Thursday, October 27, 2005

More on books

Between thinking upon my favorite fiction, a friend who was cleaning out and getting rid of some books, and my latest search for some empty shelf space in which to create a Halloween village landscape, I've been noticing the books on my book cases.

For many years my shelves overwhelmingly were stocked with non-fiction. Lots of "how-to", resource, and informational books. A few essay types - on anything from Star Trek to Walton's Pond. The few fiction books I owned didn't fill half of one shelf. Why? Because I didn't generally BUY fiction. I borrowed it from a library. Or, even if I bought it, probably used, I read it and then gave it away. Why keep something that I wouldn't read again? Because generally, I never used to reread fiction.

That's changed. For one thing, I've become a connossieur of strange or unknown literature apparently. The kind of stuff it's hard to get at the library. So I have to track it down, order it from some obscure website (or nowadays, from Amazon) and after going through all that trouble, I'm sure as H-E-double hocky sticks not going to turn around and get rid of it again. Too much effort went into the finding of it.

Well, let's backtrack for a sec, for another more important thing, I'm READING fiction now. I used to read fiction to the same degree that I had it on my shelves. Too, I have more disposable income to purchase it - although I still look for used whenever possible. So let's go over this all again: I read fiction, I buy it, I stock up on it when I can find it used, I have a list a zillion feet long of titles and authors I'm looking for, and I tend to collect series or authors bodies of work. My ratio of keep-for-my-shelves to pass-on-as-pleasant-but-unforgettable is now probably about 3 or 4:1.

You can see I have a real storage problem in the works.

But I got off on a tangent there. I wasn't actually going to talk about my growing fiction collection. I was going to talk about those decades worth of shelves filled with non-fiction. Books we rarely crack open anymore except for a few favorites. Why? Well, duh, if you're reading this blog, you know why - THE INTERNET. I can't think of anything one can't find information on online. I wouldn't keep reference books at all except for sentimental value and the small but worrisome voice in the back of my head that is worried that some day the plug might blow and we'll all be computerless apes once again.

For several days now I've been browsing through the nonfiction shelves and it's been an interesting experience, a pleasant walk down memory lane, not to mention productive. Some of the books no longer interest me (The World of the Baby for example, a gift from my sister many years ago when I was baby crazy - now I'm happy to let my kids make babies for me to grandmother on occasion). Some I no longer need because they're too basic. How to plant a garden - uhm, I could write that book. Found a book on vitamin therapy - 30 years old - wanna bet that's completely useless information now?

Some were really fun to stumble upon for old time's sake. There was one called Country Kids, about the pleasures and pitfalls of raising kids in the country. It was written in the mid-70's and looked it - lots of moms in patchwork skirts, guys with long hair. I remember I loved looking at all the photos of families and childrens doing "country" things. I found it on the shelf today, browsed through it and realized that I didn't need the book because now, 30 years later, I have albums filled with photos of my very own children doing all those country things. Or if the camera wasn't clicking, I have the memories.

By the time I was done, I'd managed to get rid of at least two shelves worth of books. Very exciting. Of course, once I reshuffle things to accomodate the stacks of new fiction that I haven't had room for, and so I've piled and wedged them inconveniently in front of other shelves, I probably still won't find those elusive empty shelves I'm looking for.

Sigh. Books are like children - I can't imagine wanting to live without them, but I just wish they wouldn't take up so much space sometimes.

Monday, October 24, 2005

100 Best Novels

My friend Deb mentioned a Time Magazine's list of the "100 Best Novels since 1923" on her blog, and then proceeded to make her own list, which had few, if any, of the Time's list books on it. No, in fact she specifically didn't add them, although she'd only read a very few of them (ditto for me) so it's not like she/I could have much of an opinion on the majority of them anyway. Of the seven I have read, two of them would make my top reading list - The Lord of the Rings trilogy and To Kill a Mockingbird. The others I read only because they were required reading in some class somewhere along my educational path.

Anyhoo, being such a bibliophile, I couldn't help but want to make my own list. And in a funny coincidence, the kind that the universe is fond of creating, my friend Shelly and I were just talking about this very thing last night before I read Deb's blog this evening. We had been bouncing ideas back and forth about our forthcoming participation in the Nanowrimo project, where one writes 50,000 words, a novel, in one month - that month being this November, which will be here in just 7 days, four hours, 36 minutes - gulp. The conversation followed us out to the parking lot where we continued to stand, jacketless, in the cold and dark, talking about "good literature." And that's when Shelly asked the question - What two books would you pick that changed your life? Or something like that. We discussed whether books change ones life or simply influence you or what.... and I knew right away that I couldn't possibly pick two books. Instead she mentioned one book, then I added one, then she threw out another, then I remembered still another, and so on through several dozen titles until we both realized that we needed to still go to the market and eventually go back home to face our respective families.

So, in no particular order except the order in which they spring from my brain, which isn't necessarily the order in which I'd rate my need for them on a deserted island or the degree to which they've influenced me, are my favorite titles. Some have been life-changing, spiritually inspiring, or creatively awe-inspiring. Others are simply a damn fine read or a hoot and a half that can chase away the bluest blues.

My Favorite 100 Works of Fiction

The Lord of the Rings by J. R.R. Tolkein. I already mentioned this one. My love for it has to do with my absolute fascination with Tolkien's ability to create an ENTIRE world, complete with languages, history, and topography. Not to mention hobbits.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This book proves that even if you only have one book inside you to write, you should write it. My only frustration with this story is that I should have read it 30 plus years sooner.

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. This is a trilogy, the first book is called The Golden Compass. I adored the combination of fantasy, science and religion in this one. But what I hold most dear about it is after Joshua died, I found myself returning time and time again in my mind to a scene in the story where the dead are released from captivity, so that they were free to leave the state of individuality and return to the unity of the universe. It's a small moment in a very huge saga, but it brought me joy at a time when I didn't know if I'd ever feel joy again.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling. And of course the rest of the books that followed. It's all about loving the characters and the world they inhabit.

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. This book was handed to me by an much older cousin when I was only thirteen. It was the first adult book I ever read and so my fondness for it is in how it opened a door into new territory. Plus, how can one go through life without the ability to "grok" something.

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. A work of fiction, but it gave me the first clue that the divinity could be defined as feminine as well as masculine. And it was the first work that showed me that it's all about the perspective of the protaganist. Which is as true in real life as it is in a storybook.

Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne. I adored all four books as a child and at one point I had probably memorized most of the stories and poems. I remember some of my own first writing attempts were to create my own stories in the Hundred Acre Woods. And who doesn't love and know their own Eeyore. Or Tigger. Or Rabbit. Or Owl.....

The Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett. This might be my favorite in the series but truthfully I'd add the entire Discworld series to my list of favorites. There's nobody, in my opinion, who can be so funny and so wise at the same time. The other MUST mention titles in particular are two of his Young Adult titles: The Wee Free Men and A Hat Full of Sky.

The Wise Child by Monica Furlong. A children's book but I read it as an adult.

Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Anything by Samuel Clemens is worth reading of course, but Huckleberry has a special place in my heart.

Jane Eyre by of the Bronte sisters - don't make me go look this one up. Now I think the whole thing reads like any number of other angst riddled tragic romances, but at the time I read it I thought it was the most amazing thing I'd ever read and sooooo romantic. Hey, I was a teenager, what can I say. I have to add it to the list for sentimental purposes.

The Return of the Goddess by Elizabeth Cunningham. Any of her titles, really. They're all so different.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker. Here, you can borrow my box of tissues.

Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson. Unlike my friend Deb, who had a rule that it had to be a book she'd read more then once to make her list, I rarely read a book more then once, or at least I haven't in the past, so I can add this new title. It's one of those books that one reads the last page, closes the cover, holds the book close in your arms like a small child while you let the last of the tears fall, and then immediately set upon your friends and acquaintances with the fervor of a preacher in an attempt to get them to read "a good book".

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver. I read this book out of curiosity because it was banned from being used in an advanced English class at our local high school by a very conservative school board. Not only am I to this day confused at what about it they argued was inappropriate, but it became one of my favorite reads, along with the rest of her novels.

Geeze louise - this is a lot harder then I thought it would be. For one thing, I keep wanting to list children's books, but I don't think that was the original intent, or at least not my original intent. Maybe books we read as a child have a greater impact on us because we have less experiences yet and so the story is a greater part of the whole of what we then understand of the world. Maybe it's because as children we read with more receptivity, less editors and critics dancing around in our head adding their opinions. Too, I find I'm trying to think of favorite books and coming to a point where I want to list favorite authors instead, because a particular author HAS to be in this list but I can't pick just one title. Last, I keep thinking I'll finish, hit "publish post", and for days I'll have other books come to mind that I'll have to slap my palm on my forehead and go "duh!, how could I have not mentioned that one!"

I'm inclined to be gentle on myself, and change the rules midstream (if I had any, which I don't remember mentioning that I did) and so I'll finish this list with authors who I can't live without and have too many titles for me to choose between.

Forests of the Heart by Charles DeLint. Okay, so that was a title. But that might be my favorite of his work so far. That could easily change as I haven't even started on his work yet, but I will undoubtedly have to find time to read all his books, short stories, poems, or even grocery lists.

Charlaine Harris - her Southern Vampire series.

Laurell Hamilton - the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series - introduced me to the fun of reading about gore and sex and monsters and sometimes all three at once. What can I say, they are not great literature, but they are a great read.

Earlene Fowler - her Benni Harper Mystery series - the characters are folks you just can't live without "knowing"

Susan Wittig Albert - her China Bayles Mystery series - see above comment

Sherri Tepper - anything by Sherri Tepper

Alice Hoffman - I haven't read her last few adult titles, but when I first discovered her I ate up all her books and she was one of the first, if not the first, author I sought out and read through the body of their work on purpose. If we don't count Nancy Drew. Recently I've read only her new young adult titles. I don't know if I can pick a favorite - probably would have to go with Practical Magic since that's the first one I discovered.

Tanya Huff - her Summon the Keeper series

Ann Bishop - The trilogy that starts with The Pillars of the World

Mark Anthony - The First Rune series - a six book story

The Summer of the Monkeys by..... can't remember the author - yes, a children's book. But read it even if you're an adult. And no, watching the Disney movie will not be the same.

Tuck Everlasting - author?

Oh! (my first "duh! how could I have missed these" - and I'm not even done writing the list yet!) -

In the Land of Winter by Richard Grant


Tex and Molly in the Afterlife by Richard Grant

Like Water for Chocolate by whoever wrote it.

Nina Kiriki Hoffman - all her titles

Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare - and yes, I know, this is a play, NOT a novel. So sue me.

Hunter of the Light by Risa Aratyr - an old writing buddy of mine, this was her first, and as far as I know, last novel. Wish she'd kept publishing. Don't even know if this is still in print.

Okay, I give up. How many have I listed? One, two, three....thirty three. Only a third of the way there! ARgh! Then again, some of these mention a series or more then one title from the same author, so if I count that way, I'm sure it's way more than 100 books listed already. I know I've missed titles by the bucketful that shouldn't be missed. But this is HARD! I thought it would be easy peasy, but it's HARD!

Deb! It's all your fault! Waily waily!

But hey, at least I've stopped ignoring my blog, and that's one good thing.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

I hate football

No, I don't hate football. That's totally, completely, 100% false. I actually enjoy football. What I don't enjoy, is all the DRIVING that William's out of town football games entail. The home games (of which there are very few because no one wants to drive all the way to our small mountain hamlet - so much so that often they just cancel and forfeit the games on us if they have to drive here to play it) are fun. They involve a three hour commitment at most, and that's including getting the kid ready and dropping him off ahead of time and then going back and watching the entire game.

An away game, on the other hand......

It involves figuring out wake up, be on the road by, and arrive by times. It involves loading and unloading the car. It involves making lists and remembering what to load and unload. It involves fighting over what CD's to play on the long drive there and back. It involves, most of all, the long drive there and back. It means lining up someone to watch our Rosie girl while we're gone - can't expect a chihuahua to "hold it" for eight to ten hours. (no, we can't take her with us - they made a No Dogs Allowed rule for the game JUST this year. GRRRR.)

It also means finding ways to fill the time between when William has to be there for weigh-in and practice, and when the game actually starts, usually two hours. And there's the game, sitting on the visitor's bleachers which are traditionally as comfortable as sitting on a pile of lava rocks while always facing directly INTO the setting sun. Which reminds me - note to myself: Remember to bring a brimmed hat this time!

Bottom line, an away game means instead of a few enjoyable hours cheering my youngest progeny on to victory (they're undefeated), it's an ALL DAY COMMITMENT. And wouldn't you know it, but somehow, it's always on a day when I am certain I would have taken my productivity to great heights if only I wasn't having to commit to all that "family time." Yes. Amazing how coincidentally, that.

Gotta run. Go dig out that brimmed hat, check my pile of things-to-put-in-the-car, make sure William has all his equipment, no last minute missing butt pad or anything, check for gas, coffee, last minute bathroom use..... See you all when I'm another day older.