The Professor & Her Garden

Good soil. Good students. And maybe some decent English peas.


Blogging 101 Assignment Today: Write to the Prompt. Phooey!

Don’t take this personally, Oh Blogosphere, but I’m not a big fan of the Daily Prompts. My thinking is that one of the key requirements of having a blog is having something to say.  If you can’t think of anything to say, you really ought to think twice about whether you’re the kind of person who should be blogging.  Still, since I’m committed to completing the Blogging 101 workshop through and through, I’ll play along.  Today’s assignment is to use today’s prompt:  Do I prefer fiction or non-fiction?

I read More Thoughts, Vicar‘s  blog last week  who used the “10 Books” poll making its round on Facebook for the basis of a post.  Brilliant!  Like the Vicar, I’m not including the Bible because it absolutely goes without saying that that Book stands alone.  So here is my list of 10 books that have impacted my life.

1.  That Hideous Strength (C.S. Lewis).  This book has it all.  Space travel; marriage advice; university politics; wizardry.  I first read THS at Oxford during my study abroad.  It’s my all-time favorite book and I’ve read it at least 20 times.  I own the paperback edition (that I loan to friends), a hard-cover American edition (that I read myself), and a British hard copy edition that I keep on the shelf with all my other C.S. Lewis books.

2. This Perfect Day (Ira Levin).  I read this book in 9th grade and it rocked my world.  It’s creepy, other worldly, surprising, weird, thought-provoking, iconoclastic.  Everything in this book is topsy turvy, which, for a 9th grader, made for perfect reading.  Move over Holden Caufield.

3. My Losing Season (Pat Conroy).  There is no question that I am crazy about Pat Conroy.  A bit of a stalker, really.  I live in the same town as Conroy and I have seen him at the grocery store.  (I made note of his grocery cart contents.)  I have a photo of his dad’s (The Great Santini) gravestone on my IPhone.  I love, love, love his books.  But his book about playing basketball at the Citadel did something to me.

4. The Trouble with Jenny’s Ear (Oliver Butterworth).  I read this book in grade school and it impressed me to no end.  It’s about a girl who “hears things” and ultimately ends up on a quiz show where she hears all the answers.  Freaky, ethics, and a strong female leading character.  What more could an independent little girl want?

5. Drawn to the Rhythm:  A Passionate Life Reclaimed (Sara Hall).  This book is really about how rowing saved Sara’s life.  It’s heart-wrenching but inspirational.  I think of this book every time I don’t feel like going out on the water because I don’t want to row by myself, or it’s too cold, or too windy, or any other million reasons.

6.  Straight Down a Crooked Lane (Francena Arnold).  I can’t tell you how many times I read this book when I was a little kid, but it was a bunch.  It had romance, tennis, and race relations–all rather mind-blowing to me as a child.  Whenever I would read this book, I would think about what a great movie it would make.  I decided that JImmy Stewart should play the father.  I felt really bad when Stewart died, in part, because he wouldn’t have the chance to play the role of a lifetime.

7.  The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand).  Reading this book in 12th grade made me feel grown up.  I wanted to be an architect and I admired Howard Rourk’s independent spirit.  I was a polar opposite to Rand’s philosophy, but I plowed through all her books in high school.  I even wrote a children’s book based on objectivism for an English creative writing class.  It was called Fritzi of Frumple Forrest (or something like that).  My teacher wanted me to try to get it published.  I was horrifed.

8.  Areopagitica (John Milton).  I was a mediocre English Literature undergraduate student, but I did love Milton.  No matter what college class I teach now, I always find a way to quote Areopagitca.  “Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?”  Seriously. Can’t you feel your heart racing?

9.  A Girl Named Zippy (Haven Kimmel).  This book is laugh-out-loud hilarious.  Kimmel manages to get to the heart of what growing up in the ’50s was like.  I’m not kidding.  The writing is brilliant.  My daughter read Zippy shortly after I did and guffawed at least as much as I did.  Years later, it has remained  a book that makes the two of us laugh just thinking about it.

10.  The Time Bridge (Carol Pardun).  I wrote this young adult novel as my creative thesis project for my masters degree in communications.  It’s a science fiction, young adult book in (what I would like to think) the spirit of Madeline L’Engle.  It was about time travel and tennis.   I didn’t publish the book (I’m sure it needed a lot of work), but it showed me that I could write from start to finish.  It let me successfully finish my masters degree, which spurred me on to seek the PhD.  While my dissertation was nothing like The Time Bridge, I like to think that my first attempt at a book-length manuscript provided the framework for successfully completing my degree.

So there you have it.  Fiction wins, 6-4  (although not enough data points to claim statistical significance).

There’s not a single mention of gardening in this post.  But, I can tell you one thing.  These books have cultivated my mind.  The roots are strong.  And they continue to produce fruit.