Summer is my time to catch up on all the books I wanted to read during the school year but just couldn't find the time. I'm notorious for my "Summer Reading List," which currently sits at around 185 books, though I haven't added new books I want to read, nor read many that happened to be on the list so the actual list is likely much longer. Being so "Type A," everything has to have an order in my life and it seems I read with that in mind. I get hooked on an author and need to read all of his/her work. This summer's author of choice so far: Meg Cabot.
I'm reading The Princess Diaries series and, though it's really teen lit and not "big girl" reading, isn't that what summer's for? I'll admit, I didn't read the first book because I had already seen the movie. I'm on to Book 5 now and have found the recurring theme of "self-actualization." While I'm not sure if this is an actual term or one coined by Meg, I like it. Pull it apart and you find the heart of these books (or at least what I've found to be the heart of them). Finding out who you are and accepting yourself for the wonderfulness you have in you.
I find it interesting how her books can have a "self-actualization" effect on you, the reader, at the same time. And I'll be honest, while the main character's friend is always talking about how Mia needs to "self-actualize," I don't feel that theme pulling me through the book. At least, not Mia's "self-actualization." Sure, she goes through all the typical teenage hooey-ballooey: liking a guy but being too afraid to tell him, not always getting along with relatives, those girls who always think they're so much cooler than you and want to make sure you know it...amidst all that, I find myself "self-actualizing" more than I see it in Mia. I mean, let's take a minute to really dive into this. I'm an adult, well brought up (thanks Mom and Dad!), and can't remember ever going through any major "Who am I?" crises. I'm as normal as can be expected (who isn't quirky in one way or another?) and have a stable personality. And yet, here's a book meant for ages 12 and up (according to Amazon) that's making me look at myself in a whole new light. Who am I and how do I feel about myself? (Pretty good - it's nice to say! I'm finally starting to really see the wonderfulness in me that my mom is always talking about, and truly owning it.)
I suppose that's the purpose of books - to give you something you can take away, changing you ever so slightly that you don't even realize it's happened until after the fact. Take that crabby English teachers who swear by "the classics and only the classics." I read A Tale of Two Cities, The Canterbury Tales, and plenty of Shakespeare in my school career. I had teachers who cared and probably held great discussions about the things we read (if only I could remember them), but the truth is, none of those pieces did it for me. I walked away empty-handed. You don't have to rely on the classics to teach major themes; current books can be meaningful too.