Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly linkup of book bloggers hosted by The Broke and The Bookish! This week's topic: Ten Books I Really Love But Feel Like I Haven't Talked About Enough. Since I’ve posted fairly little about my reading outside this blog and obviously I read a lot before I started, I’m going to take this opportunity to write about ten of my all-time favorites as mini-reviews!
Lolita: An incredible book that I really believe everyone should read. Humbert Humbert is objectively an evil man, a child molester that marries a mother just to get close to her pre-teen daughter, and once the mother dies, takes advantage of Lolita's powerlessness to finally satisfy his desire for her. But it's an astonishingly beautifully written example of how everyone is the hero of their own story, even terrible people.
The Secret History: This was a book I read originally in AP English in high school and have read so often I had to replace my copy when the cover fell off. When a working-class California kid goes to school at an elite Northeastern liberal arts college, his background in Latin gains him entrance into a tight-knit group of Classics scholars. The book opens with the group murdering one of their own, and then goes back in time to show you the before, and then the after as the group struggles to cope with what they've done. So good.
The Virgin Suicides: This is my all-time favorite book, and my signed copy (from a reading Eugenides did at Michigan while he was there) is one of my most prized possessions. I connected with it instantly: when the youngest Lisbon sister is taken to the hospital after her first suicide attempt right at the beginning of the book, she goes to Bon Secours Hospital, which happens to be where I was born. It's a wonderful coming of age story about infatuation and obsession and bad parenting and those the marks those heady teenage years when you feel so much so deeply leave on your psyche.
1984: This is the first book I can remember loving. I must have read it in 7th or 8th grade. From the opening line ("It was a cold, bright day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen"), I was just totally hooked on the story of Winston, Julia, and the dystopian world they live in. In today's increasingly surveiled society, this novel is more relevant and important than ever.
Emma: I wasn't a girl that grew up on Austen. It was only a few years ago that I read my first (Persuasion) and have from there read my way through most of the rest. And maybe it's colored by my affection for her modern-day incarnation Cher Horowitz, but Emma Woodhouse is one of my favorite characters in literature...I think as much as anything because she's a fundamentally happy character, not given some sort of trial to suffer through but whose conflict is mainly coming to terms with the consequences of her own non-malicious but oblivious mistakes.
The Cider House Rules: I saw the movie first, in high school, and loved it. Once I found out it was based on a book, that was my introduction to John Irving. It's still my favorite Irving, probably because it illustrates (beautifully) one of my most deeply held principles: that this world doesn't exist in black and white and sometimes virtue means re-evaluating your ideals to accommodate real life in all its infinite complexity.
The Great Gatsby: I read this for my junior year English class and hated it. HATED. I thought Gatsby was a moron and Daisy was a twit and thought the ending that left no one happy was just fine for a group of awful people. But then I grew up and experienced loss and heartbreak and regret, and did a complete 180 on the book. It's so great but I think it's read way too early in the standard high school curriculum. I feel like you need to have at least one big romantic loss in your rearview mirror to really appreciate this one the way it deserves.
Skinny Legs and All: This was a book I actually grabbed at my dad's house growing up, and the trademark Tom Robbins mix of sex, metaphysics, religion with a quick-moving plot and bold female characters just grabbed me and didn't let go. The adventures of Ellen Cherry Charles and Boomer the accidental artist and Can o' Beans and Dirty Sock and Spoon has always had a special place in my heart and on my bookshelf.
Remains of the Day: I read this a few years ago and it just ripped my still-beating heart out and stomped on it. As English butler Stevens reminisces about his past piece by piece over the course of the book, you see how his sense of duty and propriety has robbed him of the chance to experience any real happiness in his life. Gorgeous and sad and wonderful.
The Stranger Beside Me: I've always been fond of true crime...my mom had some Ann Rule books laying about here and there when I was growing up and I enjoyed them, but this one is the one to read. You see, when she was just getting started in her writing career, Rule spent time volunteering at a suicide crisis call center. And one of her frequent partners, with whom she grew fairly close? Ted Bundy. Yes, that Ted Bundy. She tells the story of his criminal history while at the same time telling the story of her coming to terms with the reality of the bright young man she had thought of as a friend. Fascinating stuff.