Last night I reached a major milestone in my quest by completing book number sixty-three. This seems an odd number to celebrate, but it means I have now matched my total from last year. With slightly more than two months remaining, I am still a long way from the century mark but should make considerable gains on last year’s total.
My most recent conquest is Mark Twain’s classic novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The book follows the events in the life of Tom Sawyer, a young boy in Ste. Petersburg, Missouri (based on Twain’s own hometown). Tom is a typical boy, full of adventure but sometimes lacking in common sense. His life is filled with pretended piracy and games of ‘Robin Hood’ in the local forest. One night, in the course of another wild adventure, Tom and his friend Huckleberry Finn witness a murder committed by the nefarious Injun’ Joe. Joe blames another miscreant, who is set to hang for the murder until Tom testifies about what he saw (despite the risk of being killed by Injun’ Joe for the revelation). Joe escapes and Tom lives in fear of his revenge. This fear is naturally not enough to discourage Tom from further adventures, including the discovery of buried treasure and getting lost in a cave for days. Injun’ Joe also gets trapped in the cave, where he starves to death. Tom’s triumph and newfound wealth earn him a level of fame uncommon for grown men in his town and the respect and admiration of all of the boys.
Credit for this choice goes to my father, who gave me a very old and very worn edition of the book that he came across in an antique store (pictured above). This is another one of those books that I should have read at some point prior to now but somehow avoided doing so. I am glad I waited. Tom Sawyer is definitely a book that can be enjoyed by children, with its chronicle of the many misadventures of Tom and his friends, but is even more enjoyable for an adult. Twain writes with a wit and humor impossible to duplicate. He reminds his adult readers of their own childhood escapades while also pointing out that age is no reason to lose the good nature of youth. I was most struck by the similarities between children today and those of more than a century ago. The same restless spirit and creativity that fuel Tom’s adventures continues to drive the activities of children today. The ability to create worlds of imagination and inhabit them for hours is one of the most endearing qualities a child possesses. I fear that technology, and especially the ubiquitous video game, may dampen this spirit of creativity, as the imaginary worlds created by children are replaced by the electronic ones programmed for them. In any event, Tom Sawyer is a wonderful reminder of the joys of childhood.
The Current Count:
63 Read, 37 To Go