Tag Archives: fiction

On Re-Reading

3 Feb

I often find myself wanting to re-read texts I read and was moved by as a younger adult. It is a delicate thing to do and I am wont to approach texts I have already read with apprehension. There are some books that should belong to our youth and remain there. To re-read a text which has touched us so intimately as to help form us in our younger years is a dangerous, often double-edged sword.

It is whimsical of me to believe that texts come to us at certain moments in our lives for a reason. A personal quirk of mine but I have found that so often a book that I have been meaning to read calls to me at certain moments in my life when I need it the most. So, to re-read a text like this can be disillusioning first of all. To read something at a time when it is not calling to you can make the text seem less magical, less important.

Lately, however, I have been feeling called to a nostalgic reading life. In conversations with friends on books I have loved that I wish they would read and love as well, I am drawn to these texts which found their way into my heart. There are some books which I habitually read every few years or so: The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, and New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton (though it has been far too long for this last title to be re-read).

These are my favorites, ones which every time I revisit welcome me back with open and loving arms. But there are others which I have re-read that lose their luster the more I read them: Catcher in the Rye by Salingers, The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald, and, often, books I read as a child (The Secret Garden was much different than I remember).

I decided to give it a try again and I just finished re-reading “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin. A novella I read in undergrad, in a Women’s Lit class I’m assuming. I remember reading this book through a feminist lens. I still believe it but as a young 20-something, and I don’t know how it is possible, I missed just how torturous it was for Edna to fall in love with Robert. Maybe it is my life experiences which have taught me more about life and love, but when I first read this I didn’t understand why she swam out to the ocean.

In this second reading, I felt almost compelled to cry for Edna at her tragic position in life. A woman who longs to be free to love who she wants, to be set free by divorce to be with the man she has fallen in love, but who can never be free. She cannot live her life as a free woman and having found her new independence and freedom so good, realizes that without it she cannot live any longer.

It’s incredibly depressing, of course, but in those moments when she is living in her delusions in her own little house–her room of her own–and she flourishes in her art, in herself, in growing and becoming her own person–we see that it is worth it to live a life like that. We take from Edna a thirst for living our lives on our own terms, to taking our bad decisions and doing our best to move forward and do what we can to get back on the path we first started.

I am so glad that I re-read this book and I’m looking forward to taking a chance on some other books I read when I was young and naive.

Halloween reads for the rest of us

13 Oct

I have a small book club–literally a total of three people–and two of the three LOVE the horror genre. I’m the kind of reader who is usually up for anything (let’s leave my past bookish snobbery for another post) and I pride myself in trying to at least give something new a chance (but let’s be honest–you’ve read one Nicholas Sparks book you’ve read them all). However, when my dear friends want to choose certain books (IT, The Shining, anything by Stephen King) I have to politely remind them I will slowly die on the inside from the nightmares I’m worried I’ll have. Call it an overactive imagination or call it the inability to grow up, I have a hard time reading horror. I’m slowly getting better and I think someday I’ll be able to read something scary–but I will never be able to WATCH it. Because of my aversion to all things scary I’ve had to get creative when it comes to reading books in October to get me in the spirit of the season.

Here is a list of books I’d like to recommend for those readers who love Hallowe’en as much as I do but really don’t like the part of Halloween that involves serial killers that hide in your house ready to attack you while you’re watching a movie and eating a snack wearing only your skimpiest nightgown (because hey, it’s laundry day):

1. The Graveyard Book : I just finished reading this for the first time and I think it’s going to become the book I read every October. Like Hocus Pocus (the classic film from my childhood I will love until I die) there is enough ghosts, ghouls, and witches for me to feel in the Hallowe’en spirit. Please give this book a chance—though Gaiman wrote this as a children’s book and he won the Newbery Medal, remember that he also won a Hugo and when it comes to Neil Gaiman’s writing–reader’s of all ages will appreciate his epic storytelling. Nobody Owens will soon be your favorite graveyard friend.

2. The Bone Season: I will write more about this adventurous read about a clairvoyant living in an alternate future London in a different post but this book is perfect for the season. There are creatures that behave more like Vampires than humans, mysterious monsters that bite off arms and legs in the dark, and of course, people who can talk to ghosts and hurl spirits at other people. While all of this might sound scary, the scary moments aren’t psychologically disturbing enough to keep you up at night. Shannon’s writing, however, will.

3. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly This book follows the story of David who is a young boy mourning the loss of his Mother. David so hates his new stepmother and the baby she bears that he makes a deal with a mysterious man to take the baby. David travels to the mysterious storybook land in the forest behind his house in search of this man who wishes to make David king. Full of fairytale allusions and great adventure–this is a great book to read around the last campfires of the year.

4. Toward the Gleam by T.M. Doran This is a smaller publication but one that I love dearly. A friend of my father’s wrote this book and I can’t recommend it enough! The story is this: a man is recovering after between the two world wars in the countryside when he falls into a cave during a storm. Almost losing his life the man discovers a box that is mysterious in construction and language and the man concludes it could be the treasure of a long lost civilization. With allusions to The Lord of the Rings and adventure stories of the classics, Doran takes us on a mysterious journey following John Hill, the box he finds and the language he tries to translate while trying to piece together the death threats he receives and the conclusions he ultimately makes. A real page-turner!!

5. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde This book creeped me out. The film that was released a few years ago does the book justice and was great to watch after reading this book. I highly recommend picking this one up (or, picking it up again) during the month of October. You will never look at a painting the same way again!

6. After Dark by Haruki Murakami Granted, this one doesn’t have anything to do with ghosts are ghouls, but like “The Picture of Dorian Gray” I’m including it for the creep factor. This novel takes place in Tokyo at night. Always at night. The novel follows those who don’t sleep, those who can’t sleep, and those who have been sleeping for a long time. 

7. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis A book about the correspondences between a devil and his novice nephew, this book isn’t just for Christians. Just keep reminding yourself who’s doing the writing!

8.The Magicians by Lev Grossman I think in the beginning of the book the season is fall or autumn so I will always think of this novel as a good October book. Plus, it’s about magic being real! Bonus: Harry Potter for adults–it doesn’t get any better than this, unless Grossman ever writes #3 in this trilogy!

9. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern This is one of those books probably everyone has already read because it’s just so enchanting and begs to be made into a film ASAP. If you haven’t read this one yet get to it–it’s about star crossed lovers who are in a magical competition against each other–a dual to the death led by their teachers who refuse to tell them much of anything except that they will die when it’s over. READ IT NOW. Morgenstern is a magician herself with imagery and I felt lost for days longing for this to be a real thing.

10.Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger This is a good book to read before or after “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman as Neil himself (ha, get it!) consulted with Audrey on graveyards. This is a spooky read about twins and their aunt who is a master manipulator in death as a ghost. The plot is just too good to care much about there being ghosts and it won’t leave you feeling creeped out because of them–just creeped out by their awful aunt.

 

Bonus: John Dies at the End by David Wong and Touch by Alexi Zentner

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

6 Apr

I don’t usually listen to audiobooks, especially after my horrible experience trying to listen to “The Hunger Games.” However, I just began my first professional job as a Librarian and my first job was to purchase new and older audiobook titles (I am now buying new fiction but that’s a different post). Because I want to be a good Librarian, I decided that I should actually become a little familiar with my collection so that I could better talk about it and make more useful recommendations to read. So, I decided to listen to “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore” by Robin Sloan. Ari Fliakos narrates this book masterfully!

I know that it was mostly Sloan’s writing so I”ll talk about this: AWESOME. The book is about books, bookstores, technology, the meeting of physical books and ebooks, and, of course, a cult. Every bit of this book was exciting, even when Sloan’s characters were discussing technical things like information technology, databases, typography, and graphic design. Which is something else the book does: it walks the line between being only interesting to a type of a person and being appealing to everyone.

Clay Jannon is a great narrator and a useful character in this book to follow. Clay is the main character but he is more than that, he’s us. As Clay learns so we learn. As Clay sees, we see. I have every confidence that Clay is reliable and honest with me and I appreciated that. Clay is out of a job and so desperate that he stumbles into a job as a clerk at Mr. Penumbra’s used bookstore.

This used bookstore, of course, is not like any other bookstore you would usually encounter. This bookstore is open 24 hours a day, has a secret back room full of old books written in some kind of code while the front of the store sells unusually pristine newer books to customers. Clay is expected to write details about the members of the bookclub that come in to check out books from the back room.

Clay is curious and so are we and what happens when Clay starts to look around and discover as much as he can about Mr. Penumbra’s bookstore is where the story takes off and we are taken to places like Google’s campus, a storage facility full of historical artifacts no one wants, and an underground cave in New York. There is a medieval cult and intrigue and, of course, a cute girl who knows her way around a computer.

I can’t tell you more because it will eek out the fun of reading this delightful book. Pair this book with “Ready Player One” and “Shades of Grey” for the adventure and total immersion in a world and “The Magicians” for a story that will make you wish it were real. And of course read “The Manual of Detection” for the same world of twists, turns, codes, and mystery.

Related reads: “The Manual of Detection” by Jedediah Berry, “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline, “Shades of Grey” by Jasper Fforde, “The Magicians” by Lev Grossman,