Reconnecting with Society through Books

Books have always been my thing. I started reading the Harry Potter series in first grade and did not stop until a week after the Deathly Hallows release in 2007. In between books, I racked up hours devouring Sharon Creech novels and other fantasy series. This helped secure my annual victory in “Tons of Reading,” an elementary school class competition to determine the most avid reader.

By high school, I had read Fahrenheit 451 and was well into Gone with the Wind. But then life became busy and my pleasure reading was limited. Still, I managed to read classics like Animal Farm and Brave New World through my classes, and I savored every word.

But in my interactions with other readers I have noticed a glaring hole in my book repertoire. I have not read some of the most essential stories that seem to grace every must-read modern classics list. Against all odds, I have missed Kesey and Steinbeck and Vonnegut. I have not even read the great American novel, The Great Gatsby. When I fail to effortlessly quote and discuss these books–due to the fact that I have not read them–I feel inadequate as a self-proclaimed reader.

Imagine if a runner did not know about Steve Prefontaine or Joan Benoit Samuelson or Mary Decker Slaney. These people defined the sport of American middle distance and distance running. They paved the way for every distance runner that would follow. And they should be celebrated accordingly. Of course I know all about these runners because running is such a massive part of my life, but so is reading.

Alas, there is only one solution, and that is to read these books. So that is what I will do. I now present my list of Top 10 Books I Must Read Before I can Consider Myself a Fully Functioning Member of Society:

1. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (1972)

2. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey (1962)

3. Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey (1964)

4. East of Eden by John Steinbeck (1952)

5. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller (1961)

6. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)

7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)

8. On the Road by Jack Kerouac (1957)

9. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe (1968)

10. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (1967)

As I compiled this list, I noticed an alarmingly common theme: all but one were published within a 20 year period between 1952 and 1972. This also happens to be the time period where I belong. My father recently said, “You are a flower child.” I am confident that these books will allow me to better understand my flower child roots and the era in which they began.

Surprise! I have already started my reading journey. In a recent week of strikingly sunny weather, I laid outside and read about war and time travel. That’s right, Kurt Vonnegut, I can now say “So it goes” without fear that my fraud will be detected. And I am well on my way to understanding Ken Kesey a little bit more through the eyes of Chief and McMurphy.

I will track the rest of my progress here and add a few thoughts as I finish the big ten. But for now, I will delve back into the Oregon insane asylum until I emerge one step closer to fully functioning personhood.

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Free Moon

One month into my freshman year of Catholic high school, I stood eating goldfish in a crowded hallway with my newest friends. We were amid a ten-minute break and the conversation had begun to run thin; each orange cracker placed in my mouth allowed me a few more seconds of socially acceptable silence. Though I knew one friend from middle school, the rest were entirely from that month and we had not yet bridged the defining stage of friendship: inside jokes.

After several long minutes of bearably awkward freshman conversation, one particularly enthusiastic friend whipped out her phone to capture my goldfish-eating moment and simultaneously asked for my number. Midway through typing my name, she paused and slowly raised her head to look at me. Noting her wild gaze, I immediately ceased movement and, with a lone goldfish hovering in my hand, awaited her next move.

“Monica,” she said. “Moooonica. MOON-ica. What if someone asked you to prom and said, ‘I’ll jump over the MOON for you?!’” We locked eyes in silence for several seconds until she abruptly deleted what she had typed and replaced it with what would forever become my nickname in that emerging friend group.

Since that fateful day, no one has asked me to a dance saying they would jump over the moon for me, and most people do not even call me Moon, but the name still feels essential to my friendships and, in small part, my identity. Plus I think the real moon is pretty freaking rad and the mere concept of space and the universe spirals me into an existential tizzy every time it comes up. Fundamentally, I feel connected enough to that gray sphere to make it 50% of this blog’s title.

The other 50% comes from the entire purpose for this blog. Since starting college I have felt freer to choose my own adventure than when I first read Goosebumps books as a child. Now I can write my own chapters and go back to the start when I need and even keep moving forward when the first adventure should end. My capacity for curiosity and exploration is endless, my quest for meaning and purpose is uninhibited and my desire for universal justice is unchanging.

This blog is essentially my attempt to release my thoughts to the world and create something meaningful.

This may emerge through opinions or stories or pictures but it will always reflect my fundamental belief in equality and it will always parallel my struggle to make sense of the world. I cannot predict how this story will end, but the adventure begins now.