Thursday, September 11, 2014

Ten Books that Have Stuck with Me

Damn you, Facebook, and your wily ways. Well, hey, at least this new book meme is better than the "post what color bra you're wearing to promote breast cancer awareness" one from a while back. That sure was eyeroll worthy. But this? This I can get behind. I've already added a ton of books to my to-read list, and nothing makes me happier than sharing things that delight me.

Without further ado, my list of ten books that have stuck with me over the years.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Spear
Via Wikipedia
This book is my favorite of all time. Kit Tyler has been the inspiration for many, if not all, of my main female characters ever since I started writing, and I love that the main relationship of the story is that between Kit and Hannah Tupper, the titular witch of Blackbird Pond. Not only that, but the other prominent relationships that Kit has are with women: her cousins, Judith and Mercy, her aunt, Rachel, and an uneducated little girl, Prudence. Of course, she does fall in love with Nat (who wouldn't???), but that's not the focus of the novel. It does borrow heavily from The Crucible, but I really hate that play, so more power to Speare for giving me a happy ending (um, spoiler alert, I guess?).

Ghost in the Shell by Masamune Shirow
Via Blog of the Rising Sun
The first full-length manga that I ever read, I was initially exceptionally confused by Ghost in the Shell. I'd seen the movie by Mamoru Oshii, and unlike the Sailor Moon adaptation, it was wholly different in tone. It was actually funny and Motoko had a boyfriend and nearly the only thing that was similar was the basic plot (well, one part of it) and Motoko's haircut (for the most part). It's one of a very few things that I will read over and over again because the themes - identity, technology, adaptation, sexuality, integration, acceptance, etc. - never lose their relevance.

Deerskin by Robin McKinley
Via Goodreads
This. Book. I had to put it down for about a year before I was ready to continue Lissla's story. I cried, you guys. Legit bawled. The thing is, I wish more books were like this: in your fucking face, letting you know what it's like to be an innocent victim. I'm not going to spoil anything, because it's really something that you have to experience firsthand, but seriously, read it. Force yourself to get through the first half of the book, and you will be richly rewarded.

Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Via Wikipedia
My high school seemed to have an obsession with Dostoevsky; I think I read at least one of his books each year - except my junior year, where the focus was on American literature - culminating in The Brothers Karamazov for AP English. While I did enjoy Brothers K, it was outshone by Notes from Underground, mainly because of length. Dear God, could Dostoevsky write volumes. Anyway, I don't identify with the Underground Man in any way, but damn if he isn't fascinating. His psychology was so strange to me, but living in paranoia as he did would make for weird brain patterns. This was actually one of the first books that I reread for fun after the school year ended, and now, each year, I pull out my worn copy and do the very same thing. As a matter of fact, that time of year is coming up! Yay!

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
Via Amazon
Honestly, the entire reason I picked this book up in the first place was because I thought the cover was pretty, and then, I was introduced to the strange mind of Haruki Murakami, who is now one of my favorite novelists of all time. Whenever I try to describe this book, it usually comes across like I'm insane: "Well, there's a cat that the main character goes to look for, and then he gets caught in a place that might be real but also might be a dream? You know what? You should probably just read it yourself." It's kind of like Saga in that respect; the more you try to explain, the less sane you sound, which sort of applies to all of Murakami's work.

Being There by Jerzy Kosinski
Via Wikipedia
The first time I read this book, I was in college, taking a course where we would read the book and then watch the corresponding film. As a junior, I was like, "Hey, sounds pretty easy!" And it was. The professor wasn't really too concerned if you actually read the book or not, just as long as you provided some discussion on the themes that the movie explored. Plus, it was a summer course, so only a handful of people really took it seriously. I just happened to be one of those people, but whatever. The book is obviously a satire and one that, if it were to come out right now, would be met with wide praise. I mean, a simple-minded gardener becomes an adviser to world leaders because they think he's speaking in metaphor about the state of the world. It's hilarious and sad, all at the same time.

Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore
Via Inside Pulse
My lovely friend Nicoli introduced to this wonderful series and let me borrow all of his trade paperbacks, just so we could have some serious discussions about SiP. Now, I'm working on my collection of books because it's that freaking good. The series explores so many themes that it's hard to pick just a few, and Terry Moore does an incredible job of creating a comic that's welcoming to all genders and sexualities. I'm currently reading his new series, Rachel Rising, and it's incredible; but it has yet to oust SiP from the title of his best work to date.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Via The Introverted Reader
I cannot stress how difficult it was to read this book. The author beautifully intertwined stories about Henrietta Lacks and her impoverished family with details of how her cells were being used to create profits for those who had taken them without consent. In addition to telling an incredibly sad story, I learned way more about scientific testing and medical experimentation than I ever thought I'd need to know, and I also caught a glimpse into the world that Henrietta Lacks inhabited: highly segregated, violent, and nearly hopeless. Being a white person, it's always easy to forget that I would not have been treated in such a way, and like when I read Push by Sapphire, I was moved to tears at someone having to endure that. Sigh. We have such a long way to go.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
Via MikeMR
Okay, take away the fact that this particular cover looks less like it was from the sixties and more like it was out of an edgier 90s Teen Beat issue, and you'll be able to enjoy this book. I wasn't necessarily as big a fan of Hinton's other novels - That Was Then, This is Now, Rumble Fish, and Tex - I adored her first foray into publishing. She was still a teenager when The Outsiders was published, so naturally, you'd think that she'd improve with each successive work. Unfortunately, she never really captured me as much as she did with Ponyboy, Sodapop, Darrel, and their fellow Greasers. Hinton was able to breathe a humanity into a poor class boy and his family of hoods, and I could empathize with them. Oddly enough, I kept my copy of the book at my desk when I worked at the Department of Human Services so I could pull it out and remind myself that the people I was seeing could be Johnny or Dallas or Two-Bit. Several people with whom I worked asked me about it but thought that I was weird for trying to personalize my job. Maybe they were correct, but I don't regret trying to see my clients as human beings with hopes and dreams.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Via School Library Journal
This is the book that made me love reading. I saw a lot of myself in Meg - a bespectacled girl who was somewhat shy and misunderstood - and always wanted my little sister to be more like Charles Wallace. The overtly Christian themes kind of grate with me as an adult, but I can overlook that element because of how well the book is written. Like a lot of children's movies from the 80s, L'Engle shows that children are more capable than most believe, capable enough to stop a powerful, all-encompassing evil by using the power of love. Yes, it sounds like a silly concept, but it's one that rang true for me as a kid and even as a grown-up.
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