I'm half-way through the Read Harder Challenge this year and I will say this challenge has really changed my reading reality. The third year of doing this makes me realize while I am not less opinionated about what kinds of books I like or don't like, I'm a lot more open-minded about trying a book in a genre I previously thought I didn't like. Take Beverly Jenkins' Bring on the Blessings series. I can't remember when I have felt so "addicted" to a book series that I needed to order the next book as soon as I returned the previous one. Even though there are about twenty books sitting on my to-read shelf at home. And this is a romance. So I thank Read Harder for breaking me out of my comfort zone.
That said, I did get to fall back into some comfort for June's books - a celebrity memoir and a children's classic published before 1980. The celebrity memoir was a little difficult, just because I don't watch television or listen to popular music, so I don't even recognize a lot of the people currently writing celebrity memoirs. That said, I remembered a friend had found Searching for the Sound by Grateful Dead bass player Phil Lesh for me and it was just waiting to be read. I paired that with Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow's Mother American Night and I had a nice collection of memories to dive into. Given that it had been three years since the Fare Thee Well shows in Chicago, I was ready for the adventure. While both of these authors traveled in the same circles, their stories and how they share them are quite different. Phil Lesh is, at heart, kind of a music nerdy bass player, interested in the technology, willing to be the guy who wore a suit and talked to officials when need be, but in essence, somewhat unattached on a personal level. It was somewhat depressing (although not surprising) to hear how many people ripped off the band either by having them sign bad contracts or actually stealing money directly (and some of these were family members). It was great to read about the band's early days and evolution and to just think about how young they were when so many important musical events happened. Almost as a polar opposite, John Perry Barlow is a full-steam-ahead, guns a-blazing, ready to rumble kind of guy. He and Bobby Weir met in school where they both got in a certain amount of trouble, and then essentially just continued to do so on a larger scale. Just a sampling of John Perry Barlow's life - he ran a cattle ranch, hung out in Andy Warhol's factory, mentored JFK Jr., was Dick Cheney's campaign manager, and became an internet guru and co-founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation. All this while ingesting a certain amount of hallucinogenic drugs. While you really probably need to be a fan of the Grateful Dead to enjoy Phil's memoir, anyone fascinated by a life well lived would enjoy John Perry Barlow's story.
Finding a children's classic published before 1980 was easy. Finding a classic published before 1980 that I hadn't already read was much harder. Not a surprise, but I was a voracious reader as a child. Which means I had already read all of the titles that kept showing up on lists of children's classics. Except for Little Women. I don't know why I have such an aversion to reading this book, but I do. So I pouted and still decided not to read it. Instead I chose to re-read Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. I loved this book as a kid - I can't even remember how many times I read it. It just felt so challenging and thought-provoking. We went to the library, so my personal bookshelf of books that I owned was quite small. But I definitely had this entire trilogy. I have heard mixed reviews of the movie, and I was a little nervous about whether I would enjoy it as an adult, but I decided to give it a whirl. I realized that there were entire sections of the story that I just didn't even pick up on as a kid, such as the idea that younger brother Charles Wallace wasn't just brilliant, but was actually, possibly, not fully human, but of a more advanced species. This concept went right over my head when I was younger. While I wouldn't say it was mind-blowing to read this book as an adult, I can distinctly remember how I fully wanted to be a part of this family and a part of this story. And that feeling is something that I still love when I find it in a book - when I just want to disappear inside of the story. Maybe one day I'll dig into Little Women, but I'm not going to hold my breath. There's only so far this reading challenge can take me.