Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Top Ten- Part 1

Currently Reading: Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
There are probably many other things I could be doing right now: I still have about 40 thank-you notes to go, my genealogy is begging me to update it, and there's a graduate school application essay calling my name. But.... once the urge to revisit favorite books comes a'knocking, there is nothing that will stand in its way.

Tonight's post will be the merest of outlines of five of my ten favorite books, although I'm sure there will be whole posts devoted to many of these in the weeks, months, years to come. Get excited! Some of these may be familiar, others obscure. Some you may not agree with; maybe you'll even get inspired to pick some of them up yourself. They're favorites for a variety of complex and undefinable reasons (see previous post) but I will attempt to give some explanation of their importance in my life. I have many thoughts, emotions, and opinions about each book, but I will go into those in depth someday. In creating a "top ten" list, I have obviously had to exclude books that I do truly love; in picking these, for this blog's purposes, I chose the ones for which I would use my one and only call on a desert pay phone to Fed-Ex, to have them shipped to my desert island where I would be waiting impatiently for their arrival.

Clarification: The books are listed in no particular order, except for Number One, which is truly Number One in my book.

Jane and I on my wedding day, getting my hair done. I wasn't kidding.
Second clarification: This list does not include the Bible, for although that is my "top book", I do not define the Bible as a "book" in the same way I define books as "books." The Bible is a guide to life and to one's spiritual journey, and therefore is very different in my mind from books. There are books. There is the Bible. To me, they are very different.

1) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
            I have no words to describe my relationship with this book. I first read Jane Eyre at the age of eleven, when I went through my middle school "classics binge." From the beginning, I was smitten. Since then, I have grown to love and appreciate this book all the more. I find something new within its pages every time I read it (which at this point, not counting reading snippets here and there, has been about 15 times). With each reread, I feel rejuvenated and refreshed, ready to face life with a new sense of calm. It is amazing the spell that book has over me.

2) People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
              A book about a book... how does it get any better than that? This book is absolutely phenomenal, mostly because it's historical, well written, and covers many different stories in one- which is something I love in books. People of the Book explores the long, tragic, and bloody history of a Jewish religious book as it is passed down through the centuries, saved from those who would destroy it. It provides a fascinating history of the Jewish people in Eastern Europe, as well as gives a "book-lover" and researcher like me a thrill as the main character, a present-day book conservator, restores this deliciously old book.

3) Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery
              Anne is one of those literary heroines that I wish existed in the real world; her sunny disposition and lively imagination has been an inspiration to me since I was a girl. I have never met a single person who has not loved these books. (And yes, I count a series as "one" book...see how sneaky I am?) In my opinion, the best time to read these books is the summer, because there is something about Montgomery's lush descriptions of Prince Edward Island that make me want to read my book lying in the grass or sitting under a tree or while walking through a field of daisies.

4) The Sevenwaters trilogy by Juliet Marillier
             Looking back, I can say that the Sevenwaters trilogy truly changed my life. They are not perhaps on the same realm of Shakespeare or Dickens, but they are life-changing all the same. I first read these books, which could best be defined as historical fantasy set in medieval Ireland, when I was a sophomore in high school. From there, I became obsessed with learning more about Irish history and Celtic mythology. I couldn't get enough. I started yearning to visit Ireland and I began reading anything about Ireland that I could get my hands on. I continued my personal Irish studies throughout college, taking an Independent Study course on Celtic religion; my senior thesis focused on the Irish Literary Revival of the 1890s, which included poets and playwrights W.B. Yeats and J.M. Synge. Now, eight years after reading those books for the first time, Nathan and I are planning our first trip to Ireland this spring. Talk about life-changing.  

5) The Confession of St. Patrick by St. Patrick
             One of the works from Irish history that I enjoy returning to is called The Confession of St. Patrick. And yes, this is THE St. Patrick. Many people think they know St. Patrick's story and of course, America loves to wear green and drink its way through March 17th, but this is actually St. Patrick's story from St. Patrick himself! It's amazing that we even have these documents, which were written sometime during the 5th century AD. In this short tract (which also includes a letter he wrote to a Roman general), St. Patrick gives us the story of his life and his work for God. Talk about inspirational. Reading this gave me a completely different view of this remarkable man- and what it means to truly live a life devoted to God's work. He wasn't perfect- he committed a terrible sin (most likely murder) when he was younger and he could be quick to anger, but he truly loved the Irish people, which explains why his mission was successful. Forget green plastic necklaces and green beer- reading this every St. Patrick's Day is how I celebrate. :)

Have a happy Wednesday! Go say hi to one of your favorite books!

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