BOOKS I LOVE—OR NOT SO MUCH!
Some books seem to get better every day—or at least year by year. I find that many books I first read for entertainment have grown over time—or maybe I have! Into this category I put anything by Jane Austen.
Her observations of human behaviors, foibles, and motivations are timeless. And I smile at the humor, even when re-reading.
Then there are Mary Renault’s books. She brings history to life and dealt with delicate issues of sexuality long before most mainstream authors.
I first approached Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass as children’s books. Indeed, my elementary-school granddaughter read them recently. But reading them with an adult eye and understanding, I find the plot line and magical realism rich and the writing superb.
Waverley Root & Richard de Rochemont
I’ve had Eating in America: A History by Waverley Root and Richard de Rochemont on my shelf of unread books for years. But recently, The Food of Italy by Waverley Root turned up on a list of recommended reads for people planning a trip to Italy, and having started that book, I turned to Eating in America. It starts with seafarers and Native Americans and continues through refrigeration and the modern American sweet tooth. Why did I let it languish so long?
And that segues into cookbooks. Of all my book loves, cookbook loves are the most fickle. I’ve had my low-calorie, low-fat, low-glycemic-index, low-carb, pressure-cooking, microwaving, slow-cooking, blending, cooking-for-one-or-two infatuations. But two cookbooks have held steady in my heart: The Doubleday Cookbook—the best encyclopedic cookbook out there—and Culinary Classics and Improvisations—the best leftovers cookbook in the world!
Memoir & biography
As a category, I’m coming to a greater appreciation of memoir and biography. For example, The Glass Castle by Jannette Walls, West With the Night by Beryl Markham, and at the recent Gaithersburg Book Festival, I bought “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs” by Annette Gordon Reed and Peter S. Onuf, a recent and atypical biography of Thomas Jefferson—which is still untested but very promising.
When it comes to books about which my feelings have undergone a sea-change, the Bible is in a category by itself. Once upon a time, I believed it was literally the word of God. Now I don’t. Enough said.
As I’ve become a writer, my interest in the mystery genre has waned. I lost interest in Patricia Cornwell early on because her protagonist, Kate Scarpetta, didn’t grow or develop. But former favorites from Sue Grafton to Rex Stout just don’t grab me anymore.
One of the books I bought on a whim, Strange Maps, turned out not to be as interesting as I expected it to be.
The Dictionary of American Regional English
And last but not least, I’m no longer in love with the six volumes of The Dictionary of American Regional English. I really regret it. But being able to look up a word and find out where it’s used isn’t nearly as useful as it would be if I could look up a region and get typical word usage!
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
The Poisonwoid Bible by Barbara Kingsolver have become more endearing as I mature through my womanhood and motherhood.
The Chronicals of Narnia by C.S. -I’ve reread these books during many stages of life and now as I read them to my 4 & 6 year old boys, I’m disturbed by the arbitrary insinuations of who is labeled good vs evil. I get it–stories have protagonists and antagonists–and kids love to hate a “bad guy”, but it’s hard explaining to my impressionable young ones why one’s behavior is justified and not the other.
Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. As a preteen it helped me overcome social awkwardness. As I grow I’m reminded that kindness is infectious. I also am fascinated by the history and setting of the time it was originally written–oh how so much has changed….and not.
This has been fun to think about, Vivian! Thank you for inviting me to reminisce my personal literary classics!
Interesting choices, Didi! And you remind me of some books I might have mentioned, such as Dress For Success!
Great website with interesting observations on books, reading and writing.
Thank you! I appreciate your good words! I hope you continue to read.