When I teach, speak, present, even enter into a conversation, I bring some baggage along with me: my past, my experiences, other books I have read, my education--all these have left traces within me that I cannot simply eliminate. So, when I talk about the books I am reading, for instance, I speak about them with some of this baggage attached. One bag is filled with other books I have read. Not just this year's batch (I have read over 700 so far this year), either. My reading lens is affected by all those books I have read and remembered. A second bag (and I can carry aboard two, right?) is filled with my life experiences. For instance, it is difficult if not impossible for me to read a book where the characters' parents are divorced without reading my own experience as a child of divorce into the story. Having lost a daughter to cancer, I read John Green's THE FAULT IN OUR STARS with a slightly different lens than others who might not have this personal experience with cancer and death. Education, religion, politics, geography, and so much more color my response to a book.
One final piece of baggage (pretend I am in first class) has to do with serving on selection committees. I have been fortunate to serve on a number of committees for ALA and NCTE and IRA over the years. That experience of reading, rereading, discussion, rereading, and more has also affected my take on books. I hear people talking about a popular book that they hope will be awarded with a medal often. I know that there are those books that touch us deeply (see paragraph above). But that is not how awards are determined. Committees make these decisions after careful deliberation and something we call a period of "bleeding on the table," making the case that OUR book should be the winner or honor. There is a balloting process as well after all the discussion and deliberation. This committee has not only read and reread the books, they have also read far more widely than I have in any given year. They know books I do not. And I have learned to TRUST THE PROCESS even when I think there are books I see as more worthy. A lack of award does not diminish in any way the books I hold dear to my heart.
So, though I do check luggage at the airport, I do not check it when it comes to books (and reading, but that is for another post). I carry those suckers with me.