Top Ten Things Books Have Made me Want to Do or Learn
I could fill pages with this one, but I’ll manage to narrow it down to ten. Starting in order from things I’m least likely to learn anymore about to things I’m actually got a decent handle on.
I find it weird that people make fun of ventriloquism, because I totally love it. If I’m completely honest, this one synced up as much with seeing ventriloquists on television as reading about them. However, I have very clear memories of reading the Living Dummy novels in the Goosebumps series and finding Slappy hysterical. I asked for a Slappy dummy for Christmas when I was ten. I didn’t get it L but my mom did buy me a book on ventriloquism. It’s a very difficult skill to master, and while I’m decent at talking without moving my lips, I can’t combine it with manipulating a dummy. Also, dummies are expensive.
Seriously, actual magic. When I read Matilda, I became obsessed, for several months, with learning how to move things with my mind. I woke up early every day for an entire summer just to sit at the kitchen table trying to move a pen cap with my mind.
No, it never happened.
The Baby Sitter’s Club inspired this one. I read the book Jessi’s Secret Language and decided to learn sign language. I bought a book on sign language, and basically taught myself SEE. I later took lessons in ASL. Life got in the way, and I didn’t have time to keep my lessons up, nor was I outgoing enough to attend the local Signing Dinners at the mall. I know a few signs now, but I’m far from even conversational, especially because true ASL has a lot of nuances that are difficult to pick up.
How Languages Work in General
I can’t pinpoint exactly where this one came from, but I’m fairly certain it’s related to books. Maybe it was the Tamora Pierce books, because she would sprinkle in foreign words. Her website also had a pronunciation guide for character and place names in her novels. I memorized those because I was determined to pronounce the names of fictional characters correctly. From there I discovered the Language Construction Kit, and started building conlangs. Since then, I’ve kept researching the ins and outs of human language, in the hope that my constructed languages will be as real as possible.
This one is more general. I read a lot of historical romance as a teenager, and later got into historical fantasy and steampunk. I’m fascinated with history and I love finding new history books to read. My favorite is The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody by Will Cuppy.
Back to Tamora Pierce again, my earliest foray into classic fantasy. Many of her novels highlight characters who work with every, practical skills. Cooking, carpentry, smithing. One of her series, The Circle Opens, actually focuses on those who have subtle, often overlooked magic in these everyday tasks and items.
I fell in love with sewing and embroidery when I read the first novel in the Circle Opens series. I’m pretty good at basic sewing and still working on embroidery. I’ve mostly given up on cross stitching. I always lose count of the colors, and the cloth constantly falls apart on me.
I don’t remember exactly how this happened, but I’m pretty sure it was because I stumbled across a book on hemophilia while searching the library shelves. It was nonfiction, but drove me to find more information. I learned a lot about hemophilia, as well as its effect on the European royal families. Which leads nicely into …
I read a lot as a kid, back when there was time. As mentioned before, I loved all thing historical, and I loved the Historical Diaries series that started appearing around the late 90s. In high school, I came across Anastasia: The Last Grand Duchess. I knew what had happened to the last Czar of Russia and his family, which made it a little twisted to read a diary, even knowing it was fictional, by a young girl who would soon be murdered. Later that year, when we were told to pick topics from history to do a research project on, I picked the Russian Revolution and the murder of the royal family. My teacher was pretty shocked at my immediate and decisive answer. And probably also because Russian revolution was not that popular a topic among high school students.
Cooking, Food, and Meal Customs
This probably comes as much from writing as from reading. I love reading scenes in fantasy novels or even real world novels that describe food in details. The sort of food people eat, how it’s prepared, the taboos surrounding food and mealtimes, are rich vein in storytelling. I do a lot of worldbuilding, and one thing I’m always determined to do is make sure my fictional cultures have unique food culture. I do a lot of research into what plants grow in certain climates, what animals would live there, and how those people, with their technological level would make use of those resources. I read about eating practices, rituals and customs from around the world to give myself ideas for how these things would develop in my fictional cultures.
Children and Childcare
Probably the most near and dear to my heart. I’ve always loved babies and toddlers, even when I was a kid. After Goosebumps, The Babysitters’ Club was the series I got into. When I was eleven the Scholastic Book Fair came to my school, and there was a subscription to have Babysitters’ Club novels delivered to my house every month. I was so excited to see my envelope arrive each month. I loved the stories about the girl’s adventures in caring for little kids, especially their first person, handwritten accounts of each babysitting job. I took a class in babysitting at the YMCA, took a class in child development in high school, and later starting taking child development and teaching courses in college. Now that I have a little one of my own, I’m discovering there’s a lot that can’t be learned from books. However, I credit books with giving me that urge to learn more. About children, and, I guess, almost everything else.