Letting books speak for themselves

As excited as I am to get started on this project, and as much as I admire all of the titles and authors represented on the Top 100 list, when Katie drew Little House in the Big Woods as our first read, immediately followed by Little House on the Prairie….I didn’t exactly shout, “Yippee!”

I have to admit it, inside I cringed – just a little – though on the outside I applauded the choices and voiced my enthusiasm to begin.  Why?  You may well ask.  Simple answer:  I was afraid I’d think they were sappy.

One of my goals in this blog is to give fair and thoughtful reviews, even if I really, really love a book, or if I am not crazy about it.  So I guess it’s a good test for me to begin right away dealing with a challenge that is possibly inevitable when approaching a list of well-known titles:  preconceived notions.

I have never read any of the Little House books, so I know I don’t have any business deciding what they’re going to be like – me, who practically jumped on my own mother for dissing all of the Harry Potter books based solely on anything negative she’d ever heard about them.  But I know where my expectations come from.  After all, I watched a lot of TV in the 70s, and we only had 4 networks to choose from, so it was tough to completely avoid exposure to the long-running hit series, “Little House on the Prairie.”

Image via IMDB

Don’t get me wrong – no one forced me to watch the show – I did enjoy it for a time.  Probably even learned a few things.  To be sure, the series showed some of the challenges of life before the modern conveniences we take for granted – medicine, travel, electricity – but it was definitely nostalgic, sentimental, heartwarming.

My father’s reason for avoiding LHOTP: “I don’t want to watch a show that always makes me cry.”  I had a guy friend in high school who called the show “Little Mouse on the Cherry” to express his disdain.  That doesn’t even make sense, but it seems obvious that he felt the need to make it clear that although he had watched the show, you couldn’t accuse him of liking it.  (Evidently even tales of tough life on the prairie didn’t appeal to a sense of machismo.)

We’re often unaware of exactly how we end up with the initial  impressions that we have – of books or anything else.  Katie has had no particular exposure to anything from the Little House series, but when I asked her for her initial thoughts of what the books would be like, her answer was simply, “How sweet.”

So, beginning with two books from this series will be a good lesson for us – a reminder to approach all of the books on the Top 100 list with fresh eyes and an expectant attitude, not allowing even our own past experience with a book to take over as we read with the intention of reviewing it for others.  (And I must say, after reading the first chapter – which includes a lot of talk about howling wolves and butchering – I’m thinking “sappy” is not an impression I’ll come away with in the end.  Very promising :-))

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11 responses to “Letting books speak for themselves

  1. Great idea, and a wonderful way to bond with your offspring!

  2. I love this idea – and am inspired to re-read many of the books on the list myself. They are all books I recommend to the students in our school library, but there are a few that, as you said, deserve “fresh eyes.”

    • Thanks for stopping by. I’m excited to explore the list – it will be especially interesting to try to read some old favorites as though they were new to me.

  3. I have to say, I cringed when I saw you drew those two as well. But you’re right, preconceived notions suck.

    • It was kind of funny – I wish I could have seen my face when it happened. But now that I think about it, I’m glad it worked out that way – and so far, so good, as far as the story goes.

  4. I just read and blogged about my journey with these books last year. I wasn’t sure what I’d think either. But now they are FAVORITES. I hope you love them.

  5. Pingback: Book #1: Little House in the Big Woods | A mother, a daughter and 100 books

  6. Pingback: Book #2: Little House on the Prairie | A mother, a daughter and 100 books

  7. Adriana @ Classical Quest

    I’m reading Moby-Dick right now and I certainly had preconceived notions about it before I started: LONG & BORING.

    What a relief to discover that I was wrong! I’m savoring it, even rereading passages aloud!

    Discovering the Little House series was a similar surprise. I purchased the audio version, read by Cherry Jones, when my oldest children were small. Listening to them has become part of our nightly bedtime ritual and likewise, part of the fabric of our daily lives. It’s not unusual for someone to mention Ma or Pa in casual conversation, as if they are related to us: “Remember when Pa did this?”,”Remember when Ma said that?”.

    The Little House series truly is a national treasure.

    Great post. Good reminder to approach books with “fresh eyes and an expectant attitude.”

  8. Glad to know that Moby Dick is a good story – I’ve never read it either – you give me courage to give it a try!

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