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Dear Friend,

By the time I reached my seventh birthday, I was such a voracious reader that all I received for my birthday was book after book. As a child, my parents knew that if they couldn’t find me, I was probably curled up with a book somewhere. I was one of those children that could go to the library, check out the maximum number of books they let you take at one time (Usually 20 or so), and then need to go back for more within a week. I would devour books, like an addict. Before I learned to read, I remember being terrified of learning how. So much so, that I convinced my parents that I needed glasses in an effort to slow down the process. However, once I learned how, I never looked back.

As I’m sure you are aware, there has been one of those obnoxious chain status’ on Facebook going here there and everywhere at an insane pace regarding books. It is the subject matter that convinced me (as if I need much motivation beyond the word “books”) to participate and now expand that participation here. In addition, my dear friend Gennie (visit her at donutsprinkles.wordpress.com ) responded to me asking her to participate with a blog post… and in a weird cycle of encouragement and inspiration here I am, retelling my list here for you to read.

 

Watership Down – Richard Adams

This book is a huge part of my family. When I was younger, my dad would read this book aloud to the entire family every single year. It may be about a group of rabbits, but thematically it’s more about what it means to be a community. Nevermind that this book is like a guide to random things I do like: sing about slugs to the moon, reference characters like The Black Rabbit of Inle, Rowsby Woof and the Fairy Wog-Dog, or call all seagulls “Kehar”… (sidenote: I’m not sure if anyone has even noticed that I do these things), this book is also one of my most highly recommended book suggestions for people of all ages (all though younger audiences may need someone to read to them.)

Song of the Lioness – Tamora Pierce

Within pages of being introduced to Tamora Pierce by my cousin Eileen, I was in love. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for novels that are set in fantastical worlds, kingdoms filled with cultures, places, and people that simply do not exist in the world we know… add in a little magic, and some adventure and I’ll be set for life. What I love about Tamora Pierce, however, is that unlike the majority of novels fitting into this category (see several examples below), Pierce’s protagonists are all female. These are women fighting not only the battles of their kingdom, but for the right to be considered equal to their male counterparts, a fight that is all too real in today’s society. These women display intelligence, compassion, strength, skill, loyalty… the list goes on. These books are the kind of books that I continue to read over and over again.

Harry Potter – J. K. Rowling

I spent years in that “I refuse to read/participate in the Potter hooplah” world. I’m not exactly sure why, but I remember thinking to myself that if I was going to try and pass it off as sub par to the rest of the written word I should at least read it… So I did read it, and realized that “sub par” is about as incorrect as you can be in relation to these beautiful novels. Not only have I found myself in awe at the millions of ways tiny threads weave their way throughout the books and all come together at the end to make a brilliantly crafted tapestry of a tale, and been amazed by the sheer existence of, what seems like, an endless back story for everything and everyone, but the THEMES! When I began reading Harry Potter, I thought I would find the story of a young wizard who went on crazy adventures with his friends, and constantly got in trouble… and I did, but I also found a young wizard who learned what it meant to experience loss, loyalty, friendship, love, anger, confusion, you name it. In the end, I felt as though I had grown up with Harry, Ron, and Hermione… and I don’t know how to express how knowing a friendship like theirs changes you. It just does.

Almost Perfect – Brian Katcher

This book is, in many ways very different from all the others on this list. I’m not going to go into details about the book, because I’ve already written about it (Almost Perfect) in another post. In which I really didn’t really give many details, I know, but somethings need to be read to be understood. What I have found profound about this book is that it doesn’t show how things should be, it shows the reality of how they ARE. Logan’s reactions to his relationship with Sage are what I would expect in a similar situation today. Not how I would hope he would respond, but how I imagine people with similar backgrounds to his character would experience this situation.

Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher

Oh, 10th grade book club… in addition to reading Daphne de Maurier’s Rebecca, we also read this book about a young man who listens to the 13 stories that make up the suicide note of a young woman who was important to him. The stories explore the power of rumors, bullying, and the process of losing hope. What is interesting is the way these stories are heard through the lens of someone who saw PAST the rumors, and truly cared for someone who thought no one cared. I found the story to be powerful and emotionally moving. In fact, I’ve probably read this book every year since that first read in 10th grade. Sidenote: There are rumors of a movie, but the casting choices included in those rumors make me nervous…

Harold and the Purple Crayon – Crockett Johnson

This one one of several children’s books that find’s itself on my family’s bookshelf along with other family favorites like The Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord, Shibumi and the Kitemaker by Mercer Mayer, and The Mountains Crack Up by Jasper Tomkins. All of these stories have been important to my reading and general development, but this past year Harold and the Purple Crayon has become increasingly resonant with me. In the story Harold goes on grand adventures and eventually begins to search for his bed… What I love about this story is that Harold comes to the realization that he can just draw his bedroom into existence like he has with everything else he’s encountered. As I’ve been traveling over the last year, and looking towards possible post-grad plans, I’ve been reminded of Harold and how he made stopped looking for home and made “home” right where he was… I too can be anywhere in the world and make myself a home right where I am.

Chronicles of Narnia – C. S. Lewis

Aslan… yup, I think that about covers it. No, but really, Aslan helped me understand Christ as a young child and I continue to wish I too could find Narnia in the back of a wardrobe. On a random sidenote, The Horse and His Boy is one of my favorites from this series and is often underestimated… if you haven’t yet, you should read it now.

Persuasion – Jane Austen

Persuasion is my favorite of the novels by Jane Austen. I don’t know why, but I’ve always favored Anne Elliot. Her personality is more similar to mine than those of other Austen heroines and I can’t help but think that in the Austen world, it is all too often that people point towards Lizzie Bennet and Mr. Darcy as the prime example of romance and whatnot. But forget all of that “liking you despite my better judgement” confusion and look instead towards two people who have loved each other for years, but are not together because of bad advice. It is not a story of looking past class and rank, but rather a story of finding the courage to disagree with the people you care about and to forgive past wrongdoings. I also happen to LOVE the letter Wentworth writes to Anne declaring his love… it’s just so beautiful!

Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien

To understand the way in which Tolkien’s much-loved tale was much-loved by me, one would only have to look at my 5th grade bedroom. The walls covered in movie posters, book quotes, sketches from the book (think the Gates of Moria)… today my bookshelf includes a Middle-Earth Atlas, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, all 5 of the released films, a guide to the Languages of Middle Earth, LotR movie guides, The Silmarillion, and Unfinished Tales. I once spent an entire school year writing notes with one of my friends in Dwarvish runes. If that overflow of nerdiness doesn’t do all explanation necessary, I don’t know what will.

Walk Two Moons – Sharon Creech

Honestly, I don’t have much to say about this one, but feel as though it is important to include it. You see, in 4th and 5th grade, I fell in love with Sharon Creech. Her novel Walk Two Moon goes down in history as the first book I read that made me cry. I also happen to have weird connections to this story in that in Chasing Redbird, an accompanying novel of sorts, the main character’s name is Zinnia (like the flower). After reading the story I fell in love with Zinnias and at one point my late grandfather, Danny, planted some seeds I gave him around the house that I currently live in. Weird, convoluted story, I know, but nonetheless, Zinnias now remind me of my grandfather.

 

Lots of Love, Mandi Jo