2014: A good year of reading

It is New Year’s Eve and I am reflecting. Last year this time, I scribbled a big list of books I wanted to read in my journal and then I began scribbling in titles as I read them. It’s been a good year in reading – a great one, in fact. Unexpected themes arose this year: books about people walking very long distances (Wild, Tracks, The Long Walk, the Snow Leopard); books about  WWII, prison camps, survival and maintaining humanity in horrific situations (The Orphan Master’s Son, The Long Walk, Unbroken, All the Light we Cannot See).

As I went through and plucked out my favorite quotes I realize they are all about the beauties (and often beauty alongside hardship) in the world and life. But I guess that is why people write and why we read: to discover what connects us, what drives us, why we live, what is underneath it all.

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Anne Patchett

Patchett reflects on opening her bookstore, her writing life, her marriage, dog and taking care of her grandmother. Patchett’s nonfiction is honest and touches on all the things I find mattering to me right now.

Like, she talks about the ‘people who tell me how lucky I was for being able to spend so much time with my grandmother.’ I am one of those people. I have two very old grandmothers I wish I was building late-in-life memories with right now, but our geography prevents that. I call them sometimes, but it is not the same. This essay (Sustained Love) made me think deeply about my choices to live away from the place I was raised.

Also: Marriage. Marriage is amazing to me. The commitment people make to each other and what you go through for it. I love this quote:

There are always perfect times with the people we love, those moments of joy and equality that sustain us later on. I am living that time with my husband now. I try to study our happiness so that I will be able to remember it in the future, just in case something happens and we find ourselves in need. These moments are the foundation upon which we build the house that will shelter us into our final years that when love calls out, “How far would you go for me?” you can look it in the eye and say truthfully, “Farther than you ever thought was possible.

The Secret History, by Donna Tartt

A gothic sort of mystery about a band of friends at a prep school. Eerie, well-written and entertaining.

Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed

How I love Cheryl Strayed, let me count the ways. I read most of these essays when they came out on The Rumpus several years ago. I needed Cheryl Strayed’s writing this year, just to center me. Does anyone bring everything into focus like she does? Whenever I am lost, I say this line out loud:

Let whatever mysterious starlight that guided you this far guide you onward into whatever crazy beauty awaits.

Clara Callan, by Richard B. Wright ****

Clara Callan is a beautifully rendered character. So interesting to be so close to someone who is closed off the rest of the world. You won’t forget her.

I want so badly to help you realize, Elizabeth Anne, how difficult and puzzling and full of wonder it all is: some day I will tell you how I learned to watch the shifting light of autumn days or smelled the earth through snow in March; how one winter morning God vanished from my life and how one summer evening I sat in a Ferris wheel, looking down on a man that hurt me badly; I will tell you how I once travelled to Rome and saw all the soldiers in that city of dead poets; I will tell you how I met your father outside a movie house in Toronto, and how you came to be. Perhaps that is where I will begin. On a winter afternoon when we turn the lights on early, or perhaps a summer day of leaves and sky, I will begin by conjugating the elemental verb. I am. You are. It is.

A Double Life, by Lisa Catherine Harper

One of my grad school teacher’s memoir about her pregnancy and early motherhood. In addition to her personal story, the book examines the biology of these time periods for a woman. I bought this book at her reading years ago and have been saving it for when I got pregnant. I forced myself to wait until my second trimester to pick it up. Smart and insightful with lovely writing. I loved how she examined many parts of her life to understand her journey into motherhood.

Independent People, by Halldór Laxness

A book about an Icelandic farmer and his daughter. An epic that spans decades. Holy crap Icelandic winters sound bleak. Appreciated so many things about this book, but I have to admit that it was a slog for me- one I was glad I saw through to the end. This is one of those I-wish-I’d-read-it-in-an-academic-class-so-I-could-appreciate-it-more…for the book is certainly smarter than me.

The Snow Leopard, by Peter Matthiessen *****

My favorite book of the year and ranks among my favorites of all time. This book moved me to my core. Peter Mattheissen’s journey deep into the Himalaya to research blue sheep with the dim hope of spotting the elusive snow leopard. A meditation on Zen Buddhism, a story about recovering from the death of his wife, a spiritual journey. It took me months to read this small book. You have to read it slowly – it’s the only way. But I remember where I read it – on a little row boat on Beaver Lake in Jasper. In the back of a camper van in Iceland. First I liked it, then I was enraptured by it. I finished it in the sun room in a little Farm House in the East Fjords of Iceland. It is about so many things, but I think it is ultimately about being wherever it is we are in the world – the profound simplicity of that. I know I will read this book again. I can’t stop thinking about this line:

I grow into these mountains like a moss. I am bewitched.

The Round House, by Louise Erdrich

Why has it taken me so long to get around to Louise Erdrich- she’s from Minnesota so she’s obviously awesome! Well-told story from the point of view of a boy whose mother is raped on their reservation. So much insight into a culture I know next to nothing about. The statistics about sexual violence against Native American women included at the end of this book are devastating.

The Orphan Master’s Son, by Adam Johnson

Wow. Just wow. Novel about one man in North Korea with shifting settings and points of view. Incredibly constructed novel. Exceptional writing. Could not put this one down.

The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert

I love Elizabeth Gilbert. I love her TED talk and her essay about channeling her inner crone. I loved this novel about Alma, a woman obsessed with plants, especially mosses. Her journey through life, relationships and around the world is one to bask in.

You see, I have never felt the need to invent a world beyond this world, for this world has always seemed large and beautiful enough for me.

The Long Walk, by Slawomir Rawicz

Great story about a man’s escape from a Siberan prison camp and subsequent year-long through Mongolia, the Gobi Desert, Tibet, the Himalaya and finally into India. Their hunger and thirst was so visceral. Ugh. Lots of controversy over the veracity of this memoir, but an engrossing tale either way.

Wild, by Cheryl Strayed *****

I’d been craving a book like Wild all year, and finally I just re-read it. Guess what? It’s still life changing-ly good. It made me think about how our parents’ love gives us our first sense of purpose in life. I thought about how we all mess up and that that is ok and we should forgive ourselves. I thought about the journeys that make us who we are- and how we must all comes to terms with ourselves. About how we all walk onto some paths unprepared and that that is the only way to begin.

Recently saw the movie and cried my eyes out. My husband asked me why. I can’t explain it. This story is about everything to me – about the unbearable, the inspiring, the magic, the haunting, the sorrow, the hope. How overwhelming it is when you feel all of those things at once. How beautiful.

It was all unknown to me then, as I sat on that white bench on the day I finished my hike. Everything except the fact that I didn’t have to know. That it was enough to trust that what I’d done was true…To believe that I didn’t have to reach with my bare hands anymore. To know that seeing the fish beneath the surface of the water was enough. That it was everything. It was my life–like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me.

Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand

This book blew my mind. Laura Hillenbrand is unbelievably talented- to construct such a compelling un-put-down-able narrative from research. The trials of Louie Zamperini will stay with you. What people find the will to live through. I never cry in books, but I cried in this one.

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

A blind girl and a young orphan boy’s journeys through World War II. They are both surviving however they can. They each face impossible odds in their own way. A sad beautiful book.

What I want to write to you about today is the sea. It contains so many colors. Silver at dawn, green at noon, dark blue in the evening. Sometimes it looks almost red. Or it will turn the color of old coins. Right now the shadows of clouds are dragging across it, and patches of sunlight are touching down everywhere. White strings of gulls drag over it like beads.

It is my favorite thing, I think, that I have ever seen…It seems big enough to contain everything anyone could ever feel.

Work and dreams and everything in between.

Christmas + Bear Hats!
and sparkly tights- Hooray!

Road to the mountains

I made Dan a photobook for Christmas this year. There, over 50 pages, were all of our photographs 2012. One year of memories.

Playing with new Christmas toys!

I find it so easy to get bogged down in mourning what I don’t have–girlfriends nearby, a job, enough money to travel wherever whenever I want to. (As our friend Matt used to say: white people problems.) That little book was just what I needed to remember everything we do have, and everything we have done.

Dan polished off Where’d You Go Berndaette?A great book!

“What was your favorite thing we did this year?” I asked Dan.

“The cottage at Georgian Bay with Nate, Dana and Brad,” he said. “Or the dance party to Fun. at Laura Lee and Robbie’s house.” He paused. “Florida was pretty awesome.”

Neither of us could settle on one.

Couldn’t resist this shot of my new Cookie Monster mittens frolicking on the antler coat hangers.

We rented this little cabin in the middle of nowhere B.C. for New Year’s (really! We had to snowshoe to and from our car). It was the kind of place where you really can’t do anything so you do all the nothings you crave to do. Like read by the fire for hours and hours with a hot drink in your hand.

This picture pretty much encapsulates the weekend.

I read Just Kids by Patti Smith. It gave me a lot of food for thought about being an artist. She writes, “I would go as far as I could and hit a wall, my own imagined limitations. And then I met a fellow who gave me his secret, and it was pretty simple. When you hit a wall, just kick it in.”

I learned a lot about sacrifice and commitment, and how important it is to have someone believe in you before you believe in yourself. Patti and Robert Mapplethorpe nearly starve at points. They live in dilapidated spaces, ones with no bathrooms. Robert keeps telling Patti she should sing. Patti keeps telling Robert he should take his own pictures.

There’s this scene where Patti is consoling Janis Joplin after a guy goes home with a pretty girl over Janis and Janis sobs and sobs to Patti. I thought- by god. Janis Joplin was just a girl too. Sometimes it’s easy to forget.

Dan chopping wood outside our sweet cabin.

There was a moment not so long ago that I was kind of ready to give up on writing. It just seemed too hard, maybe even impossible. It seemed like I would always be only-ok at it.

I nearly froze my hands off to capture this Dr. Suessian tree.

I found an old journal a friend made me. It’s filled with pictures of our adventures and lyrics to songs like “Into the Mystic” and “Visions of Johanna.” Colorful pictures of our mid-twenties blissfully misbehaving–about the ages of Patti and Janis when Janis cried on Patti’s shoulder.  I never quite filled it up because I always wanted whatever I wrote in there to be perfect. To somehow match up with the words of Van Morrison and Bob Dylan. But I’m learning more and more that we have to make a lot of messes before we make what we actually intend to make.

Ah, glorious Fernie!

In the back of the journal, I taped the torn-out title page to Dibs In Search Of Self.  A woman I hardly knew gave me that book. We took a writing class together in Minnesota, and on the last day she slipped it into my hand and then rushed out of the room. To Sky, she wrote. Keep, keep writing–I feel like your heart will help heal others just as Dibs got made well by belief and not-giving-up-ness.

Dan is a master dishwasher when there’s no running water around.

That book is one of the greatest gifts I have ever gotten. So is my little journal. So the man who puts up with my mood swings, my despair, my excitement, my frustration, my fleeting highs, and for who-knows-what-reason sticks with me through it all. 

Sometimes I have to stop–take stock–turn it it all over in my hands and pull it in close.

Cabin decor.

I’m not sure how it was for other people–but in my twenties, my dreams felt like these big beautiful things that someday I’d just bounce around in, like a cloud playground in the sky. It has taken me some years to learn that dreams live right here with us on earth, and to live them is just plain old hard back-heart-breaking work. (I’m an easy dreamer, and a slow learner.)

So I am leaving grandiose dreams behind. My goal this year is only to not give up. And maybe–to kick a wall in.

Steal Like An Artist

Hello Sweet Friends. 
Today I want to share a little book with you. I love this little book.  One of my best friends sent it to me, and I’ve been curling up in my office with it every morning after Dan goes to work. It’s a book you could read in an hour. But I’ve been savoring it one cup of coffee at a time. 
This is the book. See how cute she is?
Here’s something I’ve been thinking about almost every day for the past 10 years.
Here’s something I needed to hear. 
You might be scared to start. That’s natural. There’s this very real thing that runs rampant in educated people. It’s called “imposter syndrome”….It means that you feel like a phony, like you’re just winging it, that you really don’t have any idea what you’re doing.
Guess what: None of us do.
Here’s a new idea I think is kind of genius: 
There’s been a side project I’ve been thinking about for ages and ages. But I keep leaving it there–on the side–because I think all free/creative time should be saved for writing. After reading this, I closed the book, picked up my computer, and got started. It felt so liberating. Who cares if it’s for no one but me? 
Here’s something I couldn’t agree with more: 
Step away from the screen. 
And here’s something that made me laugh. Dark night of the soul indeed. 

I hope these little pages and ideas inspire you/speak to you/spark something in you. I hope you are dreaming something up. I hope you make it/write it/do it, whatever it is, so the rest of us can see it/listen to it/read it/wonder away at your imagination. 
Happy weekend Friends. I hope it’s a lovely one.
Love, Sky

Adaptation/The Orchid Thief

Last night, Dan and I watched Adaptation. I’ve wanted to see the film ever since I read its source material, The Orchid Thief, for one of my MFA classes a few years ago. Plus, I love Charlie Kaufman
It’s funny how you wait years to read/see/do something you’ve always wanted to read/see/do, but then you when you read/watch/do it at the moment you do, you’re glad you waited. Timing can be everything when it comes to encountering a book, a movie, a song, an adventure.
You see, I’ve been bumping up against myself lately. Or rather the evil, self-doubting, you’re-destined-to-fail-you-talentless-wannabe-writer voice in my head. I know in my heart she’s just a voice, but she sure can be a noisy one.
Rather than tackling the bitch, I often give in to her. I let blank pages remain blank pages. I let a week go by, and then another. And the more distance between me and my computer, the harder it is to return to it. (Just look at the dearth of entries here.)
When I’m not writing, I feel less dug into the world. More apathetic.
So what does this have to do with The Orchid Thief/Adaptation? Well, Adaptation is about a writer struggling to write his film. But more than that, these two works are about passion: about loving something so much you’d do anything for it. You’d give up a piece of yourself for it.
Susan Orlean envies her subject John Laroche because he loves the orchids so. He’ll wade through alligator/snake-ridden swamps to find them; he’ll break laws to bring them home. 
The real Susan Orlean

 In one passage, she drives with him along the swamp:
I passed so many vacant acres and looked past them to so many more vacant acres and looked ahead and behind at the empty road and up at the empty sky; the sheer bigness of the world made me feel lonely to the bone. The world is so huge that people are always getting lost in it. There are too many ideas and things and people, too many directions to go. I was starting to believe that the reason it matters to care passionately about something is that it whittles the world down to a more manageable size. It makes the world seem not huge and empty, but full of possibility. If I had been an orchid hunter I wouldn’t have seen this space as sad-making and vacant—I think I would have seen it as acres of opportunity where the things I loved were waiting to be found.
The idea of an author as talented and successful as Susan Orlean envying a person as odd (and toothless) as Laroche startled me, but I completely understood. 
Meryl Streep as Susan Orlean
 I wish I came to writing with the determination that Laroche went after the orchids. I wish I would do anything for it…that my desire outweighed my fear and doubt.
There is a rare orchid called a Ghost Orchid that Orlean wishes to see throughout The Orchid Thief. She follows Laroche into the swamp searching for it.
It’s almost a too-perfect metaphor for passion, life, art. Wading a mucky swamp, swarmed by mosquitoes in stifling heat, sharing the space with unsavory reptiles and who-knows-what-else in search of one tiny perfect white piece of beauty—a ghost.
Chris Cooper as The Orchid Thief, wading in the swamp.
 That’s art. The process is not always pretty. Sometimes, it’s downright miserable.
At times, I feel like I really am doing this in life. Trying, straining, waiting to stumble onto that piece of beauty and suddenly feel at want for nothing. I love how the book and the film address this flawed idea.
In the book, Orlean never sees the orchid. “I realized it was just as well that that I never saw a ghost orchid, so that it could never disappoint me, and so it would remain forever something I wanted to see.”
In the movie, she does find the ghost. She looks over the tiny white orchid for a long moment. “It’s just a flower,” she says. 

Reading Wild At the Cabin

Dan and I escaped to the mountains this weekend. I brought Wild by Cheryl Strayed with me. I spent my weekend as much with Ms. Strayed as I did with my husband. I was craving this book. I needed it. And I needed it now.

Ms. Strayed has already written her way into my life as Sugar, the brilliant and moving columnist on the Rumpus. She knows all the right things to say, for everything, it seems. She gives tough love when its needed, she gives permission for forgiveness. Most of all, she encourages all of us to reach deep, live large and be true.

So does Wild, her beautiful memoir about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail four years after her mother dies. The subtitle to this book reads: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. And I’ve been feeling a little lost lately, a little needing to be found. I knew Dear Sugar would speak to me in that wise sparkling voice, not with answers, but in words that would illuminate those deep murky thoughts and ponderings: What am I thinking about? What do I want in this life? Those questions seem so simple to ask, the most basic—but the answers are not always clear.

When Cheryl hits the trail in the Mojave desert, she’s a bit of a mess. She’s fresh of a heated affair that involved half-love with a man accompanied by dabblings in heroin. Her divorce has just been finalized, and her immediate family is fractured by her mother’s death. Cheryl’s alone and out to sea. To say that Cheryl is underprepared is an understatement. Her boots are too small and her pack is too heavy. There are a million reasons at any given time that she should turn back and give up on her 1100 mile hike. But she doesn’t. “My mind shifted into a primal gear that was void of anything but forward motion.”

Forward motion. I’ve been thinking about that a lot. I suppose there are times in all of our lives when we feel like we’re swirling around and around rather than moving forward. At least I’ve been feeling that way. In a new place, with few friends, where I can’t work. Where am I heading? I will often ask myself. Cheryl reminded me that at some point you have to stop asking yourself that question, point yourself in the direction you intend to go, put your head down and start walking, irregardless of the rattlesnakes, bears or heavy snows that may be in your path.

me with my own ridiculously enormous backpack

Dan and I stayed at his brother’s cabin in Panorama. There’s a big leather couch next to enormous floor-to-ceiling windows where the sun streams in all day, the view all mountains and sky. I would wake up, make the coffee, nestle in with my book and read for an hour and then another hour. Is there anything better than a silent sunny morning on a couch wrapped in a fuzzy blanket, the man you love sleeping not 20 feet away, a hot cup of coffee in hand, reading a sentence like this one: “I felt fierce and humble and gathered up inside, like I was safe in this world too.” ?

I knew eventually he would wake up and we would eat breakfast and ski and then hot tub with ice cold beers in our hands. But not yet. It was still morning and I was still reading, savoring every moment and every word as they passed, one by one. I love that feeling…when time is like honey: golden and sticky and sweet.

I have not been feeling gathered up inside lately so much as twisted. I admit I’ve been feeling the pressure of time—like there are certain things I should have done by now in my life, that there are certain things I need to do before I turn another age. Wild softened those feelings. Rather than seeing time as a narrow window, it unfurled before me, long and loose and open.

(a moment of mountain induced ecstasy in the Patagonian Andes)

Wild also reminded me that things are possible. Things that seem impossible. Years ago, at the age of 23, I decided to travel through South America alone. The idea of me, Sky, a sheltered Minnesota often-introvert, traveling alone across a continent was absurd and scary and indeed impossible for a lot of reasons. I felt as if I were standing at the edge of a cliff about jump, just praying that the parachute would open. But I did it.

Take Cheryl. She vastly underestimates how much money she’ll need on her trip and is often down to pennies (literally.)

“Before I left, I hadn’t calculated how much my journey would reasonably be expected to cost and saved up that amount plus enough to be my cushion against expenses. If I’d done that, I wouldn’t have been here, eighty-some days out on the PCT, broke but okay—getting to do what I wanted to do even though a reasonable person would have said I couldn’t afford to do it.”

Sometimes it’s good to be unreasonable. It allows for so much more than being reasonable. That’s when we take risks and careen head first outside of our comfort zones–into the blank unknown. I struggle with this always. But I remember what sparked to life for me in South America.

(feeling small in a great big world)

I learned more than I ever have about myself and about life on that trip. I am who I am because of it. It was a time of true magic, where the memories will always glitter. Wild was like a best friend whispering in my ear: we make our own magic in life. We write our own stories. No one can tell us who we are or how to live. It’s all up to us. It’s time to stop thinking about what to do or how or when, time to put aside our questions and fears, time to start walking.

I’ll leave you with a quote that Cheryl gives us as we embark on Part Five, the last leg of her journey.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do

With your one wild and precious life?”

–Mary Oliver, “Summer Day”

More notes on my love for The Hunger Games


So. The Hunger Games blew my mind right out of the water.

Where to begin? The film was every bit as good as I hoped it would be and maybe better. No, it’s not as good as the book and some things are missing. But it’s as good and true to the book as film can possibly be.

Jennifer Lawrence is perfection as Katniss, and somehow conveys all the complexities of our heroine. I have such a girl crush on this actress right now. Her talent is raw and true, and not at all reliant on being beautiful—but she is beautiful, in a subtle yet startling way. Jennifer Lawrence is the real deal.

Woody Harrelson all but steals the show as the maddening and hilarious drunk with a big heart that is Haymitch.

Lenny Kravitz looks sexy in gold eyeliner.

I have to admit that Josh Hutcherson pleasantly surprised me. Perhaps because of all of the press photos lately taken of him that beg me to think of him as a brooding stud (a la the utterly talentless Robert Patterson). But Josh’s Peeta was just so loveable, I wanted snuggle right up to him.

The severe fashions, garish make-up and ridiculous hair-dos as well as every single impeccably styled set at the Capitol are a feast for the eyes. Peeta and Katniss are dumbstruck when they board the train and are greeted with crystal chandeliers, colorful sleek furniture and a buffet with riches of fruits and desserts. A stark contrast from the grays, browns, muted perpetually dirty color of their clothes and coal mining district where much of the population teeters on starvation. Effie Trinket, their escort from the Capitol, says (something along the lines of,) “I think its so wonderful that the tributes get to see and experience all this,” implying that seeing ‘all this’ and dying in the games is much better than living back in District 12 and never seeing it at all.

I read a review on the Village Voice that criticized: “Collins…through her very premise, astringently articulates her anger at a culture—ours—indifferent to inequity and war and besotted with its own stupidity. But the book’s rage and despair are diluted here, focusing too much on the high-tech gimmickry of the Gamemakers…” I completely disagree with this. Take the example above—how could you miss Effie’s stupidity—that to experience high fashion, style and luxurious food trumps the very right to life? Was this reviewer not filled with rage and despair when the gamemaker, Seneca Crane’s, produced a self-satisfied smile as he sent in lethal mutts to chase after and kill these teenagers in one of those “high-tech gimmickry” scenes?

Books aside, here’s the Panem I saw in the film:

A culture in which there are the very rich and the very poor.

The rich are obsessed with beauty, glamour, big lights and spectacle—oh, and violence and reality TV. The night before 24 teenagers are sent off to fight to the death, they crowd the streets delightedly chanting Hunger, hunger. They feel entitled to everything they have, and don’t give a second thought to at whose expense their wealth is won. And the poor? Well they don’t have much say or choice in much of anything at all. Hmmm…sound familiar?

I was on the verge of tears for the entire first half of the film. I kept thinking: Why is the story so affecting? Why can’t I stop thinking about it? Why do I want to read the books all over again and see the movie 10 more times? Maybe because it holds by the throat and shakes you awake. Because it rouses those deep human emotions–fear, hope, rage, despair…and love. The ones that make us feel alive.

And then there’s Katniss. My hero. My brave-but-afraid, strong-but-vulnerable, ordinary-but-extraordinary, tender-but-kick-ass hero.

Right back at you girl.

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games movie comes out today and I will be one of the hundred millions of people who go to see it- I CANNOT WAIT!!! (I do not use all caps lightly, my friends.) My heart is a-pitter-pattering with excitement. I just watched the trailer for the hundredth time and got chills yet again.

Dan’s been teasing me to no avail about my excitement over this film (and repeated trailer-viewing). The teasing took a turn for the worse when I sprung $6.99 to buy the People Magazine Hunger Games collector’s issue. I’ll admit: this was a low point. I like to think of myself as above celebrity magazines. But I am not above the cheesy interviews where the actors all pat each other on the back or the behind-the-scenes shots of Elizabeth Banks getting that crazy-awesome make-up done. No: I am down on the same level with all the other collector’s buying the COLLECTOR’S SPECIAL and I’m proud to be there.

I disappeared into these books. They engulfed me. When I finished them, I stared at the ceiling and clutched the Mocking Jay to my chest, not knowing how to leave them behind. I wanted to talk to everyone who had read them, but then I tried and realized that what I really wanted was just to read them all over again and go back that place, back to Peeta and Gale and Katniss and even Haymitch.

I worship authors that can create a reading experience like this, who inspire millions and millions of people to read. Suzanne Collins- you go sister! This is a great essay by Carolyn Ross on The Millions about the pleasure of reading YA novels, and the important purpose they serve for adults and children alike.

Katniss is a complicated heroine and she is rendered so well. She is brave because she has to be brave, and she is also afraid because she lives in a society that breeds fear. She is vulnerable, often in a state of despair, and yet she gives hope to everyone around her. She tries to hold on to her humanity while being forced to kill people or be killed.

My sister told me that Suzanne Collins came up with the idea for these books while flipping between Survivor and a news story about the Taliban, (or something along those lines.) Given this, it’s not hard to see why these books are not only great book to read, but also scarily relevant.

I look at the world and I look at Katniss and I wonder: would I…could I be so brave? Things are going on at home that deeply disturb me, and I keep asking myself: what are you going to do about it? Reading these novels reminded me that you can’t win if you don’t fight—if you don’t take a risk.

Happy Friday everyone. I’ll report back on the movie. For now, I raise a glass to brilliant authors, good books, real life heroines and heroes, the risk takers, the fighters. May we all be as badass as this: