Thursday, June 28, 2007

Of Making Many Books There Is No End. . .

The Lexington Herald-Leader recently had an article about favorite books. A handful of people were surveyed for their list of favorite books and readers were asked to send in their own lists.

One entry caused me to say aloud, “Oh! Me too!” when I saw the title of one of my favorite books as a kid: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg.

Another frequent entry made me cringe - The DaVinci Code. Are you kidding me? A few fell into the “I’ve-been-meaning-to-read” category such as Rocket Boys by Homer Hickman (I loved its movie, October Sky). And, of course, Tolkien. I know any well read person has read Tolkien, but I frankly find his books tedious. [Let the stoning begin…]

Some books on the lists were expected and, in some cases, applauded – Gone with the Wind, Huckleberry Finn, Jane Austen’s books, and, of course, To Kill A Mockingbird.

I sat down to write my list of favorite books and found the task harder than it first appeared. I decided to stick to fiction only…but how do you define “favorite”?

The ones that had an impact on your life, helped to define who you are? [For example, The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier – the main character Jerry has a poster which reads, “Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?” Very influential when I read it as a middle schooler in galvanizing me to stand my ground on my beliefs.]

Is it the book/s that helped you fall in love with reading – The Bobbsey Twins, The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series. I remember reading Katie For President and telling Mom I couldn’t go to bed yet because if I put the book down I would miss something!

Or is it the books you can read over and over again? Here, in no particular order, are some of my favorite reads:

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – Classic love story. Time capsule. Historical Fiction. Two of the most captivating characters in literature – Rhett and Scarlett.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court – This usually isn’t the first book to come to mind when the name Mark Twain is mentioned. A departure for Twain, who slightly turns his attention from the social realm to the political.

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy. The British Zorro who uses his wits as well as his sword. I can’t sum it up better than an reviewer: "The Scarlet Pimpernel" shows the virtues of monarchy, the vices of democracy, the nobility of taking personal risk to life and limb for strangers, the villainy of the will of the masses, the weakness of grim single-minded determination, and above all, the strength of laughter and a light heart.”

Desiree by Annemarie Selinko. Young love and political realities come to play in this historical romance novel. I read it originally as a teenager and still love it. I’ve given it to many teenage girls to introduce them to the spunky spurned fiancĂ©e of Napoleon, Desiree Clary. Desiree didn’t become Empress with Napoleon, but she did become Queen of Sweden! This fictionalized account of her actual life is a wonderful read.

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. Classic love story with a wonderfully strong female lead.

Debt of Honor by Tom Clancy. The first of Clancy’s books I read. Famous for his research, when Clancy wrote of an F16 pilot’s flight, I felt I was sitting in the cockpit with him. I love how he throws out seemingly random subplots and then weaves them all together into a core plot.

Emily Loring romance novels. Ms. Loring’s books were originally published in the 1930s and the morality of that age shines through. The climactic romantic encounter may be a brief peck on the cheek! Her heroes were men of honor, dignity and valor. Her heroines were courageous, graceful and kind. I always told Mom I wanted to marry a “Loring man”. (And I did, by the way.)

My favorite – To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It’s about injustice and racism, but it’s also about a little girl opening her eyes to the world. I had such a soft spot for Boo Radley [There was an interesting sidebar article to the main article on books I mentioned earlier. It asked, “Are you Atticus or Scout?" I’m Scout. ]

Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of the Anne of Green Gables series, wrote of why we love books:

Here with hosts of friends I revel

who can never change or chill;

Though the fleeting years and seasons

they are fair and faithful still!

Kings and courtiers, knights and jesters,

belles and beaux of far away,

Meet and mingle with the beauties

and the heroes of to-day.

All the lore of ancient sages,

all the light of souls divine,

All the music, wit and wisdom

of the gray old world is mine,

Garnered here where fall the shadows

of the mystic pineland's gloom!

And I sway an airy kingdom

from my little book-lined room.

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