Today's title doesn’t actually fit the content of this post, but it sounded too good in my head this morning to discard it completely. So, welcome to a post on books (but not on long invertebrates without appendages, whether book-loving or not).
I told a friend the other day that I’d cried in Starbucks last week. She looked at me with concern and said, “What’s the matter?” The funny thing is, nothing’s the matter. I was sitting there, drinking my coffee and reading a library book. It was the book I cried over. I have a tendency to do this. I can even name you several books that I’ve read multiple times, and cry buckets over with each re-read. They tend to be my favorites (no guesses as to why: they draw on my emotions!), and I own most of them. Last week’s particular novel, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, will be added to the collection when it comes out in paperback.
The Hunger Games is set in the post-apocalyptic former United States, now called Panem. Katniss, the sixteen year-old narrator, struggles to support her family by poaching and entering herself for the yearly Hunger Games (in which contestants from the ‘Districts’ of Panem fight to the death in a huge outdoor arena) in order to receive an extra food subsidy. This is the story of her reality, her survival, and the morality and conflict inherent in humanity’s choices. It’s on the American Library Association’s list of the ten best books for young adults, and although I wouldn’t recommend it for readers younger than 10, is suitable for all ages. The book is full of lessons in honesty, bravery, sacrifice, anger and helplessness. It’s a masterfully written, gripping tale of endurance, and I can’t wait until the sequel comes out in October.
But, back to the theme of crying and books. It happens. Laughter also happens. I’ve been known to startle fellow patrons in a coffee shop (or anywhere, really) while reading something funny. It used to drive my college roommate absolutely batty. We’d both be in the room, but while she was studying quietly, I was usually reading recreationally. And I’d burst out with my loud cackle, and scare the dickens out of her. Just one of the idiosyncrasies that she put up with (thank you for such an amazing/understanding roommate, God!), along with my inability to study IN our room (I had to go somewhere else…preferably the student union). I don’t know if it’s a quirk of my upbringing or just genetics, but reality is that I respond in an emotional and physical way to the stories I read. My mother used to read aloud to my siblings and me, and would cry over the sad parts too, until we begged her to ‘just keep on reading.’ Now I see how similar we really are.
A few books that make me cry: Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery, The Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter, Phoenix and Ashes by Mercedes Lackey, Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson, Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas by James Patterson, and Three Weeks With My Brother by Nicholas Sparks. And those are just the ones on my shelves at the moment. I think a lot of the classics I read back from age 10-15 were tear-jerkers, too. It’s probably a rule of good literature that along with being enduring, a classic work must evoke emotion. I wouldn’t know, though, because I passed on being an English major in college when my 11th grade English teacher told me that I probably wouldn’t enjoy reading anymore after four years of literature analysis. That scared me into entering college as a Biology and Spanish major, which morphed into Spanish and Communication Studies. And in the end to History, where we read all the time, don’t get fancy with the writing styles, and there’s sometimes such a lack of emotion that the absence of it is palpable. The good news being that I can keep my emotional and expressive reading on the “I do this for fun” side of things.
For books that make me laugh out loud: there are many, but a good start would include Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, and anything by Diana Wynne Jones, although I especially love The Merlin Conspiracy, Howl’s Moving Castle, The House of Many Ways and the first five of the Chrestomanci Chronicles.
Whew! Definitely too many book recommendations and mentions. And I haven’t even gotten to the list of recommended YA fantasy that I put together for a friend’s daughter. THAT is four pages long (single-spaced, too). Puts a new complexion on the term ‘bookworm,’ doesn’t it?