Can’t do The Friday Currently today because I need to attend to some #BabyStrat things, but I do have a moment–or two, or five–to do a quick update. I saw this post on my Facebook feed (where else does anyone find content these days?), and it, along with Arra’s challenge a week ago, inspired me to take a crack at constructing a list-icle challenge of my own.
I’m a big believer that you can tell a surprising amount about a person without actually asking “personal” questions. Instead, you can draw conclusions from the little signs of life they leave, from the contents of their bag to the state of their bedroom. Because I have no desire to show snaps of my mad bedroom or the full-to-bursting handbag I carry every day, I’ve settled on books instead, since it’s generally agreed that what you read says a lot about who you are (otherwise why would there be so many Fakespeares?). This list–which I’ll keep quite short because my brain is sort-of shorting out–is of the ten (or so) books that I re-read regularly.
I’ll leave it to you to draw your conclusions. For now, in no particular order, here are the top ten books I’m most likely to be revisiting at any given moment:
Memoirs of A Geisha – Arthur Golden
Admittedly, it’s been a while since I’ve re-read this one, but for quite a long time (judging from the state of my copy) this was one of my heavy-rotation favorites. While the book has been been controversial in its portrayal of what life as a geisha was like in the time before and after the Second World War, the voice of the novel, and of its heroine, Sayuri, made me fall in love with all things Japanese. Soon after reading Memoirs of a Geisha, I lost myself in researching the real history of the geisha profession (v. v. v. far from the novel, BTW), which soon led me down the Heian/Kamakura rabbit hole. Until today, this is still my favorite example of how you can tell a story so well you pull someone into its world.
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
It’s easy to dismiss Jane Austen’s novels as Regency era chick lit, and in some sense they do follow the prevailing formula of what was then known as a “comedy of manners,” but the wry bite of her narration, rich character renditions, and, let’s face it, the chemistry between Lizzy and Darcy make this a novel that you can’t help but come back to. Unlike a lot of Austenites, I don’t see myself as Lizzy (I’m another member of the Austen canon entirely.), but her character arc–the titular prejudice of the plot–is one judgemental me can relate to.
You’d think though, after all these years, I would learn not to fall for Wickhams. Oh well.
Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen
Until now, I’m not sure if knowing and loving Northanger Abbey makes me a lit-hipster or if thinking so makes me a wannabe-hipster. Still, it is a truth universally acknowledged that Northanger isn’t as popular as P&P or S&S or even (thanks to “Clueless”) Emma. It was Austen’s first novel, but the last to be published (unless you count Sanditon, her unfinished work), and it shows her at her most young and unfiltered. It also has the most chick-lit hero of the lot: Henry Tilney is basically the crush that likes you back, precisely because you liked him first–an occurence that Austen herself admitted was rare. Still, the fact that Henry is her hero and not some supporting character (hello, Nice-Guy Bingley) means that the author some sense in his approach to women, and I would have to agree.
Basically, I read this for the kilig, but because it’s Austen, that’s at least kilig tempered with quite a bit of sense.
Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
Long-time readers of my blog will find that I have a history of referencing what is arguably Nabokov’s most popular work. Could you blame me, though? While the plot is absolutely abhorrent (old man basically kidnaps and seduces little girl), the way it’s written is absolutely beautiful. This book singlehandedly taught me to fall in love with poetry, and while I have no sympathy for H.H., but Nabokov’s French-inflected, poetically-inclined turns of phrase mean that Lolita will forever be on my list of favorites.
Fragile Things – Neil Gaiman
I was never a fan of fantasy or even “magic realism,” until I stumbled upon Gaiman. Until today, I prefer his short stories and poetry to his novels, and Fragile Things is a great example of why. No one transforms a story into a beautiful (and sometimes deadly) jewel-box like Neil Gaiman does. He’s able to make you fear and empathize with a character all at once, and his poems taught me that words should tap out their own music. I’ve struggled for years to write SF as compellingly as he does, but there really is only one Gaiman.
Passion and Purity – Elisabeth Elliot
If you follow my Me and My Lists series, you’ve probably caught wind of the fact that I am a TLW (True Love Waits) proponent, which surprises a lot of people, considering that I do write what some may consider very mild erotic poetry. There is this long, misguided tradition of Christian communities shoving passion under the rug and zeroing in on the purity, but the late Elisabeth Elliot did none of that, capturing a girl’s yearnings for love and intimacy alongside her commitment to purity. For someone like me, who has found that admitting her struggles can lead to raised eyebrows, this book is a voice of someone who understands, and lets me know that it is possible for someone like me to pursue purity and find that pursuit rewarding.
Beauty – Robin McKinley
Ever since I played Belle in my high-school’s musical revue, Beauty and The Beast has been my favorite fairytale…to manipulate. I suppose part of the reason is that I fell for my co-actor, and the subsequent awkwardness (that persists until today! It’s been ages and he still doesn’t like me. Ugh.) made me long for a version of the story where Beauty felt more like me: not-that-pretty, socially-inept, more books than looks. Robin McKinley’s novelization delivers on just that: a tomboyish “Beauty” who isn’t actually a beauty at all, but whose moxie is what makes this story worth reading.
Letters to A Young Poet – Rainer Maria Rilke
I’d hand this book out to every millennial facing a mid-life/love crisis. While it’s supposed to be about choosing the life of a poet, Rilke’s advice holds true for anyone trying to figure out what their passion is, as well as people struggling with the concept of “young love.” Basically, it’s a book full of lines you’d want to make your FB status. In a good way.
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
Maybe it’s terribly cliché of me to pick this, but I can’t help it–Harper Lee’s story of growing up and learning that the world is not as black-and-white (or, well, in Scout’s case, that it is) as you’d like to believe hits all the right notes. For the longest time, as a kid/pre-teen, I refused to believe in a world where right or wrong weren’t as clear cut as I was taught in school. ‘Mockingbird’ prepared me for the moment when I’d eventually see the light.
(Also, if you’re wondering, I haven’t read “Go Set a Watchman.” Waiting for the paperback.)
The Architecture of Happiness – Alain de Botton
Confession: I don’t actually re-read this all that much. BUT, when I do, it’s always an encouragement. While the book is about architecture, the argument it makes can be applied to art as a whole: what we create is a reflection, and a reminder of who we wish to be. In de Botton’s mind, something as “superficial” as design can and does have a deeper purpose, proving that art is far from “useless.”
O-kay, so that was longer than expected. Hope you could make sense of my book list. Since this is a challenge, I’m choosing Style Reader and The Disinterested Interpreter to take this list on! And to the rest of you, if you dare, do link me!