Summer Reading: A Tale of Two Books Named GRIT, by Lori Ann Palma

reading-book-1500650_1280There’s something about summer reading that feels extra special. Maybe it’s that our brains slow down enough to really absorb the words and all those little details we might not otherwise notice during the busy school year. It makes me more selective about what I pick up, since I know summer is a magical time that won’t last very long.

With that in mind, I’m kicking off our Eastern Penn Points June theme of Summer Reading by sharing my thoughts on two of the best books I’ve read lately. One fiction, the other non-fiction, but both titled GRIT.

Grit, by Gillian French
Contemporary YA fiction is my jam, so when I read the jacket of this book—a raw, moving debut about tragic secrets—it got me, hook, line, sinker. True to its title, our protagonist, Darcy Prentiss, has loads of grit. She’s not afraid of the boys who want to intimidate her, of the searing blisters she gets from raking wild blueberries at the Wardwell farm, or jumping into the bottomless quarry because of a dare. As a reader, I enjoyed this book thoroughly, but as a writer, I was drawn in by the gorgeously written, authentic voice. When combined with an incredibly visual setting, this story feel very real. Darcy isn’t just a character in a rural eastern Maine town—I believed I could actually go there and find her at the drive-in. That’s something I always strive for in my writing, and I couldn’t have found a better example than in this novel.

On a personal level, Darcy’s no-fear attitude is exactly what I needed to kick off my summer reading. Writing is tough, and I feel it grows even more difficult in the passing years as traditional publishing becomes more competitive and my own dreams and goals have to shift to compete with other priorities. Darcy reminded me to have grit—to dig in and not let go of whatever it is I want to accomplish.

That very thought brings me to my next title:

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth
Sharing her own experiences along with her research, Angela Duckworth, a pioneering psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, explores the science behind what she calls “grit,” which is a special blend of interest (or passion), practice (or perseverance), purpose, and hope. Grit is the answer to why some people can continually work toward a dream without giving up despite fear, obstacles, failure, and exhaustion. It’s a “hang-in-there” attitude despite challenges that cause so many others to give up on their commitments.

This was a fascinating read if you’d like to understand the underlying science of success. While not usually a measurable value, this book aims to find common elements of personality and choices that make us gritty enough to withstand the inevitable failures that occur while in pursuit of a dream. Duckworth’s findings suggest that inherent talent or genius are not enough to be successful—you have to have a true interest in your work, the passion to keep practicing, and the feeling that the work has meaning to others.

From a writer standpoint, reading this book gave me a sense of validation that my years of hard work have been toward something, as if every hour working on my craft is a drop in a bucket that’s slowly filling up. I’m going to remember this analogy when I feel as if there isn’t much to show for all the time I’ve spent working on my craft.

As we get into the summer days of June, I hope you’ll consider sharing what’s on your summer reading list and how it’s impacted your life.

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