You are what you eat, what you dream, and what you read

I am what I read | Lindsey Talerico-Hedren

Even as the saying goes, I think there’s more you can tell about a person from what they read than what they eat.

Take, for instance, the person who reads self-help books, and what kinds of self-help books. Last night I read the first chapter in a book I bought a year ago with a title that includes “for people who can’t stand positive thinking”. That probably tells you a little bit about me.

My husband reads books with terms like “leadership” or “God” in the title. That probably tells you a little something about him.

Consider the person who reads mostly mysteries. I actually have no insightful comment about this kind of person other than to say they probably also watch CSI… and have thick skin.

I choose my books based on three critical factors:

1. Leisure-ability. Reading must be leisure, not homework, in the same way watching movies is entertainment.

2. Big-screen potential. Book made into movie? Totally.

3. The promise of a love-story.

There really is only one genre of reading, I’ve found (but am open to new suggestions), that ticks all three prerequisites: teen literature. Teen lit whereby I gain an impractical perspective on life and a unique insight into the pre-adulthood emotional sea of unconditional love. Some people balance the food they feed their brains with the Discovery Channel or The New York Times or biographies of Anne Frank and Steve Jobs. I turn to teen literature.

Now I was feeling a little bad about myself once I realised how entirely pathetic my reading life is but decided pizza after bootcamp would cheer me up. Lo and behold… it totally did. And the new me is embracing the bookie type that I am without shame. So… a little (full) disclosure… A couple of the many books I’ve read lately:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

The Choice by Nicholas Sparks

Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

The Silver Linings Playb0ok by Matthew Quick

I’m basically a cookie monster for young-adult literature (surely, we can consider Nick Sparks novels young-adult, right?). I totes eat it up for breakfast because teen/young-adult literature does something that I believe no other genre of reading really does: It affirms all the completely impractical feelings in our heads and thoughts in our hearts. It tells you “you’re completely impractical, but not stupid”.

I think it’s because after a full day’s work at the office and contributing to conversations about American politics, the Korean war, Chris Hemsworth, cancer, Elijah and Ahab and some cloud, altitude sickness, Facebook marketing, and the empirical understanding of the influence religion and presumption have on self-elitism, I’m in serious need of some leisurely reading material about the impossible hurdles of teen love, and the overall dilemma of having to grow up.

The thing that teen lit does so well is that it presents life for exactly what it is: a series of melodramatic episodes where life and death is rooted in tomorrow’s exam, eye contact you held with someone you admire, this exact job opportunity, friends that come and go, and love that leaves its mark on you forever. It’s literature that reasons with the soul.

Understanding all of ^this^ is my newest life epiphany. I must be, what self-help writers refer to as, “reconciling one’s identity with reason for existence in the world” except not necessarily about life purpose and more about the fact that I have epiphanized why (some such as) I am so drawn to teen lit and not any other genre of reading.

This is an important epiphany to have had because when you’re trying to keep up with the dialogue of  mature conversationalists (albeit on Twitter) all day long, you need to have a thoughtful answer about why you can’t get passed page 22 in Half the Sky, and also why you haven’t started any of the books recommended to you by friends and colleagues but have managed to read seven novels “suggested to you by Kindle” in the last six weeks.

So tomorrow, if I come to work depressed because my leading character found out he has cancer, or there’s a tiger on a boat, or Aunt Helen wasn’t very nice, will you please take me to coffee and let me talk about it for awhile? I’ll pay you back with lunch.


PS: Considering who you are in what you eat, what you dream, and what you read is like making a collage of your life today, your life tomorrow, and all your aspirations in between. Much better a way to reflect than to stare at yourself in the mirror.

PPS: My thoughtful answer for not getting to page 23 in Half the Sky… I like books where I can read myself in the characters — not in a single character alone, but in parts and thoughts of a whole lot of them together — where I can side with and connect to the feelings of the characters I’m reading. Fortunately so, I can’t connect much with those written about in Half the Sky. Also, zero love story. Zero chance this would be a happy movie, if I’m judging by the first half a chapter.

PPPS: I would like to know what your most favourite book of all time is. Maybe I’ll read it next.

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  • matt

    I think my favourite book of all time was one I read as a kid. It was about a boy during ww2 in London who collected bits and pieces of war machinary that turned up or dropped out of the sky. They found a machine gun and planned to stave off attack by the Germans. It was perfect for where I was at. I could really see myself in the characters. I remember being captivated by it.

  • Can’t remember the name of the book?