The Spark Project [5]: KRISTEL

The Spark Project is a monthly blog feature where a reader and/or book blogger is invited to talk about that one book that sparked his/her interest in books and reading. He/She will tell us about the what-when-where-why-and-how of this topic, how his/her reading habits have evolved since encountering that book, and so on. Wouldn't it be fun and interesting as well to know how a fellow book lover discovered the wonderful world of books? :)

For the month of May, Kristel of Fanarchist - Reading Blog has agreed to share with us how her deep affection for reading and books began. When she sent over her answers, I read it right away and was  delightfully surprised to find out that the book that "sparked" her love for reading is also one of my favorites - and one of the few classics that I first read and truly appreciated.

Kristel is a fellow book club member who I highly regard - her expansive knowledge of books and her penchant for crime/mystery thrillers are amazing. Put her in the middle of a book discussion, and her passion for things she believes in will come out, unbridled. (You should have seen and heard her in January, for the book club's 1984 discussion.) Personally, I have long wanted to ask her how her dedication and love for the written word came to be, and I am humbled by her forthcoming concurrence to be featured on this blog to discuss just that.

Kristel at a book club meeting last year.

Your attention, everyone. :)
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(1) What is the one book that sparked or kindled your love for reading? Describe the circumstances in which you found or discovered it.  

I have vague recollections of reading various kids' books from the time I learned how to read (around 3 or 4) all through my life. I have read a ton of Sweet Valley Kids and Goosebumps, I'm sure, but I can't recall specific titles or plots.

For my 2nd grade English class, we were assigned to write a book report as a final project. I think my teacher wanted us to write something short, around 2 pages maybe. Most of my classmates chose Sweet Valley and Goosebumps. I have always been a tad ambitious (and pretentious) even as a child and I was a big fan of the early morning cartoons that used to play from 9 am to 11 pm on ABS-CBN, including adaptations of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women and Little Women II

In my infinite wisdom I wanted to know about the beginnings of Jo March so I asked my mom to buy me a copy of Little Women for my book report project. I still have a copy of it with me--the Bantam Classics edition with the corners of its lavender cover torn off because of too much rereading. Picture me taking on a 400+ book for a 2nd grade book report. Talk about biting off more than I can chew! I think I only finished the first half and finished the rest during the summer vacation.

Little Women is a story of the March sisters (Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy), four young girls who are anxiously waiting for the return of their father from the frontlines of the American Civil War. They grow up together in an idyllic little town in Massachusetts where they navigate the delights and hardships of young adulthood with the help of their mother, whom they affectionately call Marmee. I think I related to the story on some level because my Dad had also been away for long stretches of my childhood--he worked as a seaman and he worked out of the country for 6 months to a year per trip.

Jo March is a particular hero of mine because she was an aspiring writer and at one point had a story of hers published in a newspaper. Her friendship with a wealthy but lonely neighbor named Laurie was also delightful to read. I know a lot of people who still passionately believe that she and Laurie should have ended up together (spoiler: They didn't!) but I think their friendship is important enough on its own.

(2) How has it affected you - both your life in general and as a reader?

In many ways Little Women is the first adult book I have ever read, though you could argue that it is still strictly a young adult story. It had the first character death that I read on a book that I distinctly remember. The thing about many kids' books is that the characters never age or change so they seem almost immortal. The illness and death of Beth March affected me profoundly as a young girl and I still got choked up the last time I reread those chapters.

Little Women also taught me that books aren't just made for entertainment, that they are also capable of communicating difficult truths about human relationships. The March sisters didn't always get along. In fact, there is one chapter where youngest sister Amy almost drowns in an icy lake because of a stupid quarrel with Jo. The characters had very believable personalities and motivations, so you root for them even when they sometimes act impulsively or selfishly. You learn that you can love people not only despite, but because of their flaws.

I've never stopped reading ever since and I genuinely believe that Little Women really is that spark. Reading has been and still is a source of continuous comfort for me. 'Reader' is definitely one term I use to identify myself. I may have moved beyond the domestic plots that Little Women had, but I can affirm that its influence persists. Jo March is my first inspiration when it comes to putting words on paper. I have always wanted to be writer like her and one day (I'm still working on it) I will strive to be as brave as she was and put out my creative writing into the world.

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You can read about Kristel's notes, thoughts and reviews about books over at her Wordpress site

Thank you Kristel!


Anonymous said…
Thank you for thinking of me and letting me write a guest post for your blog. Like I said on Twitter, the small trip down memory lane was truly a pleasure.

And I'm thrilled to know that you're also a fan of Little Women. Did you have a favorite March sister? :D
Anonymous said…
Nice! I also love those morning cartoons that ABS-CBN used to air. Huck Finn, The Little Princess, The Secret Garden, Heidi, and yes, Little Women!

I think being ambitious (and pretentious) as a child allows one to explore more of literature later on. And it's a good thing! You (Kristel) read books that I really look forward to (Heinrich Boll, Naguib Mahfouz), and I "benchmark" your ratings with what I read next (except for Jelinek, hahaha!).

I admire people who strive for ambition, even with reading choices. Never mind being pretentious; it is beside the point. And that wears out anyway, sooner or later. :)
Monique said…
KRISTEL: As I said (also) on Twitter, the pleasure and honor are mine. :)

Jo is also my favorite March sister. She is the headstrong one, and she kept her family glued together through everything, and even when she was in New York trying to live out her dream of becoming a writer. Beth, good ol' Beth, has a kind heart, but we know what happened to her. :(

BUDDY: Ditto. :)
Anonymous said…
ANGUS: Yes, I loved all those cartoons as well. My other favorite was Tom Sawyer and I also read that book a little after Little Women. I read and appreciated Huck Finn only much, much later.

And thank you for saying that you value my opinions and ratings of books lol. I guess my interests just weren't really that of typical kids. :D

MONIQUE: I have some friends who really disliked Amy ahaha. But I honestly love all of them.

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