Saturday, January 28, 2012

My Favorite Reads Vol. 1


Is it bad that some of my favorite people are characters in books?  That probably makes me a big nerd, but I really do love them.  Reading is one of my biggest passions and I love exploring new worlds and adventures from the comfort of the couch with a glass of good red wine close at hand.  

With this in mind I am going to create a “regular” post series where I share some of my favorites with you.  I am planning on choosing 5 per post and with the number of “favorites” it’s pretty safe to say I’ll have plenty of material to make this a regular post topic.  

I have to admit I felt a little pressure to come up with these first 5.  It’s like when someone asks me to name my favorite song.  I just can’t.  While perusing my bookcase and kindle old friends I haven’t paid attention to in a long time were almost leaping off the shelves to have me pick them first.  Adventures I’d forgotten about begged to be relived.  Kind of like the forgotten toys in Toy Story.  So I did the only fair thing - I listed them all on a sheet of paper and randomly picked 5 to start with.  There was one exception however...

1.  Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

 This is, and may always be, my favorite book of all time.  I read this classic for the first time while in an English class at Western Washington University and have read it  no less than 20 times since then.  I read it at least once every year and is my go-to book when I’m sick (along with watching The Princess Bride).  I love getting lost in the world of Darcy and Elizabeth.  The characters have become like my own disfunctional family now, and I cringe along with Elizabeth and Jane when Mrs. Bennett opens her mouth with one of her ridiculous exclamations.  They are the misfit cousins I only have to see every once in awhile (hpothetically speaking of course, all of my family members are amazing - and may be reading this post).  Of course the main theme of the book is to not let your own pride and preconceived prejudices get in the way of your discovery of love and happiness, but I love the world that Austen potrays and find myself swooning and pining over balls and “meals” with friends and relations.  If you’ve never read it, I’ll still be your friend, but I highly suggest giving it a try, you might be surprised by how relevant corsets can be.



2.  Firefly Lane - Kristin Hannah

Kristin Hannah is an amazing contemporary author, and if you haven’t checked her out, get thee to Amazon, the library, kindle store, or wherever one can still buy books these days and pick this one up.  This was the second book I read written by her (okay, technically the third, but I didn’t know the first one was written by her for a few years later).  It follows the friendship of 2 women from childhood into adulthood as they are faced with traumatic, life altering betrayals and tragedies.  The book is set in the Northwest and it’s fun to read about life in Seattle in the 70’s and 80’s.  I will warn you that you need to have plenty of Kleenex ready for the ending, but it’s so good you won’t be able to put it down.  I cried for a solid 20 minutes after finishing.  I remember walking downstairs and my husband worriedly asked me what was wrong.  I told him nothing, just that the book was so sad and soooo good.  He asked me why I read something that made me cry.  I think many of us read to escape or experience life through the lens of someone else and when you find a book that touches your heart, it’s amazingly powerful.  This is one of those books.

Kristin Hannah has the unique ability to write about the relationships that women have with their friends, spouses, families, etc. in a way that is perfectly relatable.  I have yet to be disappointed by anything written by her, and I’m sure you’ll see her name plenty on this list.


3.  The Rum Diary - Hunter S. Thompson

It would be tempting to just say that anything by Hunter S. Thompson is going to take you on a wild ride through experiences you hope to never live, but that would be too easy.  I fell in love with Johnny Depp in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”, and came across this obscure book at a library book sale right around the same time.  Rumor has it that this was sort of a hidden manuscript from Thompson that Depp came across and encouraged him to get published.  He wrote it in the 60’s and it was published in 1998.  However it happened, I’m glad to have found it at that book sale.  Some may see it as the slightly less frantic, tamer cousin to “Fear and Loathing” but that’s not to say this one doesn’t have it’s moments in the sun either.  I like the vulnerability of Paul Kemp as he swelters his way through San Juan, Puerto Rico.  He has been hired as a newspaper writer for a struggling shop and the book opens with him realizing he’s drank his way through the hotel’s mini-bar before he evens gets to work.  I love it and won’t say much more than it’s pure Hunter S. Thompson with a little more maturity - and you shouldn’t believe the critics - the movie was good too.

4.  A Million Little Pieces - James Frey

Yes, I know Oprah hates him, he’s a liar and sold us snake oil blah blah blah.  Yes, the memoir contains less soemtimes inaccurate factual events, but no one can deny the power this book had when it first came out.  And even after the Oprah bashing I can honestly say this remains one of the truest books on addiction and self-destruction that I’ve ever read.  To those of you who changed your mind because Oprah told you to, I say shame on you.  It should not be a surprise that there are chunks of this book that are made up.  How could one possibly remember the details of events that led to blacking out and finding oneself in the gutter?  

My personal feelings for Oprah and how she handled the whole situation aside (thank you South Park for trying to make it right as only you can), this book remains one of the first books that humanized the drug addict and brought him to the public.  To me, that’s why it’s still one of my all-time favorites.  Before this book there were a few books about drug addicts that reached the best seller list, but they were often glamorized or too characterized to make them real (yes, even by the great Hunter S. Thompson).  Frey’s ability to make us root for him and see him as our neighbor, son, friend, weird cousin, etc opened a lot of people’s minds to the dangers and horrors experienced by those trapped in the hands of the addict.  This may have been the seminal piece of work that drew me to write about characters that struggle with addiction and examine how a seemingly innocent substance holds the power to take control over otherwise normal people.  So ignore Oprah and give it another look.  Good news?  Thanks to Oprah you can probably find it pretty cheap.  Now the sequel?   Hmm....let’s just say that one won’t make this list.  lol

5.  Violets of March - Sarah Jio

This one I cheated on a little bit, I admit.  I didn’t randomly pick it.  I just finished this book on Thursday, and let me tell you, it’s awesome!!  Sarah Jio is a new author who has just released her 2nd full length novel, and her storytelling and charater building skills are superb and well seasoned.  I was excited to see she was going to be in Leavenworth today for a book signing, only to make the drive to see her cancelled notice.  Oh well.  This book is a fantastic love story and journey of self-discovery and acceptance.  The main character finds herself hiding from her life at her aunt’s house on Bainbridge Island after her marriage crumbles.  She discovers a love story and mystery from the past that makes her question her views on everyone around her.  I won’t say much more because I really want you to read it and don’t want to give any of the delicious secrets away, but the story takes you places you may not expect.  Pick this one up when your schedule is free because you won’t want to put it down!


Well, those are the first five.  Read any good ones lately?

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