Category Archives: Books I love

Number 103 – Alma

Nope, not the Alma you were thinking of.  This Alma is a character in one of my favorite books.  As a friend of mine pointed out once, I seem to like books with young protagonists or narrators.  I had never thought of that, but once she said it, I realized it was true.

Alma is one of the main characters in The History of Love by Nicole Krauss.  Really, Alma is many characters in the book because of the book-within-a-book situation.  Alma is a teenager who is trying to help her mother find happiness and understand what life is all about (that’s a very simplified description of who Alma is…).

I love this passage, where the main Alma is telling about the Alma in the book:

The first woman may have been Eve, but the first girl will always be Alma… Maybe the first time you saw her you were ten.  She was standing in the sun scratching her legs.  Or tracing letters in the dirt with a stick.  her hair was being pulled.  Or she was pulling someone’s hair.  And a part of you was drawn to her, and a part of you resisted – wanting to ride off on your bicycle, kick a stone, remain uncomplicated.  In the same breath you felt the strength of a man, and a self-pity that made you feel small and hurt.  Part of you thought:  Please don’t look at me.  If you don’t, I can still turn away.  And part of you thought:  Look at me.

Alma is a girl I wish I knew.  Alma and I could hang out with Oskar.  I think they could help each other a lot (I wonder if this was the idea… since History of Love and Extremely Loud and IncrediblyClose were written by a wife and her husband).

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Number 96 – Oskar Schell

I have already written a post about Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer,  but I also wanted to write about Oskar Schell, the main character.  He is a 9 year old boy, but oh so much more than that.  There are so many things about Oskar that are incredibly endearing.  He’s an inventor who invents things that will make all our lives easier.  He’s a Francophile who is constantly describing his raison d’être.  He only wears white and is always playing his tambourine.  He is a brave little boy who travels far and wide to solve a beautiful mystery.  He is a vegan and a pacifist.  You need to read this book.

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Number 95 – Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters

As I’ve said before, I loved Reading Rainbow when I was a kid.  This was one of my favorites.  It’s an African folk tale, but is surprisingly similar to Cinderella – I suppose this illustrates the universal theme of pride before the fall.  Mufaro has two daughters who are very beautiful but one is rude and the other is generous and kind.  The story is well written and quite lovely.  The illustrations are beautiful.  I love the rich, vibrant way the illustrator recreated the African landscape.  I probably checked this out of the library a dozen times and I even bought myself a copy a couple years ago.  It’s a great book, but you don’t have to take my word for it.

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Number 88 – American Girls

Susan, Molly, Felicity, Me, Samantha, Kirsten

When I first saw a Pleasant Company catalog I was smitten.  I read that thing cover to cover and back again.  Oh. My. Gosh. I was lucky enough to be given Samantha, then Kirsten.  I also had quite a few outfits and accessories.  I was also lucky enough to have a best friend who owned Felicity and Molly.  Oh my did Susan and I have fun with our dolls!

What girl wouldn’t love these dolls?  And the books! There is a book series that goes with each dolls (I still love to read these stories).  Each dolls is set in a different time of America’s history and I could hardly tell I was learning while reading because the books were so good and the dolls were so fun!

My childhood bedroom with beds for both my dolls

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Number 83- For Esmé – with Love and Squalor

This story by J.D. Salinger is from his book 9 Stories.  I remember my mom reading this story to us on one of our road trips.  I was probably in middle school and I remember a long discussion of what squalor meant.  My parents did a really good job of describing this word, but I still couldn’t really grasp the meaning.  I remember asking, “So, a slug is like squalor?” and my parents saying, no, not really.

I really loved this story of wartime England because of the simple characters who are drawn so beautifully by Salinger:  “She was about thirteen, with straight ash-blond hair of ear-lobe length, an exquisite forehead, and blasé eyes that, I thought, might very possibly have counted the house.  Her voice was distinctly separate from the other children’s voices, and not just because she was seated nearest me.  It had the best upper register, the sweetest-sounding, the surest, and it automatically led the way.  The young lady, however, seemed slightly bored with her own singing ability, or perhaps just with the time and place; twice, between verses, I saw her yawn.  It was a ladylike yawn, a closed-mouth yawn, but you couldn’t miss it; her nostril wings gave her away.”  That passage has stuck with me over the years… especially the part about the yawn.

I can’t really say exactly why I love this story so much except to agree with Esmé by saying I prefer stories about squalor.

 

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Number 70 – The Mahabharata

I first read the Mahabharata when I was a sophomore in high school.  We read it in our Values and Beliefs class with Ms. Youngblood.  I loved this class.  We got to learn about all different religions and philosophical ideas.  It was awesome.  The Mahabharata was my favorite.  It is such an incredible epic – it was confusing and inspiring and frustrating and amazing.  It tells of the Kauravas and the Pandavas.  At this point in my life I couldn’t really tell you much about it (except some odd birthing and battle scenes and a vague sense of what happens when our lives end).  Nevertheless, it remains etched in my memory as a beautiful and inspirational history.

My favorite part is definitely the Lessons of the Lake.  Yudhisthira is at the lake and he has to answer questions from the lake.

Voice: What is quicker than the wind?
Yudhisthira:  Thought.
Voice:  What can cover the earth?
Yudhisthira:  Darkness.
Voice: Who are more numerous the living or the dead?
Yudhisthira:  The living, because the dead are no longer.
Voice:  Give me an example of space.
Yudhisthira:  My two hands as one.
Voice:  An example of grief.
Yudhisthira:  Ignorance.
Voice:  Of poison?
Yudhisthira:  Desire.
Voice:  An example of defeat?
Yudhisthira:  Victory.
Voice:  Which came first day or night?
Yudhisthira:  Day, but it was only a day ahead.
Voice:  What is the cause of the world?
Yudhisthira:  Love.
Voice:  What is your opposite?
Yudhisthira:  Myself.
Voice:  What is madness?
Yudhisthira:  The forgotten way.
Voice:  And revolt, why do men revolt?
Yudhisthira:  To find beauty either in life or in death.
Voice:  And what for each of us is inevitable?
Yudhisthira: Happiness.
Voice:  And what is the greatest wonder?
Yudhisthira:  Each day death strikes and we live as though we were immortal.  This is the greatest wonder.

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Number 68 – A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door & A Swiftly Tilting Planet (and When You Reach Me)

Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quartet (although I’ve only ever read 3…) is one of my favorite series ever written.  I think I’ve read A Wrinkle in Time a dozen or so times, A Wind in the Door 3 or 4 times and A Swiftly Tilting Planet 8 or 9 times.  I love them.  I love Meg, she’s a very strong female character.  I love the themes of love, family and fantasy.

The idea of time travel is so cool – I remember being amazed the first time I read it.  The way that Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Which explain the physics of time travel was so creative.  I loved it.

The new Newberry Award winner, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead has some lovely ties to A Wrinkle in TimeWhen You Reach Me is a beautifully crafted story that deserves a spot on the shelf right next to L’Engle’s classics.  It is really a lovely book.

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