In the last few months, I have endeavored to find and read all of my favorite childhood
books. This began on a family camping trip over a long weekend where I read my younger brother Matilda next to our campfire in the evenings. I enjoyed doing this so much that I continued to read to him after we’d come back home. We finished Matilda and then moved on to James and the Giant Peach, then A Series of Unfortunate Events, which we still have yet to finish.
After two and a half years of trying to broaden my horizons with literature, I’d read Austen and Tolstoy, Neruda and Dickens, Hemingway, Proust, and the Brontes. Those authors and their books stretched and molded my mind, rooted themselves firmly in my psyche. I believe in the power that great literature can have for emotional and academic intelligence, but I found myself wanting to escape from the rigid realism and convoluted language which I couldn’t escape from in the books on my bookshelf. I found a quote by Emerson printed on a bookmark in a bookstore one day reading “I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” This idea he proposes, of the books he has read “making” him, stuck with me. I have come to the conclusion that I am not content with this idea; I want to remember the books that have made me.
I began finding and reading the books I loved from my childhood in linear order. I started with Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree and his poems from my copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends. I read Stories from the Ballet and the entire Little House on the Prairie series, then Eva Ibbotson’s Journey to the River Sea, The Star of Kazan and The Dragonfly Pool. I am currently reading The Hobbit and am nowhere near the end of this journey, but already I have experienced a vivacity of language, freedom of plot, and idealism of life which I have found sorely lacking the books I have read in recent years, and the pieces I have been writing. It is my hope that reaching back into the past to rediscover, as Emerson wisely said, the books that have made me, will allow me to become more knowledgeable of my literary self and point my creative self in a new, uninhibited direction.
Anna Geiger, class of 2018