Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Read It and Weep (or Laugh, or Snort -- Whatever)

Yesterday I discovered – to my joy – that one of my favorite books of all time has been made into a movie that will be released this fall. (And the author actually wrote the screenplay so – oh please oh please oh please – it is likely that it won’t suck.)

Thinking about this book as one of my favorite books, though, made me wonder: if I had to make a list of my top ten favorite books of all time, what would that list look like?

Since I love me a list – here you go. 10 books. Not in order of love – number 10 is not necessarily less beloved than number 3 – and some are going to be a group or series. (I get to do that, because it’s my list. Whee!)

10. The collected works of Jane Austen: I seriously love every single one of her books. Every one. If you asked me to name my favorite, it would be a struggle. I could tell you that Emma is not my MOST favorite, but that’s hardly a damnation of Emma, because I love Emma. Here’s why I love Jane Austen: she clearly believed in true love (The Princess Bride kind! “Luffff… twoooo luff”), but she also wrote about people who weren’t ideal people. They were regular people – some of them are snotty, some of them are nice, some are sarcastic and mocking, some are gentle, some have overinflated egos, some are downtrodden – but they’re the kind of folks you relate to and can find yourself cheering for.

And oh, that Mr Darcy.

9. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. If I was trapped on a deserted island and was only allowed to have one book with me to read for the remainder of my days, I would choose this book, simply because I find something new and amazing to love every time I read it – and at last count, I’d read it probably 60 times or so. (That’s not an exaggeration.) Atticus Finch will probably always be my hero, and is also the reason that I don’t shut up about things that I consider to be outrageously unfair. This book is perfection. PERFECTION, I tell you.

8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chboksy. I was an awkward kid. A lot of books about awkward kids try to minimize the awkward. Not this one. This one dives into the weirdness straight on – the narrator is writing letters to a mysterious someone that is never seen, and often makes questionable choices that are clearly not going to work out – but, given who he is, make complete sense. There are no rose coloured glasses here -- high school is a weird and frequently painful place for people who aren’t certain of themselves, and Chbosky doesn’t pretend that it isn’t – but the story is still so beautiful, and the characters are so honest. (The movie is coming out in the fall, but don’t cheat: read the book first.)

7. The Stand by Stephen King. One: wipe out most of humanity with a virus. Two: write a battle of good versus evil. Have the final show down take place in Vegas because, well, duh. Three: mention my hometown in it at least once.

I love this book. All eighty gazillion pages of it. I re-read it every summer because – well, because that’s how I roll. You should probably read it once. (You can read the original version rather than the uncut version – it’s a bit shorter – but if you have the time? The uncut version is better. Just saying.)

6. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. (This is also coming out as a movie, but I would recommend the older one with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow because … Robert Redford. Seriously. Though I will probably see the new one as well.) This is very English-teachery of me, but the LANGUAGE in this book is so beautiful that it breaks my heart in the best kind of way. It’s the Roaring Twenties version of Mad Men. Gatsby is the original Don Draper. With, sadly, a less happy ending.

5. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling. I was not a kid when these books came out. However, Harry & Co got me through: graduate school, teaching, a wedding, some deaths, a career change, a surgery, divorce, another career change, and a move to North Carolina. As a result, though I didn’t exactly grow up with Harry Potter? I came into my own with Harry Potter. I am a re-reader, as I mentioned before, and I re-read the entire series every summer. It doesn’t ever become less magical.

4. The World According To Garp by John Irving. “In the world according to Garp, we are all terminal cases,” John Irving writes. (I should mention that I also love A Prayer for Owen Meany which is also a terminal case kind of a book.) Garp is weird and funny and tragic and awesome. You should read it. Now.

3. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Do you know what happens when the Arthurian legend is told entirely from the perspective of women? AWESOMENESS, that’s what. If you like fantasy at all, if you dig King Arthur, if you like strong female characters, you should read this. If you don’t like any of those things? Well, I’m sure you have other fine qualities.

2. Get In The Van by Henry Rollins. I love Henry. I LOVE HIM. This book is one of the reasons why – it describes touring with Black Flag, and it’s very … naked. (Not actually naked. That would be weird.) Like, “I know I’m a mess and here’s what’s in my head and this is uncomfortable to share and it’s uncomfortable for you to read” naked. Which is why I love it.

1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Also a fairly recent movie starring the DELICIOUS Michael Fassbender (I feel a little weird about describing him as delicious. Like that’s objectifying and wrong. But … he’s really delicious. Which has nothing to do with Jane Eyre but is a simple observation). The book is… well, it’s glorious. Another true love story, with twists and turns and a heroine who refuses to give up or compromise herself, even when it would be easier.

So there you are. I could have made a much longer list – I love to read, it’s like breathing in my world in terms of necessity – but I thought you’d be bored. I also am always interested in the things you are reading, want to read, love to read. So feel free to drop a comment in.

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