Tag Archives: Fairy Tales

The Evolution of My Reading Habits

My reading habits have evolved a lot over the years. In today’s post, I’m going to start with my earliest memories and share some stories about how my interests and habits have changed over time.

Most of these genres are still things I like to read at least occasionally. With that being said, I do not read the older ones as often as I once did.

Nursery Rhymes and Fairy Tales

“A Fairy Tale” by J. H. F. Bacon

The first genres I ever fell in love with were nursery rhymes and fairy tales.

My uncle had a book of fairy tales that he left behind when he went off to college. I read that collection every time I visited my grandmother’s house, and it made me yearn for more stories about dragons, royalty, and people who were rewarded for the good things they did when they thought no one was paying attention.

The tales in my uncle’s collection were the sorts of things you’d see in a Disney movie. They were missing the dark endings that they’d often originally had.

A few years later, I began stumbling across fairy tales that didn’t always end happily ever after. For example, the original version of “The Little Mermaid” ended with the main character’s death instead of her wedding.

I did go back to preferring the more cheerful spins on these stories after a while, but I appreciated having those glimpses into what had happened to them before they were cleaned up for modern audiences.

30 Books in a Month

As I’ve mentioned here before, I was homeschooled for the first several years of my education. One of the best parts of that experience was being able to read after my lessons were finished. There were times when Wyoming was far too snowy and cold of a place for a child to be wandering around outside in, so I read the entire afternoon and evening away on some of those wintry days.

All of this reading time had an interesting effect on me once I started public school and people who weren’t my parents or siblings began noticing my habits.

My fourth grade teacher once gave us an assignment to read three books a month. We were supposed to turn in little slips of paper with the title and author of what we read to her so she could keep track of them for us.

Reader, I didn’t finish three books that month. I read thirty of them.

Those three slips of paper we’d been given were almost immediately replaced by notes from my mother listing everything else I’d read after I fulfilled the original requirements.

When our teacher announced the number of books each student had read that month a few weeks later, most of my classmates were in the single digits. It was pretty funny to see how they gasped when they realized I’d quietly blown everyone out of the water.

A Passion for Poetry

I no longer remember which genres I read during that thirty-book month, but I do remember the genre I became obsessed with shortly after that: poetry.

My fifth grade teacher did a unit on the many different types of poems out there, and I took to this topic  immediately. A lot of the stuff she had us read reminded me of the nursery rhymes I’d loved a few years earlier.

Shel Silverstein was the first poet I loved, but I quickly moved on to poets who wrote for adult audiences like Emily Dickinson and Langston Hughes.

The thought of compressing what could be an entire story into a few short lines impressed me. I was always excited to find poets who could create strong imagery of what they were describing to the audience while using as few words as possible.

There was about a decade there when poetry was regularly part of what I read for fun. For a long period of time after that, I still returned to it regularly when I needed a break from other genres.

I’m slowly losing interest in this genre, and that makes me a little sad. I wish I could find the same thrill in it I did twenty years ago.

Science Fiction and Fantasy

“Martians vs. Thunder Child” by Henrique Alvim Corrêa.

My interest in the science fiction and fantasy genres has always been intertwined with the other things I’ve read. Long before I entered high school they became genres I returned to over and over again.

While I do take breaks from science fiction and fantasy to recharge sometimes, those feelings have remained constant to this day. No other genre has managed to keep me coming back for more for as long or as consistently as these two have.

There is something so interesting about taking a modern trend and extrapolating it to some distant future where robots really do run the world or when climate change has altered our planet so much that future generations can no longer imagine what life was like in a cooler, more stable climate.

I’ve come to prefer hopeful speculative fiction over the darker, apocalyptic stuff, but I think I’ll continue reading some sort of sci-fi or fantasy for many years to come.

Leaning Towards Nonfiction

Over the last decade or so, I’ve found myself gradually becoming more interested in nonfiction than I ever was before. My favourite high school English teacher used to talk about how much she enjoyed reading about things that really happened.

I didn’t understand why she’d say that at the time, but now I relish the opportunity to read books about history, astronomy, archeology, ecology, medicine, the biographies or autobiographies of people who have accomplished all sorts of things, and many other topics.

We live in a world that is filled with more information than any one person can digest in a lifetime. I accept the fact that I can’t learn everything, but I also want to be exposed to as much knowledge as possible in this lifetime.

How have your reading habits evolved over time? If anyone decides to borrow this topic and blog about it, I’ll edit this post to include a link to your response if you’re interested in that.

Edited on May 5 to add Bjørn Larssen’s response.

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I’d Like to Switch Places With

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

My list this week is going to include several characters from TV shows. All of these shows have had books or graphic novels written about them, though, so they still fit the criteria for Top Ten Tuesday.

1. Biff from Christopher Moore’s Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal.

I love the offbeat humour of Monty Python and Douglas Adams. Christopher Moore was an author I discovered when I went hunting for other examples of tongue-in-cheek storytelling, and his irreverent character Biff was the perfect fit for what I was looking for. It would be pretty amusing to see the world through Biff’s eyes for a day.

2. Buffy from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Long Way Home and other graphic novels

Buffy wasn’t the first female superhero I ever watched or read about, but she has remained one of my favourite ones over the years. Unlike a lot of other superheroes, she had tight-knit relationships with her family, biological and chosen. I also loved the fact that she regularly dealt with problems that couldn’t be solved by super strength or fast healing. I’d sure be interested in finding out what it would be like to have those kinds of powers.

3. The Thirteenth Doctor Who

It wasn’t until I saw Jodie Whittaker’s take on the Doctor that I finally became a fan of this show. I love the creativity and practicality of the Thirteenth Doctor. Without giving away spoilers for those of you who haven’t seen her beginning yet, I was impressed with how good she was at getting herself out of a tough situation when she lost her sonic screwdriver. Her choice of companions has been top-notch so far, too, and I’d love to go on an adventure with them.

There is a graphic novel scheduled to be released about Doctor Who in May. I’m quite curious to read it.

4. Watson from the original Sherlock Holmes series

While Sherlock was a brilliant detective, I always found Watson more relatable because of his high emotional intelligence. He had impeccable manners and a desire to genuinely get to know others that I think would make him a very interesting person to switch places with.

Though this image is subject to copyright, its use is covered by the U.S. fair use laws because the image is used as the primary means of visual identification of the article topic.

5. Michael Burnham from Star Trek: Discovery novel.

Drastic Measures is the name of the first Star Trek novel about this show. Let’s see what I can tell you about Michael without giving away spoilers to anyone who hasn’t started Discovery yet. She’s an intelligent, hard-working woman who is excellent at reading and responding to other people’s emotions. I also love the fact that she is so quick to stick up for the underdog.

Also, who wouldn’t want to visit the Star Trek universe? That would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

6. Jayne Cobb from the Firefly graphic novels

Firefly was another TV show that I was pretty sad to see end, but luckily it was given new life in the graphic novel format. This story followed a group of rag-tag space travellers as they visited various planets and tried to find enough paying customers to make their space flights at least somewhat profitable. Jayne was the mercenary of the group, but as we got to know him we discovered parts of his personality that you’d never expect to find in someone as tough and aggressive as he generally was.

I loved discovering the hidden parts of his life and think it would be quite interesting to see what else might be quietly going on with him.

7. The mysterious old woman from the traditional fairy tale, The Child Who Came from an Egg.

I’m guessing that a lot of you haven’t heard of this legend, so I included a link to a site where you can read it for free in the line above. The most interesting to me about the mysterious old woman is that we know nothing about her, including her name. She has powers that she uses for good, but where she came from and how she acquired those powers is a mystery. I’d love to be her long enough to figure out the answers to those questions.

(Someday I hope we’ll have a Top Ten Tuesday prompt that I can use to talk about nothing but fairy tales. I love this topic and will talk all of your ears off about it if Jana ever gives me the opportunity to do so. Ha!)

8. Yorick Brown from Y: The Last Man

The premise of Y: The Last Man is simple. After a worldwide plague kills off all of the men in the world except for a guy named Yorick, he must travel halfway across the world to make amends with his ex-girlfriend.

I’m fascinated by the thought of living in a world full of women, and I thought this series did a good job of showing how society might adapt to that sort of massive change.

9. Lyra Belacqua from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy.

Lyra was such an inquisitive girl. There’s no doubt in my mind that temporarily being her would bring a lot of adventure my way.

10. Michonne from Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead graphic novels

Survivor is the first word I think of when I think of Michonne. She lived in an incredibly dangerous world, and yet she figured out ways to survive even the most dangerous situations without losing her humanity or will to survive. Without giving away spoilers, this is something that became pretty rare in this universe by the time I stopped reading the graphic novels.

I know that Rick Grimes is technically the main character of this story, but I’ve always felt like that honour should have been given to Michonne instead. She’s more than earned it.

What characters would you all like to switch places with?

5 Reasons Why You Should Read Science Fiction and Fantasy

This past weekend I tried to remember the first science fiction or fantasy book I ever read. After a lot of deliberation, I believe that traditional fairy tales were what originally drew me into this genre.

Some of my earliest memories about books in general involve borrowing fairy tale collections from my local library. After I’d read all of the sanitized versions of them, I moved on the dark and often gory originals.

My second clear memory of the sci-fi genre was watching reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation. There were two episodes of that show that I wanted to watch over and over again because of how much they blew my mind: Genesis and Sub Rosa. Before seeing them, I never would have imagined that people could evolve backwards or that an entity could need a candle to survive.

I don’t know how many of my readers are already fans of science fiction or fantasy, but there are several reasons why you should give them a chance if you’re not currently reading them.

They Ask Questions Without Always Answering Them

One of the things I found soothing about fairy tales when I first began reading them is how predictable they were. It was common to have three tasks to perform, a talking animal to guide you on your journey, an old woman who would help or hinder you depending on how kindly you treated her, and a happy ending for everyone who had a pure heart.

It came as a surprise to me, then, to move into older, darker fairy tales where these things weren’t necessarily true. Sometimes the protagonist ended up with the prince, but in other stories she before they could be reunited. As I gradually switched to reading and watching more science fiction and contemporary fantasy*, this unpredictable nature of the plot only grew stronger.

I love the fact that these genres don’t always tie everything up into a neat, little bow. Sometimes the good guys win. At other times, they might lose or the line between good and evil could be drawn in more than one place depending on how one looks at the facts. The open-ended nature of what it means to be a good guy and why bad things happen to good people appeals to me quite a bit.

*See also: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and many other of Joss Whedon’s TV shows.

They Teach You Important Life Lessons

Not everyone is who they appear to be.

Always overestimate how much time you need to do something. It’s better to impress others by finishing it early than it is to disappoint them.

If you’re able to help someone in need, do it. You never know when your fortunes might reverse and you might be the one who needs help next.

Equality is for everyone.

Don’t wear the colour red if you’re out on a mission.

Dragons and old, tired arguments with the people you love must never be roused from their slumber for no good reason.

These are only a few of the life lessons I’ve learned from fantasy and science fiction. I could have easily filled this entire blog post with nothing but a list of the things I’ve learned from sci-fi. It’s not just entertainment. It can also teach you things that will last an entire lifetime.

They Introduce You to New Ideas

The sci-fi genre is the perfect place to explore things you’ve never thought about before and imagine how our world could be different than it currently is.

Xena: Warrior Princess and Buffy the Vampire Slayer not only introduced me to the idea that a woman could save the day, they didn’t make the genders of their heroines a big deal.

Xena and Buffy were both too busy fighting monsters to worry about whether or not other people approved of them being heroic. That was something I rarely got to see as a little girl, so I relished those glimpses of worlds where your gender didn’t affect what role you’d play in an adventure.

They Imagine the Best and the Worst Case Scenarios

At various points in my life I’ve drifted back and forth between preferring utopian and dystopian sci-fi stories. There have been times when I’ve craved the hope that can be found in imagining a world where prejudice and many other forms of inequality no longer existed.

Watching Captain Picard and his crew explore the galaxy was magical. Here was a world where your gender, race, and species didn’t have any affect at all on what jobs you were allowed to do from what I could see. Was it perfect? No, but it was whole lot better than our current world.

On the flip side, sometimes it’s interesting to explore a future version of our world where everything has fallen apart. One of the things I enjoyed the most about the first six seasons of The Walking Dead was seeing how Rick reacted when every attempt he made to keep his children and community safe eventually fell apart in the most dramatic ways possible. At what point should someone try something completely new? Is it okay to stop admitting newcomers to your safe area once they’ve betrayed you a few times?

They Prepare You For Uncertainty

Will the future be paradise or a post-apocalyptic hellhole?

Nobody knows, so we must prepare for both possibilities. I love the fact that sci-fi is so focused on showing where we’re headed as a species and how small changes in our society today could have a massive affect on whether future generations will bless or curse our names.

A few years ago I underwent some testing for a possible medical problem. (Spoiler alert – it ended up being nothing to worry about at all).

While I was waiting to hear whether or not the abnormality my regular doctor had discovered was actually something to be concerned about, science fiction and fantasy showed me how to exist in that narrow space between health and sickness.

I hope I won’t have to walk down that dark passageway again for decades to come, but I know that my stories will be there to comfort and distract me if I do.