A Daring Adventure for the Masses


Stephen Li

Janina Akporavbare (’22) poses with the 19 books she read for the library’s reading challenge.

Reading is an opportunity to step out of our dismal lives, caked with homework and the existential crisis that lies deep within. It makes us roll on the floor with laughter; fall in love with a mysterious, handsome stranger; holds our hands through times of adversary; and dances with us in the pale moonlight of melancholy.  

The 19 for ’19 challenge was the perfect reading venture for this year. It encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and try new books that I may not have read without having been given a push. I was able to explore new genres while keeping up with a fairly consistent theme of understanding the human psyche.

The Demon Haunted World, fulfilling a book recommended by a stranger, provides an in-depth view of the war of science versus superstition. Carl Sagan, a renowned American astrophysicist, cosmologist, author and science educator, purposed utilizing science as a means to answer some of our greatest questions. By the completion of the novel, the reader is left with the prospect of being a skeptic, not a cynic.

Furthermore, this challenge allowed me to delve into the mind of an adolescent recently diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. Hannah Green’s semi-autobiography, I Never Promised You A Rose Garden, helps break the stigma of this widely victimized mental illness, by portraying the main character Deborah Blau, not as her disability, but as someone overcoming it. Though the book is very old, its message still holds relevance. It will forever remain one of my favorites.

Humans are impulsive creatures by nature, but just how much? Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior analyzes this concept by detailing extreme situations in which our impulsive behavior has gotten us in trouble. To contrast, by providing day-to-day examples, it helps the reader better understand this pull, and in turn, aids us in gaining some mastery over it. Though the novel answered various questions that I had about decision making, it did bring about a few more that can be answered simply by reading further into this fascinating subject.

I could not properly endorse this challenge without including The Time Traveler’s Wife, which I read for the topic of the year I was born. Audrey Niffenegger, acclaimed American author, crafts the brilliant tale of a man and woman falling in love. This is no ordinary boy meets girl story; Henry, the main character is a time traveler with no control over his abilities. This novel shows time as the enemy, friend, betrayer, and so much more. It makes the reader value how linear it is for them. This novel compels you to slow down and smell the roses, instead of planning for the task ahead. It vividly describes how little time we have, especially with those whom we love. The novel poses questions that insinuate skepticism against the way the reader has been living, urging for a moment of self-reflection. Claire and Henry’s problems, though far-fetched, mirror our daily struggles. This novel has become my favorite book and I am ever so grateful to the challenge for instilling a craving in me to read it.

The Fawcett Library book challenge is a wonderful way to explore the reading world. It dares the participant to try reading new genres or topics. I strongly recommend you try it this year, or in the future. And if you may ask why, it may be the reason you discover the needle in the haystack, like me, and find a book that you will forever treasure.

NOTE: The Webb Canyon Chronicle is advised by Dr. Mark Dzula, who also manages Fawcett Library.