I found this 30 DAYS of BOOKS meme through fellow Heights alumna Fidelis Tan and thought it would be fun. I'm not very updated when it comes to the "cool" or "highly acclaimed" stuff, so this list might be kind of dull for book snobs, but hey, I'm just sharing what I've got.
Day 01 – Best book you read last year
(07 July 2011) If you count books with no words, then it's "The Arrival," by Shaun Tan, hands down.
In March or April 2010, I had to interview someone in Eastwood, but I arrived early, so I passed the time in Fully Booked. I found "The Arrival" under graphic novels in the children's section and read it in one sitting. There's just no way you can't immerse yourself, not just in the gorgeously fantastic world, but also in the poignant and sometimes painful situations that Mr. Tan's created for his unnamed immigrant. The illustrations, I think, capture and even heighten the magic and terror of starting a new life in a new place.
I didn't have enough cash with me that day I found it and had to leave, so I spent the next three or four months hunting for another copy in other Fully Booked branches--it was no longer there when I went back to Eastwood--finally finding it tucked away in the tiny Gateway outlet (where I also found another Shaun Tan treat, "Tales From Outer Suburbia"). It definitely was worth the trouble and the money, and it's not just the best book I read last year but one of my favorite books of all time.
Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than 3 times
(08 July 2011) It's hard to pick one for this without disqualifying it for one of the other days, but I think I'll go with "Anthem," by Ayn Rand. When I was a high school freshman, Kuya Justin Sorongon, who was a senior, told me to check it out. After that first reading, I'd borrow it at least once each year of high school afterward. As someone who had few friends and (perhaps wrongly) felt that I was surrounded by mindless inferiors, I related quite a bit to Equality 7-2521.
It's actually been a while since I read this book; I'll have to find a copy and see if it still means as much to me. I doubt it, but the fact that it meant something at such a painful time merits "Anthem" a place on my shelf.
Day 03 – Your favorite series
(11 July 2011, for 09 July) The "Time Quartet," by Madeleine L'Engle. This series consists of the following books, in order: "A Wrinkle in Time," "A Wind in the Door," "A Swiftly Tilting Planet," and "Many Waters." Some publishers distribute these books as a quintet and include "An Acceptable Time," but I think it's unnecessary.
I've gone through a lot of YA series, but I'd have to say that this one had the most impact on me. Other books have given me role models, sure, but these are part of just a handful that actually shaped my personal philosophy.
Long before JK Rowling and my philo and theo teachers got to me, and before I got through the Bible, these books showed me how the effects of one's actions may be felt outside of one's own life, lifetime, and (at least in the cases of the Murry and O'Keefe families) dimension. They also provide great examples of compassion, acceptance, self-sacrifice, and faith in the face of darkest uncertainty.
Day 04 – Favorite book of your favorite series
(11 July 2011, for 10 July) "A Wind in the Door," by Madeleine L'Engle. To me, this book best encapsulates all that I've listed above. It also gave me my first lessons in loving someone who's given you so much misery and giving up your own impulsive desires to fulfill your life's purpose. Whether I've successfully lived by those lessons (or learned my life's purpose) is debatable, of course, but that they concern me at all is thanks in large part to this book.
Day 05 – A book that makes you happy
(11 July 2011) "Mister God, This is Anna," by Fynn. The cheesy title may put you off, but this is another of my all-time favorite books, and one of the life-changers next to "A Wind in the Door." Since I seem to be about life lessons today, this one's about the value of knowledge, curiosity, and an open mind about everything from stuff you pick up off the ground and stray animals to people, mathematics, and religion. The story itself, of a young man whose family took in a homeless child genius off the streets, sounds like and probably is Oscar bait, but that shouldn't make it any less lovely.
And I don't know if you'd call the ending happy, but I certainly believe I'm a better person because of this book.
Day 06 – A book that makes you sad
(12 July 2011) "Piratica III: The Family Sea," by Tanith Lee.
For the hero to become who he or she has to be, they have to be taken far, far away from the person they were at the start. Horrible things might happen, people might die, and endings might be bittersweet or downright sad instead of happy.
I'd always kind of understood this. I'd never been the type of person to get angry about an author's decisions, as the heroes would always seem better for it in the end. Even Harry Potter, who'd made all that sacrifice and seen all that death--including the death of my very favorite character--was all right in the end.
Tanith Lee's characters, at least in the series I'd read and especially in the Piratica books, didn't offer me this same certainty. Ms. Lee drew me deeper inside her heroes' heads than was usual for the YA books I'd read up to that point. Then she put both them and me through all kinds of weird shit, so that when I got to the end of the series, I was angry. How could she do that to her heroes and, by association, to me?
Yes, I still believed that the books were well-written, and yes, I knew that Art was a better, stronger, more mature person than she'd been when she set out in book one. But part of me wishes Ms. Lee had left off at the end of that euphoric first book, so that Art could still be happy, whole, and ignorant, instead of what she had to become two books later.
Also, unlike most of the YA I've read, there weren't any clear lessons, no golden rules, no wizened superior to explain everything at the end to make you feel better. The hero (and the reader) has to come to this conclusion alone, and any kindly voice you hear will likely be an inner one: This is what life is like. Yeah, it sucks. Now, what're you going to do?
I suppose that's better in the sense that it's more realistic. But I guess I expected these books to be an escape from reality and a lot less painful.
By the way, not the best series to read when you're homesick and living alone.
Day 07 – Most underrated book
(13 July 2011) I'm not sure what makes an underrated book since I don't talk much about books with other people. You'd think someone with a boyfriend who teaches writing would always have someone to talk to about books, but unfortunately, Martin and I don't have the same tastes. Should we still be together years and years from now, it will probably look like this.
So, underrated book? Underrated by whom? The Times? Which ones? I think I'll just go with Twitter. That's where most of the book chatter in my life tends to come from these days. And Twitter, it seems, is divided on American Gods, by Neil Gamian.
This is my favorite Neil Gaiman book next to "The Graveyard Book" and "Good Omens" and is possibly (wait for it) one of my favorite books ever. I guess I like fiction that's to do with faith and religion in general, and here, I like Mr. Gaiman's exploration of what happens to the gods that humans have forgotten. I honestly don't understand what people don't like about it. That it's long? That it's not as fast-paced and action-packed as the author's other works? That the protagonist's name is Shadow? (Okay, that, I kind of took issue with.)