Love love love this!
p.s. I will try to do an actual post sometime soon. It’s been way too long since my last one.
Maybe I’m weird (okay, I’m definitely weird), but whenever someone asks me to pick a favorite book I feel like a parent asked to name their favorite child (at least that’s what I imagine it feels like.) It’s too difficult to pick just one. There are so many books that I love that speak to different parts of my soul. I love them all in different ways for different reasons.
For this post I’ve decided to highlight a few of my very favorite books, in no particular order. Trust me, there are a ton more, but I’ll save them for another post.
#1 – Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
“There must be something in books, something we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.” -Guy Montag
If you haven’t read this book, please do so. When I was younger my grandmother recommended it to me and I was a little bit leery because she and I didn’t always share the same interests or see to eye to eye on everything (looking back, that was silly. She was an amazing woman and I wish I had had more time to learn from her while she was alive.) But I figured what the hell, may as well give it a chance. And wow. This book will stick in your brain forever. General plot: set in the future in a time where books are outlawed and if found, they are destroyed. A firefighter (the main character) whose job is to burn the books slowly starts to realize that what they’re all doing and how they’re living their lives is insane. The people of this time spend all of their free time sucked into their giant wall-sized televisions and no-longer value knowledge or free-thinking. In fact, anyone who is known to act that way is regarded as dangerous. It’s a powerful warning of what could happen to our species if we continue on the road we’re on. I love Ray Bradbury, and this book is definitely one of my favorite “children”. Go read it. Now, I say!
#2 – The Portable Dorothy Parker edited by Marion Meade
“The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue.” -Dorothy Parker
Dorothy Parker is one of my all-time favorite Badass Women. She was well-known for her sarcasm and wit. She was a famous member of the Algonquin Round Table and spent a lot of time there sharing pithy remarks and witty barbs with her counterparts including Alexander Woollcott and Robert Benchley. This book is an excellent compilation of her short stories and poems. A lot of them are about relationships (it’s pretty obvious from reading them that hers did not go so well) and are quite funny, even if usually pessimistic in nature. I admire Dorothy in a lot of ways and envy her quick-thinking and “I don’t give a shit what you think of me” attitude. If you like this book, you should also check out Marion Meade’s biography of Ms. Parker titled What Fresh Hell is This? Regrettably, I have yet to read all of it, but what I have read is very informative.
#3 – The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
“To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.” -Albus Dumbledore
Okay so who doesn’t love Harry Potter? If you don’t you can just join the crazies who don’t like dogs and get out because you’re obviously a whackadoodle. Seriously though, these books are incredibly near and dear to my heart. Oddly enough, I never read them when I was younger. I have no idea why. Maybe I was just being a contrarian and didn’t want to try them because they were so popular. Who knows. I also spent a lot of time reading books that were well-past my age group and consequently missed out on a lot of great young adult books (many of which I’ve spent time reading as an adult and absolutely adore them.) Nevertheless, when I started college the last book in the series had recently come out and I when I told my new friends that I hadn’t read the books or watched the movies they were shocked (and rightly so, crazy past Meg). The summer after my freshman year I gave in and borrowed the series from my cousin. I binged on them on my front porch for an entire month. I laughed. I cried. I lived and breathed Harry Potter for that month. Those books and that world became a part of me. If you’ve read and loved them, then you understand. If you haven’t then I urge you to read these books. The movies are great, yes, but it’s not the same as reading the books and fully immersing yourself in that universe. These stories touch on so many aspects of life- family, friends, love, good vs. evil, sacrifice, death, rights of others (I love you, Dobby!), etc. It touched me enough that I even got a tattoo of the Deathly Hallows, and will possibly get other HP-related tattoos in the future. I’ve read the whole series twice and want to make time to read them again soon. Sometimes you just need some time to escape reality and go back to Hogwarts.
#4 – The Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine
“Read. Read. Read. Just don’t read one type of book. Read different books by various authors so that you develop different styles.” – R.L. Stine
Go ahead and laugh, but these books changed my life. I distinctly remember (and my memory is usually very shitty) a family friend giving me my first Goosebumps book when I was in the second grade. It was The Haunted Mask, and as corny as this is probably going to sound, my life has never been the same since that moment. That was a game-changer, baby. This was the book that turned me into the bookworm that I am today. I enjoyed reading before that, but this is when I fell head-over-heels in love. I devoured every book in that series and haven’t looked back. I no longer have any of the books *sadface* but I’m longing for the day that I find some at a yard sale or flea market and can buy as many as possible. I don’t think I’d ever actually read them again, the stories seem a little silly and are not at all scary as an adult, but I’d like to have them anyways. Hopefully my future children are bookworms too and would want to read them.
#5 – To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” – Atticus Finch
Regrettably, I haven’t read this book since my freshman year of high school. It keeps taunting me from my bookshelf, beckoning me to read it again since I will surely get more out of it now that I am older and wiser (HA!) I think the fact that I haven’t read it in over ten years (good god I’m getting old) and it still made it to this list is a testament to the character of this book. It’s that good. In case you haven’t read it, the book is about a young girl growing up in Alabama in 1936 and her father, a lawyer, who is representing a black man in court. The man is accused of raping a white woman, and the story follows the trial and how the people of the town react. This is another game-changer. It tackles themes of racism, judgement of others, courage, justice, and just overall growing up. We hear a lot about racism, and however you feel about it (if you want to spout racist crap, please do it elsewhere) you should still read this book regardless. Seeing it from a child’s point of view is incredibly powerful. And Atticus Finch is such a great character. It took a lot of courage and bravery to do what he did. If you haven’t read this book yet, please do yourself and add it to your list. I definitely need to grab my copy and re-read it asap.
Well, I hope you all liked my list. These books mean the world to me. My to-read list is astronomical and in all likelihood I won’t get to read them all before I die *doublesadface*. However, these books are so good that I plan on reading them multiple times.
What are some of your favorites?
Last month my mom recommended the book Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline to me. She said she read practically the entire book in one sitting so I knew it was worth a try.
The book is about a troubled teenage girl named Molly who has been in and out of foster care her entire life. At the present she is in trouble for stealing a library book and has to complete community service. She manages to do this by helping a wealthy elderly woman, Vivian, clean out her attic. These two seemingly vastly different individuals get to know each other, and as Vivian sees and touches items from her past she tells Molly the stories behind them- the stories of her life. The book switches back and forth from the present (which was the year 2011) and Vivian’s past, starting in 1929.
Vivian immigrated to America as a child from Ireland around 1929. Her family had little very little money and just barely got by. After an unfortunate incident, Vivian (birth name Niamh, pronounced “Neev”) was left orphaned and abandoned in New York City. She had no way of getting back to her remaining family in Ireland and no one in the states to care for her. At this time in NYC there was a big problem with what to do with children like Niamh. Many were living on the streets and getting into trouble; some even ended up in jails with adult criminals. The Children’s Aid Society was founded and it, along with the New York Foundling Hospital, sought to find refuge and care for these children. That leads us to the so-called Orphan Trains.
Children of all ages would be piled into close quarters in a train headed for the mid-west. Ahead of time flyers would be hung up in various cities announcing the impending arrival of the orphans to try to stir up interest of the local citizens to harbor one or more of the children.
Upon arrival at these cities, the children would be lined up like cattle and inspected by the interested townspeople. The infants were usually chosen first, while the older kids were often sought to be used as apprentices or servants; it was up to the families whether or not to officially adopt the children or take them in to be a part of their family. Some people at these auction-like events even went so far as to inspect a child’s teeth or musculature to make sure they could handle heavy labor.
Vivian recants to Molly about her various experiences with different families she lived with growing up in this situation. Most experiences were dreadful and you couldn’t help but feeling terrible for poor helpless Niamh. I don’t want to give too much away, but obviously Niamh grows up to be Vivian and she does well for herself.
Sharing these stories bring Molly and Vivian closer together- Molly herself feeling abandoned most of her life. They become kindred spirits of sorts. Overall I’d have to say that this was a very interesting and heart-warming story. This is a part of history that I don’t ever recall learning about it in school and I feel like a lot of others might not be aware of it either. It was fascinating to get a glimpse into that particular part of history and see it through the eyes (albeit, fictional eyes, but they still seemed accurate from what I can tell) of someone actually experiencing it. The story can be heart-wrenching in parts, but I definitely recommend it; it’s certainly a page-turner.
If you’re interesting in learning more about the orphan trains (besides just using Google, obviously) you can visit the National Orphan Train Complex and research center in Concordia, Kansas. They have records of people who passed through on the trains and all kinds of pictures and memorabilia and information. Who knows, maybe you even have a relative who was involved somehow. If I’m ever in that area I’d love to check it out.
If you give Orphan Train a read let me know how you like it. I’d love to hear other views on it.
I hope everyone has a great weekend!