First of all I would like to thank my growing number of followers, especially those that don’t include my family or friends! I hope that you continue to enjoy my semi-rambling posts and maybe drop a comment or two along the way. Don’t be shy!
In other news, I have decided to occasionally post a list of books that have been influential in my life. These books have both challenged and changed my views, thoughts, and just plain life for better or worse. I will only be posting five books each time, along with a brief, spoiler-free book summary and why that particular book has been important in my life.
Hopefully you like what you see and give them a try.
Follow Sam I Am as he tries to convince an acquaintance that green eggs and ham is, indeed, a delectable meal to be savored everywhere and every way.
I would be remorse not to include one of the MOST influential books in my entire life. The first one I ever read completely by myself! According to my trusted sources (my mom) I was not so eager to read as a kid. I can even remember sitting on my couch with my arms crossed at the mere prospect of reading. Dr.Seuss was a first-time read for many of my generation and I’m thankful that I enjoyed it so much. Otherwise my love of reading might not have grown as exponentially as it did. I’ll never know though because that book soon became the catalyst for my endless need to read. I’ll always be thankful that Dr. Seuss helped me grow from a reluctant reader to someone who majored in it.
The world-weary vampire Lestat is recruited by the biblical Devil, Memnoch, to help fight a cruel and negligent God. The bulk of the novel is a retelling of the Creation story from the point of view of the fallen angel, who blames his damnation on his refusal to accept human suffering as part of God’s divine plan. Rice grapples valiantly with weighty questions regarding the justification of God’s ways to man, but their vast scope overwhelms the novel’s human dimensions. Meanwhile, the ever-fascinating Lestat, whose poignant personal crisis of faith is mirrored in Memnoch’s travails, becomes a passive observer, dragged along on trips to Heaven and Hell before being returned to Earth to relate what he has witnessed.
I want to say late middle school/early high school was when I discovered Anne Rice. It was a love at first sight. I have read the Vampire Chronicles so many times that my copies are not only stained by age but by frequent use. Anne Rice definitely planted the seed for my love affair of all things dealing with horror and vampires. Memnoch the Devil has always been my absolute favorite in the series though. In this book, the main character Lestat deals with the devil…literally. The novel centers on the concept of heaven and hell for both mortals and immortals by completely changing what readers know on the subject. Anne Rice literally rewrote the bible and Christian history so well that it had me almost convinced it could be truth. Almost. It was so structurally sound that I was blown away at her ability to completely reconstruct a concept that complex. I was enthralled for days. Still am.
Everywhere hailed as a novel of rare beauty and power, White Oleander tells the unforgettable story of Ingrid, a brilliant poet imprisoned for murder, and her daughter, Astrid, whose odyssey through a series of Los Angeles foster homes-each its own universe, with its own laws, its own dangers, its own hard lessons to be learned-becomes a redeeming and surprising journey of self-discovery.
If I had to gather a list of my favorite books (an impossible feat to be sure), this one would definitely be on it. I have to admit that I first heard about this book after watching the Lifetime movie based on it starring Allison Lohman, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Renée Zellweger. I loved it so much that I was overjoyed when I found out it was a novel too. Thankfully my mom ended up having a copy for me to read and my love for the story grew even more. Janet Fitch did a remarkable job writing about the complexity of mother/daughter relationships and the horrors that can come from the foster care system. Astrid’s mother is a poet with a gift for writing words of inherent beauty as well as vicious cruelty when it comes to her art and daughter Astrid. What most intrigued me was the personal growth and destruction of Astrid, who begins the story as a young, naive girl with a desperate need to be loved and wanted by a mother who expresses her emotions through poetry instead of physical or emotional affection . In the end, Astrid becomes a hardened individual who went through years of suffering and pain from after numerous foster homes. I loved the book so much that I used a section of it as a monologue for a theater class I once took. The entire barn was filled with applause when I was done. (The first college I went to was in the country. Our theater department was in a barn!)
When Mary Boleyn comes to court as an innocent girl of fourteen, she catches the eye of Henry VIII. Dazzled by the king, Mary falls in love with both her golden prince and her growing role as unofficial queen. However, she soon realizes just how much she is a pawn in her familys ambitious plots as the kings interest begins to wane and she is forced to step aside for her best friend and rival: her sister, Anne. Then Mary knows that she must defy her family and her king, and take her fate into her own hands.
A rich and compelling tale of love, sex, ambition, and intrigue, The Other Boleyn Girl introduces a woman of extraordinary determination and desire who lived at the heart of the most exciting and glamorous court in Europe and survived by following her own heart.
This book by Philippa Gregory was influencial in my life because it was my introduction into historical fiction; a genre of literature I had never explored before. An English teacher at OCC once told me that in order to have a love of literature, you have to have an equal love of history. And the truth if that statement has stuck with me for many years. I have always been a lover of history, even in the early years of social studies. As I grew older, I soon realized that my interest historically tended to be specific to certain areas. Or more accurately, anywhere but the U.S. Classes going over WWI or early American laws used to make my eyes roll to the back of my head in mere seconds. When I went to college, I was excited to learn that I got to pick a topic in history that interested me. As of today, I have taken everything from British Imperialism to Jewish studies to the Global History of Sexuality. And yet not one single class involving the U.S.
My initial interest in reading The Other Bolyen Girl was because I thought the upcoming movie on the book looked really interesting. On a whim, I picked up the book at Target and gave it a try. I now own every single book that Philippa Gregory has ever written. Gregory is an English historian turned author who has written extensively on the royal history of England, particularly the years of Henry VIII (One of my favorite people in history). I now know more about English history than my own American history which is something my friends LOVE to pick on. But for some reason I have always found the histories of other places more interesting. To me, their wars are more intriguing, governments more informing, even the social classes fascinate me more. Gregory is one of the authors I would most love to meet because her books have been such an important part of my life. My love of history grew so much with every book of hers I read and I would love to thank her for that.
In the Republic of Gilead, formerly the United States, far-right Schlafly/Falwell-type ideals have been carried to extremes in the monotheocratic government. The resulting society is a feminist’s nightmare: women are strictly controlled, unable to have jobs or money and assigned to various classes: the chaste, childless Wives; the housekeeping Marthas; and the reproductive Handmaids, who turn their offspring over to the “morally fit” Wives.
The tale is told by Offred, a Handmaid who recalls the past and tells how the chilling society came to be. Offred is a Handmaid in the home of the Commander and his wife. She is allowed out once a day to the food market, she is not permitted to read, and she is hoping the Commander makes her pregnant, because she is only valued if her ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she was an independent woman, had a job of her own, a husband and child. But all of that is gone now…everything has changed.
I first read The Handmaid’s Tale in 12th grade for my AP English class. I was a favorite in my class because I was the most outspoken and the most attentive in class, which was often the case in my English classes. When I read the book, we were on a curriculum of Dystopian novels. I was enthralled with 1984, completely unimpressed with A Brave New World, and I had settled on just trying to get through this one. That was not the case at all. I probably most identified with this story because it was so much about the decay of women rights in the future. As a woman, it was horrifying to read about a future where women weren’t allowed to do anything including my favorite activity, reading! I bit my nails through every chapter, cringing and gasping with every new development for the main character Offred. I was so passionate about this book that my teacher gave me his own personal copy for me to keep. I looked up to this teacher in a lot of ways because he was the first English teacher that I felt truly challenged me. In past classes, I would breeze through every assigned novel with relative ease. I had to hold down my frustration every time my peers complained that the reading was too hard, too much, or too boring. One time my English teacher in 11th grade actually made us watch the movie “O” because everyone in class complained that not only the original Othello was too hard, but also the edited version with the modern English on the side. I really can’t express how hard it was for me in those classes where I felt like I was the only one that “got it”.
My senior English class changed that for me. We had assignments where I was actually expected to read the material, understand it, and then analyze it. It was like a breath of fresh air. I was challenged for the first time and I couldn’t get enough. This book makes me think of that feeling and I can’t help but smile every time. Before I graduated my AP teacher wrote in my yearbook to “keep up with my Margaret Atwood” after high school. And I certainly did.