The Booker Award and My Top 5 Books of All Time

The real world is overrated, anyway!

One of my favorite blogger friends over at http://wantoncreation.wordpress.com nominated me for yet another award, this time “The Booker Award,” which can be given to any blogger who devotes at least half of their posts to reading.

While I’m never good at fulfilling the chain-letter-esque nominations and keeping the ball rolling, I will finally reveal my top five books of all time! I know a lot of you have been waiting with anticipation!

In order from greatest to oh-my-god-why-are-you-still-on-my-blog-and-not-reading-these-books-right-this-second! A few I reviewed for Masterpiece Monday, so click the links to learn even more!

5. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (1847). This novel combines two of my favorite things: Victorian literature and star-crossed romance. Many people despise the lovers Catherine and Heathcliff for their often selfish, cruel behavior towards each other, but I can’t get enough of this tragic tale of true–albeit, angsty–love. Heathcliff is the perfect brooding lead, and Bronte does a fantastic job on character development for the two generations of these families. Not to mention, she includes critical discussion of social and racial issues of the time period. Can you believe Wuthering Heights was the only novel she ever published? Talk about the literary jackpot!

4. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005). I first read this novel my freshman year of college, and I’m still a die-hard fan. When the movie adaptation came out a couple years ago, it gained a boost of popularity, and I would literally stop people in the bookstore if they were looking at it and say, “Don’t even think about it. Just buy it.” And if you don’t take my word for it, TIME named it the best book of 2005, and among the top 100 English-language books since 1923. I can’t really tell you anything about it without spoiling the story, but trust me, it’s breathtakingly haunting. Movie also highly recommended!

3. The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien (1954-55). I hesitated in determining where to place this series on my list, because I have a multifaceted opinion of LOTR. I truly believe that it is the greatest story ever created; however, I do not believe that it is the greatest written story ever created. I admit that Tolkien was more of a historian than an author, and I understand that many cannot swallow his dry, textbook-like style. I should also be honest with my fellow book bloggers: I watched “The Fellowship of the Ring” and then read the whole series before the sequels were released. I know, blasphemy! But I think that no matter how you come to this story, it’s worth it, because once a Ringer, always a Ringer!

2. Demian by Hermann Hesse (1919). This is probably the least known novel on my list, and I owe it to my English teacher senior year of high school for introducing me to it. Translated from its original German, it’s a coming-of-age story of Emil Sinclair, who befriends a enigmatic young man named Demian. Demian teaches Emil about philosophy, religion, and finding your true self. It’s a short read, but my absolute favorite to re-read, because I learn something new each time. If you’re looking for something mentally stimulating and completely engrossing, this is it. Total life-changer.

1. His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman (1995-2000). Hands down, favorite series of all time. Many critics label Pullman’s trilogy for children, but this modern adaptation of Milton’s Paradise Lost is anything but childish. I walked into a bookstore one day in middle school, suffering from Harry Potter withdrawals, when the cashier recommended the novels. I bought the Del Rey mass market paperbacks (which were located in the adult fantasy section, by the way), and since then, nothing has influenced my life so profoundly. These novels motivated me to question the status quo and think for myself, so on the off chance that Pullman stumbles upon this post, I want to say thank you. If my writing can affect someone a fraction of what His Dark Materials has done for me, then I can die happy.

I know that I can sound a bit dramatic, but who can’t when discussing their all-time favorite books? Of course, I’ve got decades of reading left to do, so this list may be subject to change. You never know!

I would LOVE to hear your top five books–we have to help each other in making our to-read lists even longer, right? So many books, never enough time!

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30-Day Book Challenge (Condensed to fit my life)

Cover of "WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS"

Spoiler: The dogs died, and I cried...a lot. (Image via Amazon)

I’ve been racking my brain about what to blog…I already feel guilty about not blogging as frequently as I did during the summer–alas! the demands of grad school!–but since I’m not done with Madame Bovary yet (about 150 pages to go!), I thought I’d borrow a list from my book club friend Bridget at http://bridgetsbooks.wordpress.com/.

It’s a 30-Day Book Challenge to discuss the books in your life. I’m not as dedicated as Bridget to do one day per day, but why not check in with the list every now and then? Since it’s Sept. 8, I’ll do the first 8 days:

Day 1: Favorite book = His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman

Day 2: Least favorite book = Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Day 3: Book that makes you laugh out loud = Bartimaeus: The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

Day 4: Book that makes you cry = Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

Day 5: Book you wish you could live in = The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien

Day 6: Favorite young adult book = Any book written by Meg Cabot, author of The Princess Diaries series

Day 7: Book that you can quote/recite = Hamlet by William Shakespeare (and LOTR of course!)

Day 8: Book that scares you = Down a Dark Hall by Lois Duncan

I won’t go into more detail, unless you’d like to know the reasons behind a certain choice of mine! (But I’m sure I’ll discuss these books frequently on this blog). I’d love you all to comment with your own entries, and I’ll be sure to finish the list when I can!

Top 4 Reasons Why “The Lord of the Rings” is Not Just for Kids

The Lord of the Rings film trilogy

Image via Wikipedia

When I was in high school, my favorite English teacher told me that you should mention only the best literature on the SAT and AP tests. I completely agreed, but for her, that meant that The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien did not count. In fact, she called the series “juvenile fiction.” I know–*gasp* is right!  LOTR is a literary masterpiece, and not only in the fantasy genre. Most magazines and critics even consider it among the greatest books of all time!

Note: Even though LOTR is three novels, I, like Tolkien himself, consider them one story. So I will mostly refer to it in the singular, just FYI.

So to prove her wrong, [and to celebrate buying my tickets today to the LOTR concert in Fresno!!!] here are my top 4 reasons why LOTR is not just “juvenile fiction:”

  1. It’s quite a hefty read. Clocking in at over 1,000 pages, LOTR often reads more like a history textbook than an adventure novel. You have to be able to stomach long lineages and extremely thorough time-lines in order to appreciate the book. And since Tolkien was, first and foremost, a linguist, get used to fully functional languages, names like Galadriel and Uruk-hai, and antiquated diction (plenty of thee’s and thou’s!). But what do you expect from Tolkien, who began writing at 45 and didn’t finish until he was 57? That’s 12 years of extensive world creation!
  2. Realistic, morally conflicted characters. When I think of children’s books, I think of Captain Underpants and The Boxcar Children. Character archetypes + basic, not too difficult obstacles + moral lesson at end. But I think LOTR is more complicated than that. Gandalf is a good-hearted mentor, but he’s not immune to the Ring’s corruption. Gollum’s out to murder Frodo and Sam, but he’s also a victim worthy of pity. Sure, LOTR can be simplified to a tale of good vs evil, but no character is purely one or the other.
  3. Abundance of violence. Of course, violence can exist in children’s books to some extent, but usually it doesn’t consist of a father trying to burn his son while still alive or biting someone’s finger off for a piece of jewelry. Every character plays a role in the wars of Middle-Earth, regardless of gender or size (unlike in Chronicles of Narnia, which usually excluded the girls). And even other children’s books with excessive violence, such as Harry Potter or The Hunger Games, are not meant for the really young and are just as appealing to adults.
  4. Lots of pints and pipeweed. What can I say? Hobbits sure know how to party!
          So what do you think? Is LOTR just kid’s stuff? Is it worth reading as an adult, even studying in school? Let me know what you’d add to the list!
          I’m now counting down the days ’til I watch “The Fellowship of the Ring” in concert!!!