Today, on my way from Bibliography and Print Culture (my favorite course) to The Short Story (my least favorite course), I stumbled up on a sign for the University College book fair (U of T is broken down into smaller colleges, I’m in New College, want to be in St. Mikes College, Liz is in Wordsworth College, there are seven total. Your college is where you go for writing center appointments, administrative help and it dictates where your dorm is… usually, not in my case) and figured that I had an hour to kill so why not browse for a minute. I did not browse for a minute, I browsed until I had to leave for class and if I had a choice I would have stayed longer (at 6:30 they had a deal where you could fill an entire box with books for TEN DOLLARS). Originally, I thought they only took cash and deduced I could only buy about two books but once I found out they took credit cards (which was about five minutes before I had to leave) I ran around like a mad man picking things up. The final list- which came to 16 whole dollars- includes: British Historical and Political Orations: XII to XX Century, Students Handbook to Literature, A compilation of short stories featured in “The New Yorker” from its first 15 years of publications, Fifty Famous Animal Stories, and Great Short Stories of Sea and Ships. They are SO beautiful and old, the entire room smelled wonderful.
Sighhh I love books. Books are possibly my favorite material thing in the whole wide world. When I don’t have school, I’m reading about a book a week and usually several at one time. I take joy in extricating Crime and Punishment, I love the challenges posed by reading Faulkner. I love stories that comfort me, stories that sadden me, stories that enrage me. I love exploring other worlds, and other possibilities. I love books that have fantastical images that my imagination can attack and interpret. The books that effect me the most however, are not usually considered great literature or works of literary art. I’m not of the impression that a book has to be great literature to be considered worth while. Here is my list (in no particular order) of the top ten books that have touched me deeply- lit pop and classics alike.
1. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen): My mother is an Austin nut. She has the tomb of all the Austin books complied into one enormous volume that she will tear through in about four days (my mother is also the fastest reader I know). From a very early age I was indoctrinated into the Jane Austen fan club. I remember watching the PBS version of Sense and Sensibility with her at something like the age of eight and being totally bored out of my mind. However, like mother like daughter, I grew to love Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice is my all time favorite. I know that is it the quintessential girly book that all men despise, but somethings are stereotypes for a reason.
2. Ella Enchanted (Gail Carson Levine): This was my favorite book as a child. Ella was everything I wanted to be: smart, brave, pretty and spunky. I wanted to have her adventures and marry a man like Prince Charmont. When my mom got really sick and had to have surgery, I read this book in the waiting room (which was kinda dumb since her mom dies in the beginning). Do not watch the movie (it is a disgraceful bastardization of an excellent story). It may not be a masterpiece but every now and again it provides a good escape and welcome comfort.
3. An Old Fashioned Girl (Louisa May Alcott): I have yet to meet another person who has read this book (besides my mom). It is the forgotten Alcott novel, hiding being the dominance of Little Women and to a lesser extent Little Men. Its a story about a little country girl visiting and eventually living in the big city and having to cope with the pressure to fit in versus the pressure to maintain her “old fashioned” values. She refused to grow up too fast- something I was seriously in agreement with. It’s a good story, a simple story, but a good one.
4. Water for Elephants (Sarah Gruen): This book is cool just because of its historical context. Set during the 1930’s, Water For Elephants follows one man as he learns how things operate in a circus. All the little details about the time and trade are completely accurate- Gruen did years of research before writing the book. It’s an easy read, perfect for plane rides and really just fun.
5. The Lost City of Z (David Grann): Yay, Non Fiction! This is the heroing tale of Percy Fawett, explorer extraordinaire who disappeared into the Amazon and was never seen again and David Grann’s, a writer for the New Yorker, attempt to uncover what exactly happened. Educational writing at its finest.
6. The Bear (William Faulkner): At first, I didn’t like Faulkner AT ALL. We read The Light in August in grade 10 and I loathed every minute of it. With time and exposure, however, I have learned to love Faulkner. A southern Gothic, The Bear is set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County somewhere below the Mason Dixon line and is actually a short excerpt from a longer piece of work (Go Down Mosses). I’m not going to waste your time raving about Faulkner- that’s already been done.
7. The Time Travelers Wife (Audrey Niffenegger): I read this right before the movie (which turned out to be pretty horrible) came out during the summer of separation (Nate and I spent last summer apart). It had been a long summer and those last four weeks were fairly torturous. Claire and Henry were constantly separated, constantly longing for each other- a mirror to my own life. I’ve never cried harder than I have in the last seventy five pages of the The Time Travelers Wife. It’s a lovely book, long and well written. The whole time travel thing is a little hard to grasp at first but once you wrap your head around it, everything becomes pretty clear. It’s not a love story, but a story about two people in love.
8. Gone With the Wind (Margaret Mitchell): Okay, I know that it’s about 600 pages of not much dialogue and a lot of description. I know that it’s about the Civil War and slavery. I know that it’s not the most appealing book in the world in a lot of ways, but it’s a classic for a reason. The character are so rich and complex that they feel like real people- Mitchell took those 600 pages and used every one of them to create a world. It’s marvelous.
9. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (series) (Anne Brashares): I read this series every summer- it takes me about a week to go through all four books. They’re just fun and frivolous, what more do you need when its hot and you don’t have homework.
10. The Year of Magical Thinking (Joan Didion): More non fiction! It’s Joan Didion so of course its amazing- basically she lost her husband (heart attack) and her daughter (pre-existing brain condition) over the course of like six months and wrote a book about the dealing with the grief. It’s very removed, however. There are no scenes of her sobbing or passages about how horrible she feels all the time. Step by step she outlines how her life fell apart and how she put it back together.
I know, its a weird little list.