Tag Archives: young adult

10 Books That Are Important To Me

This thing was going around on Facebook, and One Classy Dame tagged me to do it, but I felt like it deserved slightly more space and thought than just a Facebook status or note.

Then I forgot about it for a month.

But I remembered. And so I thought I would share with you 10 books that have been important in my life.

Dollanganger01_FlowersInTheAttic1. Flowers in the Attic by VC Andrews. I found a copy of this book in my grandma’s house when I was about 9 years old, and it set me on a course of trashy romance novels, from which I’ve never fully recovered. I’m sure I would have turned out to be an entirely different person, had I not discovered these types of books. I certainly wouldn’t have been the sixth-grader who took them to school so my friends could also read the trashy parts. (Yikes.)

2. Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery / Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Two wonderful books, particularly for young girls, written by excellent female writers. I was deep in my VC Andrews phase when my parents got me a copy of each of these books for Christmas, and I remember being vaguely disappointed. (I’m really sorry, Mom and Dad!) But then I read the books, and I liked them. I reread both of these books in 2013 and they’re even better than I remembered.

3. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg. The first time I’ve ever liked a book and a movie adaptation, as separate things. It happens rarely…but it happens.

4. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Okay, this is kind of a long story but bear with me. When I was younger, we made a lot of movies. Not exactly home movies, because it wasn’t stuff like birthday parties and Christmas morning. We would make movies for class projects or just for fun. And I remember making some kind of movie, where I – as a middle schooler – was reading The Grapes of Wrath to my little brother, who was at that point maybe…10 years old? I have no idea what this was for. And we kept cutting away to show the clock ticking forward, and I’d be further in the book, and my brother would be more and more bored. And finally by the time I read the last lines, I think he was gone maybe? Or just asleep? I don’t remember. Anyway, at the time of making that movie, I tried to read The Grapes of Wrath, and I was SO BORED. Then, in my junior year of high school, we read it in my English class…and I loved it. I couldn’t understand why, just a few short years before, I hadn’t gotten into it. So, to me, this book is a solid representation of growing up and maturing.

5. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. It’s held a spot on my favorite books list for the last, like, 15 years. Barbara Kingsolver offered me an eloquent way to express the feelings I was having about faith in high school. I printed out a quote from the book and had it stapled to my wall along with everything else in the world that I thought defined me. (The “it” in the first line is the Bible, by the way.)

photo (7)Thank goodness I had the presence of mind to not print in an artsy font.

6. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. My first exposure to nonfiction humor. Before that, I assumed “nonfiction” meant “history book” or “book on how to refinish a dresser.” David Sedaris, a gem in and of himself, opened up an entirely new world of reading to me.

7. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. The first time I ever cried while reading. You know what I’m talking about.

8. You’re Not You by Michelle Wildgen. I don’t know anyone else who’s read this book, and I don’t remember how I found it, but I’m obsessed with it. The writing is incredible, it’s gorgeous to read, you just know she labored over crafting every sentence. Plus, the plot is enthralling. (I actually just discovered there’s a movie coming out this year, with Emmy Rossum and Hilary Swank, and yes I’ll totally watch it.)

9. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth MD. I read a bunch of parenting books when I was pregnant, to prepare myself, and then I read a bunch of books on dealing with an infant, when I had an infant. This was the first book that I got partway into…and just had to toss out the window. There was so much BS in it, and I figured I had two choices: I could either throw it all away, or I could go crazy trying to follow all these rules to have the perfect child. This book represents my revelation that you read some books, you talk to some people, you do what works for you. And everything will be all right.

10. The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. I know…it’s cheating. But these books (all seven of them) feel like family to me. Like, I know there are some minor plot holes. I know that some people have complaints about them. I know they’re totally overexposed. And I DON’T CARE. To me, they are perfect. I have all these memories: of reading The Sorcerer’s Stone for the first time and realizing this was something great; of sitting, waiting for the mail when the fifth book was coming out, and reading it all in a day; of Drew declaring his intention to read them all out loud to me once I was pregnant. (For the record, we are on the seventh book – it’s slower going now, but we’re still making progress.) These books are ingrained in my adolescent and adult life…and I’m proud of that.

HP collectionA set of hardcover for posterity; a set of paperback for actual reading; and some spares.

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Filed under Awesome, Books, Children, Fiction, Love, Memoir, Nonfiction, Sentiment, Writing

ISON as we know it

The other day, my dad asked me whether I’d heard about this comet. I had, in fact, just noticed the super bright…star? Venus? incredibly slow-moving plane? in the sky that night.

My dad was not super clear on the specifics of the comet, so I had to do a bit of googling. And here’s what I’ve concluded:

1. The comet’s name is ISON.

2. In the next month, it will either a) fly around the sun and away again; b) melt to oblivion when it gets too close to the sun; or c) crash into the sun.

3. I probably don’t have to be afraid of it.

4. But I still wish people wouldn’t say things like, “There is absolutely, positively, 100% no way that ISON will have any effect on earth.” That just seems like asking for trouble.

Because here’s the thing. Comets remind me of a book called Life As We Knew It, written by Susan Beth Pfeffer. It’s a YA novel, so naturally it’s the first of a trilogy. A trilogy about a regular, everyday comet that crashed into the moon, and surprisingly, knocks the moon closer to the earth, which interferes with the tides, volcanoes, etc etc etc. I had such anxiety while I was reading this series, which is all told in diary entries. From the characters realizing something is wrong, and rushing to the grocery store to stock up on canned and nonperishable food, to volcanoes covering the earth in a layer of ash so no food can grow, to a terrible, terrible scene in an elevator…this series gave me super bad dreams. I still think about the story all the time (obviously).

I so wish we had a pantry that I could pack with bottled water and canned goods. I’m sure this is nothing. But still.

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Filed under Being a girl, Books, Dreams, Fiction, Not awesome

For Narnia

I recently finished reading the Narnia Chronicles. Confession: I often imply to people that I have read these books before, “when I was younger.” False. I think at some point my dad started reading them to me, but I don’t think we made it past The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. And I’m pretty sure we skipped The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, because I complained that I had seen the movie so many times.

It’s not like I didn’t like the movie. But you know how it is when you’re a kid and you have those movies that you’ve seen so many times you know every single inflection of dialogue, and you don’t remember not knowing them.

Which means we read Prince Caspian and Dawn Treader.

While implying to people, “I read those when I was younger,” I also implied, “I don’t really care for them.” But it’s not like I could explain why.

And now, I’m ashamed. Because as I started reading (and then devouring) them, I have come to the realization that I either didn’t ever read these books, or I fell asleep as soon as my dad started reading, or I was just flat out not paying attention. I don’t remember a single thing – which I assumed I would: distantly, from 20+ years ago. I don’t remember these characters or themes or conflict.

And I found them really compelling and interesting, not only for everything they symbolize but also for the actual stories themselves. They’re fun to read, they’re super quick but they’re not fluffy. I actually really like the Christian symbolism in the book. And as soon as I finished reading, I jumped over to the internet to read Neil Gaiman’s story, “The Problem of Susan.”

The books belong to Drew – he has had this particular box set since he was 10 years old, and it’s moved with us several times over the past years. But I’ve always just stuck it on the top shelf with his historical biographies and ignored it.

Then, for my book club, a friend picked The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – and as a companion, a book called The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia, by Laura Miller. Miller talks about more than just LWW and it made me really curious about them. At the same time, I wished that my book club had just elected to read the entirety of the Narnia Chronicles, since it’s only about 1500 pages total. We’ve tackled worse.

So I decided that I would read them all on my own – partly so I could hold my own in conversation with four other people who, I’m sure, have all read the Chronicles multiple times. And partly because I wasn’t in love with Miller’s book, and I wanted to supplement this month’s book choice.

So now I’m a little obsessed. I tore through the books. And yet, hearing from others how their experiences changed between reading the Chronicles as a kid, and reading them as an adult, maybe I’m glad I’m just getting around to them now. There’s nothing for them to live up to, and I can’t be let down by any childhood heroes. And I can fully enjoy the religion of the books without feeling like I got tricked into it.

At least now I get why my dad wanted to read them to me. Because they are awesome. I will totally read them to my kid some day.

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Filed under Books, Children, Memoir, Nonfiction, Parents

Book Club

I have this kind of bossy friend. And she has taken it upon herself to organize a book club among several people in the Bay Area, who haven’t managed to get it together amongst ourselves. There are five of us – four girls and one guy.

 (I was going to write “women and man,” but that felt really weird, so I changed it back. “Girls and guy” feels okay – although it’s more awkward written out than it would be if I just said it. I always wonder what to say. “Chicks and dude.” “Ladies and gent.” I don’t know.)

Four of us are XX and one is XY. We live all up and down the peninsula. We are all busy enough that we needed this one kind of bossy friend to make us all commit to doing this thing.

The rules are: we trade off choosing books, and you have to choose something that no one has read yet.

Our first book is Divergent by Veronica Roth – a young adult book along the same dystopian themes as Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. (Speaking of The Hunger Games, have you seen the trailer yet?? The movie comes out in March and my coworkers and I can’t wait!) Divergent is about a society in which everyone is divided into factions: Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Erudite (the intelligent), and Dauntless (the brave). You choose your faction when you’re 16 and factions are stronger than blood. If you fall out of a faction (the factionless), you’re essentially homeless and you have very little food and clothing and you have a sucky job.

I do think she is sort of jumping on the Hunger Games bandwagon – but better that than the Twilight bandwagon, amirite?

I haven’t had much time to read yet – but so far I really, really like it. I think it’s going to make for some very interesting conversation when we finally get it together and all five of us sit down and talk about our feelings. I’ve been trying to figure out what faction I would choose, and I currently have no idea. I mean, I’m only 125 pages in (out of almost 500). It makes the main character very sympathetic.

I’m pretty stoked about having a book club. I have been wanting to have one – but not wanting necessarily to join someone else’s and abide by their rules and choices. The kind of bossy leader of our club says that it’s my turn to choose next. I’m debating between Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer and Augusten Burroughs’ Possible Side Effects or something completely different.

I’m open to suggestions – although I think Augusten Burroughs would be really fun for everyone. Book club ftw!

(Sorry, you-know-who, I kid. Your bossyness is great! Love you!)

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Filed under Beginnings, Being a girl, Books, Friends, Self improvement