Monday, November 14, 2011

Two Books I'm Grateful for

by Chad Morris

I think the blogfest only asked for one, but this is a twofer. I love to alternate between fiction and non-fiction books and it was hard to choose between them—so I didn’t. I love how fiction fires my imagination, but I love the depth and reality of lessons learned from someone who really existed or something that really happened. So here are two books I’m grateful for--one fiction, one non-fiction.

 1) The Book of Three, by Lloyd Alexander.
“I’m bored,” I remember saying to my mom. She hated to hear it, but it didn’t stop me from saying it—over and over again. I think I was somewhere between third and fifth grade—a very considerate and sensitive age for boys (Did the sarcastic font come through?).

“Why don’t you read?” my mom said.

“I hate reading,” I answered. And I meant it. I hated reading. I’d much rather play basketball, let my German Shepard out of his kennel and try not to let him pounce on me, or take turns with my brothers seeing who could stay folded up the hideaway couch the longest. Reading was so . . . stagnant. It just wasn’t my thing.

But sometime, I don’t remember how, I checked out The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander from my elementary school library. It probably had something to do with the fact that we had to check out something, and this book had a guy with antlers coming out of his skull head riding a rearing horse. Yes, a skull and antlers. It was just that cool. Unlike many of my other library books, I actually read it. And I liked it. The girl was alright, but I related to Taran’s uncoordinated but brave actions, and I loved Gurgi, his mangy sidekick who always rhymed when he spoke (munchings and crunchings).

I went on to read all the books in the series. I didn’t do it quickly, and I didn’t stop trying to jump the sewer cover with my bike, but I did finish them.

I collected autographs at the time. My father’s job at a sporting goods store had really helped my collection. Patrick Ewing, John Stockton, Karl Malone, and Mike Tyson had all signed their pictures for me. But I also wrote to Lloyd Alexander, and he was nice enough to send me his autograph for my collection—the only author among athletes.

I can’t say that I was a serial reader after that, but I started. I still preferred a game of full-contact sledding with my brothers and cousins, but afterwards I didn’t mind relaxing with a good book. Since then, my love to read has just increased. I’m grateful for a book that started me down the road.

2. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, by Frederick Douglas.

This one is much more recent. I picked it up a few summers ago while Shelly and I were in Washington D.C. (It was one of those Dover books that is like $3, which was a welcome tag in overpriced souvenir shops). It’s a thin book and a reasonably quick read, but it was one of the more life-affecting books I’ve read. I profoundly respect the man who started his life as a slave and ended it as an influence writer and orator against slavery.

One of the passages that really struck me was when Douglas recounted a time as a boy. One master’s wife began to teach him to read, but then was forced to stop by her husband who claimed, “ ‘. . . A nigger should know nothing but to obey his master—to do as he is told to do. Learning would spoil the best nigger in the world. . . . If you teach that nigger how to read, there would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave. He would at once become unmanageable, and of no value to his master. As to himself, it could do him no good, but a great deal of harm. It would make him discontented and unhappy.’”

Douglas recounted, “These words sank deep into my heart, stirred up sentiments within that lay slumbering, and called into existence an entirely new train of thought.  . . . From that moment, I understood the pathway from slavery to freedom. . . . Though conscious of the difficulty of learning without a teacher, I set out with high hope, and a fixed purpose, at whatever cost of trouble, to learn how to read. . . .

“A little experience soon demonstrated . . . that education and slavery were incompatible with each other” (Frederick Douglas, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, 20, 22).

Douglas continued to teach himself to read. He was moved from place to place and master to master, until he found a way to escape. He wrote this autobiography to encourage the anti-slavery movement, and it was published when he was about 27. It quickly became a bestseller though many questioned whether a black man could write such a fascinating and articulate work. It was reprinted nine times within its first three years of publication. Douglas became a powerful writer and orator for the abolitionist cause, and is one of the most famous black men in US History.

And reading his book, made me extremely grateful for the opportunities I have, the books I can read, and the lessons I’m free to learn.

I want to thank Beth Revis for the awesome blogfest. November is a great month to focus on what you're grateful for. If you have the chance check out the other entries or enter yourself. There is still time!


  1. Those a great books! Fredrick Douglas is amazing!!!

    Side thought: Love the picture of your family at the bottom of your blog. Is that a red head I spy on the end :)

  2. Yes Douglas is amazing. And yes that is a red-head. We have quite the variety in hair in our family. Some brunettes, blonds, a red-head, and of course a couple of baldies (one temporary and one permanent).

  3. Chad: that is an amazing post! Thanks for stopping by my blog, and thanks for sharing!

  4. Shelly-how did you transfer all your followers over to your new blog address?

  5. I love the Narrative book. It's a keeper.

    Still haven't read Lloyd Alexander. I know I should but I actually DON'T pick up books with antlered ghosts on the cover. Maybe a girl and a guy holding hands and she's wearing a big poofy dress. I'd pick up that book.

  6. I loved the Lloyd Alexander books as a kid too. I distinctly remember seeing that cover and being terrified, but I guess curiosity got the better of me. I'll have to pick up Douglas' book. Sounds great.


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