Tag Archive | Books

Ten books that have stayed with me

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.

 

Fall’s flights of fantasy

The air’s getting cooler. Fall is my favorite season, my very favorite. When I was younger I took an especially romantic view of it. Fall, I decided, was the time when magical things happened. The trees change colors, the weather becomes more temperate, and the harvest brings treats like pumpkin pie and hot chocolate. In my mind I’d add that this, of course, also made it the best time for dates, going on walks, and setting aside time to read a new Calvin and Hobbes comic book, wrapped up with a blanket and well stocked with peanut butter-cracker sandwiches. In one of my old journals I described this tendency of mind as a ‘flair for the theatrics.’

 

Nevertheless, I do like to indulge in these little flights of fantasy which get to ignore certain parts of reality, like paying for Fall semester insurance and the fact that my little brother is still struggling with his health. It’s good to believe that something wonderful might happen soon, for no other reason except that it’s Fall, which is my favorite season and therefore full of magic. Any little excuse to be a kid again.

 

This year already has great potential. My brother is coming home from his mission in October. So, for a time at least, we’ll have our whole family together again. And though I have read all of the Calvin and Hobbes books there are, I have found another source of the wrap-up-in-a-blanket-and-enjoy-some-comedy variety of entertainment; Studio C season 3 begins in October as well, dedicated to providing clean comedy to be enjoyed by the whole family. We will undoubtably visit the indian mound near our home, especially when my brother comes back and we look for ways to spend time together. It’s a beautiful place, and even more so with the turning of the leaves. Plus, if my brother is back by that time, I can use his camera– which won’t have a broken LCD screen like mine does. This is great, because I’m hoping to get lots of good nature photos for a project I have in mind. Treats seem likely enough. And when the kids get a break from school we’ll have even more time to watch movies together and play DDR and have girl nights. After all, I still need to get my Mom to see Sherlock, and to get my youngest sister into Sense and Sensibility and Emma.

 

The fun thing about the future is that it hasn’t happened yet, so there’s no reason not to believe that you’ll get at least one spark of that magic.  The trick, I believe, is being aware enough to notice when you do get those sparks. I hope that people, in their passionate pursuit of intellectual progression, don’t forget to school their sensibilities as well. We miss too much in life if we leave out those parts of it that make us human.

 

Finished listening to The Screwtape Letters by the way. Well worth looking into. I would recommend them. My brother has previously recommended Merely Christian to me. The Screwtape Letters is the only work of C. S. Lewis’s that I’ve read aside from the Narnia books. It’s a shame, because I think at this point in my life I would find all other works of C. S. Lewis’s to be far more interesting than that series. Don’t misunderstand, they are good and valuable books which I think everyone should be exposed to. They are, nevertheless, aimed at a younger audience, and I find myself eager for a higher level of engagement than they provide.

 

Bigger than ourselves

So… I guess I sort of came up with a story idea before drifting off to sleep last night. I was thinking of the Headless Horseman, because of something I read from I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett. Then I decided that the Headless Horseman was really a life sized wooden doll created by toymaker Dross L. Mire (drosselmeyer). It was Dross who got rid of his head, in a story similar to that of Beethoven’s when he wrote Eroica, his third symphony. He had originally named it Buonaparte, in honor of Napoleon, who he saw as a hero. When he discovered that Napoleon had declared himself Emperor, he went into a rage and tore the title page of the symphony (whereupon “Buonaparte” was written) in half. I don’t know how I would go about actually typing this up into a story, but I might give it a shot.

 

I received an email from my brother yesterday. We were discussing art, and he said “It’s an almost funny thing trying to figure out where our ideas come from as it’s more a case of an exploratory journey our mind takes.” I was glad he said that, because it goes back to an idea I’ve already related to you– that I consider art to be more of an exploration than expression. Sometimes when I here why other people like to do art or creative things, many times younger people or people who haven’t spent as much time in their craft, they say they like it because they can “express” themselves, and I guess that’s true to a certain extent, but it’s also a bit lacking. I feel like there is more to art than us taking something out of ourselves and putting it out into the world in visual form for others to find, that seems to me to put too much glory in ourselves. But if we are also searching, and then invite others to search with us by putting out that visual form, then I think we’re reaching for something bigger than ourselves.

That yearning for something bigger than ourselves is, I think, part of being human. That’s why humans gain so much from the arts and humanities, that’s why they feel more complete when they connect with their family and reach out to their community to serve others, that’s why people sacrifice themselves for what we believe in. I think it’s something God put in us so that we can reach our full potential and fill the world with light.

 

Books again

I don’t read as much as I used to. But when I find a good book, I really do love reading. But I hate it when I don’t have enough time in the day to finish reading. I’m not a particularly fast reader, so most books I enjoy reading are not ones I can finish in a day. Today I’m reading Wintersmith by Terry Prattchet, which I wont’ be able to finish tonight. Now that Seminary has started for my younger siblings, I can’t be quite so flexible with my bedtime as I would like to be.

Still wishing that I had somebody outside the home with whom I… kept in contact with, in an ongoin-conversation kind of way. Somebody I could tell things to, you know? I have my brother, which is great, but because he’s on a Mission, I can only get e-mails from him once a week. It’s not enough.

The classics

I wish I had a better idea of what this upcoming vacation will be like. I don’t know how much time will be on the road, how much time will be spent at various sites, and how much time will be spent camping or staying at motels. I figure, if a lot of the time will be spent on the road or camping, that would be a good opportunity to do some reading. I have a folder set up on my kindle specifically for reading material for that trip. Mostly it includes stuff in the public domain which I got from Gutenburg, so I can get familiar with some of the classics. At the very least, I want to try out Peter Pan. I’ve watched Hook recently, so this would be a nice way to get closure on that experience. And then I want to have a go at rereading Alice and Wonderland and Through the Looking-glass. If I’m feeling ambitious, I will attempt Jane Eyre.

But I also have other books planned, in case I’m not in the mood for classics. Mom’s written a story that I haven’t read yet that I think I’ll like, and it’s possible that I could check out a kindle book from the library. I’m hoping a copy of Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett is available. It can be wonderful reading the Tiffany Aching books… and it is so good to see Granny Weatherwax again.

I just… I dont’ want to waste dead time. If I’m going to be spending a lot of time on the road, it is best I do something productive while I do it. I’m going to regret not taking the chance while I have it.

Reading aloud- my vision

This is an extension of my previous post, ‘Read to your kids.’ In my Children’s Lit. class, we have been reading from Jim Trelease’s book, “The Read-Aloud Handbook.” I would recommend it to anyone (especially parents and teachers). It’s a fun read because it’s persuasive rather than just informative. In this book, Trelease discusses the many benefits your kids could have from being read to, including quite a few academic advantages.

You know how there are all these programs to take care of homeless and elderly, bring medicine to third world countries, feed the hungry, educate our youth, etc.? I think it would be great if there was a program in place to enhance the linguistic capabilities of our youth, by having read-aloud sessions by skilled performers; people who are funny and engaging.

Every time I read this book I have this kind of vision in my mind- a crowd of little kids sitting on the floor with a reader at the front of the room, a kind of guy who makes people laugh just by looking at them. He holds up the featured picture book and solemnly announces, “One fish,” in that way that kids can’t help but laugh at. He continues, with melodramatic influctuations. “Two fish. Red fish– this book is so beautiful. Blue fish– oh say it again! Everybody now…” And then the guy proceeds to beatbox, and then get out of his chair and dance as he repeats that first page, while the kids are rolling on the floor dying of laughter.

Okay, so maybe I have a bit of an active imagination.

But my point is the same point that Jim Trelease makes in his book; kids need to learn to associate reading with pleasure. The problem in our country is not illiteracy, but aliteracy. People know how to read, but they chose not to. They haven’t learned to find reading pleasurable, possibly because their encounters with reading in school have all proved to be negative. Reading becomes much less fun when you have stop in order to write the definitions to that unit’s vocabulary terms, you know what I mean? But when we can help people understand that reading can be fun– that’s when we build people up to be life-long readers.

Somebody has to read to these kids if their parents don’t. I just think it would be fun if it were done by performers, and I mean professionals. By people who will read… outside the box, so to speak. I mean, who says you have to sit in a chair the whole time while you’re reading to the kids? What if you got so excited you stood up from your chair so you could act out some of the scenes. I think there should be physical comedy, facial expressions, sound effects, comedic timing, accents, all those things that people enjoy. And I think it could be really great if we could figure out a way to get that to a bunch of people, to a bunch of kids. Especially those who are perhaps struggling with school.

I’m no expert. Not in reading to kids, not in starting up programs to enhance literacy among kids, but I think it would be great if somebody with more expertise could make it happen.

 

What I learned before the semester

It’s been a wonderful Saturday-before-classes-begin. I read a great Terry Pratchett book for one thing. It’s strange to think that someone can can write something so… deep, but still keep it light- if you know what I mean. Terry Pratchett, even though he has written so much, manages to keep bringing in new insights and truths. He just seems to me like such a… deep thinker. But more than that, he is able to express that in his writing, like that’s it’s natural place. I like to think that my thoughts will also find their way into the world. Perhaps not in the big way that Sir Pratchett does it, but I like to think they will set up shop somewhere in a small corner of town and that people will benefit from the time they spend there.

 

Anyway, I also did a little bit of artwork. Something really simple and quick. Actually, the idea came to me yesterday. I was listening to a conference talk and doodling with an ink brush. I decided that my favorite doodles were the stick figures. I have a special place in my heart for stick figures. A lot of the times when I show people my art, or say that I enjoy art, they say, “I can draw stick figures,” in mock triumph as if that were something to be ashamed of. What’s wrong with stick figures? That’s how I started out. And anyway, I liked the way the brush seemed to give the stick figures… character.

So I did a little something on the back of a spare index card. It was supposed to be these shadow-stick figures dancing amidst flames. I associate dancing with flames, both have the same raw energy that cannot be contained or controlled (let’s hope Len Goodman doesn’t hear me say that). Unfortunately, the result was that it looked like I was setting my stick people on fire- like some sort of apocalypse. Normally, I like to let the viewers come up with their own conclusions about my work, but this time I hope they realize that my goal was a happy, energized sort of picture.

 

At the end of the day… I’m still asking the same questions I’ve been asking for years (“What is it I’m supposed to contribute anyway?”) and I’m giving thanks for the same things I’ve been giving thanks for years (“Thank you God for good books, and people who write them”). I’m excited for the new semester, but always with that teaspoon of anxiety. I have no doubt that things will work out however, and I just hope that I’ll be able to find out where myself and my talents fit in the grand scheme of things.

 

Must slow down

I’ve been reading all day!

I have to give an author presentation on Diana Wynne Jones in my Young Adult Lit. class- which is supposed to include three book talks. I wanted to present at least two books of hers I had not read before. But they take so long! And I don’t read as fast as I would like.

I found myself feeling a little irritable in class, but I calmed down because Ben replied to my e-mail. I needed advice from him. It’s irritating at times that I cannot speak face-to-face with him anymore, since I consider him to be my mentor. How’d he get to be so wise, anyway? How does he do it? And he’s encouraging. He thinks that if I develop my talents the way I have been, I could create a series of illustrated short-stories. Have I told you it has been my goal to have a collection of short-stories? Not for publication, but because I like stories and would like to create some. Of course, I think he’s being a bit too optimistic of my chances of obtaining this goal- but its nice to hear his assessment anyway. It can’t hurt to try anyway.

Anyway, I thought I should slow down enough to take that in and to… settle before I have to buckle down for another long session of reading. Oh why couldn’t Diana have seen fit to write shorter stories! I enjoy being busy, but this would be much easier to enjoy if I had time to pace myself.

Thank goodness I’ve finished it.

Bookstores

I’m pretty sure there is something about the atmosphere in a bookstore that automatically reduces stress by at least .o5% So I make it a point of going to the BYU-I bookstore every once in a while. I make it a point of going through the MC in general, because sometimes when students set up tables to advertise something, they’ll attach candy to their pamphlets or something. Once when I went to take a test in the MC, I was offered a free cup of hot chocolate if I listened to them talk about The Scroll being online or something. I am always willing to listen to a  sales pitch if I get free hot chocolate. Since that day, I make it a point of going through the MC, and then sometimes on through the bookstore.

The trick is never to bring money with you into the bookstore, unless you’re there for the sole purpose of buying textbooks. This year, most of my ‘textbooks’ were for my Young Adult Literature class. And most of those YA novels I can just get on Amazon with the gift card I got for Christmas. In fact, that’s what I’ve been doing to try to save some money. Not much, but I like to think little things add up. Maybe I’ll even buy my Mom a birthday present, which I usually don’t, but this time I have a tentative idea.

Bookstores have a different feel from libraries. The books are all polished and new, and belong to nobody. Maybe there’s something in the human psyche that makes an object all the more desirable because of that. Unfortunately, there’s also the fact that you have to pay money before you can have it. And I hate spending money, I really do. Even gift cards, I hesitate before my purchases. Oh well.

Sometimes it’s nice just to browse. Just to see what kind of books and music they have. Like once I saw they had Piano Guy’s music. And Disney Music. Or a book of art by Boyd K. Packer (did you know he was a talented artist?). I don’t see that one in the store now. In fact, I can’t find their art books. The section is labeled “Art/Parenting” and all it has are parenting books. Sad, really. I liked the art books. Except for the one about colored pencils. I kept looking at the art and thinking that I liked the way I did it better.

Bookstores are wonderful places. Perfect for those times in between classes. And it was good to go to one today. I’m in a very quiet mood right now. I was so tired this morning. I tried to take a nap when I got back from class. I was so close. I couldn’t keep my eyes open as I tried to read Huckleberry Finn. I have never read that before. But all I managed was to be comfortable and warm and have my eyes closed for a long time. Before I had to get up and do more homework.

Huck Finn seems a fairly good book to me. I get skeptical of books sometimes. I really enjoy literature in general. But sometimes books considered ‘classics,’ or ‘literary’ deter me. So I get cautious. Especially since I recall that Huck Finn has been on and off the banned books list. Now that I read it, it all seems silly to have wondered about it. It’s just an ordinary kids book. I could have read it years ago. It and Tom Sawyer. I haven’t read Tom Sawyer myself, but I recall a teacher reading it aloud to me. I can’t even remember what grade. Before sixth, that’s for sure. I’m thinking fifth.

Yes, I am rambling a little bit. I do that when I’m tired. It’s just so… relaxing to write. To reflect on these little bits of wisdom you collect over the years, like the stress-relieving capacities of bookstores and… classic literature that’s actually worth reading (because I rather suspect that not all of it is worth reading for me). Do you know, I think it is because I journal that I feel I have learned so much over the years. It makes you stop and reflect, you know. I am a big advocate of reflecting. Makes life seem… fuller than it was when you were living in it at the time. Sometimes, anyway.

It’s an interesting dynamic, isn’t it? Like when you realize you had more to say about a friend visiting you than you had to say about Christmas Day. I believe I said that I got two gift cards, Brave, and a game called The Fool and His Money (which I haven’t had much time to play lately). But when a friend visits, or when I read a good book… then I write a lot. It is interesting, as I said. And I will also say that this has got to be one of the more worthy hobbies I have found.

Books- lies that reveal truth

I think last night I thanked God in every different way that I could think of for good books. I thanked God for good books, for people who wrote good books, for people who published good books, for the good books that I’ve read, for the good books I haven’t read, and for the good books that I won’t read, for people who wrote good books that weren’t published, that I was born in a time where there were many good books, that I was born into a family that introduced me to many good books…

And the list went on.

Because I’m reading a good book right now.

Oh, not my favorite by far. But it did remind me of times where I have just loved reading and books. The trick is, of course, to find the good book. I’m sure there are many in the world- the trick is finding them in the midst of all the books that aren’t good. But thankfully, I am taking a Young Adult Literature class. And already I have read some good books.

There are no words to describe it, are there? I mean, it’s such a simple little thing- a book, a painting, a movie, a song… but they just do things to you, you know? Words fall short. They are only symbol’s anyway. You can say all the inspiring words you want about books, but those who don’t already get it, won’t. Those kinds of famous quotes exist for people who do get it, but don’t have enough mastery of words to convey it.

 

Sigh.

Here I am, waxing philosophical, and I just wish people cared enough to pay attention to me when I write things like this. Facebook is more of a facade. If people really cared about what was going on, I think they’d do more than ‘like’ my statuses. They’d read posts like this.

See, there are some good books out there that connect you to the world better than Facebook does. I think it was Picasso that said art was lies that revealed truth. Literature is the same way. Lies that reveal truth. Whereas Facebook is a facade.