Bug Out Books

I’m married to a nature boy, and I’m not talking about Ric Flair. Nope, my great white hunter is into all things outdoors. Hunting (including field dressing), horticulture, marksmanship, carpentry, beekeeping, raising livestock—you name it, he’s into it. Recently, he’s been watching shows like Best DefenseThe Colony, and this new gem from the National Geographic Channel–Doomsday Preppers. Have you seen this show!? The camera crew goes out to visit different groups, families, and individuals who are preparing for the end of the world by stockpiling weapons and food, creating impregnable fortresses for themselves, learning to live off of weeds and sticks, and coming up with creative ways of generating power using pig poop and recycling their own pee for drinking water. Honestly, I’m not kidding. The couple in Texas they featured in the first episode have built their retirement home using eight steel cargo containers and have packed away 55,000+ pounds of food in it to date!

These people all go above and beyond and are totally prepared for, as REM put it, “the end of the world as we know it.” When the time comes, they can either bug out (which is a military slang term that means “leave a position because it has been compromised by the enemy”) or dig in deeply and ride out the wave of chaos until it ebbs. Then they creep out like roaches covered in Twinkie filling to rule over the smoldering remains of the planet.

So what does all this gloom and doom have to do with a book list? Well, the creative and amazing staff of The Broke and the Bookish have asked bloggers to list “Top Ten Books I’d Quickly Save In the Event of a Natural Disaster.” Hence, I give you my list of what I call “Bug Out Books.”

For a bibliophile, choosing one’s favorite books is a bit like being asked to choose between your children. Do you go for the ones you’ve read countless times, the old standbys, or do you select a wider range of texts to cover all your bases? If you can only have these books for the foreseeable future, are they going to be enough to keep you entertained and stop you from throwing yourself off a cliff into the abyss of despair!? That’s a lot to ask of some paper and typeset letters. However, I have endeavored to select ten for your reading entertainment.

Book number one would have to be my copy of The Holy Bible. I received it as a gift from my grandparents in 2004, and I have been adding my own notes and spiritual observations to it ever since. It is a record of my Christian walk, but–more importantly–it would be the best bulwark against despair I know of.

Are you all tired of me mentioning Jane Eyre yet? I feel like I talk about this novel every other book list. However, when the world doesn’t make sense or seems cruelly unfair, this book helps. Evil is punished, good is rewarded, wrongs are set right, and realistic happy endings are managed. It’s part feminist criticism, part love story, and part fairy tale with a down-to-earth protagonist who is a true “everywoman.”

Technically, Lord of the Rings is a single book, and it’s one that I could read time and again because of the great narrative as well as the good memories I have associated with it. Yes, that is a leather bound copy of it and The Hobbit you see there beside the hardback copy of The Simarillion. And, yes, the bookends holding them up are miniature versions of the Argonath. I also have a Gandalf/Frodo bookend set on another shelf. I’m that huge a Tolkien geek.

Oh, a bonus reason for taking Lord of the Rings? It has a fully sized, pull out map!!! How freaking awesome is that!?

I’d have to have at least one of my literary anthologies. The Norton is the obvious choice, but I gave my copy of it away to a friend whose apartment burned down—destroying her entire library. It was a fate too hideous to imagine, so I was happy to give her a few of my babies, even my precious Norton. I’d likely go with the Bedford as an acceptable substitute if I couldn’t somehow fit both the first volume of British lit and the volume of American lit in my bag.

Not only is Alas, Babylon the one book Wayne has read in his adult life, it is also a book about…you guessed it…a nuclear war! The characters in it are trying to survive in a small town in Florida after bombs drop. There is a ton of practical advice in this one about smoking meat, canning food, making necessary items, and proper bartering techniques. It’s a fantastic fictional field guide. What could be better?

I’d need something to remind me of how beautiful nature was before the end of the world. Who better than Mr. Frost? This is a collection of all eleven of his published books of poetry–everything from “A Boundless Moment” to “Wind and Window Flower.”

The Greater Journey made the list for two reasons. One, I have yet to read it. And, two, it’s autographed. I also have books autographed by Ernest Gaines, Margaret Atwood, Adrienne Rich, and Randall Kenan as well as autographed book jackets from Stephen King and Dean Koontz.

I won a copy of each of Mr. McCullough’s books from the publisher last year, and this one came with his signature in it. (At the risk of sounding like Rex from Toy Story, “In permanent ink, too!”

Once again, a need for order is resolved in Pride and Prejudice, so it would be one of the few books that could calm me down. When you’re bugging out or digging in, it would be nice to read about characters in a world where their biggest problems are their marriageability and what dress to wear to a ball. I am fully aware that I’m oversimplifying Mrs. Austen’s great novel, but you know what I mean, right?

If a pack of marauding Vikings couldn’t totally eradicate this Beowulf, I see no reason why a little nuclear fall out or complete meltdown of the power grid and/or financial system should either…at least not while I’m around to stop it. Otherwise, how else would the world remember Grendel, his mother, or the great epic hero himself?

I know I’ve mentioned this book before, but it fits in this list as well. For some reason, I like to read themed books. If I’m going to the beach, I want to read a book that has something to do with water while I’m either there or travelling to and fro. Heading to France? I simply must read The Hunchback of Notre Dame. A train trip means Murder on the Orient Express. Roland is a man on a quest, a pilgrim without a goal other than the Dark Tower, so with a long, uncertain journey in front of me, this would be the perfect themed read.

Literary Letdowns

I’ve had a mixed relationship with Valentine’s Day. When I was dating someone and had plans, I loved it. When I was single, not so much. However, having been married for a dozen years, I’ve learned that love isn’t about one day out of the year; it’s about expressing how you feel about the person you adore the other 364 in addition to the one day popular culture tells us we should. I doubt I’ll get flowers today, but I never, ever doubt that my husband loves me. He tells me in other, more tangible ways that won’t wither in a vase.

The folks at The Broke and the Bookish, however, have decided to go the nontraditional route as well with their book list this week. They’ve asked us to share “the top ten books that broke my heart a little.” They all did for different reasons and at different times in my life. Here are the first ten I could think of in no particular order…

1. Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling—I got on the Hogwarts Express a little late, I’m sad to say. In fact, I didn’t start reading Harry Potter until the fourth book came out, and I whipped through books one, two, and three in order to catch up. Needless to say, I fell head over heels for Sirius Black. Rowling gave readers just enough of Black at the end of book three and sprinkled throughout book four to make us think, Maybe, just maybe, Harry can have a relatively normal home life with a kind of father figure. But NO! Rowling killed him off without a moment’s hesitation, and every death in this series after his (except for Dobby’s perhaps) didn’t faze me. If she could create a character only to bump him off less than two books later, I knew no one was safe.

2. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton—Poor Ethan! Trapped in a marriage and on a farm on which he can barely scrape out a living, his one chance at happiness is utterly ruined, leaving him even more trapped than before. I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who hasn’t read this book yet because it is a marvelous novel–stark and brutally beautiful. Just don’t expect a fairly tale ending; you’ll get the opposite.

3. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer—This one broke my heart for two reasons. 1.) I realized that was a cranky old adult rather than a young whipper snapper after reading this book. I loathed Christopher Johnson McCandless, a true rebel without a clue, and saw nothing worth writing about in his life. Others claim he was a “rugged individual” who was truly a “non-conformist.” I, however, thought him myopic, heartless, and egomaniacal. 2.) I thought about how his parents felt when they heard what had happened to him, and a little piece of me died. Too sad…and so unnecessary!

4. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys—This one, I knew, would give me trouble. It’s the prequel to Jane Eyre, the story of Bertha Antoinetta Mason, and it’s a very unflattering depiction of my beloved Rochester. It makes you think about what the marriage might have been like for Bertha, how (like him) she wasn’t interested in getting hitched either. I don’t want to feel sorry for her. Why? I grew up thinking of her as an impediment to Jane’s happiness, but Bertha was pretty miserable, too, in her way.

5. Animal Farm by George Orwell—One word: Boxer. His repeated cries of “I will work harder!” and his eventual death and final journey in the glue factory cart literally broke my pre-teen-going-through-a-horse-phase heart. Never mind the overall negative view of human nature.

6. Bartleby, the Scrivener by Herman Melville—This one was a commentary on the dangers of being a little guy in a corporate machine before we even knew how big the machine was going to get. Bartleby, who has no last name beyond his job title, is a human being reduced to the role of a Xerox machine, left without free will or opinion beyond “I would prefer not to.” Such a sad tale, for both him and the lawyer who ends it all with, “Ah, Bartleby! Ah, humanity!”

7. Tess of the D’urbervilles by Thomas Hardy—This book kills me every time I read it. True love totally broken up by stupid, sexist rules that are the epitome of hypocrisy. Angel isn’t worth Tess, and he only realizes it after it’s too late. She quite literally is sacrificed on the altar—for love and for the satisfaction of dictatorial propriety.

8. Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya—I don’t even to know where to start with this one. This slim little book is a picture of a woman’s life, such as it is, in abject poverty. Reading it truly made me feel helpless. Her strength is beautiful and noble, but just heartbreaking.

9. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller—A sad story of ruined potential, a family broken by years of misunderstanding and the lack of a father figure. Every man in the Loman family is still a boy who longs to become a man but needs someone to show him how. Only Biff survives, but at what cost…and for how long? Such a great play.

10. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins—It was a letdown after books one and two. Highly unsatisfying letdown. The end.


C’Mon…Just One Little Read Won’t Hurt You!

The Broke and the Bookish has posited a difficult top ten list for this Tuesday–The Top Ten Books I’d Hand to Someone Who Says He/She Doesn’t Like to Read. Being a bookish nerd who surrounds herself with, you guessed it, other equally bookish nerds, I don’t often run across folks who don’t like to read. I do, however, happen to be married to one.

Here’s his normal reaction to a shelf full of books. Unless it’s filled with technical manuals, beekeeping regulations, or outdoorsy stuff, he flat out ain’t interested. Honestly, for a gifted musician, he sure does dislike anything the slightest bit artistic.

Most of the things I adore, he detests. For example, look at his reaction when I tried to show him a great book on the history of Europe I used when I was a teacher.

The secret to getting a person over bibliophobia is to lure him in with books that might fit his interests. Observe……

 

Don’t go for the classics…especially the one that he swears, beyond a shadow of a doubt, made him utterly loathe an activity he once enjoyed.

 

Just because a book is “manly,” it doesn’t mean he’ll be willing to go for it. He gave me the “Really!?” face when I offered him tales replete with swashbuckling and adventure on the high seas. Nope—Moby Dick, The Three Musketeers, and Don Quixote held no interest for him. I think the sheer size off each was a turn off as well.

 

When I mentioned works that were dystopian in nature, his ears perked up a little. I’ve been trying to sell him on the genre because I really want him to go see The Hunger Games with me next month. (Also, the fact that they were shorter reads overall didn’t hurt!)

1984, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451 were all taken under consideration. That copy of The Hobbit you see in the back was there for the sake of nostalgia. He’s considering re-reading it in order to be ready for the movie when it comes out on December 14 2012!!!!! (Not that we’re excited or anything…)

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So, you see, it’s easier than you think. It might require a little patience and some creative salesmanship, but a person can be brought back from the wordless Dark Side.

Here are ten great books to try with your reluctant reader:

1. The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King—I read this one when I was a wee tot and loved it. It’s his only true fantasy book, it’s relatively short, and it has a very visual and action driven plot.

2. Twilight Eyes by Dean Koontz—With a protagonist named Slim MacKenzie who hides in a traveling circus so he can kill the monsters in human skin that only he can see…what’s not to like!?

3. The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks—It’s written in a very no-nonsense style and is packed full of description and fun illustrations. If nothing else, your reader will be prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse if it does occur. (It’s something I’ve become increasingly worried about seeing as how I now live in the same city as the CDC. Eeep!)

4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins—Say what you will, but I actually enjoyed this book and the one that came after it. Mockingjay left a lot to be desired, but what else is new? There are so few truly perfect trilogies.

5. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote—This one is an odd combination of true crime and the fine style usually reserved for fiction. Capote makes this one a book you don’t want to read but you have to finish, if only to try to understand the “why” behind the horrible actions he details.

6. The Hound of the Baskervilles: A Sherlock Holmes Novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle—Due to the popularity of the movies (starring the oh-so-unbelievably sexy Robert Downey, Jr.), this one should be an easy sell. It’s action driven with just enough description for you to feel stupid for having missed the obvious clues that Holmes describes to Watson in the concluding chapters. If this is too much, you can also start them off on his short stories.

7. From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming—Any of the Bond novels make for great reads. They’re a little more stylized than the films, but they’re fun reads. People already have a relationship with Agent 007 and know his world, so there isn’t as much fighting to get into the world of the novel as there might be otherwise.

8. Johnny Tremain by Esther Hawkins Forbes—I fell in love with this book in middle school, and I wasn’t the only one. It was a book that made history truly come alive, and it probably explains my life-long obsession with the Revolutionary War.

9. Lord of the Flies by William Golding—I tend to like darker fiction, but this work stunned me when I read it. I kept thinking, There’s no way kids resort to this so quickly. However, looking around the world, it’s pretty easy to see that Golding was on to something. Without rules set up and enforced by polite society, the darker forces in our nature do come out to play. This work is allegorical, which means that everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) is a symbol. However, you can read it and still get a lot out of it not working through the symbolic meanings of people, places, and things.

10. How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines by Thomas C. Foster—This one might be a good pick for someone who doesn’t like reading because he or she “doesn’t get it.” This book helped me teach several Advanced Placement Literature classes filled with kids who wanted to go deeper into literature but just didn’t feel equipped. Many of them said that this book gave them a working vocabulary to tackle books that scared the crap out of them before. The fact that two of the chapters are titled “It’s All About Sex” and “…Except Sex” didn’t hurt when I was trying to pique their collective interest either. 🙂

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I wrote this list with my reluctant reader in mind, but selecting a list of books is pretty easy for someone you know and love. With a little thought and creative enticement, you can go from this…

 

to THIS!!!

Books to Read and Places to Digest Them

Ah, the book club….such a complicated social organism. It should be clique of folks like you who just love to read and discuss books. However, more often than not, it becomes an exercise in frustration as books no one likes are selected, venues don’t satisfy, and personality clashes make true lexicographical bliss impossible. I’m not saying that a perfect book club is impossible—only improbable. After all, reading is a fairly solitary exercise, one that doesn’t require a +1 to be enjoyable.

However, the lovely folks at The Broke and the Bookish want us to pick our top ten book club reads for this week’s meme. Therefore, if I was the benevolent dictator of a book club and decided everything from the monthly selection to the location and the food/beverages consumed, I would select the following pairings of book and meeting locale…

1. The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop. by Robert Coover—I would suggest meeting up in deli for this one, as the protagonist spends a lot of time in one when he isn’t gaming the night away. It might also be fun to meet in a place where people are playing tabletop games involving dice to experience the sounds of triumph and tragedy that come with any game of chance.

2. Scimitar Moon by Chris A. Jackson—I know I recommended this one as a bonus pick last week because of the hunky leading man, but it bears mentioning just how good this book is again. It is a fun read that people can really dig into. I’d think this one might pair nicely with a pub that serves fish and chips and good, dark draft beer. Yeah, that would be a boffo meeting space…as would a coffee house (as “blackbrew” is consumed in mass quantities in this novel). Also, there is a ton of nautical knowledge that gets dropped on you when you read this book, so anywhere near the sea or near sailing ships would make for a perfect backdrop.

3. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh—I saw this one recently on Bookmovement.com and liked the look of it. I was fascinated by the idea of coded messages in flowers, which was commonly done during the Victorian Era. You couldn’t simply explain your emotions in a letter or even in person when everything from the words you wrote to your body language could damage your social standing. This would be a lovely book to discuss over tea at a public park or garden!

4. Devil at My Heels: A Heroic Olympian’s Astonishing Story of Survival as a Japanese POW in WWII by Louis Zamperini—I believe In Touch Ministries did a feature on this gentleman late last year, and I was intrigued by his story. An Olympic athlete turned bombardier, he was brought down over the Pacific, floated in a life raft for 37 days, and was eventually captured by the Japanese and made a prisoner of war for over two years. Years afterwards, he experienced salvation and the grace of Jesus Christ. He, in turn, returned to Japan, forgave his tormentors, and began preaching the gospel there. Pretty amazing stuff. Some place serving authentic Filipino or Chinese food would be perfect.

5. The Amazing Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart—I have yet to read this one, but it was recommended for folks who enjoyed The Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. It also seems to have garnered good reviews for delving into more serious issues such as abandonment, family, loyalty, and facing one’s fears. I don’t know what kind of venue would be fun for this one. However, I do know that I wouldn’t tell anyone where it was. I would give them a series of clues and let them solve the puzzle in order to find the feast! 🙂

6. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss—This is another one I haven’t read, a fact for which many of my wordy nerdy friends have severely chastened me. It’s next on my reading this. Listen to the book’s synopsis: “This is the riveting first-person narrative of Kvothe, a young man who grows to be one of the most notorious magicians his world has ever seen. From his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, to years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-riddled city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that transports readers into the body and mind of a wizard.” How can that NOT be a fantastic read, especially for fantasy-minded folk? Definitely an pub of sorts for this one because that’s where Kvothe lives–preferably one with low lighting and tankards of ale.

7. Cinder by Marissa Meyer—I’ve seen ads for this one all over GoodReads and various Internet booksellers, and I’m just interested enough in to give it a shot. Think fairy tale princess meets the Terminator for this one. In this sci-fi re-imagining of Cinderella, the protagonist is a cyborg and a gifted mechanic who can help rescue Earth from an evil queen of sorts. It’s just bizarre enough to temp me. I’m thinking a restaurant with a really gritty urban motif would be perfect. Either that or a place near a shoe store…

8. Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard—I’m a casual history buff. I like certain areas better than others and sort of graze my way through the decades and centuries with a lacadazical approach that likely makes real historians cringe. One area I’ve never been overly zealous about is the Civil War. However, this book might make me change my tune. Apparently, James A. Garfield was a pretty boss president, one I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know much about. His assassination was one of the unrecognized tragedies of American history, and I think it would be fun to read and re-think what we know about our country with this book as the primary text. According to this website, which lists the favorite foods of American Presidents (I’m not lying. Click the link!), Garfield was fond of squirrel soup, extra fluffy mashed potatoes, and breads. I think a bread and cheese meal would be divine, Mr. President. You can have all the soup. *Ick*

9. Night of the Avenging Blowfish: A Novel of Covert Operations, Love, and Luncheon Meat by John Welter—I read this one in college and was once kicked out of the library because it had me laughing so loudly I was disturbing other people. It’s a bizarre little book involving unrequited love, politics, secret baseball games, and processed meats like Spam. Guess what the menu should include anything of “low culinary esteem.” I’m thinking some recipes from the Spam Jam would be worth trying!

10. A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan—Yet another book I haven’t read, but this one has as many glowing reviews as I do useless bits of knowledge. It’s drenched in music references and rich characterization. I’d like to discuss this one in a corner bar/cafe like Eddie’s Attic where live music fills the room as fully as the smells coming from the kitchen. It’s a risky read for me as I don’t like to dwell on the overly maudlin much, but this one looks intriguing enough to put up with the extra weight.

If I Had My Druthers

Yes, boys and squirrels, it’s time for another top ten list of books. As always, this fun little meme is brought to you by the fine folks over at The Broke and the Bookish! This week’s list is a fun one, a true example of wishful thinking and hypothetical awesomeness.

The Top Ten Authors I Wish Would Write Another Book

1. Charlotte BrontëJane Eyre is my favorite book of all time, and I would love to have another strong female character like Jane to admire and read about. It wouldn’t hurt to have another Rochester in my life either if you know what I’m saying. I know she published Villette, The Professor, and Shirley, but from what I’ve gathered, none of them come close to Jane. However, to satisfy the itch, I can add three more books to my reading list.

2. Jane Austen–With six complete novels, you think I’d be satisfied. No, cracker. No. I’m not. Austen had a wit and an acerbic humor that has just never been matched by another author. Anyone who tries to write like her or take up her mantle and write another “Pemberly” book or something of the sort is begging for trouble. Reading a knock-off Austen book is like eating generic cereal from a bag when you really want Froot Loops.

3. J.K. Rowling–Seven Harry Potter books later, and I could still read her stuff. Granted, she’s put out some shorter things to do with the HP universe of wizards and muggles, but I’d love to see something totally new from her. Something that has nothing to do with the boy who lived. She’s still got some words in her noggin left to share. However, I do admit that if I was an author with seven best selling books and a billion dollars in my pocket, my appetite for wordsmithing would be somewhat curbed as well. 🙂

4. Baroness Emma Magdolna Rozália Mária Jozefa Borbála “Emmuska” Orczy de Orczi–I’m sure she just got tired writing her name a few times! I wonder what her autograph looked like on a book jacket…..Seriously, this fine, foxy lady is responsible for The Scarlet Pimpernel and a list of other books as long as my arm. There’s tons of her stuff out there, but none of it aside from the first adventure of Sir Percy is readily available. (I’ve been told Project Guttenberg has many of them uploaded however.) She could write another dozen SP stories, and I think they’d do some awesome business in this day and age.

5. Harper Lee–I fell in love with To Kill a Mockingbird and always wanted to read something else by this wonderful author, but there is quite literally nothing else. I know she and Truman Capote were good friends and that it galled him when she won the Pulitzer for it. A book that good deserves a sibling. I’d love to see what she’d write now regarding race—considering what’s changed (and what hasn’t). Also, to see Atticus Finch in action again would simply make my decade. Seriously, is there any more wonderful or admirable a character than that gentlemanly Southern lawyer who was a crack shot but wouldn’t play football for the Methodists?

6. Stieg Larsson–They were incredibly dark and, at times, a little morally ambiguous, but I enjoyed the Millennium series very much. It was an interesting look into the day-to-day life of another culture as well as its history and politics. At times, I glazed over words with an abundance of vowels, dots, and dashes in them, but the translators did a great job of transforming Swedish into other languages in a way in which little was lost. The three we have were all published posthumously, and he apparently he had planned on writing several more books (for fun!) before a heart attack took him at age fifty. It’s a shame he’ll never get the chance.

7. J.R.R. Tolkien–I’m re-re-re-re-re-reading The Hobbit right now, and I’m falling in love with it all over again. This was the book that captivated me when I was a kid and made me want to write stories of my own. I often got in trouble for reading his work when I should have been learning practical things…like math. He has a large body of work for me to enjoy–both creative and academic–but I’d love to see what he’d do with all the advances in literary research! I also wonder what he’d make of the LOTR films and how wildly popular they were with lifelong fans like me and newbies who might have never read his work but have fallen in love with Aragorn, Frodo, and the rest of the world he created.

8. Elizabeth Kostova–I loved The Historian. I “read it” on unabridged audiobook when I was teaching on three different college campuses and down time/drive time to deal with. I was late for my own class on more than one occasion because I was desperate to get through the end of a chapter. Twenty-two discs, and I was dying for more. I know she wrote The Swan Thieves a year or two ago, but I haven’t gotten around to reading it. However, she has a great grasp of description and of history, so I don’t doubt anything she writes would be interesting. A book like The Historian that focused on the Frankenstein would be super.

9. George R.R. Martin–I know, I know. He just released Dance With Dragons this year, and I should be happy about that. However, like Oliver, I have audacity to ask for more. Why? Because if he doesn’t get the remaining members of the Stark family back together soon, I think I shall scream. It’s almost like his story has turned into the possessed broom from Fantasia, and the more he tries to tie up loose ends, the more they fray into other plot lines. Seriously, I don’t think this book is ever going to end… which is both a good and a bad thing.

10. The Apostle Paul–If I could meet anyone (besides Jesus, of course) and share a meal with him in order to pick his brain about all things biblical, it would have to be Paul. I know he’s the most “popular” of all the New Testament writers, but I feel a certain kinship with him because of my illness. (In fact, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 is my testimony/life verse. Go check my About Me section if you’re curious as to why.) He was so honest about his struggles and imperfections that it is hard not to admire him and identify with him. Yes, John was amazing for the Book of Revelation alone, and Luke wrote my favorite of all the Gospels. But Paul’s letters to the churches! The Book of Romans!! Oh my goodness, there’s a wealth of great material in the Bible, all of it by this amazing man who had the ultimate conversion experience on the Damascus Road. I can’t wait to meet him in heaven one day.

Coming Soon to a Comfortable Chair Near You…

The Broke and the Bookish, a blog I have come to love exploring recently, has proposed another interesting top ten list for the first week of the new year—The Top Ten Books I’m Excited About Reading in 2012.

I have set two goals for reading this year:

1. To read at least fifty books

2. To read at least three “classics” I’ve never read but should have

Moby Dick by Herman Melville—The first book I’m excited about reading fulfills the requirement for number two. I’m not excited about this book for the same reason I am others on the list. I think, more than anything, I relish the challenge. I was the student in school who typically picked the most difficult book she could get her hands on for a reading project. (I even took on the challenge of reading Ulysses in two weeks just because I could. If you want to hear what that experience was like, read a previous blog about it.) Moby Dick is one of those works everyone expects me to have read as a total word nerd and former English teacher, but it’s never darkened my door…until now.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth—This one is due out May 2012. I read the first book in this trilogy, Divergent, late in 2011 and loved it. It’s YA fiction, so it falls short in some areas like character development and vocabulary. However, the plot was intriguing enough that I finished it in record time. If she can continue to play nicely with the intricate story she began weaving, this should be a great read. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes The Hunger Games for pure action, a strong female protagonist, and an interesting love story. Personally, I tend to like works that are dystopian in nature, so this one was right up my alley. If you’re like me and enjoy books like 1984, Brave New World, Blade Runner, and The Road, this is for you.

The Wind Through the Keyhole: A Dark Tower Novel by Stephen King—I think I’ve read most of, if not all of, Stephen King’s work (even the stuff he wrote as Richard Bachman). I think he’s a short story writer by trade, and his talent truly shines best in that medium. However, of all his works, the Dark Tower Series is by far my favorite. I fell in love with Roland Deschain when I was in elementary school and wanted nothing more than to be a part of his Ka Tet. This series spanned most of my adolescence and adulthood, and it’s nice to see another book in the series is due out in April of 2012, just days after my birthday! Of the seven, I think Wizard and Glass was my favorite. This one is also set in Roland’s past before he became the last gunslinger.

Bitterblue by Kristen Cashore—Another YA read that’s due out in May of 2012. Books like these are my weakness; I simply can’t turn them down. This one, also slightly dystopian, is fantasy based rather than sci-fi, which is nice for someone like me who would rather read Tolkien than Verne. Unlike Fire, the second book in the series, which was actually a prequel to the first book, Graceling, this one is set eight years after the first and is a continuation of its events. Therefore, all the characters like Po, Katsa, and (of course) Bitterblue will be back in action with all sorts of evil plans to thwart and goodness to defend in all seven realms. This one is a little edgier than most YA fiction, and the plots hang together very well. There’s quite a bit of “girly love stuff,” but it never overwhelms the book as a whole.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho—This one has been out for awhile, since 2006 in fact, but I’ve never read it. It sounds a bit like Gabriel Garcia Marquez to me–a sort of coming-of-age plot with a dash of magical realism thrown in. However, unlike Marquez, I think this one stands a chance of being mystical with a chance of promise, a smidgen of hope. Quite literally, a young shepherd boy, goes on a quest across continents to find his dreams–a bildungsroman of the highest order. I’ve heard many good things about this one, so it should be a good read.

The Painted Veil by M. Somerset Maugham—I saw the film version of this book starring my boyfriend, Edward Norton, a year or two ago and fell in love with it. I’m eager to see what the original text is like because I know, without a doubt, as great as that film is, the book is bound to be ten times better. Set in England and Hong Kong in the 1920s, it follows Kitty Fane, a love-starved Englishwoman married to a doctor. When he finds out about her adultery, he forces her to go with him into the heart of a cholera epidemic. It is there that she gains a true perspective of purpose, love, and devotion. I can’t wait to finally read this as Maugham intended!

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett—I’m a huge fan of Bogart, and I love film noir and gumshoe detective stuff. For some reason, however, I’ve not read much of it. Sam Spade is that archetypal character women have always wanted and men have always wanted to be just like. As the summary on Goodreads says (and I love this!), “Spade is bigger (and blonder) in the book than in the movie, and his Mephistophelean countenance is by turns seductive and volcanic. Sam knows how to fight, whom to call, how to rifle drawers and secrets without leaving a trace, and just the right way to call a woman ‘Angel’ and convince her that she is. He is the quintessence of intelligent cool, with a wise guy’s perfect pitch.” Sounds just right for a Friday night at home with a glass of wine, yes?

The Enders Hotel by Brandon R. Schrand—This is a non-fiction work that won the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize in 2008. It is his memoir about growing up in the boom town of Soda Springs, Idaho and watching as different people came and went in the hotel/bar/cafe his parents owned there called, of course, The Enders. He essentially tells his story as well as those of the people who stayed in his family’s hotel, and the work is therefore dark and hopeful by turns. I think it is a fascinating idea for a memoir. After all, a hotel is a temporary place, a moving on place, and how can one ever establish a sense of home and of self in such a transitory space? It’s also interesting to me because of my people watching tendencies; a hotel is a fascinating place to spend time observing people, the most interesting walking and talking stories of all.

Cello Playing for Music Lovers: A Self-Teaching Method by Vera Matlin Jiji—I’ve decided that 2012 is the year I learn to play a second musical instrument. One of the two I’ve always wanted to learn is the cello, and there are several at my church that my orchestra director is willing to loan me. It’s not that I’ve mastered the French horn by any stretch of the imagination. I doubt anyone ever has. I’m just longing for something new, and this seems like it is in the realm of possibility. I might never be good enough to play cello in our orchestra, but I’d like to give it a try. This book came with the highest overall recommendations, so we’ll see how it goes. *fingers crossed*

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood—I truly enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale and some of the short fiction I’ve read by Ms. Atwood. I met her a little over a year ago when she came to lecture at Emory University, and this was one of the works she mentioned only briefly. (She focused more on books like Oryx and Crake instead due to the fact the lecture series was sci-fi in nature.) However, this one looks too good to pass up. As always, Atwood weaves together at least two novels in one described as “a melancholic account of why writers write–and readers read–and one that frames the different lives told through this book.”

Here’s to Ho-Ho-Hoping!

Ho, ho ho….it’s time for another book list. The idea is courtesy of The Broke and the Bookish. Please go check them out to read reviews, find new books and authors, and to join me in this awesome weekly meme!

This week, the topic for the list is “The Top Ten Books I Hope Santa Brings.” The fat man better come loaded for bear this year—I’m talking a fist full of B&N and Kindle gift cards—because there are a lot of books on my wish list!

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett—This one has all the markings of a book I’d love. It’s thicker than my uncle’s Philadelphia accent and has FIVE different plot lines all woven together. It’s historical fiction at its best, and it’s part of a trilogy! That means I have two more books to look forward to in the future!

The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian–This is one of the books where the back/flap matter caught my eye. Sometimes, the cover draws me in (The Night Circus is the most recent example of that), but the description on this one proves why a good hook and a punchy piece of ad copy matter. Read it and tell me you’re not interested in reading this book!

“In a dusty corner of a basement in a rambling Victorian house in northern New Hampshire, a door has long been sealed shut with 39 six-inch-long carriage bolts.The home’s new owners are Chip and Emily Linton and their twin ten-year-old daughters. Together they hope to rebuild their lives there after Chip, an airline pilot, has to ditch his 70-seat regional jet in Lake Champlain due to double engine failure. The body count? Thirty-nine. What follow is a riveting ghost story with all the hallmarks readers have come to expect from bestselling, award-winning novelist Chris Bohjalian: a palpable sense of place, meticulous research, an unerring sense of the demons that drive us, and characters we care about deeply. The difference this time? Some of those characters are dead.” I KNOW!!!! GO GET IT!!

Hearing Bach’s Passions by Daniel R. Melamed—We’re going to the symphony to hear this performed in March, and I am REALLY looking forward to it. I like to know about composers as well as their works before I go to listen to them being performed. It makes the entire experience all the richer in my mind, like knowing a story before you see the movie or being able to watch a film or listen to an opera in its original language instead of relying on subtitles. Bach was a musician as well as a theologian, and I’m interested to study these two oratorios for their technical components as well as their spiritual ones. It should be interesting to hear how another religious musician interprets the world.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak—I’ve heard people talking about and/or recommending this one for awhile now. It sounds like something right up my literary alley. It’s a teen fiction read with a great deal of depth. Set in World War II in Germany, it tells the story of Liesel, an orphan who lives outside Munich, who tries to protect Jews and survives by reading pilfered books with her neighbors. It’s a book about survival and the things that make it both possible and worth it. Words are powerful things; after all, they were what made Hitler’s power possible. They are also a sort of portable magic that allow us to escape ourselves and our painful situations.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie—This is another book I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never read. Many teacher friends are using in their AP classrooms, and it has been banned on more than one occasion for content. Naturally, I’ll love it. It is also one of the books that combines my love of text and visual storytelling because the illustrations done by the protagonist also help tell the story. Very, very cool stuff.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield—This is another book that combines some of my favorite elements—literature and the act of writing, memory, mystery, exploration of the meaning of identity, and recovery. Here’s the blurb—“Reclusive author Vida Winter, famous for her collection of twelve enchanting stories, has spent the past six decades penning a series of alternate lives for herself. Now old and ailing, she is ready to reveal the truth about her extraordinary existence and the violent and tragic past she has kept secret for so long. Calling on Margaret Lea, a young biographer troubled by her own painful history, Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good. Margaret is mesmerized by the author’s tale of gothic strangeness — featuring the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess,a topiary garden and a devastating fire. Together, Margaret and Vida confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves.”

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born by Peter David–This is a visual adaptation of Stephen King’s first Dark Tower book, and I’ve been interested to see it this way since the first book had six or seven amazing illustrations, especially the last one of Roland looking at the tower in the distance. It’ll be like reading it afresh and anew. If anyone is interested, I’d also like a new hardcover copy of the original text as well!

The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon—I have never read her before, but this one sounds darned interesting! Check out the blurb—“London, 1760. For Jamie Fraser, paroled prisoner-of-war in the remote Lake District, life could be worse: He’s not cutting sugar cane in the West Indies, and he’s close enough to the son he cannot claim as his own. But Jamie Fraser’s quiet existence is coming apart at the seams, interrupted first by dreams of his lost wife, then by the appearance of Tobias Quinn, an erstwhile comrade from the Rising. Like many of the Jacobites who aren’t dead or in prison, Quinn still lives and breathes for the Cause. His latest plan involves an ancient relic that will rally the Irish. Jamie is having none of it—he’s sworn off politics, fighting, and war. Until Lord John Grey shows up with a summons that will take him away from everything he loves—again. Lord John Grey—aristocrat, soldier, and occasional spy—finds himself in possession of a packet of explosive documents that exposes a damning case of corruption against a British officer. But they also hint at a more insidious danger. Time is of the essence as the investigation leads to Ireland, with a baffling message left in “Erse,” the tongue favored by Scottish Highlanders. Lord John, who oversaw Jacobite prisoners when he was governor of Ardsmiur prison, thinks Jamie may be able to translate—but will he agree to do it? Soon Lord John and Jamie are unwilling companions on the road to Ireland, a country whose dark castles hold dreadful secrets, and whose bogs hide the bones of the dead. A captivating return to the world Diana Gabaldon created in her Outlander and Lord John series, The Scottish Prisoner is another masterpiece of epic history, wicked deceit, and scores that can only be settled in blood.”

The other two I’d like to have don’t have visual aids to accompany them. I would really, really, really like a leather bound hard copy of Jane Eyre to read and enjoy. All my other copies are dog-eared, highlighted, and marked in the margins from all the times I’ve studied it or written about it. Yes, a virginal copy would be just the ticket.

The final book I’d like Santa to leave in my stocking is a new Bible of the apologetics variety…New American Standard Translations preferred. 🙂

What books are you looking for? Also, what translation(s) of the Bible are your favorite!?

Merry Christmas, all!

My Precioussssss…….

Hooray for another Top Ten Tuesday! This week at The Broke and the Bookish, posters are listing and discussing “Books I Want To Give As Gifts This Christmas.” I have to tell you who and why as well, so this should be an interesting list. Honestly, I don’t give that many books as gifts, and I don’t know why that is. Perhaps I’m like Gollum and hoard books for no other reason than I want them all for myself. 🙂 (I think I just found a New Year’s Resolution I might actually keep!) Well, I am giving two for Christmas this year, so I’ll start with them. (Here’s hoping those two people don’t read this blog!) The other eight are books I would like to give to people.

The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit—I’m giving this beautiful boxed set to my cousin this year. He loves the movies and mentioned that he’d like to read The Hobbit this year before the movie first came out. Here’s hoping he can take some time out of his busy IB schedule to actually enjoy some fiction!

 

Wham! The Art and Life of Roy Lichetenstein—This one is for my brother who loves Lichtenstein’s pop art. I leafed through it before I wrapped it, and it looks to be well done–thorough and informational. It’s a little thin for my taste, but it will look good on a coffee table and make for a good conversation starter. I think Jarrod will really like it!

 

Death Comes to Pemberly—I’d have to give this one to my friend Audrey who took a Jane Austen class with me in graduate school. Our favorite book by the lovely Ms. Austen is Persuasion, and I think we’d have a good time laughing at and enjoying this one. I don’t think Elizabeth, despite her many virtues, would make a great sleuth. She should leave that to Sherlock.

Game of Thrones (Book 1 of The Song of Ice and Fire Series)—I’d give this book to my husband if I thought he’d read it. It’s lengthy, and he doesn’t really love reading that much. However, I’d love to have a book in common with him besides Alas Babylon! That was the only book I ever recommended that he actually read cover to cover and wanted to discuss with me. Also, the added perk would be I could then justify adding HBO to our cable package so we could watch season two of the series when it starts in April of 2012.

 

The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook—Why a book like this even exists is beyond me! I suppose fans are just this into the trilogy. There’s a vacuum in the fantasy world since the Harry Potter books and films ended, and this looks like it’s going to fill the void nicely. This one would have to go to my friend, Renee, at work who loves the series as much as I do and would get the humor behind this gift. (And who would likely make some of the recipes with me!)

 

This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession—This each and every one of my musical friends be they band director, music teacher, or humble player like myself. I read through the first chapter of this one while I was waiting for a Margaret Atwood lecture at Emory last year and was hooked. Why have I never gone back and picked this one up for myself!? It is a combination of “hard” neurological science and emotional reactions to music that explains why it is such a powerful force for humans.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks—This one would be a gift for my friend, Sherri, who is a former Anatomy and Biology teacher as well as a Registered Nurse. I know she would love the mix of culture and medicine in this one. If you’ve never heard of her, don’t be alarmed. No one has outside of the medical community. Here’s what the book jacket summary says: “Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years….Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.” Interesting, no?

Throw Them All Out—This one is for my friend, Bree, who is as adamant a political junkie as I have ever seen. She is passionate, moral, and outspoken in all the right ways. She stands up for her right for free speech…as well as the rights of those who disagree with her. However, she’ll disassemble their arguments like a Marine cleaning his rifle soon afterwards. 🙂

 

The Walking Dead: Days Gone By (Volume 1)—This one is for my dad who loves the TV show and is always asking my brother and me what is going to happen next. It is a darned fine television show; I’ll give it that. However, any bibliophile will always tell you that the book, without fail, is much better than the movie or television series. I don’t honestly think I’ve ever seen a film that was better than the book. Have you?

 

A History of the World in 100 Objects—This one is a great looking read for the historian friends I have like Jill and Jeff. From the credit card to the hand axe, this book chronicles the objects that have helped cultures flourish as well as those that have caused their demise. I’d be interested to read this one myself. However, isn’t that always the case with book nerds? We’d like to read the books we give away?

Okay, that’s my official list for this week. What books are you giving away? What books do you hope show up in your stocking or wrapped under the tree?

Also, have you ever read a book you were giving someone else before you gave it to them? I’d love to hear about it!

From Wild Things to Magic Rings

Yep, it’s that time of the week again! Time for another Top Ten Tuesday book list! This time, it’s a trip down memory lane as I will be listing, discussing my favorite ten books from my childhood. This is a fairly extensive list because, well, reading has always been just about my favorite thing in the world to do. Seriously, the second we’d get everything done around the house, the only thing I wanted to do was crawl in someone’s lap and have a book read to me. I just liked the way words sounded when people said them, the way they matched the letters on the page and could exist both for my eyes and my ears. (I was also a whore for adult attention back in the day, but that’s a story for another blog.)

The result of all my begging to be read to whenever possible was that I could read myself at the age of four. My grandmother heard me reading at the table one day and thought I was merely reciting the story to myself from memory until she realized that the Little Golden Book I had in front of me was brand new and had never been read to me before. 🙂 Once I could do so on my own, the addiction only got worse. I was the kid who hoarded lunch money for weeks before the book fair came to school, whose yearly bookworm always ran around the classroom at least twice, and who was often sent back to the reading corner in class just to shut me up.

I’ve tried to list these books chronologically, from the first one I read to the last in my childhood, but the dates are a little fuzzy. Also, by no means is this list all-inclusive. There are dozens I’m not thinking of or have looked over. **All images, unless labeled otherwise, are from Wikipedia.**

Image from crustandcrumbs.blogspot.com

The Tawny Scrawny Lion–The Little Golden Books were one of my favorites when I was little. This one, along with other classics like The King’s Cat, were a source of joy to me because of the rhyming or sing-song text I could hear and the crazy illustrations. This one is about a lion that eats a different animal each day of the week; however, the rabbits are crafty and teach him to eat carrot soup instead of delicious rare hare. 🙂

Are You My Mother?This one has stayed with my family for years. My kid cousin, who is seventeen years my junior, even read and loved this one. In this book, a baby bird hatches while his mother is out looking for food and goes on the hunt for her. He asks a dog, a kitten, and an assortment of other animals and inanimate objects if they are his mother, each of which says, “No!” Thankfully, the “Big Snort” (a power shovel) drops him back into his nest the moment his mother gets back home to the nest—crisis averted.

Go, Dog, Go!This one is about a bunch of dogs who can somehow drive cars, wear clothing, and talk to each other. The end goal of the book is for all the dogs to go to a “Dog Party.” From this book, I learned both prepositions and basic social skills (such as complimenting someone’s hat even if it’s ugly.) My family still uses the “Do you like my hat?….I do not like your hat!” line. The good stuff is always timeless, I guess.

Where the Wild Things Are–I can’t think of anyone I grew up with who didn’t adore this book. Max rebels and is sent to his room for punishment where he imagines sailing away to a land inhabited by monsters that quickly realize he is the wildest of them all and crown him their king. His first royal decree is to, “Let the wild rumpus start!”–a line I have used several times. However, when he smells dinner, Max sails home where he belongs, knowing that a few rules are worth a place where’s he’s loved.

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret.–This was one of those “tweener books” that everyone should have to read, especially since it’s been banned more than once. Margaret runs the gamut of horrid things that can happen to a child who’s just entered the double-digit age bracket for the first time–questions of faith, moving, new school (in New Jersey no less!), boys, periods, bras. It’s all here. I remember liking this book when I was in fourth or fifth grade because I felt like it was giving me the straight skinny on middle school and what I was in for. It didn’t help as much as I’d planned, but at least I had a road map of sorts.

Image from abductedbybooks.com

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe–Gracious glorious mercy jellybean gumdrops, did I love this book when I was a kid!!! (I loved the entire series to tell the truth, but this is the most easily recognizable one, so I’ll use it for the sake of clarity on this list.) I used to read C.S. Lewis’ books beneath my desk during math, science, and history. I simply couldn’t bear to stop reading and got in trouble more than once for my unwillingness to do exactly what my teacher told me. But how can you blame me when the choice is between long division and Prince Caspian!? Seriously, long division. Solve your own problems.

 

The Outsiders–This was one of those books that also found its way onto the naughty, banned books list for some time, which is probably why I picked it up. However, it introduced me to two things that have had a hold on me ever since–literary bad and/or brokenhearted boys from the wrong side of the tracks that I want to fix and Robert Frost. I kid you not, I must have read “Nothing Gold Can Stay” a thousand times as I read that book. (It didn’t hurt that there was a film version with such an extensive cast of cute boys ranging from Ralph Macchio to Patrick Swayze that it should have been illegal!) Greasers forever! ❤

The Hobbit–I think this one might have been one of the few books I literally read the cover off of as a kid. I simply couldn’t get enough of Bilbo and his retinue of dwarfs. The stone trolls, the Mirkwood elves, Smaug, Gandalf–these were my friends late at night when I couldn’t sleep. There was just something so entrancing about it. Bilbo was minding his own business in Bag End when the story starts; it just walks in and carries him along with it. In a way, you feel like Bilbo because you are also brought along for the ride. It’s good to see this one is also being made into a two part movie by Peter Jackson who I trust will do this gem of a book justice on the silver screen.

 

To Kill a Mockingbird–I’ve read this book dozens of times, taught it at least six times, and I never get tired of it. I seriously want to name my kid Atticus for the courtroom scene alone. (I went around for weeks after reading it using the phrase “unmitigated temerity” because I liked the way it sounded. Naturally, I had to look both words up before doing so.) It’s such a marvelously written book with a timeless story that it’s hard to leave it off any of my “Top # Lists.”The writing is clear and direct; there’s no mistaking what Lee wants to tell readers. However, there are lines that just make me smile each time I read them for their imagery-laden beauty. (The line in the opening paragraphs that always sticks in my mind is “Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum.”)

The Gunslinger–“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” For me, it’s up there with the great first lines in literary history. I’m putting this one on here because I’ve read it ten or eleven times but also because it marked my entrance into “adult fiction.” I couldn’t believe my mom would let me read a Stephen King book when I was so young, but she did for some reason. I started stealing hers from that moment on. I fell head over heels for Roland Deschain and got to spend most of my adult life reading about his long journey to find the Man in Black and the elusive Dark Tower. (I’d like to say it was my generation’s Harry Potter, but not nearly as many kids dress up like Roland or Cuthbert for Halloween.) I think books one through four came out when I was a kid, book five when I was an undergraduate, and five through seven when I was in graduate school. As an English major, I’ve been taught to disembowel texts, to pick them over like a buffalo carcass on the prairie to glean every possible meaning and interpretation from them, and my growing skill with literary analysis was richly rewarded with these books. They are the thread that holds his entire literary universe together, crossing over at times into It and Salem’s Lot, and King himself (in one of the greatest postmodern literary achievements of all time) not only allows his characters to realize they are in fact characters, but also inserts himself as the author into the work! Perfectly cyclical, rich in design and detail, this has to be one of my favorite series of all time—right up there with Tolkien and Lewis.

Evidence That Proves Why I Can’t Find a Book Club

Thanks to a previous Freshly Pressed blog, The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhhh, I have been introduced to another great group of readers/reviewers/bloggers/book worms like myself over at The Broke and the Bookish. Each Tuesday, they all participate in a meme called Top Ten Tuesday, and many of their bloggers create top ten lists based on a new topic. The Top Ten Tuesday for November 30, 2011 is “The Top Ten Books On My TBR List For Winter.” So, without further ado, here is a list of the ten books I plan to read over the holidays and into the new year. They aren’t listed in any particular order or ranking system because, well, I never know what kind of mood I’m going to be in. Sometimes, I love a good piece of literary fiction, but teen fiction and non-fiction make it onto my shelves as well. History, graphic novels, politics, science, apologetics, philosophy….the list goes on and on! I can’t stick to one genre, style, or medium. Hence, a book club that fits my style is harder to find than a perfect pair of women’s jeans.

***

1. Fire by Kristen Cashore—While I impatiently wait for the first Hunger Games film to be released in theaters, I’ve been glutting myself on teen fiction in the same vein. I enjoyed Graceling, the first book in this series very much. Like most of the books in its genre, it features a strong female protagonist and a studly male love interest. However, unlike you’re run of the mill dystopian book, this one is more fantasy based. (Think Game of Thrones meets 1984.) Apparently, aside from one essential character from the first book, this one has an entirely new cast. I’m eager to see why she chose to do that.

2. Mrs. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs—This one has been on my radar since it came out and will likely be one of the books I don’t purchase on my Kindle as it is a blend of text and photography, both of which are essential. It involves mystery, fantasy, tragedy, orphans with special abilities, and a remote island, and visual/narrative storytelling. What’s not to like!?

3. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor—This one was one of Amazon’s Best Books of 2011 as well as a starred review on many websites. Karou, a seventeen-year-old art student, runs errands for her father that include things like gathering teeth for some kind of spell casting. Needless to say, there’s a high fantasy quotient. However, rather than simply being a fantastical love story, there’s some depth to this one. Apparently, the writing is very lush, literary, and dense, which means that I’ll love it all the more!

4. A Devil to Play: One Man’s Year-Long Quest to Master the Orchestra’s Most Difficult Instrument by Jasper Rees—I have had this one on my shelf for months. As a French horn player, I know all too well just how dangerous and difficult the instrument can be, but I also know how beautiful it is and how it makes the effort worth it when you do it well. This one is a combination of musical elements and biography in this because the author sent himself on his quest due to a mid-life crisis. I think musicians and non-musicians will find something to like in this one.

5. Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer—This is a non-fiction read about one man’s study of the science and art of memory. The back matter sums it up well, “On average, people squander forty days annually compensating for things they’ve forgotten. Joshua Foer used to be one of those people….Even more important, Foer found a vital truth we too often forget: In every way that matters, we are the sum of our memories.” Scops, griots, and troubadours–all of them remembered entire epics and recited them orally, thereby protecting their culture in verse. Where has that art gone? I hope this book teaches me the answer to that question.

6. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain—This one is a mix of history, biography, and literary fiction that tells the story of Hadley and Ernest Hemingway and their doomed love story. As his first wife, she was muse, support system, critic, drinking partner, and everything else he needed, which I’m sure took a toll on her. How can you love someone with such a gift and the ego it takes to use it well? How can you love without losing yourself? I’m prepared to have my assumptions about one of my favorite authors turned upside down and to learn the real story behind the day-to-day lives of the members of the Lost Generation.

7. The Angel Makers by Jessica Gregson—This one doesn’t come out until January 2012, but I’m thinking I’ll love it. Based on a true story, this book tells the tale of women in a remote Hungarian village after their husbands go off to war. No longer beaten or worked to death to provide for their spouses, the women experience freedom and love for the first time. When their men return, one of the women begins using her medical knowledge to “remove” the people responsible for their anguish. Should be an interesting read!

8. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck—As a former English teacher, I’m embarrassed to tell people the books I haven’t read because they look at me like I have a superfluous eye in my forehead. Moby Dick, The Plague, War and Peace….I’ve read none of them. Don’t get me wrong, when I look at a “100 Greatest Literary Works List,” I’m well ahead of your average reading bear, but there are just a few that never happened to cross my path. My kid cousin is reading this one for AP Literature this year, and I’m interested enough to try reading his copy over Christmas break.

9. The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis—I adore his fiction, and the short work he wrote after the death of his wife (A Grief Observed) made me want to weep. There’s something about Lewis that’s both academic/philosophical and open/human that it’s hard not to want to read more by him. This work focuses on the concept of suffering and why God allows it into the world. It is a tough question to answer when witnessing to non-believers, and I hope it can help me in that area.

10. 11/22/63 by Stephen King—I’ve been reading Stephen King since I was eight or nine years old. When I was younger, my favorite work was The Eyes of the Dragon, but I soon learned to love works like The Stand and It. His magnum opus, The Dark Tower Series, is one of my favorites! This one sounds like an odd mix of fact and fiction, but I love the idea of a magic portal in a diner enough to give it a shot. (Ugh, did I just make a pun concerning the JFK assassination?!)