As a pre-teen and into my teenage years I read voraciously, but I was especially drawn to fantasy and science fiction. Tolkein, Heinlein, Eddings, Bradbury, and McCaffrey were some of my favorites.
I found this article in the Smithsonian fascinating for its discussion of utopian vs. dystopian genre fiction, and for the frank appraisal of the purposes of science fiction in particular:
Science fiction, at its best, engenders the sort of flexible thinking that not only inspires us, but compels us to consider the myriad potential consequences of our actions. Samuel R. Delany, one of the most wide-ranging and masterful writers in the field, sees it as a countermeasure to the future shock that will become more intense with the passing years. “The variety of worlds science fiction accustoms us to, through imagination, is training for thinking about the actual changes—sometimes catastrophic, often confusing—that the real world funnels at us year after year. It helps us avoid feeling quite so gob-smacked.”And I so want to take the MIT course "Science Fiction to Science Fabrication." How cool would that be??
This list, nominated and voted on by NPR listeners, is a few years old, but a good place to start if you want to read some good sci-fi or fantasy. The 100 entries include lots of my favorites, but also quite a few I haven't read yet, and represent a wide spectrum of the genre. Several are series instead of stand-alone books, so working your way down the list would keep you busy for a very long time. Sounds like fun!
To find copies of some of those 100 sci-fi and fantasy books, you may have to hit up your local library. If you're lucky, maybe one of the libraries featured in this photo gallery is nearby. I've had the good fortune to visit the awe-inspiring Library of Congress, but the rest are still on my list of places-I-hope-to-go-someday. Crazy variety! Stuttgart's Municipal Library is so crisp and clean and modern and Iowa State's Law Library has these great spiral staircases and ornate banisters. I'd love to explore any of these 27 repositories of knowledge.
I just picked up photographer Richard Dawson's new book The Public Library from my local public library and I'm excited to dive in. Here's a brief interview he gave NPR as well as some pictures from the book. He relates that he's sometimes approached by people who believe libraries are becoming extinct, and he disagrees:
...according to the American Library Association, libraries are more used now than ever. And libraries are one of the few noncommercial, nonreligious institutions where people can gather. Libraries are evolving, and one of the things, in some ways, that happens is they're less about books, they're more about communities.One of the libraries he recommends visiting is Seattle's Central Library. I spent a few peaceful and enjoyable hours there a few years ago while my husband was in a continuing education course and I had some time to kill in downtown Seattle. Can't wait to learn about some more unique and fascinating libraries!
|Photo credit: Loughborough University Library via flickr|