I have been feeling direction-less with my reading since completing the Great Bookshelf Challenge of 2010. I kind of went crazy with my ILLs and check-outs at both the University and Public Libraries. The sweet taste of freedom! However, I had no idea where to start. What book out of the 537 books on my to-read list should I start with? That is when my eye caught sight of a book that has been on my to-read list for years and years. Harper Lee’s classic To Kill A Mockingbird. And with it, I found a new project to help direct me as I bumble into the 537 book free-for-all (that I seem to add to daily). I want to work on reading books this coming year that I should have read by now. Books that somehow my high school teachers forgot to make me read and books that my brilliant class planning helped me avoid in college. This will not take over my life like the last challenge but give me a steady stream of good literature amid the myriad Austen-inspired chick lit books and many YA fantasies my list contains (and that I am dying to gorge on but am restraining myself so far).
I had slight guilt for not getting around to reading To Kill A Mockingbird before now. After reading The Heroine’s Bookshelf last week and hearing the name “Scout Finch” for the first time, the guilt grew. After completing the book, how on earth have I lived without Scout in my life until now? Scout is clever, funny, and has a way of seeing the world that I envy. If I had found her sooner, I like to think I would have had the guts to clock someone along the way. The scene where she does just that to her own cousin no less seriously made me cheer out loud. While sitting at my desk, at work in the library at lunchtime. It was a great moment. And one of the reasons I love reading so much. It wasn’t just Scout’s moment; it was mine too.
The book has a charm to it that called to me from the moment I started reading it. Scout’s love of reading, her brother Jem’s growing legal mind and Dill’s obsession with the neighbor no one has ever seen were all traits I could understand still, removed from childhood as far as adulthood has forced me too. However, it was Atticus who I appreciated maybe more now that I would have as a kid. His calm, steady belief in what is right and his belief that his children should be taught that, no matter the cost to himself was inspiring and I can only hope that I can be that kind of a parent someday.
It also struck me reading that this book is timeless. Its issues surrounding race and justice are just as relevant today as when Harper Lee wrote them. It worries me that they are still around, perhaps in an even more vicious form today because they are often more subtle. We are so worried about being “politically correct” often that we miss that these issues are still on the table for my generation and the generations coming after me. To Kill a Mockingbird is a book I wish someone had handed to me in 6th grade, when I was just starting to grow a backbone. Scout would have been an inspiration. It is a book I wish someone had handed to me in the days after 9/11 when the issues would have rang true and yet Scout’s belief in herself and her world to learn would have been comforting as well. As it is, a book I read today, Scout is still an inspiration and now I have seen enough to look beyond Scout’s way of seeing the world and appreciate the father who taught her to see it that way. An impressive book indeed.