For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday
Today’s topic was:
December 14: Books on My Winter 2021 To-read List (or summer if you’re in the southern hemisphere)
But since I’m trying not to make new TBRs until I’ve read through my old ones, I decided to look at books I got as gifts this time of year. Just so you know, my birthday was a few weeks ago, so some of these may have been birthday presents, which tend to blend in with the winter holidays for me.
1. There’s No Such Thing As A Chanukah Bush, Sandy Goldstein by Susan Sussman – Like many non-Christian children I felt left out of the holiday season as a kid. This is a book that my parents gave me for Chanukah as a child. It looks at how children of all different backgrounds can help each other celebrate what’s special to them. As Sandy’s grandfather explains to her: “We honor our friends, when we share what is special in our lives with them.” As a child and an adult, I’ve been so fortunate to be able to celebrate my own traditions and background with others, and to help others celebrate theirs.
2. Sweet Valley Twins and Friends Super Chiller: The Christmas Ghost by Francine Pascal– For some reason when I read this as a kid it terrified me. I’d seen various incarnations of A Christmas Carol (Mickey’s Christmas Carol, A Muppet’s Christmas Carol, etc. ) and been relatively OK with them, but for some reasons the ghosts in this contemporary retelling really freaked me out. I think it had something to do with the contemporary suburban setting seeming a bit too familiar. Also I usually didn’t see those movies around the holiday season. I’d gotten this as part of a set for a birthday present, so I started reading it just as the holiday season was starting up. So that also felt very immediate.
3. The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis– I got a box set of these as a gift one year in my childhood. I can’t remember who gave them to me, so if you happen to be reading this now, I’m sorry, but I did love the books, so thank you so much for giving them to me! I remember reading this over the school vacation one winter. Though in retrospect, it’s unlikely I could have read them all in a ten-ish day period as a kid… But however long it took me to read them, it’s a happy memory!
4. Respect for Acting by Uta Hagen– My cousin gave me this when I was about twelve or thirteen after finding out that I liked acting and theater. Even though I didn’t become an actor, it taught me more about what acting actually is than anything else I’ve read. Interestingly, I think it also made me a better writer. Some of the exercises that Hagen suggests for actors getting to know their characters also apply to writers who want to understand their characters better. Over the years I’ve thought a lot about how similar acting and writing are in some ways. I think this book underscores my point.
5. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid– This was a gift from my aunt a few years ago. It was everywhere at the time. I was seeing it on goodreads, bookstagram, blogs, etc. So I was glad to have a chance to read it for myself. I really enjoyed it.
6. The Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody– I’m putting these on here as being representative of all the wonderful books gifted to me over the years by my Aussie book buddy. She’s given me so many others too though, for various birthdays and holidays. But I do think I got the first of this series around this time of year.
7. Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Anne’s House of Dreams by LM Montgomery– I think this may have been a birthday gift from a friend of mine. It was the first time I “met” Anne Shirley, who has become a lifelong friend (or “kindred spirit” as Anne would say). I couldn’t find a link to the actual edition she gave me. While it’s a beautiful, illustrated, hardcover volume, it includes Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea and Anne’s House of Dreams, which always struck me as odd. Why not just include the first 3 books in the series? I’m still glad to have it though, because as I said, it’s beautiful, it’s survived many years, and was my first introduction to Anne and LM Montgomery.
8. A Little Princess and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – I’m counting these as one since someone gave me both of them at the same time. Each one is a lovely illustrated edition (linked). Both of them remain favorites to this day. They’re beautiful, sad and ultimately hopeful. I’ve since sought out some of Burnett’s work for older readers too.
9. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume – Just a note that I really don’t like this cover. It implies that God and Margaret have a texting relationship, which they don’t. I’m fine with elements of the book (like references to technology) being updated, but don’t make the whole book look like something it’s not! But I did like the book. I got it sometime before puberty, and it lead to some elevated expectations that were dashed (menstruation turned out to be way less fun than this book implied!) but I still have fond memories of it.
10. The Dancing Floor by Barbara Michaels – Michaels was one of the first “grown up” authors that I started reading regularly. I was probably somewhere in the 11-14 age range, and I told my grandmother that I wanted this as a gift. I was very proud to reveal that I’d graduated to adult reading.