Tuesday, August 26, 2014

20 Books for (roughly) 20 Years


My mom challenged me to list 10 books that have impacted my life. I cheated and worked in an extra 10. It got a little too lengthy for Facebook, so I’m posting here. Here we go! (I tried to list these in the order I read them.)

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder (shout out to one of my author-birthday-buddies!): This was the first real series I remember being obsessed with. I just realized I never technically read this series because Mom read them to me. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery is a close second in the series-about-plucky-girl category.

A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver by E. L. Konigsburg: Eleanor of Aquitaine in heaven waits for Henry II to be delivered from purgatory. While doing so, different people from her past relate her story. Weirdest set-up for a children’s book biography ever, but so good. Inspired me to be Eleanor for Night of Nobles in sixth grade. Upon rereads, made me think about story framing, viewpoint, and oddly, purgatory. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler gets second place in the Konigsburg category. 

The Chocolate War by Robert Cromier: People are damaged and mean to each other. This book introduced me to Cromier’s books, which I flew through in late middle school. They were all kind of heavy and depressing. They taught me that stories didn’t always have reliable protagonists or happy endings (but could have lots of Catholic imagery). No real second place in this category, although I would suggest sequel After the Chocolate War for the full story. 

1984 by George Orwell: Went from pessimist Cromier into dystopian literature in early high school. 1984 is by far my favorite dystopian piece because of its use of language. I’ve read this multiple times, and each time it makes me paranoid about the world around me for a couple of weeks. Plus, it has my favorite ending line. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood gets second place in the dystopian category. 

Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis: This book made me look at the larger implications of theology and introduced me to a deeper level of faith. I began reading a lot more religious writings, church history, theology, and philosophy. It also sparked my C. S. Lewis phase of late high school/ early college. The Great Divorce gets second place in the Lewis category. 

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: This book made me make an exception to my British-bias. Hey, Americans can write too! Fitzgerald really captures the Lost Generation and paints an over-saturated picture of unsettled young adults searching for meaning in an upturned society. This Side of Paradise gets second place in the Fitzgerald category. 

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (shout out to another of my author-birthday-buddies!): Contains some of my favorite opening and closing lines. Contains a revolution in between. Finally got through it and realized that classics are called that for a reason. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen gets second place in the classics category. 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K Rowling: It was awesome being the perfect age to grow up with this series. The final installment came out the summer I graduated high school, and there was such a sense of contentment in seeing how it all ended. Plus, parts of the seventh book got pretty heavy with the religious imagery. This series also made me want to write. Tales of Beedle the Bard also by Rowling gets second place in the children’s-books-really-for-adults category. 

The Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot: I was made to read through this set of poems in a workshop setting in Honors British Lit my freshman year. My sophomore year, I student taught in the class and looked forward to the workshop all term. The more I sit with them, the more powerful they become. The rose and the fire are one. Beautiful imagery that makes you think through a religious mystic's eye. Eliot’s Ash Wednesday gets second place in the poetry category. 

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway: This book impacted me by how much I just generally liked it. I had to read it for a class less semester. I wouldn’t have read Hemingway on my own, and I wasn’t expecting to like him, but I loved his writing style, and his characters reminded me a lot of Fitzgerald’s (Lost Gen expats). So I’m trying to be more open with my reading options now. Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs gets second place in the pleasantly-surprised category. 

Themes: Seems to be religious imagery, strong prose, and depressing endings. That sounds about right. I still have no idea what my favorite book is.

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