Posts Tagged With: Book

Best Books Ever, At Least for This Week

Someone asked me for a list of my favorite books. Or maybe it was, “If you were stranded on a desert island with only three books…” I don’t know. They demanded a quick answer and I had none.

Happy Children Playing Kids

(Photo credit: epSos.de)

May as well ask a mother to pick a favorite child.

Apparently, I’m just a fraud, masquerading as a literary aficionado.

And yet if someone knew nothing else about me they’d need to know that I. Love. Books.

When we pack up to move, the book boxes outnumber the kitchen boxes. Surely I have a shelf of favorites. Actually, I have categories of favorites. And not just genres. Books are favorite reads because of character development, or amazing descriptive writing, or a compelling storyline. Books are favorites because I recognized myself and my quirks in a particular character, or because the writing felt familiar and comfortable. Favorites find their way into my heart through no reasoning whatsoever. Some are such masterworks of genius I read them just to remind myself that such art and perfection exists.

My yearly goal is to read twenty-five books. (That’s two a month plus one for we math illiterates.) That’s been going on for upwards of thirty years. And some years I read much more than that. Being conservative, that’s 750 books I’ve read as an adult. As a kid and a teen I read like most people breath and I didn’t keep track of them. A book a day during the summer, perhaps? Given that impossible to estimate number, lets round it up to a thousand books I’ve read. Narrowing that down to ten favorites seems impossible.

Just as a sort of point of honor, I read all of these before they became movies, or musicals, or whatever else they’ve morphed into.

Yet, in the spirit of answering last night’s book club question, here is a list of a few of my favorite books, in no particular order. (If they have a star, it’d be in my “deserted island” backpack.)

  • To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee*
  • The Thirteenth Tale – Diane Setterfield
  • Les Miserables – Victor Hugo*
  • The Book Thief  -Markus Zusak* (Surprising narrator)
  • Last of the Mohicans – James Fenimore Cooper*
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife  – Audrey Niffenegger
  • Charlotte’s Web – E. B. White
  • The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon (The best first lines of a novel ever!)
  • Out of Africa – Isak Dinesen*
  • Ender’s Game  – Orson Scott Card
  • Matilda – Roald Dahl*
  • The Whistling Season – Ivan Doig* (Stunning!)
  • The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck (Yup Mr. Beck, your favorite author made the list, aren’t you a proud teacher!)
  • Ella Minnow Pea – Mark Dunn
  • Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson
  • A River Runs Through It – Norman McLean* (Better than a hike in the woods)
  • A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens*
  • Banner in the Sky – James Ramsey Ullman
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
  • Life of Pi – Yann Martel
  • Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
  • Caleb’s Crossing – Geraldine Brooks
  • The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Talk Before Sleep – Elizabeth Berg (Beautifully heartbreaking)
  • Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis
  • A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
  • Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe – Fannie Flagg (Towanda!)
library shelves

(Photo credit: jvoss)

I feel like I’ve left hundreds of my beloved children behind. I also realize after reviewing my list that it’s all fiction. I do read non-fiction, they just don’t fall into my favorites lists apparently.

Simply reading the synopsis of each book will entertain you, I’m certain of it. Pick one or two that you haven’t ever read then get back to me about what you thought. I’d love a dialogue like that.

I ramped up my reading goal this year to thirty-six books. That seems reasonable. Three great reads a month. Okay, maybe they won’t all be great. But the more I read, I figure, the more likely I’ll find some real gems to cherish. I’ve read eighteen so far, so given that it’s the beginning of July, I’m right on track.

If you have a favorite you think I need to read or you don’t see here, I’d love to know about it. Please leave a comment so I can enjoy  and share the treasures you’ve found among the world of reading.

I’m always looking for another favorite.

Categories: Books | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Proof That Humans Can Work Magic

I used to try to wiggle my nose to make something magical happen. I couldn’t wiggle my nose, so naturally, no magic. Then I tried holding my arms folded in front of me and blinking my eyes to make magic. Didn’t have much luck with that one either.

Magic words like “Alakazam!” and “Open Sesame!” and “Bibbity Bobbity Boo” didn’t have any effect, much to my chagrin.

I resorted to mind control. Thinking until it hurt my brain, I’d try to move a spoon, or make the salt shaker float. I’d stare at a pitcher of water and will it with my eyes to pour. No luck.

No magic.

Nada.

Then I discovered books.

“A book is made from a tree. It is an assemblage of flat, flexible parts (still called “leaves”) imprinted with dark pigmented squiggles. One glance at it and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, the author is speaking, clearly and silently, inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people, citizens of distant epochs, who never knew one another. Books break the shackles of time ― proof that humans can work magic.”

Carl Sagan

January 10, 2013 - Antique Books

(Photo credit: eric.langhorst)

Carl Sagan always intrigued me with his “billions and billions” talk. And now I find, with this quote that he was magical too, talking to me across time, from his past to my present. Letting me know that I, too, am a magician after all.

After discovering books I decided I could make that kind of magic if I practiced enough.

So now, I write. That’s my magic.

It might not always be magical, but it’s working right now.

Categories: Books, Communication | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Writer and Reader: A Work of Heart

English: Picture of an open book, that does no...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I have come through this many of my allotted days, watched the passing of life on earth, made something of it and nailed it to the page. Having written, I find I’m often willing to send it on, in case someone else also needs this kind of reassurance. Art is entertainment but it’s also celebration, condolence, exploration, duty, and communion. The artistic consummation of a novel is created by the author and reader together, in an act of joint imagination, and that’s not to be taken lightly.” – Barbara Kingsolver, from “Careful What You Let in the Door” in her book of essays High Tide in Tucson

I love hearing that an author has respect for and interest in her readers. Maybe that’s why all the books I’ve read by Barbara Kingsolver resonate me with, regardless of the topic. She trusts her readers to bring thought, wisdom and intelligence with them when they open her book.

There are many authors whose works I’ve read that left me with a similar sense of collaboration. Surely that’s where the sentiment of “the book is always better than the movie” comes from. No movie maker can duplicate the combined imagination and interface of writer and individual reader. What happens in the space called reading is uniquely personal and potentially magical.

As solitary as reading appears to be on from the outside, surprisingly, it’s actually a relationship and an alliance. Thanks to authors like Kingsolver and many, many others, there are countless opportunities to be part of of such creative adventures.

Long live the written word!

Categories: Books, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

It’s Gratituesday! Booking It Big Time.

It’s Gratituesday!  Today I am thankful for school librarians and bookmobile drivers/librarians.  These are the people who helped me find the already written words that would shape the person I would become.  The results of their labors would probably surprise them.

Bookmobile

Bookmobile (Photo credit: revger)

One of my most vivid memories of the bookmobile which came to our elementary school not often enough, in my then young opinion, offers evidence of the twists a guiding hand can take.

The general guideline, the bookmobile driver/librarian said, was that books at your eye level were the books you would be able to read easily.  My eyes scanned the shelves running the length of the bus-sized van, and my body turned to look at the back of the vehicle filled floor to ceiling with books.  I wondered if I could ever read them all.  Then my body turned a bit more to follow the rows of books toward the driver’s seat and found bookshelves even tucked in near there.

I read some of the titles at my eye level.  Thin books, with chapters, large printing.

I let my eyes wander above eye level and saw fat spines, bulging with words in small print. I swear I could almost hear voices saying, “read me, read ME, choose ME!”  But then I had a vivid imagination.  I let my hands run along the base of that shelf, fingers brushing the spines of the above eye level books.  That touch was a promise I was making to them, that I would be back, soon, to take them off their shelf and home to mine for a visit, a get to know you week, a sleepover.

That first day I was a dutiful student.  I selected books at my eye level and envied the tall kids in the class.

Next time!  Next time the traveling library pulled in beside the artesian well water fountain and opened its doors to me, I would be ready.  I would write my name and stamp the card for one of those bigger kid books and I would read it all. I would practice what to say to the driver when she protested my book choices.

I wanted tall stories, wide vistas, big characters.  I would have them and so much more.

How grateful I am for those additional choices the bookmobile brought, especially when the school library had exhausted itself on me. The salvation of a bookmobile visit over summer break was sometimes all that got me through those long summer months.

Well, that may be exaggerating it some. But then, it seems I’ve always wanted more than the average.

I am thankful for that mental meals-on-wheels filled with books, filled with other worlds, filled with wonders.

Categories: Books, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Unrest of Those Who Follow”

I recently revisited a novel I read over thirty years ago. I didn’t remember a thing about it, to the point that I wondered if I ever really read it before.  I must have been a bit distracted or clueless when I read it the first time.  I was a teenager then.  There have been at least a thousand books I’ve read since, so I should cut myself some slack, I guess.

This was a Thomas Hardy novel.  You can’t go wrong with a classic, I figured.   What I wasn’t expecting was to be so caught up in the story that I was outraged at the characters.

Aggravation set in right away at Tess’s father for being so ridiculously full of pride and so shallow.  Then I wanted to yell at her mother for being even more shallow and empty-headed than her silly husband.  Where do these people learn their poor communication skills?  And poor Tess, thrown to the wolves trying to make up for a mistake that never would have happened if her dumb dad hadn’t gotten drunk and been a lazy fool.

books

books (Photo credit: brody4)

Enter Gabriel Angel and you falsely hope that he’s going to save Tess from herself and her sad little life.  (“I’ll take poor assumptions for 800, Alex.”– see Finding Forrester.)  I consider him one of the most dangerous kinds of characters ever to have been created on paper.  Self-righteous, relentless in getting what he wants, unforgiving.  He’s painted as a sweet guy, on the surface, to the point that all the girls on the farm are senselessly in love with him.  “Run!” I wanted to yell at Tess.  “Stay away from this guy! Listen to your gut and run far, far away!”

But no, Tess was generous to a fault.  She gave and gave and gave. She gave everything she was to everyone else and had no thought for herself.  She gave herself to death, literally.

Why am I discussing my aggravation with this tragic story?  I didn’t expect to find myself caring so much about a character.  I mean, she’s just a made up paper person! Most of the fiction I read lets me keep my distance.  Oh sure, I’m interested in the plot, the story line, the what happens next.  But I’m not usually invested in the characters to the point of being incensed for them, being afraid for them.  To hear myself chat with my friends about this book made me sound like a raving lunatic.

Maybe, what it really is goes like this.  I’ve known some people like Tess.  You know the type.  They can’t seem to catch a break from life.  Every thing they try turns out strangely out of whack.  If life gives them oranges they end up with grapefruit juice.  If life gives them lemons they end up in jail due to their involvement in a pyramid scheme. The people in a position to really help someone like this end up doing the most damage.   It hurts to watch.  You want to turn your head, close the book and not pick it up again.  It’s a real-life tragedy that keeps being written and nothing you try to do changes how that person’s life is unraveling, tangling and disintegrating.

Once in a while I go back and open up one of those books, check on those real, living characters, hoping to find the plot line has changed.  Oh, how I wish the author of those stories could rewrite things a bit.  Sometimes the scenery has changed, various minor characters come and go, but the heartache and loss and hopelessness are unrelenting.

I guess that explains why I like to try to lose myself in a work of fiction.  The very nature of the made up story makes it safe and distances me from the difficulties in real life.  Or better, the author manages to paint insight into the human situation, giving me a new perspective I hadn’t yet considered.

The very best books will leave you breathless, or deep in thought, or changed somehow.  I guess Tess of d’Urberville is one of those books.  Hardy managed to break down one of my little walls of defense I’d constructed as a shield against caring for and hurting about the heartache in others lives.

How many other books have changed something inside me?  More than I care to acknowledge.  Have you read a book that rocked your world?  Has an author sent a seismic tremor rumbling beneath your feet? Or is it just me?

(Apologies or kudos to Mike Rich, the author of “Finding Forrester” for the title of this blog, borrowed from a quote from William Forrester’s book.)

Categories: Books, Relationships | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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