On September 3, Malala Yousafzai opened a library in Birmingham, England. To the crowd she said, “Some books travel with you back centuries, others take you into the future. Some take you to the core of your heart and others take you into the universe…I truly believe the only way we can create global peace is through educating not only our minds, but our hearts and our souls.” Her dream of an education almost cost the young woman her life. Yet she fights backs with books and words, encouraging others to pick up a book as a step toward independence.
Reading is an integral part of our daily lives. News reports, textbooks, instructions for plugging in the television to the gaming system — all require our eyes and brains. As an elementary school student, I had already developed a voracious appetite for books: the Chronicles of Narnia, The Princess Bride, and the Star Wars novelizations, to name a few. Some of these books I read into tatters, into the wee hours of the morning. Something important happened as I read tirelessly for fun — I had developed skills that would serve me well later in life.
During the throes of high school it sometimes truly feels like living through the angst of a John Hughes movie. It doesn’t help that students are bombarded with classics from William Shakespeare to J.D. Salinger in English class, not to mention other classes requiring substantial reading time, some of it spent with less-than-exciting material. Stepping up into college, real life lands on freshmen’s chests with the weight of a dewback. Professors teach twice as much in half the time, and a failure to read the material leaves a collegian lost in class or embarrassed if called upon. I vividly recall walking through the college bookstore my first year with a pile of books so high it impeded my vision. When am I going to read all this? I wondered. As an engineering student with a pre-medical track, there was no way around the reading. Luckily, though, devouring books for fun had taught me the discipline to plow through the required coursework. The brain is like a muscle, and reading for fun had been the best type of exercise: the kind you don’t know you’re doing.
Interestingly, many of the regular contributors at my blog come from careers that demanded strict collegiate coursework. We have a doctor, an accountant, an engineer, a historian, a journalist, and a lawyer. These individuals are also avid readers to this day, despite all that college reading and careers that still require the ability to consume large volumes of information. Medicine is constantly updating, laws are eternally being rewritten, and for any one design an engineer might apply up to twelve different code books. Imagine how much reading the Harvard and MIT professors have done on their way to discovering the photonic molecules that may lead to real lightsabers one day.
Reading for fun is one of the best exercises for the mind, body, and spirit. As a precocious youngster who finished her homework before class was over, my nose in a book kept me out of a lot of trouble. I learned new words from wordsmiths like Alan Dean Foster and Donald Glut well before I was taught them in the classroom. I even started pondering philosophical and moral themes embedded in the Star Wars narratives years before college. So it is always with great pleasure that on each visit to see my niece and nephews we take a trip to the bookstore. Luckily we have a love of Star Wars in common – although we often debate whether to get the DK Reader about a Jedi or the bounty hunter Boba Fett. A few weeks ago, another FANgirl Blog contributor told me a story of his 10-year-old son picking up The Old Republic Encyclopedia and spending a few hours perusing it from cover to cover.
The breadth of Star Wars’ galaxy far, far away means there is literally something for everyone. Want to look at beautiful wild creatures and learn about their nature? Try The Wildlife of Star Wars: A Field Guide. Want to share a tale with your pre-teen? Try a book from the Young Jedi Knights series. Or craft with Star Wars flare? Crack open The Star Wars Craft Book. Prefer an exciting comic? Pick up Star Wars: Legacy #1 and keep reading. Is Shakespeare your thing? Then you can’t miss William Shakespeare’s Star Wars. Want to know how they made the movies? The Making of Return of the Jedi is now on sale, with the stories of the creation of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back also available.
Admittedly the adult fiction is where my heart lies. The scope of the novels is vast and varies in flavor and style. Often people talk about the daunting scope of the adult fiction Star Wars library, but we all jumped into the movies at some point. A New Hope, with its in media res narrative, simply requires that the audience dive into the story and hold on for the ride. For the most part, the novels are very much the same. Still, it never hurts to have a recommendation or two. I recently updated my original “Where to Start List” that I shared at Suvudu.com a while back. And of course, you always have the option of introducing yourself to another fan and asking their opinion — because the best thing about Star Wars is making new friends.
Wishing everyone an adventuresome and fun Star Wars Reads Day II on October 5!