No this wasn’t written by a four-year old…
Currently Listening to: Self-Titled by James Blake
Quarantine has motivated me to pursue a number of things I felt I never had the time to do in everyday life prior. I started to work out regularly, I began to write again, started learning about spirituality, but my favorite thing I did over quarantine was read. Books and I have a complicated relationship. We dropped off for a number of years after introducing me to the characters in the atrocity known as Lord of the Flies. That was the last book that I ever read front to back and that was nearly six years ago. This was a massive downgrade after reading To Kill a Mockingbird, which is still my absolute favorite, for sophomore English. Ever since then it was either SparkNotes or page skimming.
They say that school kills creative ambition and halts kids from branching off into their own person. I mostly agree with that… to an extent. Up until college you are kind of kept to a strict enrichment diet of nearly impossible math homework unless you’re a child prodigy, nearly impossible math homework disguised as science classes, and being forced to read books you have no desire to read. Don’t get me wrong some of this curriculum is super great for reading into context and searching for deeper meanings of life. Without my senior year speech and composition classes I wouldn’t be half the person I am today. It helped me a lot with my public speaking and my essay writing. TKAM taught me a bunch of lessons about life and how to properly tell a legit story. Math brought me deepest meaning of all. How deeply I meant it when I said I wanted to drop out during calculus. Thank god I didn’t, but I digress.
What made To Kill A Mockingbird so great for me was that it educated me on a timeless lesson of racism in America and how to flesh out extremely likable and memorable characters. I wanted all books to be like this. I found a book that I actually wanted to know everything about and study in depth. Sadly, I never picked up a book like that again. That is until my friend loaned me The Truth by Neil Strauss, a writer for Rolling Stone magazine.
The Truth was a bold name for a book that also happened to take on the appearance of a white bible. Underneath the title was the subtitle in gold print “an uncomfortable book about relationships”. Who does this guy think he is? The Jesus of heartbreak? Turns out yeah he kinda is the Jesus of heartbreak. The book is an autobiography about how Neil once had the perfect woman, Ingrid, and blew it all for a one night stand. He then seeks out rehab for sex addicts and learns to love and appreciate what is around him… or so he thinks. His entire world seems to crumble around him as he digs deeper into what he thinks he wants out of his life. The book reads like the most insane romance novel ever written. Even Nicholas Sparks would be like ‘man this is fucked up’. There’s a ton of twists and turns and points where it felt like I was reading about a fantasy. On the way though he has a lot of wisdom to share and it’s all valuable information.
Strauss also wrote a book called The Game, which is about picking up women and serves as the polar opposite to The Truth. It is frequently referenced in The Truth that there’s a lot that he regrets in writing that book and how what he learned while researching for it brought him to where he is today.
So why did a book about a guy who is confused about typical relationship structure and has a sex addiction connect with me so much? It is because I love sex SO MUCH! Actually no, it is the journey that he goes on and where I was in life when I first began reading it. When I first was recommended The Truth, I was in a bad place. I had very little faith in the world of romance since my perception and track record was kinda damaged. Someone I had deeply trusted betrayed me and turned on me out of nowhere. I developed what some may call ‘trust issues’ and it took a toll on me no doubt.
Reading this book was part of my recovery. When you can relate to such a deep emotion such as love and attraction with anyone it engulfs you. That connection feels tangible. Though I didn’t go anywhere near the scale of Neil’s adventure, I felt as though I knew how he was feeling and he understood the type of reader that would pick up this book. I believe that it was meant for people like me at the time.
In my mind, that is what makes a book so great. I feel as though that is why people often say movies that are adapted from books never do the source material justice. When I pick up a book and I read a paragraph or read into a scenario I try to envision what that would look like in real life. If I can connect it to something in my imagination and in my vision versus what it actually looks like on the screen through someone else’s eyes I feel as though I gained more from it.
Schools rightfully should let their students pick their reading material and let them find their own story and meaning from it instead of following a rubric and having to search back through the book for quotes. It should be about what you can learn from what the author has to say and not what the teachers say. If students were allowed to pick up a book that catches their interest and end up having an experience like I did while reading The Truth, then I would have fallen in love for English class year after year.