There is a meme going around Facebook – 10 books that stayed with you. It’s funny – I read a lot but books that have stayed with me… harder to list. Here goes:
1. ‘Anne of Green Gables’ (and series). Childhood in a series. I remember being quite young and reading my moms copies of the first three green gables books. This lead to the discovery that it was a series of eight – and that L.M. Montgomery published other series such as ‘Emily of New Moon’ and ‘The Story Girl’. This book opened up so much for me, reading wise, that I have to list it as one of my ten – even if it’s not my favorite of the series. Whenever I get a dress and the sleeves are puffy, I think of Anne!
2. ‘Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone’ (and series). I was a late comer to Harry Potter. I think there were four books out when I originally read the first one. This was good in some ways – I didn’t have the same wait in the beginning that most readers had. However, once I started, I couldn’t stop. I read and reread all the books as they came out. I would read the books from start to finish of the series every time a book or movie was released. I left my house the day the last one came out and did not go back until I had it finished. This book reminded me of the joys of childhood reading and the value of friendship – two lessons that no one should be without.
3. ‘Holocaust’. I reread this one every year it seems. I do a lot with Holocaust studies and this particular book has stayed with me to the point I continued to revisit and even book talk it quite often. The story of a Jewish family, told by a surviving member and the story of Nazi officer as told through his journals, it brings both sides of the story to the page. It was made into a miniseries in the 70s. I’ll be honest – I don’t know if the book was based on the miniseries or the miniseries based on the book but I don’t care. Wonderfully told story – stories – and one that has stuck with me. And the IMDB Trivia for the miniseries is fantastic.
4. Ah… ‘Flowers in the Attic’ by V.C. Andrews. Actually by V.C. Andrews and not the ghostwriter employed after her death. This book was a grudging gift to me by my parents – they were thrilled I was reading but felt it wasn’t good literature. And it’s not. Not really. It’s modern gothic horror at its finest – girl meets boy, girl loves boy, girl and boy run away and get married because they’re uncle and niece, boy dies leaving girls with four kids, girl moves home and locks kids in the attic, never to be seen again. This is their story. It’s been made into a movie and a tv movie and has been rereleased for a modern audience. This was a book that was raw and inappropriate in many ways but for teen age me, was one of my few ways to read young adult literature when I was actually a young adult.
5. ‘Diary of a Young Girl’ was a book I bought after reading an excerpt in my English textbook. I think it was after grade seven I found it. I did not have a clue what it was really about (the Holocaust wasn’t really taught, at least in my small town school) and didn’t realize what a big deal it was. I just remember being so touched by the small part of it published in my textbook that I had to seek it out in my small town bookstore and read it. I still have that copy, a book I won’t get rid of even though it’s falling apart. It was learning others thought like I did and relating to this young girl who thought like I did… it was everything at that point in time. Realizing my historical ignorance, especially as I teach Holocaust novels and take kids to DC after intensive Holocaust studies – heck! I’ve done courses from Yad Vashem at this point! – is amazing. This book stuck because it was beautiful and true.
6. Speaking of historical ignorance…. ‘Gone with the Wind’ taught me about the American Civil War, the Ku Klux Klan and much of the basics of American history. I know so much more now, including how much this was one story and a story that was more about the main character than the world around her. But it is a book I read and reread – devoured even. I was taken in by the world created and the time of lords and ladies of the south. Funnily enough, I never saw anything wrong with what Scarlett did – something she realizes in the (fairly horrible) sequel – she did what she needed to do and made her own way. I liked her, even if I thought she was fairly horrible at times. This is a book I have replaced as it fell apart in the last year or so from overuse!
7. ‘The Hunger Games’. Has to be included because it opened up a whole world for me. I was a librarian but I wasn’t reading everything I could – I was not totally aware of what was out there. I saw a write up about this book where Jennifer Weiner, Stephanie Meyer and Stephen King praised and recommended this book. Three totally different authors talking about this book. So I picked it up and was engrossed. I was heartbroken when it ended as I didn’t know it was a series. Finding out a new one was going to come out – a sequel! – well it was a good day. I teach this book now and I know it has faults. But for me it was the first real foray into YA lit, a foray that has become a lifestyle.
8. ‘The Red Tent’ fits into my love of historical novels that retell a story from an alternative viewpoint. It tells the story of Dinah, sister of Joseph, daughter of Jacob. She gets a mention in the bible but only a mention – she’s not the story. But she has a story and this is one version of it. This book tells the story of the women behind the men, the story of how they lived while being brought from place to place. I love alternative tellings of popular stories and this is one of the best ones I’ve read. It even prompted me to pull out my childhood bible and read the story of her family. Yep, she’s there, as a victim. In this book, she’s a hero. Funny the role perspective plays in a story.
9. Speaking of perspective, ‘The Mists of Avalon’ was another story of perspective. The story of Avalon, of King Arthur, of Lords and Ladies, told by Morgan Le Fay. His half sister and mother of his child. Lady of Avalon. Priestess. Welder of power. This is, like the ‘Red Tent’, a story of perspective. The story is familiar but being told from this perspective brings a new view to an old story. For me it awakened ideas of spirituality and beliefs and cemented my views of equality and the need to tell all the stories. I began this book on the plane to China – I was going to a UN conference and NGO forum as the youngest person from my province. I loved China but I couldn’t wait to get back on the plane and finish it.
Book ten. Book ten. I don’t know what to say. ‘The Fault in our Stars’? ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’? ‘The Book Thief’? So many books that mean so much to me. I’m going to leave this particular top ten unfinished. Any of those book – and others – could finish it, but I don’t want to leave any out. To be finished…. later?