Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Media Wednesdays

In this edition of Media Wednesdays, I am sharing my five favourite books of all time.  I am a reader and always have been. I have a Bachelor of Arts with an Advanced Major in English.  We read to E every night and my favourite gifts to give kids are books, you can never have too many.  I spent a lot of time at the library growing up, and now that I have a child, my love of the library has been renewed. I remember going with E when I was on mat leave and saying "I can take these home for free!" I know that is obvious but it was a new level of appreciation.

I have many favourite books but these are ones that have stuck with me and that I've read, or will read, multiple times.

Gone with the Wind - I have read this about 10 times or more.  I remember picking it up at our library when I saw it on a list that said "Read a banned book!".  Aside from the obvious racial issues and bias with which the book was written, it is still a wonderful read.  Margaret Mitchell was a very talented writer and made those characters come alive so it was almost like you were sitting on the front steps of Tara with Scarlett and the Tarleton twins.  It is so rich with detail, in both character development but also in the history.  The sequel, Scarlett, not written by Margaret Mitchell but by Alexandra Ripley, is pretty good.  It carries on the story after Rhett said "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn" and takes Scarlett to Ireland.  If you haven't read it, give it a shot. 
The two smaller ones were used before I even got them, and then I got a brand new copy a few years ago.

To Kill a Mockingbird - I watched this movie early on and when I read the book I was immediately appreciative of Harper Lee's talent.  Of course the book provides more detail, more characters, and more nuances than the movie (as it always does). Given that Gone with the Wind is my favourite book (see above), the race relations of the South fascinate me and this book provides some more recent context.  Also the legal aspect of the trial, and the mental health of Boo Radley are themes that I enjoy.  There is a lovely scene in the book that does not appear in the movie where there is a fire in the neighbourhood one night, and everyone is out on the street watching.  At some point Scout realizes she has a blanket over her shoulders, and she didn't know where it came from, but it was Boo that had come up behind her to make sure she kept warm.  I think the adults knew he was there but he wouldn't need Scout to see him of course, he was just watching out for her.  My copy of this book is at home at my mom's.

The Great Gatsby - As many high school students were, this book was required reading in English class.  I'm not sure what it was about this book that first drew me to it, particularly when literary critics say this is one of Fitzgerald's worst books, but I enjoyed it.  Then to have Leonardo DiCaprio (LEO!!) star in the movie version years later?  How could it get any better than that?  Also a heartbreaking tale (I'm sensing a pattern here) about things not working out.  I wrote an essay about this book in Grade 12.  I would be interested to read this essay again now and see what sort of groundbreaking observations I had at that time. One thing I can be sure of is that it probably contained the word "ergo" (meaning therefore in Latin) as I had a habit of using that word in essays whenever I could.  I think I wrote about the use the colour, but I can't really remember.  I thought I had a copy of this book but I couldn't find it, maybe it is at home too.

Pillars of the Earth and World Without End - These are two books but they go together.  Ken Follett has written many books but Pillars of the Earth was the first one I read.  It is set in 12th century England, a sweeping epic taking place over many years and covering numerous storylines that are all entwined.  I felt overwhelmed with the characters at first, but you get the hang of it and then it's a real page turner as it jumps between stories.  I'd say the central feature of all of the stories is the building of a cathedral.  (Apparently the cathedral in Salisbury was the model of the one in the novel, if I'd known that we would have stopped in when we were there in 2010, instead we only travelled through Salisbury to see Stonehenge.)  World Without End picks up the story a number of years later where the characters are children and grandchildren of those from Pillars of the Earth.  A mini-series was made a few years ago and it was quite good.  The nice thing about a mini-series is that they can do a bit more with the storyline than a two hour movie.  (Fun fact - Eddie Redmayne, recent Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominee, was in this mini-series.  Very talented.)
Salisbury Cathedral in the distance (By the way, the Nazis did not bomb this church during the Blitz because they used it as a guide marker to get to London.)

The Poisonwood Bible - Hey, finally a book that hasn't been made into a movie (although I'm surprised this hasn't happened since this was an Oprah book club selection at one time).  I've read this book several times.  It is about a Christian missionary family that lives in the Congo in the 1960s.  It is told from everyone's point of view (except the father) - mom, older sister, twin sisters, and baby sister.  This was a significant period for the Congo politically, and it is a feature of the plot along with the extreme culture shock (calling it culture shock almost seems to diminish it), illness, injury, and natural disasters that the family deals with.  It is rather tragic but beautifully written. There is one passage near the end that I love so much - it is a beautiful description of what the first white people saw when they arrived in Africa for the first time, and how the Africans were doing pretty well.  There is a similar passage in The Kite Runner about Afghanistan.
I didn't flip this before I uploaded it, but you get the idea.

You always are, book, you always are.


  1. Great synopses of these books! I haven't read , To Kill A Mocking Bird, since high school. I think I will read it before I send your copy to you. And I am going to the library to get the Hollett books and the Poisonwood Bible . One of my favourite authors recently is Louise Penny, who writes mysteries set in Quebec, Eastern Township.

  2. Love Ken Follett...and I've just added Poisonwood Bible to my Goodreads!