While surfing the ‘net for another writing website, I stumbled across a column written by one of my favorite writers, Nick Hornby. It was called “Stuff I’ve Been Reading”, and it appears to be a monthly column. Unfortunately, the way that the site was set up, you couldn’t read more than the first page without having to pay some exorbitant amount, and the magazine was one which my local Barnes and Noble doesn’t carry. I was somewhat inspired to start my own monthly series, as I’m a chronic reader with a different book in almost every room. I’ll have as many as five going at once. And just like Nick Hornby, I have a tendency to buy a bunch of books, then not read any of them, at least not for a long while.
So, without further ado, here is what I’ve been reading, in the month of January 2008.
I started the month out pretty easy, rereading some young adult/children’s classics that I had first encountered either as a child or through a Children’s Lit class I took in college.
Bridge to Terabithia by Katharine Patterson is a classic that is as old as I am. The made-for-tv movie that was released in the mid-80s was one that my sister and I taped and watched over and over again. I loved the book then, and again when I took that class. A new movie adaptation came out in 2007, and I finally watched it when it premiered on the Starz channel a few weeks ago. Surprisingly enough, I loved the new movie adaptation just as much as the original one. And then I was inspired to read it yet again.
Jess Aarons is the only boy in a house full of sisters, and he tends to be ignored and neglected. When Leslie Burke moves next door, he finally finds a soulmate of sorts, who appreciates him for who he is. And she teaches him to appreciate himself, as well. Together, they create the mythical world of Terabithia. But then one day, a terrible tragedy brings reality crashing down all around.
Digging through that bookshelf then led to other fun finds.
On My Honor by Marion Jane Brauer. This is a story of two young boys. Joel is a “good” boy who never lies to his parents and tries his best to stay out of trouble. Tony, on the other hand, has a tendency to stretch the truth and is more likely to get into trouble. The two are only friends because they have grown up together. One day, the two decide to lie to their parents about going biking all the way out to the Starved Rock Bluffs. Instead, they detour at the Vermillion River. And of course, tragedy ensues. This book won a Newberry Honor Medal. I learned about it in my college Children’s Lit class. It’s another good, short read.
Mick Harte Was Here by Barbara Park. This is another book we had to read in my Children’s Lit class. Barbara Park won an award for this book, but she is most famous for her Junie B. Jones series. [I think these books are horrible, but that’s a tale for another time.] This book is told from the point of view of Phoebe Hart, whose younger brother by ten months, Mick, was recently killed in a tragic bike vs. truck accident. He wasn’t wearing his helmet and died from major head trauma. She tells not only about the tragedy, but shares the pain of trying to overcome it. This is another great read that I highly recommend.
Gimme a Kiss by Christopher Pike. Christopher Pike was the young adult answer to Stephen King when I was in junior high and high school. He was like King’s little brother. The stories were terrifying, in a different way, and gave us all the thrills, without all the gore. And all of the characters were teenagers, just like us, which made them even creepier and a little bit more realistic. My favorite one was called Remember Me, in which the main character was murdered at a party, and her ghost comes back to try to solve her own murder. Gimme a Kiss was a library book sale find for about a quarter.
Jane Retton has a journal, which she keeps filled with an exaggerated account of her life. She never lets anyone read it, as it contains her true heart’s desires and deepest secrets. But then one day, her diary mysteriously gets into the hands of her arch-enemy, cheerleader Patty Brane. Jane’s world, including her relationship with handsome Kirk Donner, shatters. Jane vows to get revenge by playing a horrible prank on everyone who tried to ruin her life. Revenge goes a little too far, and all kinds of tragedy ensues.
The Princess Diaries, Volume II: Princess in the Spotlight by Meg Cabot I fell in love with The Princess Diaries when the movie starring Anne Hathaway came out in 2001. I stumbled upon the first book in the series when I was at the library tutoring. And now, I am utterly and completely hooked.
In this second installment, Mia finds out that her mom is pregnant with her algebra teacher’s baby. As if that isn’t mortifying enough, her grandmother, the Dowager Princess of Genovia, has scheduled a prime-time interview with Beverly Bellerieve on Twenty-Four/Seven, because she thinks Mia is ready. And she has to keep a journal about her life to be turned into her English teacher on a regular basis. And then she starts receiving letters from a secret admirer. Mia agonizes over whether they are really from her dream boyfriend, Michael Moscovitz.
Though these books are “bubble-gum” in nature, they still are a great, light way to kill time and have a few laughs, as you shudder with remembrance at how horrid high school really was.
The Princess Diaries, Volume III: Princess in Love by Meg Cabot Mia’s mother has just eloped with her algebra teacher, Mr. Gianini. Her boyfriend, Kenny, still hasn’t asked her to the big Nondenominational Winter Dance. But she doesn’t even like her boyfriend, who is quite loudly in love with her, because she is still in love with her best friend’s brother, Michael. Grand-mere is still trying to run her life. And she has to go to Genovia for the entire Christmas break. Things just aren’t getting any easier.
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer This book was just as powerful and intriguing to read as Into the Wild. It’s a book that I highly recommend, even if you aren’t into mountain climbing. It’s a beautiful memoir of a very tragic experience at the world’s highest point. Read my further thoughts on it here.
Summer Crossing by Truman Capote. This novel was Truman Capote’s first, but it was only recently published. He references it in his book Portraits and Observations (which will be featured in my February article). This was the novel that he quit The New Yorker to write, but it left him unfulfilled, as Other Voices, Other Rooms, his first published novel, was bubbling inside him. He cast it aside, never submitted it, and thought it lost. It was rediscovered in 2004, and published in 2005. I listened to it, unabridged, on audio cd, which was made in 2006. The cd is crisp and clear and made long car rides enjoyable. The words are crisp, characters are eloquent. The story about New York socialite, Grady, and her relationships with two different men, remind me of a Hemingway story, most notably The Sun Also Rises, but set in New York and with fewer characters. I’m intrigued to read more of his fiction stories.
A Christmas Story by Jean Shepard This was my second audio book for the month. I think this was the funniest book I have ever read or heard. I’ve been a big fan of the movie since it came out. I irritate my family every year by insisting that we watch the “24 Hours of A Christmas Story” each year, as they prefer to only watch it once. Now, I will want to listen to it every year, as well.
Read aloud by Dick Cavett, the audio version is unabridged, but also includes sound effects that add to the story in a way that simply reading the text could never offer. The book, of course, goes into more detail about all of the hilarious happenings in the movie, making the book even funnier than the movie. If you’re a fan of the movie, I highly recommend this book. Even if you aren’t a fan of the movie, read it anyway, or listen to it on cd. I guarantee you will find yourself at least chuckling every few minutes.
So, that’s it! That’s what I finished reading in the month of January 2008. Stay tuned for February’s fine reads!