Books Along The Way

This month Goodreads celebrates its 10th anniversary. (And I am happy to say that for once I was ahead of the trend as I joined Goodreads in January 2008.)

In talking about the evolution of Goodreads, Elizabeth, on of the Goodreads co-founders, asked what books have been part of your personal voyage? This got me thinking about books that I have carried with me throughout my life.

And so, here are 5 books, in no particular order, that I’ve loved along the way and continue to love to this day.

1) Pawn of the Prophecy, Book 1 of the Belgariad by David Eddings
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Pawn of the Prophecy was my first introduction into the fantasy genre. (It was actually one of the first non-YA books I ever read, although YA wasn’t really a thing back when I was in the YA age range.) I was given the series in 1987 and I absolutely fell in love with the world and characters of the Belgariad.

For me, Eddings’s books set the standard of what good fantasy should be—interesting characters with names that I can actually pronounce, good writing and dialogue, and an epic quest.

Rob Bricken wrote a great article on why Eddings’s series is truly magic. And it is. I have since been hooked on all things fantasy since I first read this series. In essence, I grew up with Belgarion and his story will always be one of my favorites.

I reread the 5-book series (and its 5-book sequel, The Mallorean) every couple of years.

2) Alexander and the Magic Mouse by Martha Sanders with illustrations by Philippe Fix

1700210.jpgChildhood books are inherently magic. Not only can they launch a lifetime love of books, our childhood books stay with us throughout our lives with such memories as parents or grandparents reading to us, learning to sound out words and sentences ourselves, or picking out our first book from the bookstore or library.

Alexander and the Magic Mouse is one such book for me. I loved reading and rereading this book as a child. The story enchanted me—a smiling alligator? A magical mouse? An interesting old lady in a Victorian-style house full of wonderful animal friends? Yes to all please. And as with many children’s books, the illustrations in this one made it particularly memorable.

Sadly, this book is out of print. But if you can find it, if you’re lucky, (maybe in your used bookstore or your local library), I highly recommend it for young readers. Such a fun story with a good moral.

3) Dracula by Bram Stoker

fa1fa24b71a83ce12cbb60ea3d2f7dd3.jpgWhile Pawn of the Prophecy introduced me to the fantasy genre, it was Dracula that spurred my love of the paranormal/urban fantasy genre.

For me, Dracula was the first classic book that I read without being forced to read in an English class. So many of the so-called “classics” that I was forced to read in class I hated for various reasons. (To this day, I still hate and will not reread either Great Expectations or Ethan Frome.) But Dracula was one that showed me not all books deemed classic are convoluted, outdated, or archaic.

With the vampire count, a lawyer who becomes his prisoner, and the celebrated vampire-hunter, the plot retains its hold on audiences with an iconic status that has spawned numerous book references and adaptations and more than 200 films. I have read Dracula numerous times over the years and it still continues to entertain me.

4) Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg

I was introduced to poetry at a young age (Shel Silverstein anyone?). But it was Ginsberg’s Howl that showed me the power and music of poetry.

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With a rhythm and beat of its own, Howl decries a destructive, abusive society. The poem’s raw, honest language literally howls against the day’s conformity, discussing topics, such as drug use, that were previously not considered literary.

The poem’s style of using long lines of natural breath, inspired by Walt Whitman, was fused with an urban beat, creating its captivating rhythm. And it was Ginsberg, along with Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs, who originated the Beat literary movement.

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix . . .

When published in 1957, Howl and Other Poems was declared obscene by the San Francisco Police Department. The SFPD seized copies of the poem and arrested the publisher and a bookstore manager who was selling the book. In a widely-publicized case, the judge found that poem was of “redeeming social importance.

You can read Howl on the Poetry Foundation website (due to the graphic language and subject-matter, it’s not suitable for young readers).

5) Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

I honestly do not remember what the first book I read by myself was. Nor do I remember what my first chapter book was (Alice in Wonderland? Little House on the Prairie? Little Women?). But one of the first chapter books I do remember reading is Mary Poppins. My parents gave me the first 4 books (there are a total of 8) for Christmas one year.

Mary Poppins introduced me to the world of magical reality—where anything is possible and everything is probable.

Arriving via a strong East wind with a fascinating carpetbag, nanny Mary Poppins is a contradiction. Stern and usually cross, the intriguing Nanny Poppins takes her wards on incredible adventures including a tea party on a ceiling and a trip around the world with a compass And in the end, Mary Poppins leaves as fantastically as she arrives—via her umbrella on the West wind.

Originally published in 1934, the book has long captivated children of all ages, and has been adapted into film and stage productions. After several years of searching, I was finally able to track down a 1964 edition of the book (a first edition being too far out of my price-range.) There are a total of 8 Mary Poppins books, and are a great set to give any young reader.

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So there you have it. 5 books that have stayed with me for one reason or another.

What books have been part of your personal voyage? Tell me in the comments below.

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