Hornswaggling and the Subtle Tunes of a Travelogue
by Caleb Crossman
The best books have swordfights. Most of them have buried treasure, spies, pretty maidens, dragon hunters, the end of the world, a mystery. Or a Toad who drives motorcars too fast and too recklessly. Or an old man who remembers pain and joy because no one else can. Or a Roman legion lost in the mists of ancient Britain. The best books stir our blood and make us want to sail a pirate ship and discover family secrets and return crown jewels to their rightful place in the Indian jungle.
The best books make men and women out of children and turn boys and girls to adults. They make us wonder, amaze us as a few men climb down an old volcano shaft into a prehistoric wonderland, scare us with the prospect of alternate dimensions in the woods outside or (more terrifying still) the closet upstairs. They make us laugh. They make us cry. They make us fall in love.
The best books show us lives we never knew, they let us live those lives. To some it all might sound a bit silly and mystical—and it is a bit silly and mystical, and that’s what makes it beautiful. If the fiction you’ve read is limited to formulaic stories, to the Hardy Boys and the Boxcar Children, to those books in which everything always happens the same way and narrative art is reduced to a sad and gloomy science, then of course you won’t think of books the same way someone who’s experienced a genuine plot twist can.
And tasted the salty waves with Ishmael, and fought pirates with Jim Hawkins, and ice-skated frozen canals with Hans Brinker. These books are alive because their authors were alive, and anyone who reads them with the hope of finding something worth holding onto will discover they are also alive and want to be even more alive. So they read more books, and all the lives inside those books become part of the reader’s life, and something about them gets just a little bigger, and connects them with everyone else who has read and enjoyed the same books.
As summertime rolls around it’s tempting to get excited about not having to read anymore, at least for the next three months. If the school year is packed with boring textbooks that’s understandable, but even if it’s not, we encourage you (children, adults, high schoolers, the family cat, whoever) to pick up a good book while you can and find out what makes it so great. It’s a legitimate discovery every time someone opens The Jungle Books or Captain Blood or The Yearling.
Each of us at Exodus is just anti-social enough to sometimes prefer a good book to human company, though without other people reading is a pointless exercise. If enlarging our realm of experience doesn’t benefit anyone else, it’s as useless as the book that’s never opened. That’s one benefit of reading aloud—it lets families expand together, and helps accommodate the expansion.
Don’t settle for cheap or dull books. The ones about the drudgeries of modern existence, the ones with nasty protagonists or cynical children, the ones that read like cereal ingredient lists or ads for dishsoap, aren’t worth your time. We’re happy to make recommendations, but some of the best books—and some of the books most enjoyed—are the ones you find on your own.
Thirty-eight reviews were submitted in May!
Drawing #1 (Random) - $15 prize:
Jennifer of Oregon for Very Helpful - A review of Easy Grammar Plus, by Wanda Phillips
Drawing #2 (Most reviews) - $25 prize:
HappyHomemaker of Oregon (Winner for a second month in a row! This time, K. wrote 22 unique reviews in classic literature, fiction, & picture books!)
Drawing #3 (Best review) - $25 prize:
L. M. Shearer for her clever review of Shakespeare's Hamlet; Prince of Denmark
"Prince Hamlet's father has a month been dead;
The state of Denmark turned upon its head.
Claudius is married to the Queen,
The ghost of Hamlet's father has been seen.
When Hamlet speaks unto the restless ghost,
He learns the news that he's been dreading most:
That Claudius, who wed his brother's wife
Is the same one who took his brother's life.
Hamlet swears to the spirit of his father
To avenge his death upon his wicked brother.
Yet still the noble Hamlet is unsure
And Claudius' guilt he'd like to make secure.
To deter suspicion he will feign
Through grief of his father's death to be insane.
Yet all the while, a clever trap he built
With which to prove or disprove Claudius' guilt.
This tragedy is one of Shakespeare's best
Please read it if you'd like to learn the rest;
For in this tragic tale you will find
Love and hatred, cruel men and kind
Yet in the darkness, hope still springs
Though Hamlet tries and fails at many things
Though in the prince perfection is not found
He knows himself by right and duty bound
He does his duty, even to the grave;
Not many men would dare to be so brave.
With this I hope my reader to convince
To read of Denmark and its noble prince.