Sunday, May 15, 2011

Choosing Favorites - Stephanie Burgis

For someone who loves books so much, I have a really hard time answering this question. Every time people ask what my favorite book is - or what it was, when I was a kid - I start stammering. "Well, see, there are so many..."

I think the real problem is that books mean so much to me, and always have, that I feel guilty choosing among them, choosing favorites. Yes, I do know how insane this sounds. If I choose The Hobbit, The Mozart Season will not be personally offended! And yet...

So here is a declaration of love to an assortment of my favorite books from childhood (you can see another sampling on my website, where I gave the question a whole page of its own):
  • The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien, which taught me that magic could be down-to-earth and very funny; that even principles that sound high-minded and beautiful can be dangerous when taken to excess; and that yes, loyalty is a virtue, but sometimes loyalty actually means standing against your friends when they're wrong. Oh, and also, I fell in love with dragons forever and ever when I read this book!

  • Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery, which taught me that it really was okay to be a dreamy, imaginative kid even if that meant having a hard time with practical common sense. Total personal validation! :)

  • The Mozart Season, by Virginia Euwer Wolff, which I read over and over again as a kid, so thrilled to find a heroine who cared about the same kinds of things that I did, and so touched and moved by the different relationships the book explored.

  • Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, which taught me that it's okay to have complicated feelings about even the people you love most. As Elizabeth says, "There are very few people whom I truly love, and even fewer whom I like" - and even her dad, one of the most sympathetic characters in the novel (and one I absolutely adore!), is, to be frank, deeply neglectful and to blame for a lot of his daughters' problems. I love the complexity of the characters in the book, along with the sparkling (and sometimes scathing) humor. Best of all, it taught me that a smart woman cares far more for her own self-respect than the opinion of the world (or even of her parents), and that romance can be hilarious.
What about you guys? What were some of your favorite books when you were a kid?

9 comments:

  1. Oh, Anne will always and forever be my favorite book of all time. Emily of New Moon is up there, too! And I forgot about The Mozart Season! I remember really enjoying that!

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  2. I've just downloaded Anne from the Gutenberg Project, and I can't wait to re-read! :)

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  3. I read all three Emily of New Moon books and Baby Island by Carol Ryrie Brink more times than I remember. Also, copious amounts of Nancy Drew, The Baby-Sitter's Club and The Black Stallion. :)

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  4. Someone just donated a copy of The Mozart Season to our library (we are quite small, so collection has some holes in it). I will be sure to read it and share with my book club kids. And Anne oh Anne...I loved loved loved her, still do. In fact for years thought my middle name was anne with an e....it is not :( it is just ann, plain old...ann. lol!

    Thanks for sharing your favorites!

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  5. Kathleen, out of that whole list of much-loved books, I think Baby Island is the only one I didn't read and enjoy as a kid, too. Now I need to find it and make up for that glaring deficiency! :)

    And Deb, you definitely have to read The Mozart Season! I love it SO much - I still re-read it every few years. And hee, I totally empathize with the Ann/Anne. My name was supposed to be spelled "Stefanie" after my Croatian great-aunt, but the nurse at my mom's hospital misspelled it. I spent years signing myself "Stefanie" even on school papers before I finally gave up and accepted that I was just a plain "Stephanie" instead. ;)

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  6. I loved all of the Nancy Drew books and the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. Great memories!

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  7. There are so many great memories associated with the books we loved as kids, aren't there? It's not just the books themselves (wonderful though they were), it's where we were when we read them, and how we read them, sometimes with such single-minded focus. (I remember holing up in a massive old sea trunk with a flashlight to read Jane Eyre with NO interruptions or distractions!)

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  8. You really must read Silvana De Mari's "The Last Elf" a.k.a. “The last dragon”.
    I know that the title might suggest the usual fantasy novel with swords, dragons, and blood, and stuff like that; but it is something completely different.
    It’s a story full of emotion, against any forms of racism, prejudice or violence. One of my favorite books, for children and adults. And Silvana is a great writer!
    Give it a chance, I know you’ll be glad.
    And if you read it, let me know what you think, if you like.
    Bye
    Enrico, yes, the guy of the trailer XD 'iri' is my nickname.

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  9. Ooh, that does sound great! Thanks for the rec, Enrico.

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