Oooh! Oooh! Pick Me!!!

This week, The Broke and the Bookish want bloggers to discuss our “Top Ten Favorite Covers.” We could make this genre specific or do whatever we wanted to with it, so I decided to take a turn in my local B&N…just to look and not to buy. (Shocking, I know!) I went through every section, scanning the shelves and snapping photos when I saw ones that caught my eye. I haven’t read any of these books, but the covers were all intriguing enough to make me give them a shot.

The Meaning of Wife: A Provocative Look at Women and Marriage in the Twenty-First Century by Anne Kingston—I love the clever (albeit not terribly subtle) cover. The cheerful “something blue” cover and white script font and gaudy diamond solitaire and band scream wedding, but the ring in combination with the gesture make it obvious this book isn’t concerned with “happily ever after.”

Wired for Culture: Origins of the Human Social Mind by Mark Pagel—I do not ascribe to the theory of evolution, so this book really isn’t of interest to me. However, I do like the cleverness of the cover. The combination of a DNA strand and the western world’s most recognizable greeting makes for a compelling statement.

Pure by Julianna Baggott—Unlike the other books featured in the teen fiction section, this one wasn’t covered in sparkles, Gothic font, and a pale-skinned beauty. However, it is a dystopian novel, it is black, and the title is only one word long. This one is about a world post “detonations” where those inside the dome, the “Pures,” are unmarked while those outside are mutated and deformed. I like the clever use of the dirty dome and the butterfly that seems to jump off the dark page. It’s a simple cover, but effective.

H.P. Lovecraft Goes to the Movies: The Classic Stories That Inspired the Classic Horror Films by H.P. Lovecraft—A cool collection of stories such as “The Colour Out of Space,” “The Dunwich Horror,” “Pickman’s Model,” “Cool Air,” and “The Call of Cthulhu” as well as historical background on the author as well as the people who captured them on film. I love the grittiness of this cover as well as the blending of Cthulu tentacles and film.

A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir of My Father by Augusten Burroughs—Rather than the strange humor of Running With Scissors, this one is about the author’s unloving, drunken father and what life was like both loving and hating him. I love the stark color contrast on this one as well as the use of the fork as a representation of the menacing father figure. The dinner table, normally the epitome of “family,” is turned into something entirely different with only a few bent tines.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami—This one is apparently a republished work with several other options for a cover, but I was drawn to this one for some reason. The protagonist ends up in a netherworld beneath the streets of Tokyo. The “strange yet familiar” image–inverted and hollowed–is oddly disconcerting but beautiful.

The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady by Elizabeth Stuckey-French—A woman who was given a radioactive cocktail by a doctor plots his demise only to find out that he has Alzheimer’s Disease and that his family, more broken than she ever was, needs her help. I love the sixties color and font scheme of this, the perfect “little woman” in the center, and the lemon-fresh scent of murder it exudes. It looks like something straight out of a horror double feature. Too cute!

MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend by Rachel Bertsche—This non-fiction read is about being a married gal on a search for a new girlfriend to spend time with. Apparently, she went on 52 “friend dates” to write this book and find that special someone. Interesting. I like the colorful layout of this, the Google+ circle of friends imagery that makes it look as if many of the women she met overlap. It gives off an overall positive vibe, leading me to believe it’s a fun read.

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce—A teen fiction read, a little heavy on the drama for me, but I liked the concept behind this cover. The two sisters, Scarlett and Rosie, are two halves of the same whole. However, Scarlett was attacked by a werewolf and lost her eye to it. Now, they hunt wolves, but Rosie wants something more. The intermixing of red and black, not being able to tell where one sister or the wolf begins, is very clever. It’s an eye-catching cover that might get me to dip my toe in the pond to see if the writing was good enough.

The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout—Apparently 1 in 25 (4%) of Americans are sociopaths. That means they have no sense of empathy and will hurt people or animals without feeling a smidgen of guilt. I swear I worked for a sociopath once, so this might prove to be an interesting read for me. The slightly off-kilter blocks of text is a little disorienting, and the eyes are both engaging and disconcerting. All three are looking right at you, daring you to try to figure out which one of them would stab you in the heart with a spoon and not feel badly about it. Without the mouths, it’s hard to tell the difference between a smile and a smirk. Very busy, but a very effective cover.

Insert Mood Music Here

Another gauntlet has been hurled by the staff at The Broke and the Bookish! I decided to pick it up and answer the challenge. Therefore, I give you my list of “The Top Ten Books I’d Give A Theme Song To and Why…”

1. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby—“My Body is a Cage” (Peter Gabriel’s Cover). It is a heartbreaking book, but one that is rich and rewarding all the same. It forces you to sit down and truly contemplate not only what is said but how arduous the saying was. Gabriel’s version of Arcade Fire’s hit song is a perfect match.

2. Hamlet by William Shakespeare—“Weapon of Choice” by Fatboy Slim. Hamlet’s always waffling between options in this play, and his indecision leads to his downfall and that of several of the other characters. For a protagonist who ponders the choice between “To be, or not to be,” the greatest weapon is choice. Plus, I love this song and awesome video!

3. Anthem by Ayn Rand—“That’s Not My Name” by The Ting Tings. Granted, it’s a little too peppy for the content of the novel, but the main characters are named “Equality 7-2521” and “Liberty 5-3000” but choose new monikers for themselves–“Prometheus” and “Gaea” respectively. Since they search for identities not defined by a collectivist society, this little ditty just seemed to fit.

4. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James—“Where Is My Mind” by The Pixies. Ah, the delightful madness that is The Turn of the Screw. Specters that may or may not be there, an empty house, and a half-cracked governess who’s convinced her pupils are more than they seem.

5. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas—“Paint It Black” by the Rolling Stones. What better song for a man who’s so broken and controlled by a burning need for revenge? “I see a red door, and I want to paint it black” is the perfect summation of how Edmond Dantés feels about his love for Mercédès Mondego.

6. Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier—“Cold” by Annie Lennox. For some reason, I adored this book. Perhaps it’s the bristling sexual tension caused the forbidden love between people who share the same vision of the world but not the same social rank in it…or perhaps it’s because Colin Firth played the male lead in the movie version. Maybe both. 🙂 The same tension is in Annie Lennox’s ballad, and it includes many references to color and sensations.

7. Lord of the Flies by William Golding—“Goodbye Blue Skies” by Pink Floyd. Whether it is war or two tribes of boys on a desert island, we’re always far too willing and ready to tear one another apart, aren’t we? I thought something from The Wall was a fitting choice considering the schoolboy elements of the movie, “Another Brick in the Wall” being the most obvious musical connection.

8. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer—“I Honestly Love You” by Olivia Newton-John. I can think of no better song for this piece of literary tripe than this vapid little ballad. And to quote Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

9. Cane by Jean Toomer—“Strange Fruit” by Billie Holliday. There’s a lot to this book for sure. Half of the stories are set in the South, half in the North. The final story, “Kabnis,” combines the two by bringing a black northerner face to face with his Southern heritage in, of all things, a root cellar. Beautifully structured and far ahead of its time–we’re just now beginning to understand this short but powerful work. It pairs well with Holliday’s pained voice singing of lynchings and the “Strange Fruit” that Southern trees grew at the time.

10. The Collector by John Fowles—“To Wish Impossible Things” by The Cure. For those of you expecting something like The French Lieutenant’s Woman, look elsewhere. This book is a far departure from this author’s more well-known work. A young college student is kidnapped by an obsessive would-be lover and kept much like a butterfly pinned to a board–forever on display in a prison she can neither see out of nor escape. It’s a amazingly tense read, one it’s easy to put yourself in the middle of and experience what it would be like to be completely at the mercy of another. I think this song from The Cure would work well—for what she could have been had he never “collected” her and what he could have been had he never given into his darker urges.

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.