Friday, March 30, 2007

Ten Books I Couldn't Live Without

Kailana has a really great meme going: Ten Books I Couldn't Live Without. For some reason, I just couldn't keep it down to ten when I first started mulling that concept. Then, I had trouble thinking in terms of things I couldn't live without. I'm a little on the zen side; part of me has this vague notion that I could live happily in a monk-like empty space with just a pillow and a rotating supply of books (that part is completely wacko). Turning the idea on its side to come up with favorites that I love so much I've either read them repeatedly or find myself mentioning them repeatedly was a wee bit easier; don't ask me why. I started out with just five and then walked around thinking about others all evening, so if you've been here already and find yourself blinking . . . it's not all in your head; I've altered the post.

Ten Books I Couldn't Live Without:

1. Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier - I still recall the oh-my-gosh, heart-pounding moment when everything became clear in Rebecca. Not a single one of the other Daphne DuMaurier books I've read has lived up to the suspense and surprise level of Rebecca, but a few of them have been pretty enjoyable reads.

2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - By far the best book I read in 2006, I was captured from page 1 and have still not stopped thinking about it - I actually envy anyone picking it up to read for the first time. While reading, I could hardly even bear to stop long enough to take notes on favorite quotes or eat. I didn't sleep till I reached the end.

3. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas - I have no idea when I discovered this book but it's among the rare few that I've read several times. I just flipped through my old copy, this afternoon, looking for a favorite moment. No luck finding that favorite little bit of dialogue, but I ended up reading about 40 pages. It's a rare book that is so wonderful you can pick it up and flip to any page - absolutely any page of this book grabs me - and find yourself completely sucked in. Of course, I've read it enough to know the characters pretty well.

4. A Far Cry From Kensington by Muriel Spark - Whenever I think of Muriel Spark, I think of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, first. Oddly, I've never gotten around to reading that particular Sparks book, but the movie has stuck with me. A Far Cry From Kensington - a wickedly clever story - is actually the only Spark book I've enjoyed. I happened across my copy when we had a salvage store in town and the remains of a bookstore disaster arrived. When the stock first made it to the store, everything was 60% off retail price and there were rows and rows of books. I spent hours and hours walking around, perusing spines while my little one was in preschool. The books were in no particular order - really, quite chaotic - and as the book stock shrank, the discounts rose. During the final days, when the salvage store stock was down to just a few shelves, the price went to 90% off retail, then 10 cents per book and then . . . oh, my gosh . . . $1.00 per bag. That particular sale was the origin of a good portion of my personal library and I discovered some terrific authors and titles (including Paul Auster) in the process. A Far Cry From Kensington was one of my favorites. Unfortunately, publishers have never quite figured out how to give it an adequate cover. Pink? What are they thinking?

5. Desiree by Annemarie Selinko is another book that has gone through a number of hopelessly awful cover incarnations. And, yet, the book just keeps coming back. My first copy wasn't really mine; I stole it from my mother when I left for college so that I could read it a second, and then a third and fourth time. Every time I came across another copy I'd buy it and pass the extra on to a friend. Eventually, I found a copy with a pretty interesting slipcover in a dusty English bookstore with crooked floors; and, I did ask my mother if she wanted her original back. She just shrugged. So, I sent it to my childhood best friend. Desiree is historical fiction, the story of Napoleon's alleged first love, whom he jilted to marry Josephine. Marlon Brando played Napoleon in the movie version (which I didn't actually know existed until after the fourth reading). I kind of hated the movie.

6. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - Love it, love it, love it. It's witty and fun and how could you not go nuts about Mr. Darcy?

7. The Hitchhikers Trilogy by Douglas Adams - I think people either love this series or hate it. I thought Douglas Adams was a genius. Funny thing about the first time I read the series (at my then-boyfriend's suggestion); in the middle of reading the second book, my boyfriend loaned it to a guy in his office. Ummmm, I was reading that, babe. And, no, whatshisname never gave it back, but I did buy my own.

8. The Return by Daoma Winston - This is a slightly off-beat choice, but it's one of those books that I've gone back to, many times. I think it was my mom's. Poor Mom; when I left, it was like I'd planted magnets in all the good books and took a giant horseshoe magnet . . . so they followed me.

9. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas - excitement, adventure, swashbuckling action, political intrigue . . . cool.

10. My Antonia by Willa Cather, or The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton . . . or anything at all by P.G. Wodehouse, or . . . oh, gosh, it's so hard to narrow down.

In other news . . .

I blew it on the meditation - completely forgot that I needed to read exactly what I was supposed to do in time to begin meditating on a Thursday morning, as recommended. Okay, I can wait a week. I'm already pretty mellow, anyway, so it's no big deal to me. It's very possible that meditating will simply turn me into a happy, pillowy little pudding that jiggles and grins when you poke it. But, we'll find that out next week.

Flowers!! I've got them! Now, if the pollen level will just drop a bit, I'll go out and have fun playing in the dirt. If you look at a pollen map for today in the U.S., you'll see us in the "extremely high" zone, a big red, evil-looking blob. And, trust me, that pollen is every bit as menacing as it looks for those of us who have to carry Epi-pens for completely mysterious reasons (hence, the occasional reference to my desire to move to a "frozen wasteland").

I've been online way too much, today, thanks to Les's mention of, which is just loads of fun. I haven't entirely figured out how to sort songs into favorite playlists, but I have a sneaking suspicion I'll waste plenty more time figuring it out, next week.

Thinking about: The plague of the plastic shopping bag. Since I began seeking out hawks to photograph, I've noticed that there are far more plastic bags than hawks visibly flapping around in the trees. Is this a plague specifically limited to the U.S. or just our area? I can't say. It doesn't seem like we're living in an area where people are keen on recycling. My entire family is, in fact, kind of unusual for our disinterest in super-sized anything and everything. If I ever buy an SUV, just kick me.

Listening to: Layla by Eric Clapton. Oh, yeah. They've got me pegged on this thing.


  1. Great List!! The Count of Monte Cristo is on my list as well!! LOVED it AND the Three Muskateers!

    Of course, you are right....I couldn't live without books. Period!

  2. Dumas books are wonderful, aren't they? The Man in the Iron Mask is another favorite I completely forgot about. I have some others unread on the TBRs - need to get to them but they're kind of thick and scary.

    Can't live without 'em, definitely.

  3. I've been avoiding this meme like the plague. I simply can't narrow my list down to ten. If I did, The Book Thief would be on mine, as well.

    We're big recyclers, too. Well, I am. My hubby just puts the stuff in the right receptacles and I haul it down the street to the recycling center. They make it so easy anymore, I can't understand why everyone doesn't do it!

    Glad you're enjoying radioblog. Great song, btw. I love Clapton!

  4. I've been wanting to read The Book Thief for so long it seems. Glad that you liked it so much and you may be envious of me reading it for the first time shortly :)

    I used to meditate. It's something I'd like to get back to in fact. What surprised me about meditation is the amount of discipline required. When I started I used to think "I thought this was supposed to relax me." It does eventually.

    I feel your pain with the pollen. I woke up the other day to my red car suddenly looking yellow. Needless to say, I sneezed the moment I saw it and didn't stop until my head hit the pillow that night.

  5. Les,

    Exactly how I felt. I just couldn't narrow it down. Then, I started writing a Friday Five list and couldn't find all the great moments I was looking for and changed my list from 5 favorite literary moments to five favorite books and thought . . . wait, I can't do just 5! What a fruitcake. LOL Yeah, I could have gone on.

    It's actually quite difficult to recycle, here. We used to have some fairly convenient receptacles but then some joker set them on fire and they disappeared. Can you believe that?!!

    I figured you'd be a Clapton fan. ;)


    Yep, I'm turning green, already. The Book Thief is amazing. I can't wait to see what you think.

    Meditation is probably going to be hard for me because I have a terrible time sitting still. But, I like trying new things to work on staying positive and keeping a mental balance, so to speak. I'm glad you enjoyed it. You're giving me hope. :)

    We've had yellow cars for a couple of weeks. Yuck! It's raining, though, so now we have yellow puddles. I love digging in the dirt, planting things and watching them grow so I'll get out and plant this week and hope for the best (meaning, no hives and throat-closing episodes). Spring is a pain, but there's an awful lot to love about it!

  6. (The other Chris, from book-a-rama)

    The Count & P&P is on my list too. Great books.

    I read online that San Francisco (I think) is banning plastic grocery bags. That would cut down on them getting hooked in trees.

  7. I have a couple but I have yet to read anything by Dumas. I see I really should since so many have listed him in their top 10s. If only they weren't so big and chunky.

    Recycling is pretty big here in and around Tokyo. We have different pickup days for plastics, glass, cans, plastic bottles, paper, etc.

    Hope the pollen doesn't get ya!

  8. Nat,

    Oh you must, you must, you must give Dumas a try! The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers are particularly action-packed, fun reads. I understand the intimidation factor, though. He wrote some thick ones!

    I've noticed they have curbside recycling in Michigan and I wish we had it here. Maybe someday. :) In the meantime, I need to scope out some places to drop off plastic. One family's recyclables can be pretty substantial.

    LOL! The pollen isn't likely to kill me, but it can try. I love planting things, so I'll just keep doing it and stay inside on the high pollen days. What else can you do, right?

  9. That's a good list. I'd have Pride and Prejudice on mine too. I loved the Three Musketeers. But just 10?? That's hard...

    Oh...wanted to let you know that I love that shot of the wisteria in your earlier post. I too love the color combinations of purple and green.

  10. I'm (almost) with Les on this one: I can't seem to narrow it down to ten, but I am trying. And trying . . . and trying . . .

  11. Indigo,

    I know the feeling. When I hit 10, I didn't want to stop and I kept thinking of more titles, all night, and "Wait! I couldn't do without this one! Oh, no! I can't believe I forgot that!" LOL Keeping a book list short is rough.

    Thanks for the compliment on the wisteria photo. After I posted that, I realized that every photo I took that day had the same colors in it! Apparently, Mother Nature likes purple and green together, too. ;)


    It's rough, I know. When I first saw that post at Kailana's site, I thought, "Just 10? Impossible!". It would be easier to come up with a list of 50.

  12. Great list!! I've been avoiding this meme too because I can't possibly limit it to 10 and that list changes hourly depending on my mood :-)

  13. So true, Suzi. You just never know what wonderful book you're going to discover the day after writing such a list (or remember, or happen across on the good shelf, etc.). :)

  14. OK. How about you host another Chunkster Challenge next year and then I'll read me some Dumas. :P

  15. Hmmm, I'll consider it, Nat. :)

  16. I loved the Count. But there a lot of books here I need to read.
    The Book Thief is coming up soon.

  17. Framed,

    I'll have to watch for your thoughts about The Book Thief. You've got a great read ahead of you!!!

  18. Anonymous5:26 PM

    I love My Antonia, too. I just put the Muriel Spark book on my Bookmooch wishlist. I've been wanting to check her out for a while.

  19. Annie,

    I hope you get to mooch a copy, soon, and like it as much as I do. :)


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