Sunday, January 30, 2005

Jen's Favorite Books

As I mentioned in another post (here), "Pride and Prejudice" is one of my all time favorite novels. Another one from childhood, is "Sonny Elephant" (I'm lucky to own my copy, as it's been out of print for a long time). I have read, and LOVED so many books ... I'll feature a few favorites below then list more that I recall with a positive memory :) ... as you will probably see, I liked books in a SERIES ... it is so nice to have a continuing story, and not have to wonder about what you are going to read next!

Almost everyone has heard of "Anne of Green Gables" ... it was made into a great television movie (whereas the first movie actually stays quite true to book #1, the followup sequel takes a few more liberties, taking the next three books and mashing them into the one movie, turning three book characters into one, etc. ... but I did still really enjoy the movie!) Not everyone is aware that this wonderful series keeps going, eight books total. While I read the first several "Anne" books while I was a teenager, I didn't discover the final two until after I was married. I remember Grayson coming home one day to find me SOBBING ... (yes a spoiler, it has a sad part) ... one of the few books to actually hit me that hard.

Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, Dragondrums ... those were the first books I read in the "Dragonridgers of Pern" collection (which includes over a dozen books). Sometimes I wonder where writers get such an imagination to create completely different worlds like this! This "Harper Hall Trilogy" is aimed at younger (maybe middle-school) readers, then another trilogy (Dragonflight, Dragonquest, The White Dragon) is a little more advanced (I believe the library has them in the adult rather than the youth section). The second trilogy actually starts years before the one pictured above, but then ends afterward, with several crossovers between the two books. Several situations are portrayed in both trilogies, but from different perspectives in the various books. After the two trilogies there are several follow up books (some that go back and revisit the past, and others that take up the story and go forward). I LOVED these books. The author has other books, but none really captured me until I found the "Freedom's Landing" trilogy a few years back, and it was another set I really enjoyed.

Ok ... so far you can see I like romance and fantasy ... now how to describe Herriot's "All Creatures Great and Small" series? You don't get more down to earth than these books. Set in Yorkshire England in the 1930s, this is the first person narrative of a country veterinarian. It is considered fiction, although it is based on true life experiences of the author. I know ... it doesn't really sound like an appealing book, but it IS ... it's funny, it's tender, it's informative ... it's just wonderful! Four followup books in the series continue the stories.

As I started reflecting back on my reading throughout the years, SO many wonderful stories come to mind. This list is mainly for me I guess ... I was thinking I should write them down so I don't forget, but these books have already stood the test of time, as it's been over 25 years since I originally read them. Through the years, most of these have been collected and added to my personal library. I'd love to know if others have fond memories of any of these, and if they appeal at all to kids today ...

Elementary Age Favorites:
  • The Chronicals of Narnia by C.S. Lewis: Classic seven book series. I read them as a teenager several times. Not long ago I read them all again, a book a day for a week. Some powerful imagery.
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare: I remember reading this book in elementary school, so 5th or 6th grade. I distinctly recall the entire class watching a program on PBS, where this book was being told while and artist drew illustrations. This award winning book was probably my first "historical romance" ... it IS a romance!
  • The Great Brain series by J.D. Fitzgerald. Fiction, based on the author's childhood in Utah in the late 1800s. While my brothers and sister's favorite was "The Great Brain at the Academy" ... mine was "Me and My Little Brain". I loved these stories.
  • The Forgotten Door by Alexander Key. Never quite as well known as his "Witch Mountain" stories, which were made into movies I loved (but I loved the books too). Similar though, as in the main character is from somewhere else ... another planet? Another time? Read it and find out :)
  • Baby Island by Carol Ryrie Brink: I was introduced to this book as it was read aloud to the class in 3rd grade. In this story, two young sisters end up shipwrecked on an island with four babies to tend to. I think it appealed to me as a young girl, as I loved babies, just like the girls in the book and figured I would have done just as well in such a situation :) The same author also wrote Caddie Woodlawn, which is another great story, although I don't think I reread it as much as I did "Baby Island" ... which I'm glad to see is still in print.
  • No Flying in the House by Betty Brock: Another book from 3rd grade. The same author wrote "The Shades" which is another favorite. While the latter cannot be found (I'm lucky enough to own a copy), the former, "No Flying in the House" is available today. I loved the story and thought Disney should have made it into a movie ... although I did reread it as an adult and ... it wasn't quite as good as I remembered it.
  • E.B White Books: Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little were turned into movies, but I think my favorite of White's books was "Trumpet of the Swan". Maybe because there is no movie version to distract me from the book version, it lives in my imagination.
  • Beverly Cleary Books: I loved Henry Huggins (more than Ramona), Ribsy, Socks and Ralph Mouse.
  • Carolyn Haywood Books: Just a step or two easier reading than Beverly Cleary, another set of books about a boy (Little Eddie) and a girl and her sister (Betsy and Star) and miscellaneous other books, "The Mixed-Up Twins" standing out in my memory.
  • Mrs. Piggle Wiggle Books by Betty McDonald: I adored these, and they are books a parent would like a child to read, as they all had "lessons" to be learned, taught by the magical Mrs. Piggle Wiggle ... what to do if a child won't clean their room, or doesn't want to go to bed. Imaginative solutions to common childhood issues.
  • More: Where the Red Fern Grows and Summer of Monkeys by Wilson Rawls. The Wishing Tree and other "witch" books by Ruth Chew. All of a Kind Family series by Sydney Taylor. Call it Courage by Armstrong Perry. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell. The "Indian in the Cupboard" books by Lynne Reid Banks.
Middle School Favorites:
  • Interstellar Pig and Singularity by William Sleator: Accidentally involving earth in an intergalactic game and dealing with time speeding up are the themes of these two books.
  • Marrow of the World by Ruth Nichols: Ok, truthfully, I can't totally remember the story of this book, but I do remember it making an impact on me enough that I did search it out and buy it (which is hard to do, as it is out of print) ... I just pulled it out to reread.
  • The Girl Who Owned a City by O.T. Nelson: It's a bit of a horrific plot line ... a virus wipes out anyone over the age of twelve, leaving gangs of children to fend for themselves.
  • A Gift of Magic and other books by Lois Duncan: Half of these books deal with something supernatural, while the others are more "realistic" thrillers. I loved reading these throughout my middle school years.
  • I Think This is Where We Came In and other books by Phyllis Anderson Wood: There were several books by this author that touched my teen-aged self, as I look through the titles, I can't remember the stories for sure, but the titles I recall reading are: Song of the Shaggy Canary, Win Me and You Lose and I've Missed a Sunset or Three.
  • One Child by Torey Hayden: A true story about a teacher and an abused little girl.
  • The Family Nobody Wanted by Helen Doss: A true story about a young couple unable to have children who turn to adoption.
High School and On ...
  • Required Reading: I remember being SO confused by "The Brothers Karamazov"(everyone seemed to have three different names) but actually liking the book."Lord of the Flies" really disturbed me. "Heart of Darkness" ... that was a true challenge. I remember a positive experience with "Sound and the Fury" ... I can't remember if "Flowers for Algernon" was required at one point, or if I read it on my own ... it's a favorite! Also 1984 and Brave New World ...
  • Historical Fiction by Irving Stone: Based on fact, these fictionalized stories from the lives of many famous people (John Adams, Michaelangelo, Freud, etc.) were both interesting and informative.
  • A Woman of Independent Means by Elizabeth Hailey: I don't recall the story specifically, but the PRESENTATION of this book was so different that it stayed with me. It's presented as outgoing letters. Such an interesting concept. Later in life, I actually would collect all my correspondence, keeping it on file because of this book. Another book with an interesting presentation is "Up the Down Staircase" which has handwritten notes, school assignments, etc. as much of the book.

Recent Reading: Thinking on new novels that have come out in the past decade or so ... I've read the entire Work and the Glory Series, all the Harry Potter books, the Twilight series, The Hunger Games series .... I'm reviewing ones the kids have also read in the Chapter Books link ...

And in 2012 two HUGE thing happened ...

  • I discovered DIGITAL (Kindle Fire and Kindle apps on the ipod mainly, but I've tried the NookApp, Overdrive, iBooks and a couple other digital offerings) which has totally gotten me back into reading. I mean READING reading, like several books a month. One problem I had, was just having material on hand. No longer a problem. There are so many free offerings, and borrowing from the library no longer requires a trip in. Now I have too many books I want to read just waiting for me. And it's so convenient now, instead of lugging a book around, just in case I might get a minute, I whip out my iPhone, which I have with me anyway. And it's so much lighter than a heavy, hardbound book (even paperbacks can be cumbersome), and I don't need a lamp or book light when it's dark. I just have to make sure I keep my digital devices charged.
  • I discovered GOODREADS ... a social site for keeping track of what you've read, what you want to read, what you thought, what your friends are reading and what they have liked. It's been so great to keep track of everything. You can create different shelves (so I know if I own the book in my Kindle cloud, or if it's one I can borrow from the library). I love seeing everyone's ratings, and writing down what I thought of each book. You can see if your friends are reading and liking the same books. So while I may not be adding to this post, I'm very active on my GoodReads account and would love to see you there (see my profile HERE). 

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