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…)

***

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. 🙂

***

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.

Men I’ve Loved Between the Covers…

….OF A BOOK! OF A BOOK!!!

Oh well, if you clicked and read this far, the title was a sufficient tease. Nope, I’m sorry to tell you this post isn’t some Chelsea Handler-esque confessional of “my horizontal life.” That’s not how I roll.

This week’s Top Ten Booklist is a FREEBIE. The folks over at The Broke and the Bookish have liberated us to make up any top ten list we want (or to revisit one of the older ones we didn’t get a chance to complete). I went for the latter and chose a topic I’ve wanted to blog about for awhile—FICTIONAL CRUSHES!!

Image courtesy of homestarrunner.com

This is a list of some of the fictional men I’ve loved and have wanted to be courted by since I was old enough to read. I went through my bookshelves, considering who’d make the top ten, which was rough for a bookworm like myself. As I looked the list over, I noticed I go for either the dark, tortured souls or the stable, fatherly type. I also have a penchant for men who wear masks and don disguises. (I’m thinking an hour or two of therapy might be in order.

Oher than number one, the love of my literary life, the others are not ranked. I simply can’t decide because they swap places often. However, I can assure you that you will NOT find sparkly vampires, barechested werewolves, or boys in skinny jeans here folks! I only go for the genuine article!

1. Edward Fairfax Rochester (Jane Eyre)–If you’ve read any of my previous booklist posts, you’d know my favorite novel of all time is Jane Eyre. I know that one of the reasons for my choice is the Byronic hero of that wonderful tale. (I even named my instrument after him!) Mr. Rochester is the epitome of brooding. Wouldn’t you be if you were forever bound to a crazy pyromaniac who you had keep secreted away in an attic–one you were essentially married off to against your will? The way he sits staring at fires, his mercurial moods forever changing because of his great dissatisfaction with the life he’s been dealt, makes him irresistible to me. There’s nothing better than a “fixer upper beau” as far as I’m concerned. He hits all three notes in the literary crush chord—tortured soul, fatherly (he’s many years Jane’s senior), and he dons a disguise. To the world, he’s a carefree gentleman, playing a part, but that’s not even close to his true self. (He also physically disguises himself as a gypsy in one of my favorite chapters.)

2. Faramir (The Lord of the Rings)–What’s NOT to love about Faramir? If you’ve read the book, you know what I’m talking about. Don’t get me wrong, David Wendham did a great job with him in the films, but he didn’t get nearly enough screen time. Faramir is noble, intelligent, fearless, humble, kind, and beloved by all–he’s almost too perfect for words. Neither the ring nor power tempt him, and he let sboth go easily. However, when something is worth defending, he is the first to take up arms and the last to put them down. He’s a scholar, a lover, and a fighter who is used to conceding to his father and brother not because he was weak but because he didn’t need pointless victories to feel power.

3. Sodapop Curtis (The Outsiders)–I can’t explain this one as readily as the others on my list. Well, sure the fact that he has “dark gold hair that the sun bleached wheat gold in the summer”  and eyes that “…are dark brown- lively, dancing, recklessly raping with anger” in “a finely drawn, sensitive face that somehow manages to be reckless and thoughtful at the same time” doesn’t hurt. He’s a peacemaker who doesn’t need to drink, smoke, or fight to feel alive. Instead, as he puts it, he can “get drunk on just plain living.” Sensitive, calm, and loving, Sodapop cries at his parents’ funeral and mourns when his girlfriend leaves him to go to Florida (even after she cheated on him). He was swoon-worthy to a preteen version of me. (It also didn’t hurt that Rob Lowe played him the movie.)

4. Sydney Carton (A Tale of Two Cities)–Ah yes, Sydney is the character who utters the line, “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known” as he is about to be murdered in the place of a man who he envies so that the woman they both love can be happy. Intelligent, passionate, and handsome despite his gruffness, he is still one of the most inscrutable characters in all of Dickens’ works. (Seriously, the man could take two pages to describe an eddy in a river, but he couldn’t take the time to explain why this man tortures himself and is happier living other people’s lives instead of his own!?!? That’s a laundry list of details I would actually have enjoyed reading!) I’d have to say that Sydney is right there below Rochester in the tortured department, and his entire life is the ultimate disguise. He’s nearly the triumvirate of literary hotness, but not quite.

5. Jon Snow (The Song of Ice and Fire series)–Don’t get me wrong. I loved Eddard Stark, and Robb wasn’t hard to fall head over heels for. But there’s something so alluring about the bastard son of the Starks. He’s compassionate and is an effective leader, and he’s made some hard calls so far in the series (in both love and war). He’s as much Ned’s son as Robb, but the world will not give him his due respect because of his birthright. And that’s something he’s hellbent on correcting. What is it about a man clothed in black with a chip on his shoulder the size of the wall that is so darned alluring? *deep sigh* I can’t wait to see what Mr. Martin is going to do with him in the last two books!

6. The Scarlet Pimpernel/Sir Percy Blakeney (The Scarlet Pimpernel)–I only read this book a few years ago, but holy crow is Blakeney bewitching! He’s willing to don the disguise of a fop in order to cover up the fact he is actually a swashbuckling hero. He’s willing to put himself in harm’s way to save nobles wrongly accused and persecuted by the evil French revolutionaries and their guillotine, but he’s tortured because his disguise actually keeps the love of his life from knowing who he truly is. Wealthy, clever, brave, rugged, and a paragon of fashion, the Pimpernel is totally scrumptious.

7. Bigby Wolf (Fables)–If you’ve not read Bill Willinghams’ comic, do yourself a favor and go buy every trade paperback you can get your hands on! It’s an amazing story (one I’m convinced spawned the shows Grimm and Once Upon a Time). Simply put, the storybook characters are real, and they’ve been run out of their homelands by a looming figure known only as “The Adversary.” Bigby is the Big Bad Wolf (Get it? Big-B?!) The son of a wolf mother and the North Wind (hence the ability to blow down houses), he was the runt and felt the need to prove himself, and his rage prompted him to only prey on humans. However, because he’s reformed and can sniff out lies, he makes a great sheriff in Fabletown (the area of New York the fables call home). He can take on human form (somewhat like a werewolf) and is grizzled and gruff in the extreme. I like to think of him as a combination of Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade and Wolverine. Yummo.

8. Biff Loman (Death of a Salesman)–Yeah, he’s good looking and quite the athlete, but Biff appeals to me because of his desire to be his own man and his poet’s soul. I fell for him the first time I taught this play, probably because I was the same age he is at the time. The scene in which he confronts his father and tells him about stealing the gold pen speaks to me in a way that few ever have. He says, “I run out of that building and I see… the sky. I see all the things I love in this world. The work, the food, the time to sit and smoke. And I look at this pen and I ask myself, ‘What the hell am I grabbing this thing for? Why am I trying to become something I don’t wanna become when all I want is out there waiting for me the minute I say I know who I am?'” He’s a simple man who only wants peace but whose soul is always at war…both with his father and himself. Good stuff.

9. Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird)–This one is the epitome of temptation number two, the father figure. Who DIDN’T want a dad like Atticus Finch?!? Noble, soft spoken, stable, intelligent, and unprejudiced, he’s everything women want in a working class hero package. However, he’s also a man of action (think of that rabid dog sequence if you doubt me) who doesn’t shrink away from a battle…even if he knows he’s bound to lose. Oh, and he’s a widower. Can you say “Man Candy”?

10. George Knightley (Emma)–Mr. Knightley is the only reason I survived reading Emma (because she drove me crazy with her small-minded meddling). Wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice, he doesn’t flaunt his wealth or look down on those less fortunate than himself. In fact, he helps quite a few characters over the course of the novel. Kind, compassionate, level-headed, and moral, he’s exactly what the flippant and childish Emma (and every woman who’s ever read the book) needs to be truly happy. He’s the least tortured of all my crushes and isn’t fond of disguises, but he’s all the more captivating for his openness. Sometimes, it’s nice to have a man who’s easy like Sunday morning.

**Bonus Pick** Feldrin Brelak (Scimitar Seas series)–Ladies, ladies, ladies…If you haven’t read my friend Chris A. Jackson’s Scimitar Seas series, you are totally missing out!! There are currently three books out there for you to enjoy and a fourth one currently in the process of being published. The protagonist is a strong female character named Cynthia Flaxall, and the plot is fresh, creative, and well-crafted. And Feldrin, well, I’ll just say it….he’s hot as heck. He’s a strapping sailor with a soft spot for Cyn, one who’s equally good at sea battles and piracy (though he’d call it privateering). Square jawed, plainspoken, and unapologetically and overwhelmingly masculine–you’ll not find a more tempting sea biscuit in all of fantasy literature.

 
 

Just Because It’s True Doesn’t Mean It Can’t Be Interesting

The folks over at The Broke and The Bookish have done it again! They’ve dreamed up another wonderful book list idea for bloggers to share. This week’s list is The Top Ten Books I’d Recommend To Someone Who Doesn’t Read ______________. We can insert anything we want in the gap. (For example, we can recommend ten classics for folks who don’t read literature, young adult reads for those who don’t like the genre, or whatever other list we’d like to design to help introduce someone to unfamiliar verbal territory.)

I was an English major for eight years (including grad school, fool!), and I taught English for just over a decade. However, rather than rehash great works, I thought I’d recommend ten non-fiction books I’ve either enjoyed or plan on reading soon. This genre has grown on me recently because I’ve come to realize that life– with all its glorious messiness, triumph, and tragedy–can be just as compelling as fiction…if not more so. I combed my Goodreads shelf and came up with this list.

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond—I read key chapters from this one for an AP Literature class I taught, but what I’ve read is fascinating. Essentially, the author examines how differences in geography and environment shaped world cultures and allowed some to dominate while others withered. It can be a little clinical in places and has ton of footnotes and endnotes, but they don’t really interfere with the text. I enjoyed it in small bites because it contains so much data that, in one sitting, I could get overwhelmed.

The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade by Thomas Lynch—I read this one several years ago on a whim, and I fell in love with Lynch’s style. If you don’t know about him, he actually is a mortician who lives in Milford, Michigan. He is also an essayist and poet with several published works to his name. This oddly poetic book is a collection of twelve essays and a poem or two that combine musings of life and death in ways that are humorous, thought-provoking, and altogether real.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach—I’m not morbid, I swear. These two were just next to each other on my shelf. Unlike Lynch’s work, which is more poetic in structure and full of musings, Roach’s work is fact-based, straightforward, and, at times, shocking. She doesn’t embellish; she simply describes the places some folks end up (either by choice or by chance) once they’ve shuffled off their mortal coils. She opens with an interesting chapter about decapitated heads set up in what look like turkey roasters; they are there so plastic surgeons can practice a new procedure. If you’ve ever been curious about how real crash test “dummies” are selected or how the body farm at the University of Tennessee works, this is the read for you. By the way, she also has other books like Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex and Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife if you’re interested.

The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough—I haven’t had a chance to read this one yet. I actually won a copy (along with all of his other books) last year, and this one is autographed! 🙂 I thoroughly enjoyed 1776 and John Adams, and I have no doubt that this one will fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge about Paris as well as the wide range of Americans who traveled there in order to make discoveries that would change the course of our great nation.

God, Dr. Buzzard, and the Bolito Man: A Saltwater Geechee Talks About Life on Sapelo Island, Georgia by Cornelia Walker Bailey—I read this book in graduate school and was actually priviledged to visit Sapelo Island and meet Ms. Walker Bailey in person while there. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s probably because the island has been made into a nature preserve by the state. There are two restaurants, a lighthouse, a plantation house, and other structures on the island, but it’s more natural land than anything. It’s a twenty-minute ferry ride from the coast and boasts a gorgeous beach where you can lay out and see every star in the sky at night. We slept there one night and just basked in it. The book focuses on that but also the way of life of the people who live there as well as their roots, both here and in Africa. It’s a fascinating read!

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby—I found excerpts from this slim volume in the literature book for my sophomores and fell in love with the author. This book is poignant and heartbreaking–the quintessential example of bittersweet. If you don’t know his story, Bauby was an editor for Elle magazine in Paris when he had stroke and became a prisoner to something called “Locked In Syndrome.” Basically, his mind worked perfectly, but he could only control his left eyelid. Physically, he was stuck! He wrote this entire book with help from others who recited the alphabet. When they read the letter he wanted, he blinked, and they added it to the text. Letter by letter, word by word, essay by essay—this book was literally blinked into existence. It is 114 pages long and a stunning example of what the human desire to communicate can produce!

Maus (Volumes 1 & 2) by Art Spiegelman—This one is a graphic novel, yes, but it is both autobiographical and biographical. One volume chronicles his father’s Holocaust survival story, and the other is how he “survived” his father’s survival guilt. Simple pages, black and white illustrations, and anthropomorphic characters make this one riveting. It’s like you are reading about the Holocaust for the first time just because of the sheer “otherness” of the presentation. This is the only graphic novel that has ever won the Pulitzer Prize, and it certainly deserved it.

The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester—You know you’re a nerd when you read a book about the construction of a dictionary, and while it did chronicle how many, many people sending in little strips of paper helped a small team create the first edition of the most definitive dictionary of the English language ever seen. It doesn’t hurt that one of the most prolific contributors happened to be a surgeon who came to England after the Civil War and was imprisoned for killing a prostitute! I hope I’ve sufficiently intrigued you to read this one with that statement alone.

Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing by Margaret Atwood—This is one I picked up when Ms. Atwood came to Atlanta to do a reading, and it is filled with essays about the art of writing—what can be made, what must be released, and what it costs both mentally and culturally. After all, sometimes, the only way and author can find something worth saying is to touch the sore places or poke the scars. It ain’t pleasant, but it is necessary if we’re going to create something worth reading. The few pieces I’ve read have been quite excellent, and I look forward to finishing it soon.

Playing with the Enemy: A Baseball Prodigy, a World at War, and the Long Journey Home by Gary W. Moore—Wayne brought this one home from a business trip. He saw it and thought it would be interesting because it focuses on baseball, my mostest favoritest thing on earth. (Other than Jesus Christ and my family, there is nothing I love more.) This one chronicles Moore’s father and his experiences with German prisoners in World War II. It’s a new perspective on the war from a “minor player” in the global drama we all thought we knew. I will also be reading this one soon.

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!