Monday, November 22, 2010

A Journey into Hugo’s World—Background

Journeying. Journaling. Exploring. Attempting to find a path through a wild country. These are some of the words that describe my experience of reading Hugo winning novels the last few months.

Since my return to reading fiction a few years ago, I have turned into a bookworm. I read when most people are watching TV. On Sunday afternoons, I literally feel disoriented if I am not in the middle of a compelling book. In June I felt restless. I had read mainly silly mystery series in the beginning of the year. Suddenly nothing seemed interesting. I searched the internet to find suggestions. As I was walking back from the library one day a thought popped into my head, “I could read Hugo winners this summer.” In retrospect, this must be a lot like deciding to move to another city for a summer or to take a gap year. I didn’t realize the ramifications of what it would mean to me.

Books, books, and more books. Even as I type, new books are being written, published, put on library and bookstore shelves. Choosing to read the Hugo winners has given me a sense of structure—a path through the wilderness of titles, but it has also required commitment. Friends don’t quite get it. They don’t understand why I don’t stop midway through a book that I don’t particularly like. One suggested that I had an obsessive compulsive disorder. I mostly get blank looks. They don’t understand the satisfaction I feel when I finish reading a book and enter the title and author into my little moleskin notebook, like having a passport stamped.

Like any good journey, I am learning a lot. Each book changes me a little bit, but the books cumulatively are changing me. I am between a third and a half of the way through the list of Hugo winning novels, not necessarily taking the books in order. I can hear the opening lines of Star Trek in my head. My journey isn’t into space, but instead into the culture that produced over five decades of science fiction and into my own experience as a reader and a human being.

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