The Book List

As a kid, it took me a little extra time to learn how to read. It wasn’t that I disliked books but that I had a great struggle in comprehending the words. By second grade I was separated from the larger portion of the class and put into the remedial readers category.

I grew up with many books that were very important in my family. I loved them and relish many of those stories still to this day.

 But I still have the trouble that I did as a small child. I understand the words better, but the speed at which I digest them is extremely low. When I start reading a book, it has to grab me really fast or I lose interest out of tedium. There are few and amazing exceptions to this, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

Yesterday, a friend and I were discussing writing, publishing, and reading. We discussed several books we’ve both read and some projects that I’m working on. In the midst of all this, she informed me that if I gave her a list of the books I like, she’d probably love every one of them, as so far we’ve had very good luck that way.

As you all know, I don’t always like giving out recommendations because I am Book Selfish. But I do love talking about my favourite books. So, I decided I would, after all, post a list of books that I appreciate here and write a little about each one, whether it’s how I discovered it, if I have a significant issue with it, or if I refuse to let anyone else talk about it, etc.

I’ll try not to give any spoilers, but I can’t promise there won’t be any, as I get so involved that I sometimes forget that the tidbits of knowledge from a favourite story aren’t commonly known.

OKAY, here we go.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

This book reads like a history text book in the form of a novel, complete with footnotes often lasting several pages. So believable that when reading actual non-fiction accounts of the time, specifically Our Tempestuous Day by Carolly Erickson, I find myself waiting for the appearance of fairies during the accounts of the madness of King George. A well represented but quiet love story dances beneath the struggle for power between the fairy world and normal society, and is beautifully overwhelmed by the frustrated friendship between two magicians vying for an unattainable superiority. This is one of the few books I have managed to get through that was so incredibly slow. It’s over 700 pages long and the action doesn’t pick up until halfway through, and even when it does, it’s only by the slightest acceleration. Even so, the subject matter is so jam-packed with interest that I couldn’t put it down, no matter how drudgingly I moved through it.

Perdido Street Station by China Mieville

I just finished this one a few weeks ago, after several years of trying to read it. This description may contain major SPOILERS, so please be aware and move ahead if that bothers you:

This book is dark, beautiful, dirty, and could not have conceivably produced a happy ending. It was perfect and sad. I needed a break after finishing it, moving on to something much lighter, but will return to the world of Bas Lag after finishing a couple of books in the queue.

King Rat by China Mieville

Again, potential SPOILERS:

A story somewhat of the pied piper in modern England. Strung together with the movement of Drum and Bass music, which I have only since completing the book become familiar with, and bringing forth a long ago suppressed fear of underground trains.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

I read the first book during a difficult and very lonely time in my life. It was haunting and lovely and I adored it immediately. I reread it over the past few weeks, in preparation for its sequel.

Miss Peregrine’s is a strange tale of Before and After. Set in both the modern world and the time of World War II, it mingles coming of age, old family secrets, and ferocious beasts that prey on those with peculiar powers. Obviously a First Novel. Simple but Captivating. All surrounding a collection of bizarre antique Found Photographs. Hell of a concept that did not translate well into the second novel.

Hollow City is even more obviously a First Novel than the actual first book. Keeping with the photographic theme does not work in the sequel where the characters are traveling after a disaster and have no possibility of taking or seeing the included images. There are editing errors in both books, but most pronounced in the second are the continuity errors. So much is packed in that it seems the author is trying much too hard, making too heavy a point of the peculiarities of the characters and the situations, and creating confusion by the late establishment of ‘facts,’  instead of allowing the simplicity of the first book to more greatly inform the story’s progression. I want so badly to love Hollow City as much as I loved Miss Peregrine’s, but I groan at every page, finding a beautiful moment only every few chapters that reminds me why I’m reading it in the first place.

 

Un Lun Dun by China Mieville

This is a book I have difficulty sharing because it is very personal to me. It is my inner monologue. It is my favourite book. My very favourite book. And I bought it with my last $12, years ago in a small bookshop in Easley, South Carolina. All because of the description on the back and because of the following letter to the reader in the front of the book:

 

Note to Reader

People speaking British English and people speaking American English mostly understand each other fine. But there are a few words we use in Britain that you might not recognize, or that we use differently from you. Should you encounter a strange or difficult word in the story, please flip to the short glossary, which is located in the back of this book.

 

That right there sold me. I have hated for years the mutilation of books, such as the Harry Potter series (another major favourite), changing words that I know or would have liked to know, into American forms that in my opinion dumb down an entire nation instead of teaching its people to go to the library and look in the dictionary.

 

I adore Un Lun Dun so much that I carried it in my wedding in place of a prayer book, wrapped in ribbons and covered in flowers. In honor of all the times that I had Nothing.

Prayer Book(photo by Steve Badgley

 

There are a few other books I plan to tell you about, but I have to get ready for work, and I need more time to refine my thoughts about each other story. In the meantime, I would love to hear from you about your favourite books. And if you know of a book that you think I might like, please leave it in the comments, but please please please, NO SPOILERS!

 

[I apologize for the screwy formatting. No matter how many times I change it, it won’t stick that way. Hopefully I can fix it this afternoon. Ciao!]

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