A while back, I did a list of some of my favorite books. Since I have hundreds of them, and have been insanely bored, I thought I’d post another.
Lately I’ve been culling my massive collection, in case I can’t find a job and have to move. People always say, “It’s so cool you have so many books!” Yeah, until they have to help you pack them. Hopefully, I won’t have to, but even so, I’m getting tired of dusting them. In the process I’ve rediscovered several books I forgot I had.
In no particular order, below find more of my favorites.
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
If you know nothing about World War II, you probably know what happened to the Jewish people of Europe when Hitler began to lead Germany in a devastating sweep across the continent. Those who couldn’t escape the initial lockdown ended up in hiding.
Anne Frank and her family, along with acquaintances the van Pels family and an elderly dentist, Fritz Pfeffer (these names are changed in the published diary), hid in a secret apartment above her father’s business in Amsterdam from 1942 until 1944, when some rat fink told on them.
Anne wanted to be a writer, and it’s heartbreakingly clear she would have been a good one. Only her father, Otto Frank, survived the war. He published his daughter’s diary, which documents not only Anne’s family and relationships with the others in hiding, but much of the war itself.
My seventh grade class read this and saw the 1959 film. I can still remember how devastating it was to learn that human beings could do this to one another.
Number nine in Emile Zola‘s Les Rougon-Macquart novel cycle, Nana tells the story of an attractive girl who rises from a slatternly beginning in the gutters of Paris to become a celebrated courtesan. In her wake, she leaves a trail of broken, ruined and destitute men. I read this one first—my aunt loaned it to me when I visited her in London after my high school graduation. Once I started it, I couldn’t put it down.
Zola, the premier example of the Naturalist school of writing, is extremely easy to read. In naturalism, heredity and environment are believed to contribute to one’s eventual path in life. Emphasis is on believable situations, written as they would be in real life.
Give Zola a try. I think you’ll like him. He even has a Facebook page. :)
I have never read this one in school. Usually Frankenstein is offered instead. Actually, in college I took two classes where I had to read Mary Shelley’s book. I finally managed to eke out a damn good paper on Dracula.
Written by a strapping Irishman named Abraham “Bram” Stoker, the novel takes us from England to Transylvania and back again, as the hapless Jonathan Harker travels to the Count’s castle to enact a real estate transaction for his employers.
Stoker wrote believably about Transylvania, although he never went there. The book, written in a mostly epistolary style, is surprisingly action-packed. Sprinkled throughout, we find the latest in late nineteenth century technology, such as Mina’s typewriter and Dr. Seward’s phonograph recordings.
The noble vampire is defined in this book. Before that, tales of bloodsuckers featured mostly Eastern European legends of filthy, long-nailed and bloated corpses. But Dracula is not a romantic figure. On the contrary, he’s like that scary uncle you always felt uncomfortably nauseated around without knowing why.
The Little House books
Yes, I love these! Written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the beloved children’s series chronicles in fictionalized form her pioneer childhood, from around age five through her marriage to Almanzo Wilder at eighteen.
I don’t think these books should be restricted to kids. There is a lot adults can get out of them as well. It’s fascinating to read about pioneer life at that time. The television series based on the books, Little House on the Prairie, ran from 1974 to 1982 and was watched by legions of devoted fans.
Interesting side note: I have The Little House Cookbook, with all the foods from the books and a ton of cool historical information. You can get it here.
The Ingalls family. From left to right: Ma (seated), Carrie, Laura, Pa, Grace, Mary (seated).
Cages of Glass, Flowers of Time
Charlotte Culin’s 1979 novel about a battered child explores the conflicted feelings victims have about their abusers. Claire Burden is fourteen, recently torn from her neglectful artist father to be raised by her alcoholic mother, herself an abuse victim. Claire loves to draw as her father did, but Mom doesn’t want her to, because it is painful for her. Frightened and lonely, the young girl gradually emerges from her dark existence, nurtured by two loving friends.
This young adult book is so good. I read it in high school and looked everywhere for it. It’s out of print, but I finally found a copy on the internet. Highly recommended. I can’t find any other works by this author, and that’s too bad.
Clive Barkers Books of Blood
Technically, these aren’t one book, but six volumes of short stories by one of the masters of horror, Clive Barker. I had been a horror fan for a long time. When the first volume was published in 1984, I devoured it with my mouth open and my eyes wide. It was unlike anything I’d read before.
Barker has since penned quite a few novels that weave fantasy and horror in a completely unique way. Several of his works have been adapted into films that have terrified millions, notably The Hellbound Heart (as Hellraiser) and “The Forbidden,” a story from Books of Blood: Vol. 5 that eventually became Candyman.
I met him in Los Angeles around 1992, at a Fangoria magazine horror convention. He’s a very nice man.
Doesn’t seem like the father of demonspawn like Rawhead Rex…
That’s all for now. I’m sure as the culling continues I’ll unearth more books I’d like to share with you. Until then, happy reading!*
*Unless you’re browsing the Barker stuff late at night, that is. Heh heh heh.