Friday, October 15, 2010

Books to Read Again- 7 QuickTakes

I have a very nasty habit of reading books I love instead of reading something new or picking up a different book by the same author. Conversion Diary had a post about some new books I would like to try, but in the meantime, I'll just read this old friend...

1. Thomas Hardy- Tess of the d'Ubervilles

An amazing book- talk about word pictures. I read Far from the Maddening Crowd this past summer when I was in the old country. All I could think is- Bathsheba is not Tess.

2. P.D. James- The Children of Men

I have read this masterpiece at least ten times. Although I love her mysteries, this is the book that she should be remembered for. This is science fiction for those that don't care for science fiction. If you really want to be scared, imagine a world where the plot of this book comes true.  Her character development shows skill and love for her characters that most novelists just don't possess. Just please don't want the so-called movie. I cried in bitter disappoint.

3. Graham Greene- The End of the Affair

Another beautiful book. His writing is amazing, thought-provoking and emotional; if I had a book club, this would be the first on the list. First order of business would be to forbid everyone in the club to watch that horror of a movie that changed the end of the book which developed the theme of the book. I'll say no more, just read. I sense a pattern here- actress Julianne Moore has starred in two movies 'inspired' by my favorites which destroyed the book. I am not talking "Susan kisses Prince Caspian before she goes back home"-destroy, I am talking truly, madly, deeply destroying perfection.

4. C.S. Lewis- 'Til We Have Faces

Tolkein converted Lewis to Christianity when he said something to the effect- "Some myths are true." 'Til We Have Faces is a myth of the pre-Christian world variety. The writing is stark and true. Read it after you have brushed up on your ancient stories courtesy of D'Aulaire's Greek Myths.

5. JRR Tolkein-  The Hobbit

While I should probably be reading Chesterton's Orthodoxy or St Augustine's City of God, I must confess that this book is the one on my bedside table right now. Much more than a child's novel, it develops the story of great things coming from the most insignificant of creatures, the simple hobbit being a mirror to humanity.

6. LM Montgomery- The Blue Castle

Recently back in print, this novel takes the unloved orphan spinster suffers then triumphs idea and surprises the reader along the way. The character and setting descriptions are less indulgent than but just as rich as her Anne books. I just pray that a movie is never made of this favorite.

7. Irene Haas- The Maggie B.

As a mom, I had to include a picture book. This is is one that I always reach for. I love the illustrations, the gentle rhythm of her writing and the unforced girl power-sibling love theme. 

Leave some of your much-loved favorites in the comments if you are so inclined.


  1. Love this post. It makes me happy I'm at least acquainted with brilliant, well-read women. Loved the Maggie B. It brings back wonderful memories.
    I'm reading Joseph Pearce's Oscar Wilde and have a stack of an interesting series, The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson. It's one my friend Karen gave me. It's called the "Story of London's most Terrifying Epidemic - and How it Changed Science,
    Cities and the Modern World...Light bedtime reading.

  2. GREAT post. I haven't read a couple of these-- going to purchase that Hardy one on Amazon now!

    I am reading John Kennedy O'Toole's "A Confederacy of Dunces." It's great so far.

  3. The Blue Castle is one of my all-time favorite novels EVER. Love it! Rilla of Ingleside, Rainbow Valley, and Anne of Green Gables are some other L.M.M. books that I count in my (quite lengthy) favorites list.

  4. I really liked "A Burnt Out Case" by Graham Greene. I'll make "End of an Affair my next Greene read.

  5. "While I should probably be reading Chesterton's Orthodoxy or St Augustine's City of God"

    I would not agree with this sentiment. One of the wisest people I know used to say to me "Don't make the perfect the enemy of the good" - which is to say don't criticise something good because it could be better.

    Anyway, interesting list, and I must admit that I haven't read De Civitate Dei for a number of years.

    My own list would look something more like the following.

    J.R.R. Tolkien - The Lord of the Rings and On Fairy Tales.

    The first needs no explanation, but the second is a fascinating essay about the impact of fairy tales in Western European literature (C.S. Lewis also discusses this in his book The Discarded Image).

    Cristina de Pisan - Le Livre de la Cité des Dames (The Book of the City of the Ladies)

    A book by the world's first professional writer, and a response to a rather extreme piece of misogyny by Jean de Meun. It certainly argues the dignity of women from a very Christian position, much in the style of S. Augustine's De Civitate Dei. Reading it makes one realise that Christianity has done for women's dignity more than anything else.

    Anonymous - Chanson de Roland

    An early medieval epic poem about the battle of Roncesvalles between the Franks and invading Moors. It features the Archbishop Turpin, who is scarier than any bishop today - Turpin cleaved many of the Moors from helm to saddle.

    Connie Willis - Bellwether

    A very insightful and funny book about working for scientific organisations and bureaucracies. Connie Willis is one of the best science fiction/fantasy writers. Her books are all very good.

    Haruki Murakami - Wild Sheep Chase

    A novel that explores Japanese cultural identity - a theme that should resonate with Byzantine and other Oriental Catholics. There is a lot of humour in it also.

    Mikhail Bulgakov - Master and Marguerita

    The devil and his henchmen come to Moscow during Stalin's terror. A very funny exploration of faith and absurdity. Many people say it was the book that lead them to the faith.

    There are many others, including classics - Albert Camus - L'Étranger; Máirtín Ó Cadhain - Cré na Cille; Leo Tolstoy - Hadji Murat; Medieval epics; and the list could go on and on.

  6. Bear- oh yes- The list could go on and on- my list has a gaping hole where Ray Bradbury should be- among others, but this time of year calls for bradbury

  7. I picked up that Thomas Hardy novel today at the library book sale for about 20 cents!!! Can't wait to read it!

  8. Matushka,

    I would also like to know why you disliked the film of "Children of Men" so much. Many of my friends who have read the book (and P.D. James' other books) enjoyed the film.

    But this discussion should be on another thread.

  9. Bear- First of all, Julianne Moore's character is a combo of the ex-wife and Julian the heroine. Clive Owen (even though I usually 'like' him) is the opposite of the physical and personality description of Theo. The character of Xan, cousin to Theo, is virtually non-existent in the book. Because Xan isn't emotionally important to the movie, the back stories of Theo and Xan's mothers aren't in the film. The Anglican priest (actual father to Julian's baby in the book) is not in the movie. I just think the movie wanted to do an immigrants-and-their-plight movie instead of telling the story of the actual book. In the little book club in my brain, the movie would not be respected- it is one thing to change details (race of the midwife, etc) or omit story lines (death of Theo's baby, ex-wife's christening of the cat)- but to change the actual mother of the new human race from Julian to a random 'illegal alien'?

    Leave it to me to make a book post controversial! :)

    One science-fiction movie I do enjoy (with Tom Cruise) is Minority Report.

  10. Forgot to tell you Bear- Master and Marguerita is on order from Amazon- I'm sure you have read Lewis's Screwtape Letters- but if not, it's a great read, too.

  11. Apologies Matushka, I am usually curious as to why people often hate film versions of novels.

    I liked the film version of "Children of Men". The one criticism of the novel is the English establishment anti-Catholicism that is implicit in the novel - it is subtle until one spends time in England. The film did not have this element.

    As for Bulgakov, I assume that you are reading it in English rather than in Russian. Some translations omit some of the episodes, so you have to be careful about which one you choose - the one by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky is fairly good. Also do not write of the description of the passion as blasphemous, it makes many of the author's comments on Soviet society.

    As for C.S. Lewis - I think that the Screwtape Letters are is his best fictional works. They are screamingly funny and very insightful. The only problem is recognising yourself on every page!

  12. I love The Blue Castle. It's so nice to know I'm not the only one!

  13. Bear- if you do read a novel before watching the film, you will be well aware of people's antagonism toward them. So horribly nasty, most. There are only two films based on books that I've taken a shine to, and they are the LOTR series (I thought Peter Jackson did them as much justice as can be done to SUCH an imaginary world), and Pride and Prejudice (1995, BBC). So well cast. But then, affording 5 hours to a movie can do that!

    Oh, please don't forget, people, that GK Chesterton wrote fiction- I think it's his forte. Check out The Flying Inn!

  14. Martha- I loved the LOTR films- we actually paid for babysitters to watch them on the big screen!
    Can't wait for The Hobbit- even though my big girls will be old enough, I think we will still make it a date night.

    On Chesterton- I have only read his Fr Brown books in terms of his fiction- will have to get the other novels.

  15. Hi
    I just read a book that I had read when I was a child, and I picked it up again quite on accident having forgotten the title. The Book is The Doll's House by Rumer Godden. It is a chidren's book, but it really is much more than that. It is a quick read and really says somthing about permanence and love. I look forward to checking out some of your books.


  16. Priest's wife, I truly loved the Fr. Brown books as well. I was amazed that in all the stories, I only guessed the who, what, how, etc. twice! And then I felt as if he had just thrown me a bone; they were at the end of the book, and it was just too easy. So, victory not mine I guess. I loved the ambiance of the stories... made me wish to be in England 100 years ago...

  17. Thanks for mentioning that The Blue Castle is back in print. I've been wanting to reread it, and none of my local libraries have had a copy and being out of print I couldn't find a copy.


thanks for commenting! (comments on old posts are moderated)