I’m beginning to think that my head is buried in the sand when it comes to books. In the last few weeks I have read several books by authors new to me, only to discover that they’ve won awards, are international bestsellers, and are otherwise distinguished. How did I not know about them?
The answer to that is quite simple, really. I don’t watch much television so I’d never see authors on new shows or talk shows promoting their books. I don’t haunt the bestsellers lists. I haven’t ever thought of looking through the internet for ideas on books to read. I’ve been a stick in the mud, a lump on a log, or any other naturalistic cliché that you can remember.
In my own insulated way, I have been pulling my head out of the sand as I experiment with new authors. I have discovered some who I like quite a lot. Thanks to this blog I will always be able to remember their names too. I’ve started others and decided that their books aren’t worth reading. Still, I am trying new authors and expanding my reading horizon.
The scariest part of expanding one’s horizons is always the beginning. When I moved to Guatemala I was a nervous wreck. I didn’t know anyone, and my Spanish was decidedly not up to par. The beginning was the hardest. Investing my time and energy in blogging was terrifying at the start. It felt like I exposed a piece of my inner soul, and, like most people, I worried about the reaction from others. Would reality validate my imaginings? Now that I am more seasoned this doesn’t bother me nearly as much, although I will confess that I am almost compulsive in checking my stats.
Several years ago I read a parenting article with a thought-provoking premise. Somebody had done some studies with children to see how praise affected their test performance. Children who were praised for being smart became timid about testing and trying new skills for fear of not being perfect. Their test scores usually fell during further testing. The other children who were praised for hard work ended up scoring better on subsequent testing and cheerfully tried new activities because they didn’t worry about being perfect. They knew hard work was the key to success.
This was very eye-opening to me as an individual and a parent. I grew up being praised for my intelligence. I didn’t have to learn to study in high school to pass with flying colors. Then I went to college and found out that I didn’t have the most essential skill for success. I didn’t know how to work at studying. I learned though to keep my scholarship. I also grew up nervous about trying new things because I was afraid I wouldn’t do them perfectly the first time. I still struggle with this tendency.
Now, as a parent, I try to praise hard work and not native intelligence. Of course I don’t tell my children that they are dumb, but we have had many conversations with them about the importance of working hard. My son has been playing soccer for years and he has become a great defender. I’ll be the first to tell you that it is from hard work and not an innate talent. My oldest girl has a great memory for music, but it’s something that she has been developing for years. The youngest two … well, the jury is still out on them since they are more about playing than achieving goals.
Now that I have begun to expand my horizons by trying new authors the scary part is past. I have the ability to put down books that I don’t like. It’s okay to not like some books. It’s okay to not read books with things I don’t agree with, like foul language and sex scenes. Sometime I will strike out, but there will always be another book to read. When I get a Kindle my horizons are really going to expand!
How have you expanded your reading horizons? Have you discovered new favorites by trying a new genre?