I had mentioned in previous posts that I have always been an avid reader. To this day, the best gift that anyone could get me is a good book. I don’t anticipate that changing anytime soon, or ever, for that matter!
The reason why I love books so much isn’t just my thirst for knowledge. Books are the easiest and simplest way to travel the world, meet new people, make new friends, go into outer space and even know what other creatures’ lives are like. You can live, for a few days or weeks, in Utopia, meet fictional beings and explore a world that can never come to exist. Books bring magic to life. They transform your reality into something more colorful and exciting. They let you into other people’s minds without having ever met them. Books make you part of the process of creating the world that is described in them, it’s part the author and part your perception of what the author wrote. You add the “familiarity” factor to whatever you read!
To me, books take me away to a world where I want to exist, a world of my choosing. Usually one where virtue is always rewarded, bad people are punished and love always wins in the end. I am a hopeless romantic, you see. The type of woman who would do, literally, anything for the man she loves and once I fall in love, there is no going back, no forgetting, no “unfeeling”. But sometimes I choose books that speak of struggles, agony and pain. I do not do so to taunt myself, I do so because it’s important to find balance, to realize that nothing is all-good or all-bad. It’s important to learn about the struggles of others since it helps you appreciate what you have. It’s important to learn about hardships that others were able to overcome in order to help you find the strength to overcome your own. Books really do broaden your horizons, on many levels. They can teach you everything, literally, but life does a pretty good job as well albeit over longer time.
As a child, my favorite author was Roald Dahl. He was a brilliant English writer, born in Wales on September 13th, 1916 to Norwegian parents. He was a poet, short story writer, novelist, screenwriter and fighter jet pilot. He wrote for both, children and adults, but his children’s books are the ones he is most renowned for. Needless to say, he was and remains to be a best-selling author. According to Wikipedia, he has been referred to as “one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century”. His short stories are known for their unexpected endings, and his children’s books for their unsentimental, often very dark humor.
I was fortunate enough to read all of his children’s books, except for one, in a span of 3 years starting when I was 10. Until this day, I do not remember any of the other books that I read as I child, simply because they never measured up! The only book that I did not read was “Going Solo”, I’m hoping to get around to reading it someday. I did not know that he wrote anything for adults except fairly recently, I’d like to explore his writings for our age group as well.
My top 3 favorites as a child were, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, “James and the Giant Peach” and “The BFG”. Reading “ESIO TROT” was very interesting as well. For a couple of years, “James and the Giant Peach” had me captivated, but as the years went by, I have to declare that my absolute favorite became “The BFG”. Although the story is quite scary to begin with, it soon transforms into a warm, sweet one. I do think though that children too young probably shouldn’t read it, just to be able to sleep at night 😀
His books managed to always transport me into a completely different world. I’d be sitting in the same room as my family, reading happily (they were considerate enough to never disturb me when I read) and all of a sudden they’d all disappear, I’d be smelling different scents, hearing different sounds and feeling like I was in this alternative dimension! Any book that has that sort of effect on you is bound to be a great one. Having the Big Friendly Giant on the cover (minus his ears) remind me of my grandfather, God rest his soul, didn’t hurt either when it came to my attachment to the book.
By my early teenage years, I had outgrown children’s books (I still have them on a book shelf in my room at my parents’ house back home though and read them when I go home on vacation). I started reading novels rather than short stories and loved reading whole series of books. I was very much into mysteries and mythology. In fact, mythology is one of the areas of most interest to me until this day.
Although not as large a book as most of the others I have read, my favorite book as a teenager was, and remains to be, “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott. Louisa was a feminist writer born on November 29th, 1832 in Germantown, Pennsylvania. She was raised by her transcendentalist parents in New England where she grew up with many highly intellectual beings such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Wikipedia states that she began to write at a very young age, mainly to help support her family when they had fallen financially. “Little Women” was published in 1868 and is the most well-known book she ever wrote. It was the first of a 3-book series but that fact is not well known. It was loosely based on her life with her family in Concord, Massachusetts. She died on March 6th, 1888 in Boston, Massachusetts as a single woman.
Although not a happy, cheerful book in general, “Little Women” manages to awaken your emotions. The book is a whirlwind of emotion ranging from joy, love and hope to sadness, sorrow and heartache! If the reader is a young woman, she is bound to see herself in one (or more) of the characters. Louisa had very cleverly succeeded in putting together a family consisting of all women that ever came to exist. That fact creates a sense of familiarity and understanding between the readers and the book.
Personally, I identified with Jo and Meg, although they are on opposite ends of the spectrums of personality, character and ambition. I was more like Meg until less than a decade ago but I’m definitely becoming closer to being like Jo now. Meg’s demeanor greatly matches my personal life and Jo’s my professional life and my attitude towards my passions and interests. And, of course, there’s sweet Beth who breaks our heart and makes our tears roll down our cheeks. Her charitable, loving, warm, sweet character is one that we all aspire to have something in common with, anything, no matter how small for she is the light that shines through the family and lights everyone’s way, including that of strangers.
Unfortunately, I was not fascinated by any books in my adult years, other than “Pride & Prejudice” of course. I am still in search of that one book that I may call a favorite. It’s been 18 years since I read “Little Women” for the first time and nothing has had the same effect on me. I still like to read novels that took place in the 1800s and 1900s but I do not read them exclusively. I love to read about Greek mythology, I find it to be a fascinating subject. And when the mood strikes, philosophy and psychology are other favorites of mine. Sometimes I just want some light reading after a long hectic day and I find it very hard to find any book that doesn’t need me to be fully immersed in its world.
I am fortunate enough to live one block away from my town’s library. Of course, I am abusing that privilege. Between checking out books, DVDs, photocopying and printing there I believe that I must be one of their most loyal visitors. It never occurred to me to ask the staff to suggest reads for me, the idea just hit me as I was writing now! Now I know what I’ll be doing tomorrow 😉 I also attend almost all the book sales they hold and always pick up 4-5 books (OK, they could be 8-10 at times) that look promising. It takes me some time to go through them though, with my family obligations and work and all, which isn’t something I am necessarily happy about. I will not give up my search though, and will keep you, my readers, informed of my latest updates on that front.
I’d love it if there are any avid readers out there who would be willing to share their favorites or suggest titles of books that they found to be interesting. Feel free to email me if you do not wish to leave a comment.