When I was a tyke, one of summer's chief joys was the periodic library trip. Every three weeks, I could go reap a stack of twenty or more books to bring home and devour. No multiplication problems or dull reading comprehension exercises to interfere with my escape habit.
Gone are the days of The Giant Stack and hours of uninterrupted reading time, but it's still been a decent summer in my literary world. Here are a few of my favorites (or not):
The Hunger Games - This was one of the those books that kept popping up on the blogs of fellow readers, but I somehow kept putting off reading. I got the impression from its jacket blurb that it was chiefly a work of science fiction, and that's not really my genre (although hello? Which are the only two adult new releases I've seen in the past two years? Star Trek (2009) and Avatar (2010). Maybe I need to re-think my position on sci-fi.) But oh, my friends, this book is really not science fiction at all. In fact, what makes it so gripping, so deliciously page-turning and heart-racing, besides the great writing, characters, and plot, is that one can, with only minor stretching, imagine this dystopia becoming our future reality. The obsession with violence and with voyeurism (now known as "reality TV") that have characterized our culture since at least the days of the gladiators come into full bloom in The Hunger Games, and they're believable. Oh, and there's some romance. But it's not over the top.
Hurrah hurrah, this book has a sequel, Catching Fire, which I picked up at the library yesterday, and the conclusion of the trilogy will be out any day. I see late nights and "just one more chapter" dilemmas in my near future. (And that's the sound of me smacking my lips.)
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us - And now for some nonfiction. The premise of this book is that what worked for hundreds of years to get human beings to do stuff -- the need to survive (Motivation 1.0) followed by a system of rewards and punishments (Motivation 2.0) is becoming archaic and fails to respond to part of our makeup that makes us essentially human. That's where Motivation 3.0 comes in. Here's the author, Daniel Pink, explaining the premise: (Y'all, this is a fascinating talk -- worth your time! Here's the link in case my video embedding didn't work. )
It's made me think. What do I do because it's intrinsically satisfying, rather than externally expedient? The big joke, of course, is always that you can't put a price on full-time mother- or parent-hood because you'd have to pay a housekeeper, tutor, nanny, chauffeur, etc. But can we do this job because doing it well is its own reward? In fact, that can be applied to any job or vocation, or even one's Christian walk -- are we doing this because we want the carrot, or because we love, believe in, or get into the flow of something larger than ourselves?
Mr. Pink does make some references to the home environment -- parenting, education -- although his primary focus is on business. I'd love for him to expand on how we apply this with kids, since so much of what we do as a general culture falls into the carrot-and-stick mentality.
But right now, I'm motivated to get my child to taekwondo on time -- and then give blood for the first time ever. Gulp. Shiver. Better bring a good book.