Saturday, June 19, 2010

On fifteen books that stuck with me

I wrote this some time ago as a response to a Facebook thing that floated around, demanding my attention. You were supposed to take no more than 15 minutes to write down 15 books that "stuck". The books didn't have to be your favourites, but you had to remember them for one reason or another. I notice that a large part of the books I’ve chosen are children’s books. This is not (just) because I’m so childish, but probably partly because I frequently reread books (and not just twice) as a child. I rarely have that privilege (or that desire) now. However, not all books that I read several times stuck, so I still think this is a fairly representative list for me (though reading through it I can think of at least two-three notable omissions. Oh, well...).

1) The Secret Garden by Francis H. Burnett: Since I learned how, I have read this book at least once a year (spring). I don’t know if it’s the “morale” of the story; or the orphan side to it (I’ve always been drawn to books about orphans for some reason; but then again, they are hard to avoid); or simply the idea of a secret garden. Either way I still count this as my favourite book.


2) Lise og Lotte eller omvendt [Das doppelte Lottchen] by Erich Kästner: this was probably the first book where I noticed the writing style, which I liked and frequently adopted when I was younger. In addition the story is pretty entertaining, even if Lindsay Lohan tried to ruin it with The Parent Trap (okay, I confess - I don't hate the movie either)…

3) Ronja Rövardotter by Astrid Lindgren: the imagination and skill of Astrid Lindgren was remarkable, and this is in my opinion one of - if not the - best book(s) she ever wrote.

4) Kabalmysteriet by Jostein Gaarder: the famous book was Sofies verden [Sophie’s World], and I gradually learned to like that one as well, but Kabalmysteriet always struck me as equally well constructed (if not better), and far more entertaining. I do believe that as an adult, though, it might be more rewarding to read Sofies verden (even if that wasn’t the one that stuck).

5) David Copperfield by Charles Dickens: actually, Dickens is the key word here, not David Copperfield specifically. I’ve read many Dickens books, and they had an impact on me collectively, though I have trouble keeping some of them apart. David Copperfield and Great Expectations are the ones I most vividly remember reading.

6) Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: aside from the fact that I’ve read them over and over again, in several languages even, these are the only books from which I’ve joined a fansite, where I met people I actually stayed in touch with, and several of whom I have met in person.

7) Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë: though sister Charlotte has received more praise from the critics, I preferred Emily’s novel over Jane Eyre. Never a fan of spooky books, this one somehow hit me. Maybe it’s the tragic love story that stuck?

8) Three Comrades [Drei Kameraden] by Erick Maria Remarque: the description of the “between wars” German society made a huge impression on me, as did the friendship and love affair between the main protagonists. Plus the tone is elegantly shifting between humoristic (car race) to serious (political development) to sad (illness and death).

9) East of Eden by John Steinbeck: the whole “epic family saga set in a specific area using the traits of this area to drive the story ahead” has always impressed me, and Steinbeck is using this to perfection in East of Eden.

10) Markens Grøde [Growth of the Soil] by Knut Hamsun: I am tempted to mention this together with Pan, and not as two separate entries, mainly because the reason that they stuck is that I compared these in a high school “særemne” (project). I chose them because I already thought they were awesome books, though. This one is comparable to Steinbeck’s book as well, since a great deal of what makes the book is the interdependency in the text of the location (nature) and the families it describes. Wow, that sounded intellectual…

11) Pan by Knut Hamsun: (see above) ”…the eternal day of the Northern summer…”

12) Life of Pi by Yann Martel: it is a very good book, but there are many very good books I have read that didn’t stick. This one did. Maybe because it is so unlikely, so unique, and so clever at the same time?

13) The Wind-up Bird Chronicles by H. Murakami: I read it in Japan, and frankly struggled a little with it, but what stuck was the incredible writing skill of Murakami (not wasted through English translation), and the many, many layers of this story that eventually are tied together. Murakami has a mystical element to everything he writes that I never quite can grasp, and I don’t always appreciate it, but in this book I enjoyed it. The only book that has ever made me want to climb down into a well.

14) The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak: one of those books that speaks directly to your heart. I laughed and cried from beginning till end.

15) American Gods by Neil Gaiman: since this list is supposed to consist of books that “stuck”, there should be a rule not to include books you have read less than a year ago. However, even though I put this one down only last week [blogger's note: this was the case when I first wrote this. It must be more than a year now, though, and it's still "sticking"], I have no doubt that it will stick. Gaiman is an extraordinary story teller, and this book is so complex in so many levels that I will continue thinking about it for a long, long time ahead.

That's my list. What 15 books can you come up with in 15 minutes?

14 comments:

M.J Nicholls said...

I only have fifteen seconds to make a comment, so lemme tell you that Martel was sweet, warm and funny, though not without a certain robotic manner that made him hard to crack into, like an emotionl egg.

Clarissa Draper said...

Those are some amazing choices. I admit to not knowing a few but I'm sure they're great. I should do a list of my own.

CD

Jemi Fraser said...

I haven't read too many books on your list. Most of mine would be from childhood and teen years as well. Some made such vivid impressions on me.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

I haven't read too many of those books. And while I don't really want to think about this just yet (would rather do it properly when I do it), I suspect my list would have a lot of books from my younger years.

And needless to say, I completely echo your sentiments about the Potter books.

Vatche said...

Hey, Cruella, just letting you know that you won an award over at my blog, so check that out! :D

Palindrome said...

So many books to put on that list. I made a list once but it has changed a bit over the years. I will definitely have to think about that one.

Jan Morrison said...

oh fun - not going to write my fifteen cuz I've done it elsewhere - just want to say your list rocks! I am re-reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle for about the zillionth time. I love ALL his books. brilliant. makes me want to be a writer when I grow up. OH, OH...I just remembered - I am grown-up! Also love everything by Neil Gaiman, loved Life of Pi but as noted not the author that day anyway...Harry Potter - sure - not as much as His Dark Materials though. AND all of Dickens. Oh I love Dickens...

Cruella Collett said...

MJ - huh. Okay, I can picture Martell as an emotional egg. Thanks for giving me 15 seconds!

CD - I'd love to see your (and others') list(s)!

JF - I guess a factor I did not think about it that childhood and teenage years is a time when most people also are very impressionable. I guess it makes sense then, that we remember the books we read when we were young.

RMI - I remember when writing this I spent too much time thinking as well. And I compared my list to other people's lists, and pretty much I cheated all the way. But I still like it ;)

V - thank you again (I left a comment on your blog). I was most touched!

P - I know, 15 was definitely not enough. But I guess listing 300 books that stuck is what we have Goodreads for...

JM - and you're a writer! Yay! I liked His Dark Materials too (though I read it with some hesitancy, because I had convinced myself that I did not like fantasy books. Silly girl...). Had I been able to compare them objectively to the HP books I might have liked them better, but the HP books hit me at the right time, in the right way, and the consequeces they have had for me outruns those of any other book I have ever read. So they win ;)

A Book Adventure said...

I loved the few on your list that I did read :)

Cruella Collett said...

ABA - seeing as you appear to be a Potteroholic too, I'm not too surprised ;)

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Wow! A lot of books up here I haven't even read. Fabulous! Although, Wuthering Heights I've definitely read. I think I must own 15 different copies, all of them read multiple times. It's definitely one that stuck with me too :D

Cruella Collett said...

CVM - that is a whole lot of Wuthering Heights! It sounds like it is to you what "The Secret Garden" is to me :)

Jennee said...

I'm going to read The Secret Garden sometime this year. After I finish Eat, Pray, Love.

Cruella Collett said...

Jennee - oh, you should! It is absolutely glorious (though I only allow myself to read it in spring, as that feels appropriate.

As for "Eat, Pray, Love" I am hesitant. Partly it has to do with the title. I am not religious myself (apart from Digressionism, but that doesn't really count), and while I actively try to keep an open mind about others' right to believe whatever they want, reading about it can get "too much". Also, I am not generally into the whole "self help" genre (but I am not sure if this one falls into that category - it is a novel of sorts, isn't it?).
Basically I have a lot of prejudices towards this book. I guess the best way to overcome them would be to just give it a go. (Is it any good?)

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