January 3, 2014

My Favorite All Time Reads

Just compiling a list of my all time favorite reads as I start my new year. I'm hoping that by next year I will have even more books that will have such lasting effects as these have had on me.

On the Road: So I only read this last spring but I have a feeling this one will stay with me a long time. The narrators passion and exuberance for life and adventure make him a sympathetic character, even when he's doing things that shouldn't evoke sympathy. This book stands the test of time.

Gone with the Wind: I first read this book when I was 16, then again at 24. Now a full-fledged adult (complete with cellulite and a mortgage) I tried reading it again to see if it was really 'all that'. And yes, it was. Mitchell is a marvelous writer who makes an unlikable character likable and transports you back into another era. I realize there's content we may not find politically correct nowadays, but I'm a firm believer in not censoring something or pretending it didn't exist. It is only through reminders of how things used to be that we make any progress at all.

Wuthering Heights: More unlikable characters but I was rooting for Heathcliff and Cathy the entire book. They are reckless, careless, and terribly in love but, because of Catherine's pride, are kept apart. It is only in death that they are able to be together. Over the top? Yes. But deliciously so.

Fingerprints of the Gods: Before there was Ancient Aliens on TV there were books like Graham Hancock's Fingerprints of the Gods. This book makes the case that at one time there was an advanced human society walking the earth destroyed by a massive flood. Atlantis anyone? This book changed the way I looked at everything. Looking forward to the sequel.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: I read this when I was 14 and though I couldn't get all the political humor, I knew, even then, that it was a work of art. Jabberwocky is still my second favorite poem (right behind The Raven) and I can still flip through the book and find a passage that is relevant and interesting. This is a book with layers that both children and adults can appreciate.

Fried Green Tomatoes at Whistlestop Café: The book that turned me into a lover (and a writer) of women's fiction. Fannie Flagg has a way of weaving humor and drama into all of her books and in my opinion this is her very best work. A story that's both humorous and poignant, a story that still plays through my mind.

Where the Heart Is. Maybe its because I was a teen parent myself who also grew up in 'homes on wheels', but I could really sympathize with Novalee. She proved that your past didn't dictate your future and that as long as you had love you had hope. I reread this book many times when I was seeking reassurance and validation in my own life. It also strengthened my love of
women's fiction.

The Princess Bride (The Good Parts). The story was good and I read the book shortly after seeing it in the theatre with my dad (five times) but what really got to me about the book was the narrators voice. He was real and raw and his words still echo through my head "who says life is fair?" It was a contrast between the beauty of the fairy tale and the stark reality of a real, not quite what we hoped for, sort of life. Lifes not a fairy tale but we can still look to them to pull us through. That's what fairy tales are for.

Clan of the Cave Bear (and its sequels). I was thrilled when I moved to Oregon and learned that Jean Auel is a native. I loved her books and they opened my eyes to a world of human ingenuity and determination. In the later books I think they gave Ayla credit for far too many things, but her character and her world was still so interesting. I even named my half-wolf dog Ayla in honor of how much I loved these books.

What Dreams May Come. Yep, Im a weirdo, as for the next month after finishing this story I actually wanted to die and visit this picture of heaven that the author created. I wasn't afraid of death, at least not then. Beautiful book with an important message: we go on.

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