Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

Update – Gone With The Wind

Even though I am still plowing through this massive novel, I thought it might be worthwhile to give an update on how it's going and my general impressions so far.

I just began part IV of the novel at the beginning of the week. I began reading the saga of Scarlett while on vacation in late July with the plan to be done by early November (in time for Mitchell's birthday celebration). Reading became non-existent for a few weeks as I battled illness and began a new semester of teaching. I'm not as far into the novel as I had hoped to be by now, but I think I'm still on target for finishing up by my deadline. I have experienced times of needing to lay the book aside and read something else, mainly because I felt as though I was reading a synopsis of a bad soap opera. Honestly, how many times do I really need a description of Scarlett's dresses? Enough is enough!

My reaction to the novel so far has been mixed. On one hand, I find myself enthralled with the descriptions of the grandeur of the South and mesmerized by the characterizations presented. However, I must admit that much of the book seems a bit generic. Of course Scarlett is not able to have the man she truly loves! Anything else would be too contemporary for the American society that birthed Gone with the Wind.

One trend that has truly surprised me has been the portrayal of the men in the novel. Has anyone else noticed that every man in the novel is essentially weak and flawed? I have not found an exception to this rule yet. Each of Scarlett's beaux are easily manipulated by her charms. Gerald completely falls apart at the death of Ellen. Male slaves are dominated by the wills of the dominating cooks. Men who are presented as self-confident and powerful are viewed as ogres throughout the novel. I suppose I never realized what a strong feminist thread ran through the work. These characterizations may also explain why I am having a largely negative response to the novel as a whole.

I also struggle with calling Gone with the Wind a great American novel. While I value its historical place, I don't find it speaking to universal themes. Neither does it make a significant statement about important issues facing our society. When I think of great American novels, I am looking for something on the level of To Kill a Mockingbird's stance against prejudice or Huck Finn's pursuit of freedom and self-identity on the waters of the mighty Mississippi. Scarlett O'Hara's life raises many issues, but the novel fails to rise above the depravity of her self-indulgence.

I'm hoping that my opinion of the novel changes when I reach the final page. For now, I continue reading in order to say that I HAVE read the book and to laugh at the utter ignorance that Scarlett displays while the world around her is truly in despair.

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#22: Becoming a Person of Influence (John Maxwell)

My reading life slowed down considerably for the past month due to some illness following traveling with family. Now things seem to be getting back to normal and I'm finding a routine again.

My latest book was John Maxwell's Becoming a Person of Influence: How to Positively Impact the Lives of Others. Books related to leadership are not my normal fare, but I found myself a bit discouraged regarding my interactions with others in almost every area of my life. As I browsed the shelves, I stumbled on the book and was captivated by the possibilities immediately.

Written in simple language, Becoming a Person of Influence should be read by anyone who wants to make a positive impact in the lives of others. Whether you find yourself interacting with people in the board room, the classroom, or the sanctuary, this book can provide you with valuable insight into the impact you are currently making while offering realistic suggestions to begin improving your influence. I intentionally read the book rather slowly so I could digest the material and examine my own life. What I have discovered has provided correction in some areas and affirmation in others.

Personally, I struggle with having faith in other people. It's not easy for me to let go of a task that I can do better in a shorter amount of time. I tend to forget that people want to do something worth-while and that allowing them to do it (even when it's not how I would do it) allows them an opportunity to grow and develop their own skills. To conclude, here are two of my favorite passages from Maxwell's chapter on having faith in people.

“As you work to become a person of influence, always remember that your goal is not to get people to think more highly of you. It's to get them to think more highly of themselves. Have faith in them, and they will begin to do exactly that.” (Maxwell, p. 64)

“Not everyone has the natural ability to recognize past successes and draw confidence from them. Some people need help. If you can show others that they have done well in the past and help them see that their past victories have paved the way for future success, they'll be better able to move into action. Listing past successes helps others believe in themselves.” (Maxwell, p. 69)

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