Saturday, September 27, 2014

Don't make me choose!

"I was born with a reading list I will never finish."

When I tell people I am an English educator, they always comment on how much I "must love to read" (kind of a given in my profession, but thank you for stating the obvious). Then they proceed to ask, What is your favorite book?


Asking an individual with an English degree what his/her favorite book is is just downright maddening. Don't make me choose! I love to read, and as such, I have categories of favorites (not just "one," as many seem to think). This post is for all those who have found themselves in a similar position, and for those of you who may be looking for something new to read. As such, I present my categories of favorites (and these aren't all of them, as that would be a long post):

Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Adventure

1. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Obviously, The Hobbit can be included in this as well. It is considered the prequel to The Lord of the Rings, which Tolkien initially wanted published as one volume (but his publishers suggested three so as to break up the length of each book).

2. The Odyssey by Homer

I love Greek mythology. 

I enjoy reading about Odysseus and his long journey home after his initial quest in The Iliad. Bad Odysseus; he annoyed the gods and as such, got stranded far in the ocean trying to return to his beloved Penelope.

Odysseus's battle with Scylla and Charybdis, the Cyclops, and various other obstacles he faces interest me. I have always enjoyed adventure stories, and The Odyssey is one of the oldest that fits this category.

Another benefit here is the writing style - it is a long, epic poem. Narrative poetry has always intrigued me and yes, this can be a challenging text, but it is one that has so many levels.

I highly recommend The Odyssey. Give it a chance and try to look beyond the classical literature that it is.

*Other books in this category include the Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling, Star Wars, His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman, and many more.

Children's Stories

3. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Anyone that knows me knows that I am obsessed with this book. I collect copies of it. I love getting a different edition as a gift, or discovering them myself. It has been my childhood favorite for many, many years, and I can't bear to part with many of the various versions I have picked up over the years.

This book revolves around the adventures of Mole, Water Rat, and the Badger, who all try to keep the reckless Mr. Toad from doing things he shouldn't. This book was my "getaway" book growing up. The story soothed me on the days when I was upset about goodness knows what.

I initially learned about this book from reading Love Among the Walnuts (the next in this category) and wanted to read it immediately. Leave it to the dedicated readers to find new books that are mentioned in books we are currently reading. It is one of my favorite ways to find new reads.

4. Love Among the Walnuts by Jean Ferris

This book is simply silly (I mean it in a good way).

Horatio and Mousey Huntington-Ackerman are very wealthy. Frustrated with living in the city and dealing with Horatio's mean-spirited brothers, they build a beautiful residence in the country (dubbed Eclipse) where they raise their son, Sandy.

As Sandy enters adulthood, Horatio's brothers are frustrated they won't have access to the money they thought was theirs. They poison Sandy's parents, putting them into comas, while Sandy battles what to do with his so-called uncles.

The Walnut Manor, a nearby facility to help people of different abilities, takes in Sandy's comatose parents. While they wait for his parents to awaken, Sandy and the people he meets there learn about love, friendship, and the true value of living.

*Other books in this category include Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (both by Roald Dahl), and various others.

Historical Fiction and Classics

5 and 6. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Great Gatsby is one of my all-time favorites. I've read it many times and love it each time just a little bit more. Poor Gatsby, trying to recreate the past. I even have a sweatshirt that has this book cover on it. It's awesome. I rock it like the book nerd that I am.

The Help takes place during the civil rights movement of the 60s. Kathryn Stockett varies the point of view chapter by chapter, so you get insight into the many characters minds. She does a good job with the research of the time, but also has a nice level of humor you can relate to.

*Other books in this category include Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Paradise Lost by John Milton, Myths of the Norsemen, Shakespearean drama, and many more.

Christian Fiction, Philosophy/Ideology, Realistic Fiction

7. Save the Date by Jenny B. Jones

This is a Christian fiction chick flick book, as I like to call it. It is one of my "vacation" books that I read when I need to be cheered up.

Lucy Wiltshire, the protagonist of the book, operates a non-profit home for girls who have left the foster care system. When her non-profit home, Saving Grace, loses its funding, she agrees to be the "fake fiancee" of Alex Sinclair, who in turn provides her with the funding she needs to keep Saving Grace running. 

Alex gets the public vote for his political campaign with Lucy by his side. As the election draws to an end, Lucy keeps Saving Grace and Alex hopefully gets the votes he needs.

As it is a "chick flick" book, it ends predictably. What sets it apart from the rest of its genre is the side storyline and humor. It never fails to cheer me up.

*Other books in this category include Dancing with Fireflies by Denise Hunter, Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling), and many more.

Obviously this list is not all inclusive. As you can see, I have a lot of favorites in a lot of different genres (I didn't even start nonfiction, because that is a loaded category). What are some of your favorites?

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