Here's this week's Booking Through Thursday question:
“This can be a quick one. Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.”
There's no way this will really be a quick one. I won't take too long to think about it, but coming up with fifteen will require some thinking, no matter what. And then I have to second guess myself, so that should take some time, also. But I'll try to stick with the asked-for 15 minutes.
1. The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I remember being completely enchanted by this book when I was around nine or ten years old. The main character, Mary, goes through an amazing transformation, from a selfish and sickly child to one who learns to love, becomes robust, and helps another child go through a similar transformation. And Burnett so beautifully describes life on the moors, and what the change of seasons brings to the animals and plants of an English garden. One of my first experiences being completely transported by a book.
2. Midnight's Children, by Salman Rushdie. I read this in college for a class on power relationships, and was enthralled by this allegory about the history of modern India, about two boys, born at the stroke of midnight on the eve of India's independence, one Muslim and one Hindu, who are switched and given to the wrong families. It was also my introduction to magical realism, and it was an amazing reading experience.
3. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. Another story of a girl's transformation that I loved reading as a girl. Poor Jane--a smart, honest, blunt girl who is plain and has no money up against the rich, empty-headed, pretty, cruel, arrogant, abusive characters who try to ruin her life--a perfect character for me to root for.
4. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. When I read this for the first time, as a young teen, I read it as a simple love story, and loved it. I've read it many times since, and subsequently found the humor and subtlety of Austen's skewering of English society just as entertaining as the love story. But it's still a really satisfying love story, and still a favorite comfort read.
5. Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens. I read this as a youngster. Dickens, the great manipulator, not only manipulated my emotions by sucking me into this crazy story, but taught me how people manipulated each other in love--and I remember being fascinated. How can Pip not see that Estella is not worth his love? How can Estella not realize she is being manipulated by Miss Havisham? How will it all turn out--can any of them find happiness? Great stuff!
6. Silas Marner, by George Eliot. Another book I read as a child, and found very satisfying. Even as a kid I could see the symbolism of the miser having his material gold replaced by the gold-haired child who changes his life for the better.
7. The World According to Garp, by John Irving. The first modern "grown-up" novel I remember reading. I was taken with Irving's style, and it made me seek out more contemporary fiction.
8. Vineland, by Thomas Pynchon. Vineland is the only Pynchon I've ever read, and people say it's not nearly his best. But Pynchon's wild use of language was eye-opening to me, and his twisted view of California was devastating. The book made a big impression on me when it came out.
9. The French Lieutenant's Woman, by John Fowles. One of my first forays into postmodern literature, I loved how Fowles twists up the Victorian novel, and himself steps into the book to suggest alternate endings. Something I've been meaning to re-read for years.
10. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. One of the first serious novels I ever read, I found it warm and accessible, and yet about such chilling subjects--it was the first book about racism that I had ever read, and profoundly affecting. Also, one of the best novel-to-movie adaptations I've ever seen.
11. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams. Science fiction wedded to comedy, something I didn't know was possible before I read this.
12. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy. My first Russian realist. Really loved Levin and Kitty, and loved to wallow with Anna and Vronsky. And who can resist such a first line, "All happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
13. Angle of Repose, by Wallace Stegner. Another book I read in college, for a history course. Stegner made the history of the western United States come alive in this novel, and the characters were fascinating. This portrait of a marriage, and a woman's compromises in marriage, is still one of the saddest I can recall reading.
14. A Passage to India, by E.M. Forster. One of the first novels I ever read really closely, for an AP English class--and somehow that didn't ruin it for me. I learned to love the symbols in the novel, and fell in love with Forster's prose.
15. The Diary of Anne Frank, by Anne Frank. I read this as a child and it not only stuck with me, but haunted me then, and haunts me still.