Friday, September 25, 2009
Revive your love of reading during Banned Books Week '09
With the advent of autumn comes the promise of falling leaves,sweater weather and Banned Books Week,that yearly reminder of the need to protect the right to read freely. If you have any doubts regarding the relevancy of it in these "modern times",there's a certain Google map out there you might want to look at.
Banned Books Week starts tomorrow and this year,I thought it would be more mentally healthy to take an out of the box approach in honoring this celebration of reading freely. Instead of focusing on books that are the targets of censorship, why not highlight those which deal with the reason many of us care about this issue in the first place-the love of reading.
So,here are a few suggestions from the LRG reader's circle in both fiction and nonfiction for books that embrace the inner lives of readers and give their bibliophile based fantasies a meadow to run free in:
THE THIRTEENTH TALE/ DIANE SETTERFIELD
This debut novel has a book lover as it's leading lady;Margaret Lea grew up in and around her father's antiquarian bookshop and took it over as an adult while pursuing a career as a biographer. One day,an unbelievable opportunity comes her way-Vida Winter,a renowned and reclusive writer who has often told tall tales about her past,want Margaret to visit her home to hear her true life story.
Margaret does go to Vida and while the bizarre details related to her are strange enough to be real,Margaret decides to do some private investigating on her own. What she finds out is worthy of a gothic novel mixed with the emotional depth that only reality can bring. The flavor of this story is suitable for those who adore the likes of Jane Eyre,Wuthering Heights or any of Daphne Du Maurier's works. It's both a tribute to that style of writing and an original take on the genre.
SHADOW OF THE WIND/CARLOS RUIZ ZAFRON
Zafron's story,set in post WWII Barcelona,paints a thrilling romantic portrait of book love as a young man is taken by his father to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and allowed to chose one for himself. The book that he selects turns out to be by a mysterious author whose works are being hunted down by a determined enemy who plans to destroy every copy he can get his hands on.
Reading this book is like falling into an old school glossy b&w film noir,with all of the rich atmosphere and the delightful characters that those movies excelled in. Think of it as Literary Noir.
THE CAMEL BOOKMOBILE/MASHA HAMILTON
Masha Hamilton creates a multi-character novel based on the real life efforts to spread literacy in remote areas of the world such as Africa and Somalia with this tale of a traveling library and it's impact upon the woman who runs it along with the rural community of one village on her route.
The Camel Bookmobile deals not only with the struggles of people seeking to understand one another's way of life and changes that intensify the teetering balance between traditionalism and modernization,it also shows how just having a chance to read any book can make a difference in someone's life:
THURSDAY NEXT SERIES/JASPER FFORDE
This amazing hybrid series of books that have as it's star a female detective named Thursday Next,who solves crimes against literature in an alternate universe where people have street brawls over who really wrote Shakespeare's plays is the ultimate catnip for book lovers.
If you've never read any of these books,it's best to start with the first one,The Eyre Affair,which does have Jane Eyre herself as a kidnapping victim and Rochester joining forces with Thursday to rescue her. This is an elaborate world filled with tons of literary references and tidy British humor that only adds to the fun and the folly on the pages:
THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB/KAREN JOY FOWLER
There are numerous novels about book clubs of all sorts,but I still find this one to be the best and not just because it holds Jane Austen in such high regard. Karen Joy Fowler lets her characters really talk about the books themselves and shows how each person's preference for a certain title reflects on their personality and personal dilemmas in life with a subtle flair.
Also,The Jane Austen Book Club achieved another rare feat in this day and techno age;the big screen adaptation is just as satisfying as the book. Talk about a hat trick there,folks!:
And now for the nonfiction:
SO MANY BOOKS,SO LITTLE TIME/SARA NELSON
Sara Nelson had this book on the shelves before she was tapped to be the Editor in Chief for Publisher's Weekly,a position she no longer holds. After reading her account of the books in her life for one year,you'll see just how much of a real loss to the magazine and it's subscribers her not being there any more is.
Sara is the kind of book buddy who you wish that you could call up to discuss the current bestsellers and the latest trends(which may or may not be worth following). Some of her topics include rereading a book from your youth and getting a much different take on it,the frustrations of getting sucked into a book slump and whether or not giving out reading suggestions to friends is a good idea. A great book to have on hand when you need to be reassured about your own reading habits and quirks.
THE PULPWOOD QUEENS' TIARA-WEARING,BOOK SHARING GUIDE TO LIFE/KATHY L. PATRICK
Speaking of quirks,the Pulpwood Queens have them in abundance and are eager and ready to share with all and sundry. Kathy Patrick,the founder of the group and owner of Beauty and the Book(a beauty salon/book store)in East Texas,talks about how it came to be that her small band of book lovers turned into a national reading group sensation.
The book is filled with tons of recommendations and chock full of down to earth delight about the joys of reading:
EX LIBRIS/ANNE FADIMAN
This charming collection of essays covers such literary controversies like the task of merging two personal libraries into one and the difference between courtly and carnal love of books(a courtly person,for example,would never even think of writing in the margins or bending a page corner as a place marker).
Fadiman grew up in a literary household(she used to play with her father's set of Trollope novels as building blocks when she was a child)and that love of books which follows her thru life truly seems to be in her blood. Ex Libris captures that quaint tone of old fashioned book lore without seeming to be out of date.
Q'S LEGACY/ HELENE HANFF
For those who loved 84,Charing Cross Road,the book and film which chronicled the overseas correspondence of plucky NYC writer Helen Hanff and the folks at Marks and Co,an antiquarian book store in London,this memoir is a must have.
Helene talks about how she discovered the works of Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch(known as Q)while completing her own education sans college during the Depression and the path she went down towards creating the book that gave her a brief shot of fame.
Helene also recounts the many letters and meetings with fans of 84,CCR,along with attending theatrical adaptations(on stage and BBC television)of the book as well. Afraid there's no mention of the film here but I'm sure that Helene endorsed it wholeheartedly:
USED AND RARE/ LAWRENCE & NANCY GOLDSTONE
This user friendly look at the world of book collecting starts off with a quest for a copy of War and Peace as the perfect birthday gift that leads the Goldstones into enhancing their mutual love of books by creating their own personal library of collectible favorites,along with picking up a wealth of knowledge about rare books themselves.
Used and Rare is the first of three book collecting memoirs by the Goldstones(the other titles are Slightly Chipped and Warmly Inscribed)and it's been compared to A Year In Provence,a book I haven't read but hopefully it's as good as this wonderful romp thru rare books that are not as out of reach as you might think.
Larry and Nancy are delightful guides to this realm of book lore and their descriptions of the books and authors they most adore make you want to run out and improve your own home library.
Banned Books Week is from September 26 to October 3 and no matter how you celebrate it,the freedom to read is something to cherish. While book banning is a serious subject,it doesn't hurt to spread the word about it with a smile:
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