Top Ten ~ Books I Recommend the Most

March 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

New series – inspired by The Broke and the Bookish for their inventive and interesting themes.

Ten is quite a lot, so I can’t promise I’ll make it that far every time – plus, there might be a lot of repetitions… Because when you like something, well, you like it a lot and for several reasons. But I thought I’d give it a try. Lists are what I normally do best after all.

A word of warning though – apart from the first one, I would say they are in no particular order.

1. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman ~ Because it is not a children’s book. Because it is. Because I read Paradise Lost and it helped me see this trilogy’s greatness. Because of Will. Because of the sheer ambition of its message. Because of Oxford. Because of the style. Because of Lyra, who is a determined, independent, modern, but also human heroine – and there are so few of these. And because no other book’s last pages were ever as physically painful and yet wonderful to read.

2. Anything Jane Austen ~ To boys who stay away because they think it’s all about girly sensitivity. And to girls who’ve only read Pride and Prejudice I suppose, because she’s about so much more than that.

3. The Bluest Eye, Toni Morisson ~ For its wonderful wonderful style. The story may be heartbreaking but it is indispensable reading. This is not a novel; this is poetry in book form.

4. The Help, Kathryn Stockett ~ I was swallowed by this book, to an extent I hadn’t imagined I would be. My review was only the first example of trying to convince the world they should read it. It is the one I read most recently on this list. Perhaps To Kill A Mockingbird should be there in its place.

5. Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte ~ I will let Virginia Woolf praise this book because she can do it much better than me (more on that soon). Suffice it to say it is a true embodiment of the word Passion and for that alone it should be read. It is also the perfect symbiosis of nature and love – I couldn’t ask for more.

6. La Chamade, Françoise Sagan ~ Because French literature should be on here too – at least the books I love that have been translated, otherwise Marie-Aude Murail would probably be near the top of the list. Pretty much all of Sagan’s books are the same. Which is great when you loved the first one you read.

7. War Horse, Michael Morpurgo ~ I probably lent this book to every single one of my friends when I was in high school I loved it so much. That book was a great discovery.

8. The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, Alexander McCall Smith ~ Light reading that is gripping, witty but also reflective and refreshingly different.

9. The Mysteries of Udolpho, Ann Radcliffe ~ Because gothic novels like this one should be read.

10. The Girl Who Played Go, Shan Sa ~ I recommended this book a lot after reading it a few years ago. If I’m truly honest, I can barely remember the story now. Interesting, isn’t it?

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Quotation #15

March 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

royAny great stories you feel that way about?

Have a great week!

Book Cover ~ I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

March 13, 2013 § 6 Comments

caged bird

I read this back in January/February and never wrote a review. Why? I couldn’t tell you. I really did enjoy this book – the contrast between the quiet, pious, traditional life in a small city of the South with her grandmother and the exciting, fast-paced, violent one of the West Coast. The hardships of a life truly lived, the reflections on lesson learnt the hard way, the too real suffering of events so hard to write about. The honesty.

I find autobiographies truly admirable and brave because of their honesty. Perhaps it scares me. Because I find it so hard myself to uncover aspects of my own being – especially via such a public, faceless medium as a blog or a book. This might be why I never wrote about this very good book. Because it felt too personal – she was writing it to me, and it is not my place to repeat what she wrote. You’ll just have to read it for yourselves.

And you should read it.

So I will focus on the cover. I like its cover, deceptively innocent and happy in deep blue with flowers in the background  – and the words hanging like notes would in the air. And yet the title is so sad. And so beautiful.

Would I read the sequels? Maybe. Probably. But not now. Not yet. She is such a great lady that I feel it’d be interesting to learn about her relationship with her son and what she taught him. She is certainly someone I could learn a thing or two from.

If you still doubt this, go and listen to this beautiful, inspirational speech she gave in front of a bunch of very lucky students, some years ago.

~ Back to Reality Once More

March 11, 2013 § Leave a comment

I took a week off.

I barely went on the internet and read in the sunshine on the one day of sunshine we had.

I took pictures of flowers.

I said hello to a semi-wild horse.

Went on a wonderfully sunny walk – and a rainy one too.

I felt warm and happy from seeing beautiful familiar faces.

I took a week off.

019

020

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Quotation #14

February 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

morrison2

And so through music, as through poetry, negative feelings are turned into art form, underlining the power of the creative process. Except it’s a lot more beautiful the way Toni Morrison says it.

Have a great week!

~ On Reading Two Books at the Same Time

February 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

It’s something I’d always done but stopped during my English degree, so I suppose I’m falling back into old habits. My mum always wondered how I didn’t get all muddled from switching back and forth between books but I used to think it was the best thing: you could change when you got tired of one, until you got tired of the other! Plus, you need different ones for different moods/times of day (anyone with me on this one?). But this time it feels a bit different because I am reading two books at the same time, in light of each other.

faraway tree

Egmont, 2012

A friend of mine got me The Magic Faraway Tree trilogy by Enid Blyton for my birthday, because you’re never too old to catch up on children’s literature you never got round to reading at the time. I have thus been spending the last few weeks surrounded by fairies, multicoloured cakes and an ever-changing, lively, generous Nature. To be very honest, I’ve been having the best of times immersing myself in it and I can see why so many children have loved it and still cherish these stories as adults.

But the books took on a new flavour when I started reading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring last week. A work that couldn’t be more different from the Faraway Tree. And yet.

Next to a story for younger minds that teaches them the beauties and secrets of the natural world is this work on the harmful effects of pesticides and their destruction of our entire natural environment. It took me a few days to connect the dots but reading them in parallel of each other once I’d made the connection has been heartbreaking. The children who are taught that their natural environment is something fun, to be cherished and full of exciting beings grow up to find out that this very same environment is on the verge of destruction – through their own species’ fault. The stark contrast between the innocence and the reality of these two works is enhanced by Rachel Carson’s beautiful prose (she was an English major before turning to biology) whose words describe with visible emotion yet scientific precision the irreversible waste we are creating.

And so, since last week, I can see the branches of the Faraway Tree bearing no more of its ever-changing fruits. The squirrels have died and the mushrooms the elves used to sit on no longer grow. Mrs Washalot’s water is filled with human-made chemicals that kill with a single touch. There are no more birds to carry messages around. The wood is silent, as silent as Mrs Carson’s spring. And the children have to stay inside and play video games. Melodramatic? Maybe. But not that far away from the truth.

I am still very much enjoying The Magic Faraway Tree but the after-taste in my mouth when I finish it will certainly be more bitter than if I hadn’t started reading Silent Spring. Am I sorry for it? Actually, no – it has only given the stories a much deeper meaning.

It convinces me even more of the importance of reacting now, to stop the damage, so that children in fifty years’ time don’t read Blyton’s stories like she’s talking about another planet.

Quotation #13

February 15, 2013 § 1 Comment

bronte

 

 

One of the most destructive loves, but also one of the most powerful.

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