Some time ago, a friend of mine posted this status. “Latest Facebook game: In your status line, list ten books that have stayed with you. Don’t take more than a few minutes; don’t think too hard. They don’t have to be great works, just the ones that have touched you. Tag ten friends (including me, so I’ll see your list).” Facebook games like this tend to annoy me, because they revolve around bandwagon mentality in such an insipidly blatant way, but I was intrigued by the prompt. So I decided to write about it here. I am, by the way, excluding religious texts since they would seem to me a category all on their own.
The Phantom Tollbooth- Witty, intelligent, light, humorous. It made me want to think of the world in a different way, which in turn broadened my vision and helped me engage more what I experienced on a day-to-day basis.
Mary Poppins- It’s difficult to explain the charm of P. L. Travers’s work, and a little disheartening to me that the rest of my family doesn’t seem to feel the way I do about it.
A Christmas Carol- Only recently did I discover this one. I think part of the reason why it was such a great experience for me was that I could listen to an audio performance of it, available at mormonchannel.org. It was a different feel than what I got from watching movies of it. Not that I have seen many, but what I have seen was not have been so enriching an experience as listening to it in Dicken’s words, and I don’t mean that in a cheesy, tacky, uppity, literary snob type of way.
Thud- This is just one of the many Terry Pratchett books I could have listed. In fact, I rather would have liked a separate listing just for Terry Pratchett books. It would include Thud, Wyrd Sisters, The Truth, Soul Music, Hogfather, and others. They all have such gems, set in witty and intriguing story.
Wednesday Wars, but more so its sequel, Okay for Now- The narrative of these books is particularly interesting to me, because of the many and overlapping plot threads. It also includes a lot of tie-ins, from classic literature and art, to sports and pop culture. It’s told in a lighthearted sort of way, but it could get really deep. It’s hard to get the light mood and still manage to have depth, and still do a good job at the actual story telling without being incredibly tacky or obvious. But when you do get it, I like it far and above better than the hard-core ‘deep’ literature they tend to give you in school. I don’t know if many literary enthusiasts have figured out that you can have great literature without being disturbing, depressing, and/or, boring. Sorry, rant over.
The Hobbit- I actually feel weird mentioning this one, because it’s not as if I really did find it all that fascinating a story or enjoyable a read (I’m sure I’ve now incurred the wrath of a lot of people). It certainly wouldn’t make my favorite’s list in any category. But the prompt asked for stories that have ‘stayed with you.’ That’s rather broad. The fact is, that even though it doesn’t have what I look for in leisure reading, there is something about it that appeals to the core of human nature (here I recommend you take some time to study Joseph Campbell’s Heroic Journey Monomyth). I reflect on it often. Mostly when I’m going out of my comfort zone. I find I’m rather like Bilbo at the start, far to in love with comfort to be prodded out of my door easily.
The Nightingale- sadly out of print, but one of my favorite books. I love fairy-tale retellings, insofar as they are done right, and I have many other favorites in that category (Snow White and Rose Red and Entwined, for example). This one in particular does a good job as far as the setting goes, something I don’t usually take to much note of but couldn’t help but notice in this case. You really feel like you’re in a different culture, a believable rendition of ancient Japan. Moreover, it includes wit, romance, and intrigue– which I love to have in stories. The books I have mentioned here have made me think a lot about fairy tales, and why it is that people are so drawn to them.
The Prydain Chronicles- and actually, a lot of books written by Lloyd Alexander. Again, something about it resonates with the core of humanity, like the Hobbit (this is, after all, another high fantasy adventure story). Except that I like the story, characterization, wit, and narrative far better in this one (though I admit I find Bilbo more relatable than Taran). I think somebody should make a movie out of these books (and I don’t mean like Disney’s The Black Cauldren, I mean a well done live action movie).
The Knight in Rusty Armor- cheesy, I admit it, but when I read it I thought it might make a great thing to read to kids, maybe as a precursor to The Phantom Tollbooth, because it had a similar effect.
The Enchanted Forrest Chronicles- have stayed with me for the simple, but nonetheless crucial, reason that it was these books that got me into reading, and in particular reading young adult and adult books, at the age of 12. Most of the other books I listed above may have read untouched if these books didn’t teach me how fun reading could be (so long as you have a good book).
These books all have my recommendation. They do the soul good, and their fun.