Tuesday, April 30, 2013

26 Books That Changed My Life: #26 Children's Books



Z:  Zeitgeist of my youth (or the cultural codes of children's literature)

My mother divided all the books up
and gave each of us a big stack. I got this book...
and couldn't be more excited!
I thought I would spend the month of April delving into the literature that has made me the person I am today.

1] In this list you will find some of my favorite books, but you will also find books that I appreciate and books that I would recommend although they may not be my favorite. These are books that changed my way of thinking or my way of looking the world. These are books that helped solidify the core of who I am.
2] These books are in order of the theme that I came away with not alphabetical by title or author.

About this book from Wikipedia:

Children's literature or juvenile literature includes stories, books, and poems that are enjoyed by and targeted primarily towards children. Modern children's literature is classified in two different ways—by genre or by the intended age of the reader.
One can trace children's literature back to the stories and songs, part of a wider oral tradition, that adults shared with children before publishing existed. The development of early children's literature (before printing was invented) is difficult to trace. Even after printing became widespread, many classic "children's" tales were originally created for adults and later adapted for a younger audience. On the other hand, since the 1400s, a large quantity of literature—often with a moral or religious message—has been aimed specifically at children. The late nineteenth and early twentieth century became known as the Golden Age of Children's Literature since it included the publication of many books acknowledged today as classics.


Publication Date:  various years

Why these books:
To be these books embody the 1980s, add to this list such wonderful cartoons as the Smurfs, the Monchichi's and Rainbow Brite and you've got my youth wrapped up in a tasty shell of awesome.

In Sheldon's Lunch and Popcorn, I learned that you can have too much of a good thing. In The Purple Pussycat, a book I taught my sister to read, I learned that nighttime is just as exciting as the daytime. Mr. Pengachoosa taught me that there's always time for adventure and fantasy is fun. But, No Elephants taught me the value of home and family. In Chrysanthemum, a book I bought for my niece, I learned that every is different and it's these differences that make us cool. I bought my daughter Pete the Cat after I read it to her so many times at Barnes and Noble that I felt we needed to own it. We sing the song a lot...everything is groovy and don't sweat it when it's not. Hmm...that's a lesson that we could all take to heart.

Of course, as a grown-up looking back at all of this I wonder what the adults in the 1980s thought of the children and I really do wonder what lessons they were trying to teach us subliminally...I mean, come on snakes that eat pancakes and bears that go to fancy balls!?


And...I don't really have enough words to describe how in love I am with all the Serendipity books...
especially Leo the Lop


Monday, April 29, 2013

26 Books that Changed My Life: #25 Twenty Boy Summer

Y: You Can't Run Away Forever


I thought I would spend the month of April delving into the literature that has made me the person I am today.

1] In this list you will find some of my favorite books, but you will also find books that I appreciate and books that I would recommend although they may not be my favorite. These are books that changed my way of thinking or my way of looking the world. These are books that helped solidify the core of who I am.
2] These books are in order of the theme that I came away with not alphabetical by title or author.

About this book:

"Don’t worry, Anna. I’ll tell her, okay? Just let me think about the best way to do it."
"Okay."
"Promise me? Promise you won’t say anything?"
"Don’t worry.” I laughed. “It’s our secret, right?"


According to Anna’s best friend, Frankie, twenty days in Zanzibar Bay is the perfect opportunity to have a summer fling, and if they meet one boy every day, there’s a pretty good chance Anna will find her first summer romance. Anna lightheartedly agrees to the game, but there’s something she hasn’t told Frankie–she’s already had her romance, and it was with Frankie’s older brother, Matt, just before his tragic death one year ago.

TWENTY BOY SUMMER explores what it truly means to love someone, what it means to grieve, and ultimately, how to make the most of every beautiful moment life has to offer.


Publication Date:  2009

Why this book:
35 years ago my brother died in a car accident, I was  a little over a year old, he was three. I don't remember much about him, save one strange memory of him standing outside the car entertaining me while my mom pumps and pays for gas. I recall the car, the sun sparkling off of the metal on the window and the smell of the summer day mingling with the smell of the gasoline. And, of course, I have the stories, of how he called me Finnie Shell for Stephanie Michelle, how he would chase me around the house, how he could make me laugh...it hurts that I only have these stories and not their memories.

3 years ago I gave birth to a tiny person, I was a little over 33 years old, she was a surprise. I remember everything about the night I found out I was pregnant, everything about the day the doctor confirmed it, showing us the ultrasound of our little girl already 5 months in the making and every moment anxiously awaiting her arrival. And, of course, I have the stories, of how she calls me Mommy and Mom and sometimes Mommy Stephanie, how she comes to school with me on Saturday Publication work days, how she makes me laugh...it hurts to realize I used to think my life was complete without her.

It's these two people, the brother I never knew and the person I didn't know who could make me, well, a better me, that I think about when I think about Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler.

So, reading this book I cried like a baby...I cried in a way that let me know that I probably hadn't mourned properly for a brother I hardly knew, and I realized the reasons why I reacted the way I did when my aunt passed away. There are so many realistic ways the characters act in this book.

More on that here.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

26 Books that Changed My Life: #24 Little Women

X: XOXO-Love is the Answer, You Know That for Sure

I thought I would spend the month of April delving into the literature that has made me the person I am today.

1] In this list you will find some of my favorite books, but you will also find books that I appreciate and books that I would recommend although they may not be my favorite. These are books that changed my way of thinking or my way of looking the world. These are books that helped solidify the core of who I am.
2] These books are in order of the theme that I came away with not alphabetical by title or author.

About this book from BN:
LITTLE WOMEN concerns the lives and loves of four sisters growing up during the American Civil War, and was based on Alcott's own experiences as a child in Concord, Massachusetts. After much demand, Alcott wrote a sequel, Good Wives, which is often published together with Little Women as if it were a single work. Good Wives picks up three years after the events in the last chapter of Little Women, and includes characters and events often felt by fans to be essential to the story.

Publication Date:  first published in 1868 and 1869

Why this book:
I have always concerned myself Jo. When I was younger and Jo didn't marry Laurie I was sad when she did not. I've learned over time that Laurie is not the man who would have pushed her to become even stronger than she already was; he is, however, the man who loved her and she loved him. I have learned that we need more than love and affection to thrive. I also understand that the Professor didn't really complete her either.

And, I understand this makes me part of a certain generation, but I really like the Winona Ryder version and, especially like how Christian Bale played Laurie.

More about that here, here and here.

Friday, April 26, 2013

26 Books that Changed My Life: #23 Stories I Only Tell My Friends

W: Write Your Own Story

I thought I would spend the month of April delving into the literature that has made me the person I am today.

1] In this list you will find some of my favorite books, but you will also find books that I appreciate and books that I would recommend although they may not be my favorite. These are books that changed my way of thinking or my way of looking the world. These are books that helped solidify the core of who I am.
2] These books are in order of the theme that I came away with not alphabetical by title or author.

About this book from Goodreads:
A teen idol at fifteen, an international icon and founder of the Brat Pack at twenty, and one of Hollywood's top stars to this day, Rob Lowe chronicles his experiences as a painfully misunderstood child actor in Ohio uprooted to the wild counterculture of mid-seventies Malibu, where he embarked on his unrelenting pursuit of a career in Hollywood.

The Outsiders placed Lowe at the birth of the modern youth movement in the entertainment industry. During his time on The West Wing, he witnessed the surreal nexus of show business and politics both on the set and in the actual White House. And in between are deft and humorous stories of the wild excesses that marked the eighties, leading to his quest for family and sobriety.

Never mean-spirited or salacious, Lowe delivers unexpected glimpses into his successes, disappointments, relationships, and one-of-a-kind encounters with people who shaped our world over the last twenty-five years. These stories are as entertaining as they are unforgettable.


Publication Date:  2011

Why this book:
This is the first celebrity memoir that I've read that isn't some sort of juicy tell all about all the people the celebrity has slept with and all the drunken parties and drug binges the author took part in with other celebrities.

I will not lie. I first picked up this book because I love Rob Lowe. No, really, I love him...sure, I don't know him, but there is some deep love. I realize, now after finishing this book, that the reason I love him is the fact that even though he's 12 years older than me and from a different section of the United States, we have the same cultural background. The '80s were a heady time and the power of this decade could be felt by a 9 year old in the state of Missouri. I was reading this book and reminiscing about the first time I watched "Star Wars", the first time I watched "The Outsiders" and realized they left out some of my favorite parts, the first time I realized the term 'Brat Pack' was not a nice term, and reading about all the people in my 'Tiger Beat' magazines just made me h-a-p-p-y.

I also have a deep love for this book. Rob lets us into the story of his life by telling us about the time he met JFK jr. as he tells the story we are reminded of the loss, but also of the passion behind the life of this man who left this world tragically. We are reminded that, if given the chance and the time, we all grow into someone great. It's nice to see that celebrities also have those people that they admire and want to emulate. He even talks about that sex-tape scandal in the late '80s. What's so beautiful about that is that he reminds us of the fact that it was embarrassing and horrible and wrong, he talks about how the American culture now finds this sort of thing acceptable which makes me feel embarrassed and horrible and wrong, and then he talks about how this was the wake-up call that he needed to get his life on track. He talks about how meeting someone who loves you warts and all can change your life. This someone, who is there for you when you fall but doesn't accept that you are acting and being less than your perfect self, changes your life. This book is above all a love letter to the family that has made Rob Lowe the person he is today.

This book made me realize how easy it is to write my own story. Start somewhere in the present, flashback to the beginning, tell your story by being honest without being mean to those in the story (there isn't a need to dish or gossip or be hurtful or to rehash how you've hurt others, everybody already knows those stories). Show how you've changed. Talk like you are talking to a friend.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

26 Books that Changed My Life: #22 Jane Austen


V: Victory Over the Stereotypes Placed on Us by Others

I thought I would spend the month of April delving into the literature that has made me the person I am today.

1] In this list you will find some of my favorite books, but you will also find books that I appreciate and books that I would recommend although they may not be my favorite. These are books that changed my way of thinking or my way of looking the world. These are books that helped solidify the core of who I am.
2] These books are in order of the theme that I came away with not alphabetical by title or author.

About this book:

Sense and Sensibility
'The more I know of the world, the more am I convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!'

Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor's warning that her impulsive behaviour leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love—and its threatened loss—the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love.


Pride and Prejudice
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

So begins Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen's witty comedy of manners--one of the most popular novels of all time--that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues. Renowned literary critic and historian George Saintsbury in 1894 declared it the "most perfect, the most characteristic, the most eminently quintessential of its author's works," and Eudora Welty in the twntieth century described it as "irresistible and as nearly flawless as any fiction could be."


Mansfield Park
'We have all been more or less to blame ...
every one of us, excepting Fanny'


Taken from the poverty of her parents' home, Fanny Price is brought up with her rich cousins at Mansfield Park, acutely aware of her humble rank and with only her cousin Edmund as an ally. When Fanny's uncle is absent in Antigua, Mary Crawford and her brother Henry arrive in the neighbourhood, bringing with them London glamour and a reckless taste for flirtation. As her female cousins vie for Henry's attention, and even Edmund falls for Mary's dazzling charms, only Fanny remains doubtful about the Crawfords' influence and finds herself more isolated than ever. A subtle examination of social position and moral integrity, Mansfield Park is one of Jane Austen's most profound works.


Emma
'I never have been in love; it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever shall.'

Beautiful, clever, rich - and single - Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protegee Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected. With its imperfect but charming heroine and its witty and subtle exploration of relationships, Emma is often seen as Jane Austen's most flawless work.


Persuasion
Twenty-seven-year old Anne Elliot is Austen's most adult heroine. Eight years before the story proper begins, she is happily betrothed to a naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, but she precipitously breaks off the engagement when persuaded by her friend Lady Russell that such a match is unworthy. The breakup produces in Anne a deep and long-lasting regret. When later Wentworth returns from sea a rich and successful captain, he finds Anne's family on the brink of financial ruin and his own sister a tenant in Kellynch Hall, the Elliot estate. All the tension of the novel revolves around one question: Will Anne and Wentworth be reunited in their love?

Jane Austin once compared her writing to painting on a little bit of ivory, 2 inches square. Readers of Persuasion will discover that neither her skill for delicate, ironic observations on social custom, love, and marriage nor her ability to apply a sharp focus lens to English manners and morals has deserted her in her final finished work.


Northanger Abbey...haven't read it.
A wonderfully entertaining coming-of-age story, Northanger Abbey is often referred to as Jane Austen’s “Gothic parody.” Decrepit castles, locked rooms, mysterious chests, cryptic notes, and tyrannical fathers give the story an uncanny air, but one with a decidedly satirical twist.

The story’s unlikely heroine is Catherine Morland, a remarkably innocent seventeen-year-old woman from a country parsonage. While spending a few weeks in Bath with a family friend, Catherine meets and falls in love with Henry Tilney, who invites her to visit his family estate, Northanger Abbey. Once there, Catherine, a great reader of Gothic thrillers, lets the shadowy atmosphere of the old mansion fill her mind with terrible suspicions. What is the mystery surrounding the death of Henry’s mother? Is the family concealing a terrible secret within the elegant rooms of the Abbey? Can she trust Henry, or is he part of an evil conspiracy? Catherine finds dreadful portents in the most prosaic events, until Henry persuades her to see the peril in confusing life with art.

Executed with high-spirited gusto, Northanger Abbey is the most lighthearted of Jane Austen’s novels, yet at its core this delightful novel is a serious, unsentimental commentary on love and marriage.



Publication Date:  1811, 1813, 1814, 1815, 1818, 1817

Why this book:
Asking me to choose just one Jane Austen book that has influenced me is nearly impossible...I've only read five of the six in the picture, but I have so much to say about them...I'll try to limit myself.

Sense and Sensibility
I realized that this book was more than the romance I made it out to be when my student book group read it. We were at the coffee shop talking about it. I was saying how upset I was about Willoughby and one of my students talked about the fact that she always had a place in her heart for the colonel; it wasn't the fact that Willoughby refused to grow up, but the fact that once Marianne grew up she realized that love didn't have to come in a pretty package for it to be real. Hmm...all that from a 16 year-old. That so impresses me.

Pride and Prejudice
Best romance EVER! Made perfect by the fact that every great romance after it follows the same delicious formula...I love the story of Darcy's pride and Elizabeth prejudice or is that the other way around. And, when I need a Darcy fix I go to the BBC mini-series or I pop in "You've Got Mail" or "Bridget Jone's Diary"...sigh...

Mansfield Park
I first read this book in a college British literature class where the professor affectionately called Jane Austen novels period soap operas where we were duped into being concerned about whether the poor little rich girl would have the proper dress for the ball or would she have to wear the dress from last season. This isn't really far from the truth, however, I love the growth of the main character, Fanny. Actually, if I had to pick a favorite after P&P, this novel is what I'd pick.

Emma
Soooo...yeah, my 21 year-old self loved Emma when I was first introduced to her...she didn't need men as they didn't and couldn't improve her situation and then she falls for one any way. It just makes sense. I also love Emma's remake 'Clueless' and I believe that Emma and/or Cher and I would be great friends.

Persuasion
Ohhhh, the longing...ohhhhhh...the misunderstandings...ohhh...the pride...
Not my favorite Austen, but it does have excellent lessons in patience and love and committment and what it means to follow your heart no matter what. Sighhhhhh...

Northanger Abbey...haven't read it.

Read all of her works here.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

26 Books that Changed My Life: #21 American Gods



U: Understand and Appreciate Your Culture

I thought I would spend the month of April delving into the literature that has made me the person I am today.

1] In this list you will find some of my favorite books, but you will also find books that I appreciate and books that I would recommend although they may not be my favorite. These are books that changed my way of thinking or my way of looking the world. These are books that helped solidify the core of who I am.
2] These books are in order of the theme that I came away with not alphabetical by title or author.

About this book:
Days before his release from prison, Shadows wife, Laura, dies in a mysterious car crash. Numbly, he makes his way back home. On the plane, he encounters the enigmatic Mr Wednesday, who claims to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America.

Together they embark on a profoundly strange journey across the heart of the USA, whilst all around them a storm or preternatural and epic proportions threatens to break.

Scary, gripping and deeply unsettling, AMERICAN GODS takes a long, hard look into the soul of America. Youll be surprised by what and who it finds there...


Publication Date:  first published June 19th 2001)

Why this book:
I love America...no really I do. I understand that there are some people who think that I do not, but that's part of the joy of being an American, I get to treat my country like it's my parent/friend/ex/spouse/child as I see fit and when the mood suits me.

I also love SF and have been on a Neil Gaiman kick for awhile (as he was written so much and I have so little time to read it all).

This book is the perfect package of magic and fantasy and love of culture. It sings America and as Shadow travels all over the States I found myself making a list of places I needed to visit and revisit. I found myself loving this country and its stories, histories and its imperfections even more.

As, I sit here on a Sunday morning catching up on my blog reading and posting, I think about the fact that I will not be going to church today. I don't go to church most Sundays, but I am on the computer almost everyday. What does that say about what I worship and what I believe? What does that say about the church today? Be careful what you worship.

Hmm...I didn't mean for this to start talking about religion, but we are a country steeped in it.

I reviewed this book here.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

26 Books that Changed My Life: #20 The Class of '88 Series

T: Teen Life

I thought I would spend the month of April delving into the literature that has made me the person I am today.

1] In this list you will find some of my favorite books, but you will also find books that I appreciate and books that I would recommend although they may not be my favorite. These are books that changed my way of thinking or my way of looking the world. These are books that helped solidify the core of who I am.
2] These books are in order of the theme that I came away with not alphabetical by title or author.

About this series:
Five friends. Nick the golden boy, Celia the beautiful, Sean the thinker, Allie the wild, Meg the brave.

Freshman

Brand-new Redwood High holds a different promise for each of them. Celia could be popular for the first time in her life--if she stops being Allie's friend. Nick could be a campus star--but only if he plays by someone else's rules...rules that don't include Sean. Meg has a chance to be a leader...and to be passed over by the boy she loves.

Together, they could have faced anything. But after freshman year, they may never be together again.


Sophomore

Celia flirts outrageously with Redwood High's #1 b-ball star. She's not really using him...she's just trying to get ahead. Meg's got a new guy, too. So what if Nick thinks he's too wild for her? Nick doesn't know everything about Meg. He doesn't know everything about his buddy Sean, either. Sean sees more than people think he does--especially about what's happening between L.P. and Allie.

When five friends make it this far together, why should sophomore year tear them apart?


Junior

Nick's wasating his time with girls who don't care, and cutting himself off from other people. Sean's about to do the same...if Celia has her way. Allie just came back from a semester in New York City, and she can't talk to anybody; maybe it's time for her to get out of Redwood Hills. And Meg's going out with the catch of the school....Too bad she thinks he's second best.

They're supposed to know where they're heading by junior year. But what if where they're heading isn't where they want to go?


Senior

Meg and Nick have stayed away from each other for four years. Finally they want to be together...and someone's stopping them. Celia and Allie are trying to be friends again. But they both have a date for the prom--with the same guy. Sean is a BMOC and valedictorian, yet he still wants revenge for freshman year. 

In high school they lost some hopes, some dreams, some fears. Now they have to hold on to the one thing they've got left--each other.


Publication Date:  1987

Why this series:
I first read this series when I was in 6th grade. We got those Scholastic book forms and they were on there for $.99 each. I bought a new one each time we received the catalog and the next semester I bought the next series (Class of '89 and Freshman Dorm series--they aren't as good). I immediately saw in these books aspects of my friends and I. I fell in love with these books and wouldn't lend them out, even though people asked to borrow them, for a long time.

And, I can see, having just finished watching the whole of the show 'Felicity' for the first time, that I love a good romance and a good group dynamic and in these five characters we see how friends should act and we see how childhood crushes can turn into real romance...maybe JJ Abrams has read himself some Linda A. Cooney.

I remember the first time I reread this series. I holed myself up in my room one Saturday during my Senior year. I had nothing, but a glass of milk and a few sandwiches. I read all four books in one day, cover to cover. It felt like high school and it felt real even though I was about to finish my own high school experience.

I've read these books every few years since...hmmm...it may be time to pull them out again. Wait, yes, I'm going to start reading them again right now.

Read more about my obsession here, here and here...

Monday, April 22, 2013

26 Books that Changed My Life: #19 Singularity

S: Science


I thought I would spend the month of April delving into the literature that has made me the person I am today.

1] In this list you will find some of my favorite books, but you will also find books that I appreciate and books that I would recommend although they may not be my favorite. These are books that changed my way of thinking or my way of looking the world. These are books that helped solidify the core of who I am.
2] These books are in order of the theme that I came away with not alphabetical by title or author.

About this book:
Barry and Harry Krasner are identical twins, but that's where the resemblance stops. Barry's more athletic, more aggressive - and he's the one who suggests that they house-sit their great-uncle's farm. Harry hopes that it will bring the two of them closer. And it does - because there's something chilling about the farmhouse, something that makes the locals stay far away. The twins are sure that the locked shed on the property is the reason why - but what they find inside is far more horrible than their worst nightmare.

Publication Date:  1985

Why this book:
I love science. I'm not sure when that love began, but I do remember being in high school wondering if I wanted to teach science...of course, math stopped me from pursuing that avenue of teaching, but there is still deep within me a love of all things science-y. 

This is one of the first books I remember reading that had everything that I desired in a book: blackholes, sibling rivalry, cute boys, time travel...I could go on.

After this book, I read every book by William Sleator and then I bought every book by William Sleator and now I recommend every book by William Sleator to my students, that is if they haven't already read them.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

26 Books that Changed My Life: #18 The Remains of the Day

R: Regret

I thought I would spend the month of April delving into the literature that has made me the person I am today.

1] In this list you will find some of my favorite books, but you will also find books that I appreciate and books that I would recommend although they may not be my favorite. These are books that changed my way of thinking or my way of looking the world. These are books that helped solidify the core of who I am.
2] These books are in order of the theme that I came away with not alphabetical by title or author.

About this book:
In 1956, Stevens, a long-serving butler at Darlington Hall, decides to take a motoring trip through the West Country. The six-day excursion becomes a journey into the past of Stevens and England, a past that takes in fascism, two world wars and an unrealised love between the butler and his housekeeper. Ishiguro’s dazzling novel is a sad and humorous love story, a meditation on the condition of modern man, and an elegy for England at a time of acute change.

Publication Date:  first published in 1989

Why this book:
I learned from this book to do what my heart desired and to live without regret. I have never read a book that more beautifully describes the longing of living a life without sharing your passions and desire. Stevens shows us that it can be done, but he also shows us that it shouldn't be done. I remember reading the ending of this book and thinking about how long he lived with his heart bruised and broken. I also learned that it's ok to be selfish every now and again, if people didn't think of themselves before others at some point in time we wouldn't get anywhere, or be anything, but the ghost of our former selves.

So, I'd written this post before reading this article, but here's what author Jessica Soffer said about this book:
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro - Stevens, our narrator, is going out on a limb, pursuing love after a life of anything but. We’re rooting for him, for love, holding our breath, wishing. In the end, Stevens makes a choice and it might be a letdown. And yet, it’s exactly appropriate. He acts according to the lines in which he was drawn. Fiction, at its best, brings us so close, brings us to our knees, and then reminds us, however abruptly, perhaps disappointingly, of the difference between us and them. We are not Stevens. Stevens is Stevens. And we are better for knowing him: why he didn’t, couldn’t, and why we might have but won’t.

Friday, April 19, 2013

26 Books that Changed My Life: #17 The Hottest State


Q: Question Your Youthful Arrogance
I thought I would spend the month of April delving into the literature that has made me the person I am today.

1] In this list you will find some of my favorite books, but you will also find books that I appreciate and books that I would recommend although they may not be my favorite.In high school  These are books that changed my way of thinking or my way of looking the world. These are books that helped solidify the core of who I am.
2] These books are in order of the theme that I came away with not alphabetical by title or author.

About this book:
"Hawke does a fine job of showing what it's like to be young and full of confusion." ~The New York Times Book Review

When William meets Sarah at a bar appropriately called the Bitter End, he is a few months short of his twenty-first birthday and about to act in his first movie. He is so used to getting what he wants that he has never been able to care too deeply for anyone. But all of that is about to change. And it is Sarah--bold and shy, seductive and skittish--who will become William's undoing and his salvation.

William's affair with Sarah will take him from a tenement on the Lower East Side to a hotel room in Paris, from a flip proposal of marriage to the extremities of outraged need and the wisdom that comes only to true survivors. Anyone who reads The Hottest State will encounter a writer who can charm, dazzle, and break the heart in a single paragraph.

"Beguiling...full of the freshness of love and the agony of loss...Hawke is a good writer who has produced a worthy first love. It pleased and moved me.: ~Mary Loudon, The London Times

Publication Date:  first published 1966

Why this book:
In college my friends and I used to have Christmas parties, the girls would bake, the guys would buy the tree and the meat (turkey and ham) and my roommates and I would clean and decorate and sign Christmas cards. We'd eat delicious foods: cream cheese mashed potatoes, cranberry orange salad and almond green beans just to same some of the highlights and we'd drink delicious punches and we'd play games, my favorite being truth or dare jenga (I'll explain the rules sometime). We'd also have a gift exchange.

Our party in 1996 was a bit different. It was at my apartment (I'd just moved out solo) and many of my friends were bringing boyfriends and girlfriends or had paired up and become boyfriends and girlfriends themselves. The new additions to our group became part of the exchange. I was leary, I was apprehensive. I hate change and new and...er...change.  The Hottest State was the only thing I'd put on my list because a girl in one of my classes said a] I would love it and b] it would inspire me as a writer. I asked for this book, I received a bird Christmas ornament from one of my dear friend's girlfriends--a girl I didn't particularly like and a girl that I hardly knew. I tried to act like it was cool. But, she caught on and told me to look under the ornament...there is was the book of my dreams. And, at that one moment, that now totally ex-girlfriend of a dear friend, definitely gained cool points.

Ethan Hawke is great at articulating (in his movies and in his writings) stories about real people. And, William is the anti-hero that I would never want to date. I love that in the end he is still pretty flawed and he still doesn't have all the answers. In the end he is still not a good guy, but he does have the spark, and that's all you can ask from a 21 year-old that spark of maturity, of growth. The 20 year-old in me saw his potential, the 36 year-old in me understands what that potential is all about, the 36 year-old in me understands that until that youthful arrogance subsides we aren't really adult.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

26 Books that Changed My Life: #16 The Autobiography of Malcolm X

P: Pride and Perseverance

I thought I would spend the month of April delving into the literature that has made me the person I am today.

1] In this list you will find some of my favorite books, but you will also find books that I appreciate and books that I would recommend although they may not be my favorite.In high school  These are books that changed my way of thinking or my way of looking the world. These are books that helped solidify the core of who I am.
2] These books are in order of the theme that I came away with not alphabetical by title or author.

About this book:
If there was any one man who articulated the anger, the struggle, and the beliefs of African Americans in the 1960s, that man was Malxolm X. His AUTOBIOGRAPHY is now an established classic of modern America, a book that expresses like none other the crucial truth about our times. "Extraordinary. A brilliant, painful, important book."

Publication Date:  first published 1966

Why this book:
My history teacher in high school made us do a research paper a semester. They were hand-written freshman and sophomore year and typed junior and senior year. Just in case you don't want to do the math that's 16 two to four page papers over the course of four years. We got to choose our topics. That's 16 different topics that I got the pleasure of delving into...hmmm...the ones I remember Nellie Blythe, Egyptian burial practices, Japanese culture, Fat Man and Little Boy, Marie Curie and Malcolm X. I remember Malcolm X the most as it was the one that I knew the least about.

Through his book I learned about that fine balance of being proud of one's heritage and culture and letting that pride take over your existence in horrible ways. I also learned that it is never too late to change your mind when you learn that you are wrong. Sadly, I also learned that sometimes when you follow your heart and do what's right people will turn their back on you; people will try to steal your vision and cause you harm. People hate change, especially people who are closest to you.

So, a couple of years ago and book came out about Malcolm X. It's supposed to have less of an agenda than this book, which was written posthumously. I've bought it. I started reading it. I'm interested, but this book doesn't hold a candle to the way the autobiography made me feel when I first read it all those years ago.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

26 Books that Changed My Life: #15 A River Runs Through It

O: Overwhelming Power of Nature

I thought I would spend the month of April delving into the literature that has made me the person I am today.

1] In this list you will find some of my favorite books, but you will also find books that I appreciate and books that I would recommend although they may not be my favorite. These are books that changed my way of thinking or my way of looking the world. These are books that helped solidify the core of who I am.
2] These books are in order of the theme that I came away with not alphabetical by title or author.

About this book:
Norman Maclean's memories about growing up in Montana revolve around mighty trout rivers and the four-count rhythm of fly fishing. It is the one activity where his family can bridge troubled relationships, where brother can connect with brother and father with son. And in the end, it is the river that makes them realize that life continues and all things are related. The strong reading of Ivan Doig, Montana native and author of This House of Sky, adds much flavor to this tender, often very funny, and beautiful story about love and loss. A tale not to be missed and to be revisited frequently.


Publication Date:  first published in 1976

Why this book:
I read this book at first because I loved the movie and I wanted to see how it had been translated from words. My second reason for reading this book occurred because I was curious about a man who had  a story that had waited years to be developed. I found it fascinating that wasn't published until Maclean  was about 74 years old. Finally, I love this book because its language is so mesmerizing. After reading it I wanted to go fly-fishing in Montana...and, I hate fishing.

We all have that one symbol that defines our family and we use it as the backbone for our interpretations of life:
"Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.I am haunted by waters."
There are a couple of other books that filled my heart and head with visions of nature; All the Pretty Horses made me want to aimlessly wander on my horse through Mexico and Into the Wild made me want to aimlessly wander through the Alaskan wilderness. I suggest reading all three. I'm still on the surface of understanding the beauty, passion and riches that nature can bring. And, it's at times when I am overwhelmed by the delicious Ozark mountains that I am thankful that Norman Maclean wrote about his early life in Montana. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

26 Books that Changed My Life: #14 Serpico

N: Nobody Can Tell You What's Right or Wrong


I thought I would spend the month of April delving into the literature that has made me the person I am today.

1] In this list you will find some of my favorite books, but you will also find books that I appreciate and books that I would recommend although they may not be my favorite. These are books that changed my way of thinking or my way of looking the world. These are books that helped solidify the core of who I am.
2] These books are in order of the theme that I came away with not alphabetical by title or author.

About this book:
The 1960s was a time of social and generational upheaval felt with particular intensity in the melting pot of New York City. A culture of corruption pervaded the New York Police Department, where payoffs, protection, and shakedowns of gambling rackets and drug dealers were common practice. The so-called blue code of silence protected the minority of crooked cops from the sanction of the majority.

Into this maelstrom came a working class, Brooklyn-born, Italian cop with long hair, a beard, and a taste for opera and ballet. Frank Serpico was a man who couldn't be silenced -- or bought -- and he refused to go along with the system. He had sworn an oath to uphold the law, even if the perpetrators happened to be other cops. For this unwavering commitment to justice, Serpico nearly paid with his life.


Publication Date:  1978

Why this book:
First book I read about the real life bravery of a everyday person. The fact that in the end he is shot and lives just makes this story all the more unbelievable and amazing. I am in awe of Frank Serpico and when I think that I'm not being strong enough, or true to myself I think about all the brave things that he did, I think about how he did what no one else was strong enough to do and I press on.

Monday, April 15, 2013

26 Books that Changed My Life: #13 The English Patient

M: Moments Must Be Cherished

Hello new followers--the best part of the A to Z challenge is meeting new people.

I thought I would spend the month of April delving into the literature that has made me the person I am today.

1] In this list you will find some of my favorite books, but you will also find books that I appreciate and books that I would recommend although they may not be my favorite. These are books that changed my way of thinking or my way of looking the world. These are books that helped solidify the core of who I am.
2] These books are in order of the theme that I came away with not alphabetical by title or author.

About this book:
With ravishing beauty and unsettling intelligence, Michael Ondaatje's Booker Prize-winning novel traces the intersection of four damaged lives in an Italian villa at the end of World War II. Hana, the exhausted nurse; the maimed thief, Caravaggio; the wary sapper, Kip: each is haunted by the riddle of the English patient, the nameless, burned man who lies in an upstairs room and whose memories of passion, betrayal,and rescue illuminates this book like flashes of heat lightening.

Publication Date:  September 1, 1992

Why this book:
We don't realize how every moment in our little insignificant lives defines us and shapes us and makes us who we are. OK, so I'm not like these characters at all...I've never been in a war-torn country or been on either side of an affair, but I have loved, have traveled, have memories of people who have come and gone, people who at one time were a big part of me. And, these memories swirl around in my present life all of the time.

And, it's the first and only movie I ever watched in the theatre by myself. I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

I love this book. I love this book so much that I'm having a hard time talking about it. Michael Ondaatje is such a lovely author.

More on that here.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

26 Books that Changed My Life: #12 The Phantom Tollbooth

L: Language Has Power

I thought I would spend the month of April delving into the literature that has made me the person I am today.

1] In this list you will find some of my favorite books, but you will also find books that I appreciate and books that I would recommend although they may not be my favorite. These are books that changed my way of thinking or my way of looking the world. These are books that helped solidify the core of who I am.
2] These books are in order of the theme that I came away with not alphabetical by title or author.

About this book:
For Milo, everything's a bore. When a tollbooth mysteriously appears in his room, he drives through only because he's got nothing better to do. But on the other side, things seem different. Milo visits the island of Conclusions (you get there by jumping), learns about time from a ticking watchdog named Tock, and even embarks on a quest to rescue Rhyme and Reason! Somewhere along the way, Milo realizes something astonishing. Life is far from dull. In fact, it's exciting beyond his wildest dreams...

Publication Date:  first published 1961

Why this book:
I am a lover of words and I enjoy manipulations of definitions, strong turns of phrase, literally meanings...I enjoy it all. I'm not sure if that love started with this book or if this book just solidified that, but I enjoyed every single page of this book. My favorite part is where he has to eat his own words. Choose your words wisely they could end up being dull, dry and unfulfilling when you have to eat them.

Friday, April 12, 2013

26 Books that Changed My Life: #11 Anne of Green Gables (1-3)

K: Keep On Dreaming

I thought I would spend the month of April delving into the literature that has made me the person I am today.

1] In this list you will find some of my favorite books, but you will also find books that I appreciate and books that I would recommend although they may not be my favorite. These are books that changed my way of thinking or my way of looking the world. These are books that helped solidify the core of who I am.
2] These books are in order of the theme that I came away with not alphabetical by title or author.

About these three books from Goodreads:
When mischievous orphan Anne Shirley arrives at the Cuthbert farm Green Gables, she knows she wants to stay forever. One of the best-loved & most enduring books in all of children's literature, written with sweetness and charm. 

Book #1: Everyone's favorite redhead, the spunky Anne Shirley, begins her adventures at Green Gables, a farm outside Avonlea, Prince Edward Island. When the freckled girl realizes that the elderly Cuthberts wanted to adopt a boy instead, she begins to try to win them and, consequently, the reader, over.

Book #2:  At sixteen, Anne is grown up...almost. Her gray eyes shine like evening stars, but her red hair is still as peppery as her temper. In the years since she arrived at Green Gables as a freckle-faced orphan, she has earned the love of the people of Avonlea and a reputation for getting into scrapes. But when Anne begins her job as the new schoolteacher, the real test of her character begins. Along with teaching the three Rs, she is learning how complicated life can be when she meddles in someone else's romance, finds two new orphans at Green Gables, and wonders about the strange behaviour of the very handsome Gilbert Blythe. As Anne enters womanhood, her adventures touch the heart and the funny bone.

Book #3:  New adventures lie ahead as Anne Shirley packs her bags, waves good-bye to childhood, and heads for Redmond College. With old friend Prissy Grant waiting in the bustling city of Kingsport and frivolous new pal Philippa Gordon at her side, Anne tucks her memories of rural Avonlea away and discovers life on her own terms, filled with surprises...including a marriage proposal from the worst fellow imaginable, the sale of her very first story, and a tragedy that teaches her a painful lesson. But tears turn to laughter when Anne and her friends move into an old cottage and an ornery black cat steals her heart. Little does Anne know that handsome Gilbert Blythe wants to win her heart, too. Suddenly Anne must decide if she's ready for love...

Publication Date:  1908, 1909 and 1915, respectively

Why this book:
I read these books a little later than most girls, as I didn't read them until after viewing both of the Kevin Sullivan mini-series. I think that every girl has a little bit of Anne Shirley embedded in their DNA. I am no exception. What I love most about Anne is that she is best when she is helping and showing love to others. This is especially true of her love/hate/love relationship with Gilbert Blythe (my first book crush...if only there were more Gilberts in the world). It is when she recognizes that giving her heart to someone else doesn't mean that she has to live solely for that other person that all of the lessons she's been learning piece together. I love Anne's strong-will, stubbornness and passion. I love that she learns that these traits aren't always positive. I love that she never stops learning and maturing. She never lets go of her dreams.




Thursday, April 11, 2013

26 Books that Changed My Life: #10 Taking the Red Pill: Science, Philosophy and Religion in The Matrix

J: Journey of the Hero (Fate vs. Free Will)


I thought I would spend the month of April delving into the literature that has made me the person I am today.

1] In this list you will find some of my favorite books, but you will also find books that I appreciate and books that I would recommend although they may not be my favorite. These are books that changed my way of thinking or my way of looking the world. These are books that helped solidify the core of who I am.
2] These books are in order of the theme that I came away with not alphabetical by title or author.

About this book:
This thought-provoking examination of The Matrix explores the technological challenges, religious symbolism, and philosophical dilemmas the film presents. Essays by renowned scientists, technologists, philosophers, scholars, social commentators, and science fiction authors provide engaging and provocative perspectives. Explored in a highly accessible fashion are issues such as the future of artificial intelligence and virtual reality. The symbolism hidden throughoutThe Matrix and a few glitches in the film are revealed. Discussions include “Finding God in The Matrix,” “The Reality Paradox in The Matrix,” and “Was Cypher Right?: Why We Stay in Our Matrix.” The fascinating issues posed by the film are handled in an intelligent but nonacademic fashion.

Publication Date:  March 11, 2003

Why this book:

I love The Matrix Trilogy, comics and animated stories. They sing to the geek in me with their ideas of the future and technology and they sing to the nerd in me with their philosophical themes and characters. In my classes, Neo is one of the many heroes I go to to explain Joseph Campbell's hero traits as he exhibit these traits so perfectly. I think I like the Matrix so much because many of its concepts are concepts that are at the core of me.

  • Christian themes and ideas
  • The paradox of incorporating Christian ideals with anything else...a paradox that somtimes leads people to leave the church and turn their back on their faith
  • Love
  • Sacrifice
  • What it means to live right and do right
  • The fight for good and evil and the constant struggle to determine what is truly good and what is truly evil
  • Choice vs. Purpose
  • Fate vs. Free Will

When I first read this book I did loads of thinking tying these essays to my own interpretations of the Matrix and how all of these wonderful themes and ideas apply to my life and how I should live it.

This book comes in three parts: religion, science and philosophy and not all of the essays sing to my soul, but overall it really works well at tying in all three of those ideals.



Wednesday, April 10, 2013

26 Books that Changed My Life: #9 Kim/Kimi

I: Interracial

I thought I would spend the month of April delving into the literature that has made me the person I am today.

1] In this list you will find some of my favorite books, but you will also find books that I appreciate and books that I would recommend although they may not be my favorite. These are books that changed my way of thinking or my way of looking the world. These are books that helped solidify the core of who I am.
2] These books are in order of the theme that I came away with not alphabetical by title or author.

About this book:
Even the warm, loving relationship Kim shares with her mother, her stepfather, and her half brother can not give sixteen-year-old Kim/Kimi the answers she needs. Half the time she is Kim Andrews, living in her all-white Iowa community-the other half she is Kimi Yogushi, searching for her true identity. She must find out more about her Japanese-American father, who died before she was born, and his family, if there is any. Perhaps then she can solve her inner conflict.

Publication Date:  10/28/1988

Why this book:

When I first read this book I immediately understood that struggle that Kim had with her heritage. I was 12 years-old and learning about my own heritage as the daughter of a white woman from a large family who lived mostly in the Midwest and Mid-South and as the daughter of a black man I've only met twice. I wanted to know what it meant to be part of the African-American culture. I knew that I couldn't meet my father's family (only child; both of his parents had passed away), but I wanted to learn about who is was in the hopes that I could find out who I was. 

My parents separated and divorced and the only thing that I can remember from that whole event was packing up our blue car to move from the East coast to where we have settled today. I learned that I have step-siblings and that my fathered is flawed, but we all are. I love that my mother, like Kim's in the book, never disparaged my father or my need to learn about him.

Since then I've learned that there are questions that will never be answered, there are questions that shouldn't be answered and there are questions that can't be answered as they only lead to more questions. I think I learned this lesson from Kim, who in searching for her Japanese heritage learned more about herself and her American culture and who she was and will be. 

I have never met my step-sisters. I don't even know their names. Although I am comfortable in my own skin, I am still searching.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

26 Books that Changed My Life: #8 The Little House Series

H: Home

I thought I would spend the month of April delving into the literature that has made me the person I am today.

1] In this list you will find some of my favorite books, but you will also find books that I appreciate and books that I would recommend although they may not be my favorite. These are books that changed my way of thinking or my way of looking the world. These are books that helped solidify the core of who I am.
2] These books are in order of the theme that I came away with not alphabetical by title or author.

About this book:
Aside from American author Laura Ingalls Wilder's original Little House series, several series of books for juveniles, young adults and adults have also been published. These separate series are fictionalized accounts of the lives of Wilder's great-grandmother Martha Morse Tucker, grandmother Charlotte Tucker Quiner, mother Caroline Ingalls, daughterRose Wilder Lane's childhood and teenage years and Wilder's own missing adult years. In addition, simplified versions of the original series have been published for younger children in chapter and picture book form.

Publication Date:  first book 1935

Why this book:

I am from Mansfield, Missouri...I'm pretty sure that I'm not allowed to not like these books. I remember in my earlier life knowing where people who knew her actually lived. It was pretty cool. We went to the house for our 4th Grade field trip and after my senior year of high school I worked at the Wilder Home and Museum. One of the best summer's ever. My feelings for Laura are not as passionate as the feelings I have for her daughter Rose, but I do understand that living in a town whose sole tourist attraction is Laura's home really does have an influence on me to this day.

Read more about my feelings on my hometown, Laura, Rose and the whole gang here, here, here, and here.

Monday, April 8, 2013

26 Books that Changed My Life: #7 The Beach

G: Generation X


I thought I would spend the month of April delving into the literature that has made me the person I am today.

1] In this list you will find some of my favorite books, but you will also find books that I appreciate and books that I would recommend although they may not be my favorite. These are books that changed my way of thinking or my way of looking the world. These are books that helped solidify the core of who I am.
2] These books are in order of the theme that I came away with not alphabetical by title or author.

About this book (from Barnes and Noble):

The Khao San Road, Bangkok—first stop for the hordes of rootless young Westerners traveling in Southeast Asia. On Richard's first night there, in a low-budget guest house, a fellow traveler slashes his wrists, bequeathing to Richard a meticulously drawn map to "the Beach."
The Beach, as Richard has come to learn, is the subject of a legend among young travelers in Asia: a lagoon hidden from the sea, with white sand and coral gardens, freshwater falls surrounded by jungle, plants untouched for a thousand years. There, it is rumored, a carefully selected international few have settled in a communal Eden.
Haunted by the figure of Mr. Duck—the name by which the Thai police have identified the dead man—and his own obsession with Vietnam movies, Richard sets off with a young French couple to an island hidden away in an archipelago forbidden to tourists. They discover the Beach, and it is as beautiful and idyllic as it is reputed to be. Yet over time it becomes clear that Beach culture, as Richard calls it, has troubling, even deadly, undercurrents.
Spellbinding and hallucinogenic, The Beach is a look at a generation in their twenties, who, burdened with the legacy of the preceding generation and saturated by popular culture, long for an unruined landscape, but find it difficult to experience the world firsthand.

Publication Date:  1996

Why this book:
When I read the blurb about this book being The Lord of the Flies for Gen Xers (Nick Hornby) I had to read it. Truly that comparison is apt as both books are beautiful and dark look at the failure of a perfect society. I learned that I prefer to be a traveler over a tourist. I learned this is quite hard to do with a backpack and a months worth of money saved up.

This is the first book that actually spoke to my college self and addressed that part of me that didn't want to become part of the 'machine'. It helped solidify that I was on the right path, inadvertently it helped me realize that becoming a grown-up didn't mean that I had to leave my wunderlust behind. I think this is a hard lesson that Richard learns as well. And, it is the part with Richard alone in the dark on a hill slowly going crazy that truly speaks to the dark in each of us.

Plus I really like this quote. Who wouldn't want to read this book after read it?
The Beach reads like The Lord of the Flies, written by Graham Greene after he spent a long bout reading Joseph Conrad. Yet it carries a voice all its own.

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