessing that has influenced my life in countless ways. The worlds that come alive through books, movies and television can never replace the things we love but through these portals we can take journeys we otherwise could not.
Libraries have been around since the written word was invented, mostly to retain private book collections and hold knowledge for the privileged few. We’ve been blessed in the United States with public libraries. I’m so grateful we have such institutions, where everyone has access to books and other materials. That this is a service that is supported by taxes and has otherwise been provided free of charge is quite to the benefit of all, readers and non-readers alike. Andrew Carnegie shared his passion for books by building libraries around the country for those cities willing to support them with taxes. Such forethought on maintaining the system, his great wealth helped put in place, has had far-reaching advantages in establishing education for all levels of society.
Having free access to stories I wouldn’t normally read, I’ve been able to be more open to trying new books. It’s all due to public libraries. Our ability to explore the unexplorable is so wide open that we couldn’t possibly run out of places to go and people to meet. In recent years, with the advent of the internet I’m especially thankful to be able to put books on hold. This allows our entire family access to large area library systems so we can read less well-distributed books. That I can pick them all up in one lot at my local branch is an especial blessing in our hectic and full everyday lives. Really no one is barred from access to unlimited knowledge through our local public libraries – how empowering is that? It’s a service many of us take advantage of everyday (or not, but should!) that we forget to be thankful for.
NANCY DREW MYSTERIES
I can trace my love of reading to this young detective. Growing up, my mother read to me and my siblings since we were infants. Story time was always an important family tradition akin to Thanksgiving. Since reading was such a part of our home it wasn’t until I read Nancy Drew that I truly understood the power of a great character. The fact Nancy Drew is a heroine is not lost on me. Every girl needs a contemporary who makes mistakes but is, ultimately, after the greater good.
I especially loved the Hardy Boys crossovers where Nancy teamed up with the brothers on especially hard cases. It’s no surprise that Mom is the one who introduced me to these books as well. Today I love stories with a bit of mystery about them, murder need not apply, through my exposure to Nancy Drew and her cases. And relationships are the biggest draw in any story: how we relate as individuals, what draws up together and drives us apart. What makes us human if you will. All stirred up from such simple beginnings, Nancy Drew Mysteries, but essential for any writer with a passion for story.
THE OUTSIDERS, HARRY POTTER, AND SPARKLY VAMPIRES
The Young Adult genre or YA fiction can directly trace it’s roots back to these book phenomena. S.E. Hinton was a youth herself when she wrote The Outsiders and blew the door wide open on writing about adolescent life on a realistic scale. Not previously explored to any great extent, many put the creation of the YA genre at the feet of this book. I remember reading this story and being wowed by how totally different their world was from my own. As one of, if not my very first YA book it exposed me to the deep and abiding relationships one could have even as a youth. Even then over two decades after it had been written it had the power to grip my heart. I fell in love with YA fiction with The Outsiders and haven’t looked back since.
Population explosions maintained YA fiction through the 80s and early 90s, just in time for a U.K. series to revive the fading genre. While really a children’s series and not YA at all, it brought children, teenagers and adult readers together for the first time through the power of the same story. Whatever your opinions about Harry Potter and his effect on society at large he revived a desire in people to read again. With the popularity of reading increasing, the desire to publish more books in this vein increased as well. More books is a blessing for any reader, but particularly those who love the supernatural (a favorite of mine). The YA genre exploded as writers aimed to please with simple writing styles paired with emotional stories.
After the turn of the century, a book was published that created a sensation in the YA fiction world. I’m talking about Twilight. It really helped publishers see that the YA genre could sell books, that Harry Potter wasn’t just a fad, kicking the genre’s popularity into high gear. While not the most well written work the Twilight series focused readers back on the characters and not solely on plot. Up to this time, many publishers felt the aim of YA fiction was on plot driven stories where any hero would do. Now here we have a story, no matter your age, with characters who resonate with everyone. Detractors were so drawn to Edward they would preface their confessions of reading the series with how they’d read it only to be able to legitimately dis the sparkly vampire. (Who reads something because they hate it? …No one.) Whether you rate on the side of lovers or haters of these series or YA fiction in general I’m thankful for them propelling reading back into a favorite past time around the world.
A Few of My Favorite Things
As a writer I can’t imagine my life without books. Reading, stories, libraries, these are a few of my favorite things. During this time of gratitude may we all ponder the things that have touched our lives. May we share with our families and friends the love and thanksgiving we hold for each of them.