Updated Book Recommendations Post

Ages ago, I wrote about my favorite books. Now, exactly 4 years later, I am updating that list. Graduating with a minor in English means that I am qualified to give unsolicited book recommendations, right? Who knows, but here we go!

Beloved by Toni MorrisonSlide1

While I have a hard time saying what my favorite book is, Beloved has no competition as the most important book I have read. Everyone American or person who lives on American soil should read this book, because it deals with one of the central traumas of our history: slavery. But so often we forget about that history, even though we are most definitely still living with the legacy of it. And I could go on about that (maybe it’ll become its own blog post?), but I promised to talk about books here. This book is so rich with everything; I could read it 100 times and get something new from it every time. There’s new symbolism every paragraph, and the characters and story are compelling (and it’s based on a true story!!). The main question of the book is: what would you do to ensure that your children won’t suffer as slaves? Don’t get me wrong, it’s devastating to read. I had the good fortune to read it in a class setting, and I would actually recommend you to read it in a group setting. That helps you to get more out of it and also helps it feel less heartbreaking. So if you get anything from this post, check out Beloved from your library; it’ll be worth it.

Slide2The Round House by Louise Erdrich

This is similar to Beloved in that it deals with a trauma in American history: the oppression of Native Americans. Except it’s not historical fiction, but rather a contemporary work looking at the legacy that left behind. Specifically, it’s about the mess that is tribal jurisdiction in this day and age and asks the question: what is justice, especially when the justice system is not built in your favor? Like Beloved, this book has its devastating moments (it seems I have a type), but it’s more manageable. Erdrich is a genius at using small details to highlight feelings of loss, so it’s a very organic compassion-inducing read, if that makes sense. But it’s told from the perspective of thirteen-year old Joe, which definitely gives it very welcome moments of comedy and light-heartedness. Content warning: this book does wrestle with topics of rape, murder, and death (no graphic descriptions though), so just be careful.

Re Jane by Patricia ParkSlide3

In the past, I always used to say that Jane Eyre was my favorite book. And then I started looking at the colonial and imperial aspects of it, and now I’m not so sure. But I still adore Bronte’s writing style, so I would recommend reading it along with Re Jane as a companion text. Re Jane is a rewriting of Jane Eyre, from the perspective of a Korean American woman taking care of the adopted Chinese daughter of white parents. This book is refreshing and fun, and it fixes all of Jane Eyre‘s issues. Not only does it tackle issues of race in America, but it’s also very feminist, especially with the portrayal of the Rochester/Bertha replacements. It was especially fun for me to see the ways that Park took my favorite themes of liminality and belonging from Jane Eyre and reconstructed them for a biracial protagonist. The issues that Jane faces are unique to her racial identity yet still feels universal, and it’s a great read.

Slide4The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

You may recognize the title of this book, because it was made into a film last year. I actually still haven’t seen the film yet, but it’s on my to-do list. This is a memoir (love memoirs so much; it might be my favorite genre of book). Walls’ life has been so wild that it’s almost hard to believe that it’s not fiction. The book chronicles Walls’ poverty-marked childhood, moving across the country, ending with her in New York and her relationship with her homeless parents. The most moving aspect of reading it is the nuanced way that Walls honors the past that made her into the woman she is while also recognizing how painful it was to live through. It’s a riveting read and beautifully told, so go read the book and then watch the movie!

And while I focus on novels, here are some suggestions for other genres:

Nonfiction: The Language of God by Francis Collins. If you’re at all interested in learning more about how to reconcile faith and science (specifically on the topic of evolution), I highly recommend this book. Francis Collins is a fantastic writer, and his perspective is very compelling and comprehensive.

Poetry: My two favorite poets at the moment are Pablo Neruda and Layli Long Soldier. There is a purity to the simplicity of Neruda’s odes that’s just delightful and wholesome to read, and he also writes a lot of beautiful love poetry. Long Soldier is a Lakota poet whose works are unconventional and push the limits of what poetry is. Her response to the Congressional Resolution of Apology to Native Americans, a book of poetry titled Whereas, is incredible, and I highly recommend it.

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3 Days, 3 Quotes Day 3: Love from E. B. White

Alas, it is the last day of the 3 Days, 3 Quotes Challenge. Feel free to read yesterday’s post or the rules/post from the first day. Thank you so much to The Daily Geekette for nominating me for this really fun challenge! And here is the final quote:

“Why did you do all this for me?” he asked. “I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.”

“You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing.”

~E. B. White, Charlotte’s Web

It’s really cool, because I was thinking about writing about this quote recently and decided not to (probably ’cause I’ve been on vacation/a mission trip the last month or so). But now I am writing about it, and again, I feel like it’s too beautiful to really add more words to. But I will anyway, because I do have some thoughts about this.

This quote really grabbed me, because I’ve noticed we like to talk about love in terms of what we deserve. And in one respect, it’s healthy. Here I’m thinking about helping people get/stay out of abusive relationships. It’s important to know you do not deserve to be mentally, emotionally, or physically abused. No one is worth so little that it’s okay to hurt them.

But I don’t like the idea we have that we earn love by being good. Your good deeds don’t help you advance levels with love as the prize at the end. Being good is not the currency with which we buy love. Truth is, none of us are so good that we can truly earn love. But we have been given love. Love is given, not earned. And the only thing we can do is receive love when it’s given to us and love others to the best of our ability. 11174960_975167519161524_4670260034670953467_n

Charlotte didn’t love Wilbur because she wanted him to give her something more. She didn’t give because it was what was expected of her when she accepted his friendship. No, she said, “You have been my friend. I care about you. I love you. So let me do something for you.” We don’t love for what we will get in return. That would make it a business deal. No, love is so much bigger than that. There aren’t boundaries on love. It just gives and gives, not caring about propriety or expectations or what’s considered fair or the sacrifice. Love says you’re beautiful even if you don’t see it yourself. Love gives without expecting you to return the favor. Love says you are worth it.

I can’t think of anyone else that I know who has a blog (the right type of blog, that is), so I am unfortunately not nominating any more people.

Until next time,

Epylle Spydre

p.s. I don’t want to ignore the fact that this quote is also about the beauty of friendship and the gorgeous way that Charlotte uplifts Wilbur in this quote. But I think those are inherently communicated just with the quote and do not need any of my words. So we’ll just let that beauty sit there. Hopefully I haven’t ruined this quote by talking too much…

3 Days, 3 Quotes Day 2: Fitzgerald, Books, and Belonging

Wooh, it’s day 2, and I’ve got another quote for you all today! If you want to look at the rules again, read yesterday’s post. Again, thank you Carly and The Daily Geekette for the nomination!

fitzgerald quote

20150715_163814

Even this cat found a home with books (and magazines).

This quote really needs very few words. I feel like you have either experienced this with books and wholeheartedly agree with Fitzgerald, or you don’t. I’ve written a lot about belonging and what home means to me on this blog. I’ve struggled with loneliness considerably during my lifetime, which is why this quote resonates with me so much. So often during my life, I felt like I was on the margins. I need an invitation to feel like I belong, where it seems like other people just create a space for themselves and call it home. But books? Books welcomed me. They said, “Hey there, wandering soul. Find a home here.” Books gave me the human connection I was craving. And they have done that for countless others.

I think we all want to belong. We all want to be at home somewhere, with people who really know us and care for us and tell us that we are welcome and wanted. And it’s really wonderful that books can alleviate loneliness for people, even people who wouldn’t consider themselves very lonely.

I hope you not only find a kindred spirit in the pages of a book but also on the streets of your life. I hope you know that you belong.

Here are the people I’m nominating today:

Enjoy your quotes, everyone!

3 Days, 3 Challenges Quote 1: Mother Teresa Teaches About Love and Pain

Well, I missed the blog’s 3rd birthday ’cause I was in Turkey, so happy belated three years, everyone!

Anyways, this post is actually a response to my first blog challenge! So exciting! On to business and fewer exclamation marks now…

A Cool Glass of Lemonade has been nominated to participate in the  3 Days, 3 Quotes challenge by Carly of The Daily Geekette. Thank you Carly for the nomination!

The rules of the challenge are as follows:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you.
  2. Post a quote for three consecutive days (one quote per day).
  3. Nominate three new bloggers each day.

I’m going to start with my favorite quote, spoken by the inspirational Mother Teresa. It’s actually really hard to pick a favorite quote by her, because she has so many excellent quotes. Anyways, here goes:

“I have found the paradox: that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”
~ Mother Teresa

I feel like I shouldn’t even write anymore because nothing I can say will be as beautiful, simple, or pure as what she said, but I guess I will try to write some. I learned of this from a friend who knew that I liked quotes. It’s actually funny because the first time I heard this, I didn’t like it that much. It didn’t seem that profound or interesting to me. But I always kept it in the back of my mind, and as I grew older, I learned to see and appreciate the wisdom in it.

heart 1As we grow up, our idea of love changes. At first, it’s just a pretty red heart, a valentine. Its shape is always symmetrical and smooth. It’s pointy on one end, but it’s not painful or ugly in any way. It’s just pretty and dependable and fun to doodle.

heart 2

Then we get older, and we learn that hearts don’t look like that at all. Hearts are for pumping blood and getting oxygen to different parts of our bodies. Hearts are so vital to life. And it’s interesting that that is what we use as the symbol and language of love. We say:
“I love you with all of my heart.”
“My heart has been broken.”

We talk about love using the language of this gross-looking organ that we need to live. It’s not pretty. It doesn’t always work correctly. It can cause pain. And so does love.

Love quite simply, isn’t always beautiful. Real love is the stuff of life, and real life is painful. The act of loving itself causes pain. If we didn’t love, we wouldn’t care enough to feel hurt. That’s why I’ve always adored books and movies that make my cry: because I knew that if I cried, then that means it meant something to me. Tears are like my test to see if it was really that good or not. If we love so much that it hurts, then it’s real love, and real love will always win over the hurt.

Anyway, I wrote more than I thought I would. Thanks for reading!

I nominate:

Cheers!

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that I love books. The written word is incredibly precious to me and I hope to you as well. So today I just wanted to share a little about my 5 favorite novels! Oh, and I also included a favorite quote from each book!  

Jane Eyre by Charlotte BrontëJane Eyre

While my listing of these books aren’t in an exact order, this one is by far my favorite. I adore Jane; she’s my fictional kindred spirit, my literary doppelgänger. I connect with her on so many levels, and that’s an incredibly justifying experience. But aside from our similarities, she inspires me. She’s an incredibly strong, honest, eloquent person, and she’s my imaginary role model as well. And of course, there’s Edward Rochester, our wonderful byronic hero. Their story is beautiful and heartbreaking, made all the more exquisite with Brontë’s rich language. Every sentence is dripping with meaning, and it’s nearly impossible to pick a quote because they’re all so gorgeous. In short, I absolutely adore Jane Eyre. Oh, and if you’ve read the book, make sure you check out the BBC Masterpiece 2006 movie version because it’s wonderful!

 

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hobbit is probably the book (other than really short books) that I have digested the most. I’ve listened hobbitto it at least twice, and I’m pretty sure I read it once by myself. Anyway, I probably would have just said the Lord of the Rings trilogy, except that I’m reading The Return of the King for the first time right now, and I read the other two when I was too young to appreciate them. There is a magic to Tolkien’s language, and the world he created is so lavish and full of intricacies. And Bilbo is an adorably honest and hardy character, and Martin Freeman does justice to the character in the movies (probably the best part of the movies, actually, what with all the borrowing and adapting that goes on). Add that to adventures of escaping from trolls, riddles with Gollum, and a jail-break out of Mirkwood, and it should be easy to see why this is such a beloved classic.

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

I actually already wrote a post about this book, a series of memoirs from the VietThings they carriednam War, so this will be brief. Basically, what really makes this book so valuable is the real, raw glimpse into what war is like. It’s the horror we see in movies like 12 Years a Slave and Amistad, where we want to look away, but doing so feels too cowardly. But it’s not just out there to make us feel horrified; O’Brien asserts many times that there is a grotesque beauty to war. Like many things in life, war isn’t a black and white issue, and this poignant piece of literature portrays that elegantly. 

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Yup, I know this choice is overused and not original, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t legitimate. What really sells this book is the protagonist, Holden Caulfield. Yes,  he’s obnoxious. But he’s also deeply complex, and that’s what makes this book so meaningful. At the beginning, I was merely amused by all of the unusual thoughts that go on in his brain. I said, “It’s interesting to see a guy’s perspective like this.” But he’s actually really unusual because he’s iCatcherncredibly vulnerable with the readers even if he isn’t with other characters. He’s lonely, and he just wants someone to listen to him. And that is what makes this book so  universal and so loved. While our states of loneliness may not be as deep as Holden’s, we still know the feeling, and it’s comforting to know that we’re not alone. Check out John Green’s crash course videos (make sure you watch them both) on this stuff, because they are genius! 

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis

It’s difficult to articulate what I love about this novel. Out of all the novels I’ve listed, this is the most endearing (The Hobbit comes pretty close, but it’s still primarily a novel about adventure). Like Tolkien, Lewis creates his own world, except instead of being strictly fantasy, this one is grounded in our own reality–in space (Mars to be precise). And the descriptions of this world are wild but beautiful. The beauty of this novel lies also in the characters, particularly the made up creatures. In a Silent Planetplace where fear doesn’t exist, the people are gallant and compassionate and wise in the purest sense of the traits. Lewis does the fantastic feat of not only creating a place that is intellectually interesting to read about and adventure in, but a place where I would truly love to live. That doesn’t do this book nearly enough justice, but it’s all I’ve got for right now. 

 

Do you have any book suggestions? I’m trying to read as much as I can this summer while I have the time, so I’d love to hear what your favorites are! 

Epylle Spydre