I have been taught by those older and wiser that I should continually educate myself towards an understanding and appreciation of excellence. This means that my personal preference is what I like without trying, and what is excellent is sometimes what I must learn to like. So, reading is like food. Stick with a lifetime of twinkies and all you get is bad health and a rotten brain! Teach yourself to like excellent reading, just like you teach yourself to like excellent food (which for me is a steak!), and you'll end up learning to like what is excellent.So in my attempt to educate my personal preferences towards excellence, I am trying to read and understand Flannery O'Connor. I have been told by those who are older and wiser that her writing is worthwhile and excellent, but that it was also difficult. I read "Wise Blood" several years ago and really disliked it. REALLY disliked it. I can vouch for the reading being difficult. A fellow Goodreads friend starting reading "Letters of Flannery O'Connor: The Habit of Being" and I was encouraged to pick it up and read it as well. Perhaps letters written by Flannery to her friends would help me understand and appreciate her short stories and novels. So that was the goal.This book contains a collection of letters written by Flannery O'Connor from 1948 up to a few days before her death in 1964. They are compiled by Sally Fitzgerald, wife of Robert Fitzgerald, both of whom were good friends to Flannery. Robert Fitzgerald's translations of ancient Greek and Latin became standard works for generations of scholars and students. (WOW!) Flannery lived with the Fitzgerald's for several years before the onset of her lupus.I found the letters to be vastly helpful in understanding her as a person and what she writes about and why. I discovered that I probably would have liked Flannery as a person. She had a hilarious wit and a way of describing the mundane in ways that make you laugh out loud. She is honest about her writing and answers honest questions honestly. Many of her friendships began when someone wrote to ask a question, and Flannery took the time to answer them.So I liked this book. (Hmmm... is that my personal taste being educated here?? ) She discusses all of her writings (stories and books) at length, so I feel I have a bit of a clue now to understanding them. While I was finishing up this book, I started reading some of her short stories from "The Complete Stories". Do I like her writing now? No, not really. It remains difficult reading, and often times unpleasant reading, although I understand the point of it better now. So at this point perhaps that's a step in the right direction?A couple of interesting and funny items from the book--Flannery wrote a short story called "A Good Man is Hard to Find". After it is published, Flannery begins receiving letters almost in the vein of responses to a personal ad! She says "a good man is hard to find"? Well they are writing to let her know that they (the good men) are out there and eager to meet her!Flannery's mother also sounds like someone I would have enjoyed knowing. At one point she asks Flannery about Kafka, who is he and what has he written, because some of her friends had heard of him and she wants to give them some information about him. Flannery explains that he wrote "Metamorphosis". Flannery's mother asks, "what is that about?" To which Flannery answers, "A man is transformed into a cockroach." The mother replies, "I can't tell people that!"