Entertainment Weekly has a sometimes-series where, in their Books section, they chat with an author about books that have shaped their life. I love this series. It’s always fascinating to me, even if I have no idea who the author is, to hear about what set of books have been important to them, in the past and in the present.
Of course, I have to do my own version now, taking the EW list as my inspiration. I’d love to hear your own list, though. This kind of history always enchants me – it seems like some sort of magic, how words can have so much impact on someone’s life, and how certain stories change who we are. So please, do share!
My favourite childhood books
The other day, my friend Jen asked me what kinds of books I liked to read as kid. And I said I really didn’t know, but then I started listing them off and BING, realized I liked MYSTERIES. I read every single Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew book there was, and then moved on to Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes. One of my ultimate, all-time favourite kids’ authors is Ellen Raskin – her novels are really weird, offbeat, magical mysteries that I recommend. Unfortunately all are out of print now except for The Westing Game, but that one is a good place to start – my favourite, though, is The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues.
The book I enjoyed most in school
I was a huge, huge geek in school and loved just about everything we were forced to study. I really loved Shakespeare and Shaw and poetry in high school, and I know, you kind of want to punch me right now, don’t you? I will, however, give a special shout out to Who Has Seen The Wind by W.O. Mitchell, a book everyone else seemed to hate but that I loved like ten bear.
My favourite movie versions of great novels
I love, love, love Emma Thompson’s version of Sense and Sensibility, as well as most of the similar Merchant-Ivory stuff, like A Room with a View (SO romantic!) and Howard’s End. I think what Peter Jackson did with The Lord of the Rings was brilliant and possibly even better than the source material. And although the source material isn’t exactly a classic, I thought Adaptation – technically an adaptation of the book The Orchid Thief – was quite brilliant and original.
The classic I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never read
I made it about 80% of the way through Crime and Punishment before quitting – one of the few books I have ever abandoned – and now I give War and Peace the side-eye and think I’ll never be able to handle it. Of ones I’ve always meant to read, but still haven’t, there’s Great Expectations and (actually cringing as I admit this) both Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. I even OWN copies of the Twain books and yet have never cracked them open. SIGH.
A book I consider greatly overrated
American Psycho is a book that I hate, hate, hated, and will never understand why some people think it could be passed off as art. I also disliked The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, to the point where, when it was over, I was actually angry that I’d read it. I really liked The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides, but was incredibly bored by Middlesex, which most people consider far superior and a modern classic.
The last book that made me cry – and the last one that made me laugh
I just finished a kids’ book that Allison recommended – Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee. I loved it – the story is so magical and inventive, and there’s a mother-related storyline that tugs at the heartstrings and made me bawl like a little kid at the end. On the laugh side, Tudor recommended Love That Dog by Sharon Creech for the kids – so far, I haven’t been able to get any of the kids to actually read it, but I did, and loved it – it’s a whole tale of a boy and his dog told through a series of poems, and it’s clever and funny (although sad in some places too, as all good books about life should be). I really do hope to read some adult books very soon!
A book I read in secret
Forever, by Judy Blume, snuck chapter by chapter in the back stacks while “working” in the library over my lunch hour in Grade 8. I’m sure every single woman my age has a similar story.
A book I wish I’d written
Um, every single one? I have huge, mad respect for anyone who sets out to write a book of any kind, and actually does it. I flirt all the time with daydreams of being an author, but instead I just putter away on my blog. If I ever do write something, I really hope it is as perfectly brilliant as either of my two all-time favourite books: The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, and Come Thou Tortoise, by Jessica Grant.
What I’m reading right now
I just started The Adventures of Claire Never-ending, which was written by Catherine Brunelle, who lives right here in Ottawa and who read a blog post at BOLO this year. It’s delightful! Next up is a book I ordered on a whim from Amazon while trying to hit the free shipping mark: The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price, Purveyor of Superior Funerals, by Wendy Jones. Sure hope it lives up to the title!