Hermione's fervent belief in the power of books to solve all problems and answer every question might be my favorite part of the Harry Potter series. Oh, I know facts get dated and stories can't solve everything, and how we use and interpret information — and where we're getting information from in the first place — are just as important, if not more so, than the fact that we're reading. But! reading gives us tools. Books give us data and context and perspective and the ability to learn outside our own experience. And so, like Hermione, my first instinct, whenever I encounter something new or confusing or intriguing, is to go to the library.
(Or, in the case of my interest in genes, inheritance and epigenetics, go to the bookstore.)
Sometimes, I don't even realize I've been reading around a topic until I look at my end-of-year reading log and see how one book led to another. In Florida, I started reading Zora Neale Hurston because she had lived in my area, and looking for books like hers led me to Jesmyn Ward, James Baldwin and Ta-Nehisi Coates, who in turn led me to books like Stamped from The Beginning and The New Jim Crow. Since the election and even before Election Day, lists of books trying to explain Trump's rise and win have popped up. Many of the books deal with class in America and the urban/rural divide, and looking at my yearly reading lists, you can see I've been interested in these topics a long time, reading Rick Bragg and Barbara Kingsolver, Barbara Ehrenreich and Dorothy Allison, Phil Klay and David Finkel.
Lately, given world politics, I've bookmarked these reading lists about North Korea and Venezuela. Given American politics, I find myself looking backward, reading about our country's beginnings. Since our cross-country road trip to the West, I've been picking up books about western migration, manifest destiny, and Native Americans, and I've had a craving to reread Willa Cather. And given the Google firing, I think our latest Make America Read book discussion (more information below) is pretty damn timely.
I don't know that I'll ever officially go to school again. But as long as I have a library card, I'll be learning. What are you learning about these days?