Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My Favorite Books (a epic long post)

I have 3 books which are my absolute and undeniable favorites. After that I have 7 books which I love very, very, very much. Then there are 3 series which I adore but they all have lots of books, and I can't pick just one as a favorite, so they're separate. Then everything else falls into place. In my bedroom, my sister and I even have a Favorite Book Shelf, where we put the best books in a place of great honor. So, here are my 10 Favorites.
Warning: I like my books. I go into much detail. If you do not like much gushing, run away!

Absolute and Undeniable Favorite #1: Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. Why this is my favorite book in the world is beyond me. I'm nothing like the main character, I can't really relate to her. Nothing in the book is very relatable to me. I don't really like Gothic romances, they're so dramatic. But there you are. Something about it spoke to me, something I can't qualify, but it's there. I can truthfully say this is my Most Absolute and Undeniable Favorite. The main character who I've dubbed Lydia for convenience sake, is lovely, and her mind is just such a glorious place. And Maxim is like the epitome of Dark and Brooding (move over Cullen and Rochester!), and all the side characters are memorable... and maybe I just love it because she talks about toast and coffee and tea cakes a lot. Who knows.

Absolute and Undeniable Favorite #2: The House of Mirth by Edith Warton. I didn't really think I'd like this book much, I read it because I was bored and my mom said it was good. I took me a week to read, not because it wasn't good, but because I wanted to savor it. When I finished it I couldn't read anything else new for almost a month, because I was still digesting it's awesomeness. I'm not one to gravitate towards things with depressing endings, but despite it being one of the more depressing pieces of literature I ever read, it's an Absolute and Undeniable Favorite. Maybe because I want to be rich too much, and this book sort of brings Being Rich and Having Money down from it's pedestal, in a very Fitzgerald-ish manner. Also Lily and Selden forever! Despite their utter stupidity...

Absolute and Undeniable Favorite #3: Downright Dencey/Beckoning Road by Caroline Dale Snedeker. I almost never read it, I came so close. Now I can't imagine my life without it. So really these are two books. But they are rather small books, and about the same people, and the second one starts right where the first one ends, so they count as one. These books are beautifully written, are filled with glorious descriptions of historical Nantucket and Indiana. They have two of the best romances I've ever read in a book (Dencey/Jestsam le sigh), and are just filled with love and hope and happiness. I guess they are religious books, but the way Snedeker seamlessly incorporated Christianity and salvation and sacrificial love into a seemingly simple story about a Quaker girl is amazing.

Book I Love Very Much #1: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. I read Pride and Prejudice, and I liked it. I read Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion and thought they were okay. I wasn't an Austen fan. She wasn't funny. Her wit was so dry. Her characters were so good. Then, back in winter 2008, PBS aired all these costume dramas, and we watched the 2007 Northanger Abby for the first time. I loved it. I bought the book, I loved it even more. Why, Jane Austen? Northanger was so charming! What happened? It's clever, lighthearted, horribly romantic. Not depressing and jaded. It's a clear favorite.

Book I Love Very Much #2: Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer. I read this book when I was 12, on the subway, going to Queens for a concert in the park. To get to Queens from Brooklyn on the subway is complicated. You have to backtrack and go through Manhattan. Anyway, it was a long ride. So I read Hope was Here. I felt so grown-up. I was modern fiction, about teenagers, about self discovery. I was beautifully written. It's about a girl and her aunt who work at diners around the country. It's filled with glorious food, it's filled with the magnificence that is middle-America. It's delicious.

Book I Love Very Much #3: The Odyssey by Homer. First of all, I only read this book translated by Robert Fitzgerald. Second of all, I'm a sucker for anything with the Greek gods. Third of all, I'm a sucker for epic romance like Penelope and Odysseus. I don't read The Odyssey like it was some great piece of historical literature. I read it like a beautiful, romantic adventure at sea filled with angry gods and weird creatures. I read it like I'd read any modern fantasy. Maybe I don't get as much out of it as I should, but I love it, and to me, that's all that matters. Also Athena is soo my patron goddess.

Book I Love Very Much #4: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Hilarity. Sci-fi themed Hilarity. That is this book. It's crazy, funny, weird. It's so serious (they blow up Earth, kay?) and it's taken all so lightly, it looses any sort of anything it could have beyond Hilarity. It just never stops with the weird, it just hurtles along, dragging you behind, leaving you confused and in awe. This is the best sort of sci-fi. It's almost Farscapey, or maybe Farscape is a little Hitchhickersy. I read it last year, and it was one of those books that shot right to the top of my favorites list out of no where.

Book I Love Very Much #5: Beauty by Robin McKinley. This is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. The only one I've ever read. Sure there are other, probably very good ones. McKinley herself wrote another one, Rose Daughter, which is supposedly magnificent, but I don't want to spoil this one by reading another. Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairytale, and this book just captures it perfectly. It's lush and dark and so jeweled toned. The book is told from Beauty's point of view, it's personal and intimate. It's like getting the once-in-a-life-time peak at someone else's world.

Book I Love Very Much #6: Songs from Home by Joan Goodman. It's a tiny book, you could read it in an hour if you wanted to. The plot is told simply and directly, but it's heartbreaking- a young American girl and her father, who live like beggars in Italy, and she doesn't know why, because he won't tell her anything about her past. I don't remember the first time I read this book, which is rare, since the first time makes the biggest impression. I remember the time I read it for the fifth or sixth time, and it was that time when it became a favorite. Out of nowhere, it's brilliance hit me.

Book I Love Very Much #7: Johnny Tremain, by Esther Forbes. Oh, Johnny. First of all it must be said, I am in love with Johnny. I am. There is no hiding it. I happen to believe that this might be the best piece of historical fiction written about our country, and I've read a LOT of historical fiction. (It's a homeschool thing. We eat it up.) It's got this magnificent balance of hilarious romance, edge-of-your-seat action, bloody war, tension and fear, old-fashioned politics, delicious food and lengthy descriptions of colonial life. I've loved this book since I was eight. Some things never change.

Series I Adore #1: Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling. You knew I was going to get to this. But come on, it's HARRY POTTER. The Chosen One! Undesirable No. 1! The Boy Who Lived! It's got Chocolate Frogs and action and romance and terror till it comes out of your ears, but in the end, it's still just a school story. It's just some teenagers who go to school, have finals and stay up till 2am studying. Just with, you know, dragons and stuff. I read all seven Harry Potter books in six days one summer. Basically I did nothing else. It was love at first sight, I read the first paragraph of the first book, and knew that they would be marvelous. Harry Potter can sweep you away from mundane life and bring you fully somewhere else where real people reside in real places. It's not great literature. It's genius escapism.

Series I Adore #2: Betsy-Tacy by Maude Hart Lovelace. I read these books slowly over the course of my life, one or two more every few years till I had read all thirteen of them. Betsy-Tacy is the definition of complete. You follow her and her friends from her fifth birthday party through her first years of marriage. The books are semi-autobiographical, which adds a sense of reality to them, and they are so encouraging and hopeful. The focus through out the series remains of the positive, on the happy little things in life. All the characters are freakishly real, naturally because they were real, but the series manages retains the magical aura of fiction despite the truth they are based on. It's never been a question as to whether these books were favorites of mine. They've always been there.

Series I Adore #3: The Casson Series by Hilary McKay. I read Saffy's Angel first of course. Then I heard a squeal was coming out. Then another one came, and another, and one last one. With each book they got better and funnier, but it doesn't really even feel like a series. It's just one long hilarious story about one big hilarious family in modern day England. There's Caddy, the oldest, and her on-and-off driving instructor Micheal. There's Saffy, the adopted cousin/half-sister, Indigo, the only boy, who wants to visit the Arctic. Then there's Rose, the youngest, and the driving force. Each book is written differently, sometimes it's first person, sometimes not, but it works. They are the sort of book I want to force everyone to read, they're the sort of books that will make your life better.

(Other books that should be mentioned, even though they are not Total and Complete Favorites are: The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson, The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, and the Prydain Series by Lloyd Alexander.)
I need coffee. And a nap. It's raining again.

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