Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Could Re-read Forever

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

February 27: Books I Could Re-read Forever

I’m usually not a huge re-reader. I have a whole list of books that want to re-read, but my TBR so big that I rarely spend time on stuff I’ve already read. But even so, there are some books that I’ve revisited over the years. A lot of them tend to be books I read at some point during my childhood, because I was more of a rereader then. But making this list has definitely inspired me to do more re-reads!

51tt9v9vjl-_ac_us218_1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte- I wrote a bit about my journey with this book a while back. I read it for the first time in high school and was sort of shocked by the disparity between its reputation as a tragic romance, and the actual content of the book. I felt like the various narrative frames kept me at a distance and that there was some kind of elusive content that I was just missing. Those very qualities have made it an interesting re-read. I understand it differently each time I read it. At different points, it’s Freudian, feminist, sadomasochistic, gothic, and subversive.

51fkpmqzdyl-_ac_us218_2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte- The first time I read this, also in high school, I loved it. I thought it was a lovely romance with a happy ending and a heroine I could root for. When I re-read it in college I realized that while it was all those things, it was also a lot more. There was a subtext that I’d completely missed on my first read through; regarding colonialism, gender relations, religion, morality, and autonomy. There were parallels that had gone over my head the first time. For example, Jane and Bertha are presented as two sides of the same coin. Jane is depicted as impulsive, willful and even violent as a child (see her behavior with the Reeds, the red room etc) she eventually masters these traits in a way that Bertha isn’t able to.

51dxbewzuil-_ac_us218_3. The work of LM Montgomery- Maybe this is cheating but I can’t pick just one book here. As I kid I wanted to be Anne Shirley. As a slightly older kid, I wanted to be Emily Starr. As a teen, I discovered The Blue Castle for the first time. They’re all books that I find myself wanting to revisit at different points. There’s something comforting about them.Maybe it’s the landscape of Prince Edward Island that I’m attracted to, or maybe the smart female characters appeal to me.  Maybe I like different things at different points.

51ozv7qacul-_sx260_4. The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon- The first time reading through this series I read for plot. They’re pretty densely plotted books, and because I was invested in the characters I wanted to see what happened to them. I’ve re-read parts now that the TV series is airing and I’m sort of shocked at how much I missed on those initial read throughs. A lot of character development happened that I wasn’t aware of, because I was focused elsewhere! I missed a lot of subtle cues, foreshadowing, and even sub-plots. I suppose that there’s only so much you can focus on in one read through.

51iosghk0l-_ac_us218_5. The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling- I suppose in this way I’m a true product of my generation. I haven’t read them all the way through multiple times though. Like the Outlander series, my re-reads have been in bits and pieces. I’ve read parts of several later books more times that several earlier books, for example, though as I read later books I revisited earlier ones to refresh my memory of what happened. It seems to be the later four books or so that I’ve revisited the most. Maybe that’s because there was more happening in them than in the first three.

51srrilel-_ac_us218_6. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott- The first time I read this, I was obsessed with Jo. I wanted to be Jo. I still love her, but on later read-throughs, I focused on the journeys of the other characters. For example, it’s easy to overlook Meg and Beth the first time through. They’re not as attention-grabbing as Jo and Amy. I definitely dismissed them as “the boring one” and “the tragic one” until I re-read it and realized that they were just as compelling in their own ways as Jo and Amy were.

51uvxo85zl-_ac_us218_7. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell- This may be cheating because I haven’t reread it in a long time, but there was a point in my childhood where I would read this book, finish it, and then just start reading again! I should probably reread it at some point if only to understand why I was so obsessed with it at one point. Maybe the isolation of the main character appealed to me. Maybe it was the fact that she bravely faced a situation that would probably leave me a quivering lump of fear. Maybe it’s the fact that her ordeal didn’t end when she was “rescued”. It could have been the fact that this is based on a true story. Or it could be that different things appealed to me different times.

511prxozevl-_ac_us218_8. Here’s to You Rachel Robinson by Judy Blume- When I was about ten or eleven I was obsessed with this book. Maybe it was the main character who appealed to me. Maybe it was the dynamic between her and her family and her friends. Or maybe it was Jeremy Dragon, who was my first book boyfriend. In retrospect, I don’t even know why he appealed to me as much as he did. He wasn’t even a major character. But I suppose the element of wish fulfillment in a guy you have a crush on actually liking you, was something that appealed to me at the time.

614tt378kel-_ac_us218_9. The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson- This is actually a book I wish I’d read for the first time when I was younger.  Like in Harry Potter, this book features a platform at King’s Cross Station in London, which leads to a magical world. But this platform only opens once every nine years, so when the prince of this magical world is stolen, the magical creatures have nine years to plan the rescue. Of course, that doesn’t mean that anything actually goes according to plan. I think that, along with Harry Potter, this appealed to the part of me that longed for something magic hidden alongside the mundane.

51cbwb1nmql-_ac_us218_10. Fairy Tales– I know that this is more of a genre/category than a book, but fairy tales were like a religious experience for me as a kid. I would read them compulsively. Before I could read myself, I had others read them to me over and over again. I sought out different versions of fairy tales. I was possibly the only four year old who could explain how the Disney version of Snow White differed from the Brother’s Grimm! Even now, fairy tales inspire a lot of my own writing.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Book Boyfriends

For the Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday:

October 3: Top Ten Book Boyfriends/Girlfriends (Which characters do you have crushes on?)

Ah book boyfriends. They make up the vast majority of boyfriends for me. They’ve broken my heart and put it back together again. There are some notable omissions on here. I didn’t include Heathcliff because his sociopathic tendencies are sort of a turn off for me. I also didn’t include Mr. Rochester because, while I do ship him with Jane the whole “I forgot to tell you I’m already married” thing at the wedding would have been a deal breaker for me (though I’m glad it wasn’t for Jane). There are also a few that appealed to me once but don’t so much any more. And of course a few are sort of embarrassing.

51z5jz2frjl-_ac_us218_1. Peter Pan from Peter Pan by JM Barrie- Yes I was a little kid when this crush ruled. I loved Peter Pan in all his incarnations. Like him, I never saw the appeal of adulthood. He had this whole world for himself, with a tribe of friends around all the time. He had enough danger to keep things exciting, a devoted fairy friend and the ability to fly. What’s not to love as a kid? But even when I was very young I sensed some sadness from him. While the idea of eternal childhood, free of adult supervision appealed to me, I was also somewhat aware that it wasn’t quite right. There comes a time when all kids- even those who can fly, need structure, family and stability. Peter didn’t have that. Even the eternal childhood that I envied had something “off” about it. Because childhood is only one part of life. To stay in it, is to deny the rest of what life has to offer. Children are very future oriented and Peter Pan lived in a perpetual present. Of course this gave him a bit of a tragic element, which only made me love him more.

There could not have been a lovelier sight; but there was none to see it except a little boy who was staring in at the window. He had ecstasies innumerable that other children can never know; but he was looking through the window at the one joy from which he must be for ever barred.

511prxozevl-_ac_us218_2. Jeremy Dragon from Here’s to You Rachel Robinson by Judy Blume- Jeremy’s actual last name is Kravtiz but a jacket makes him known as Jeremy Dragon to the title character and her friends. And “Dragon” sort of suits him better. A dragon is a mysterious, dangerous, fantasy. As is the cutest guy in middle school, for Rachel Robinson, a gifted and talented “good girl”. As a result she doesn’t really consider him as a real life option. She does have a crush on an older man however. But when that reveals itself to be a dead end, it turns out that Jeremy is interested in Rachel. I don’t know why this character, and this element of the story resonated with me so much. It was probably a bit of a wish fulfillment fantasy. I saw bits of myself in the goody goody Rachel. So her shock that Jeremy might see her as something other than awkward was similar to my own. I don’t know if that means that the story line was well developed, or just that it did its job in making pre-teen Fran swoon.

“Just when you think life is over, you find out it’s not. Just when you think you’re never going to fall for someone else, it happens without any warning! I hope this doesn’t means I’m… jumping from Obstacle to the next. I don’t think it does. I don’t think it means anything except life is full of surprises and they’re not necessarily bad.”

51kc21bqngl-_ac_us218_3. Gilbert Blythe from the Anne series by LM Montgomery- When Gilbert first meets Anne Shirley in school, he teases her about her red hair, calling her carrots. In return she breaks a slate over his head. Great romances often have rough beginnings! Over the years, Gilbert apologizes and he and Anne become friends. Gilbert wants more, but Anne dreams of a knight in shining armor. It’s not until some later that she comes to realize that her knight in shining armor might just be her kind, supportive friend. And that her romance with him might be better than anything she could have dreamed up! Gilbert sees Anne both as the girl she was and the woman she becomes and he loves both: the awkward and the graceful.

Gilbert stretched himself out on the ferns beside the Bubble and looked approvingly at Anne. If Gilbert had been asked to describe his ideal woman the description would have answered point for point to Anne, even to those seven tiny freckles whose obnoxious presence still continued to vex her soul. Gilbert was as yet little more than a boy; but a boy has his dreams as have others, and in Gilbert’s future there was always a girl with big, limpid gray eyes, and a face as fine and delicate as a flower.

-From Anne of Avonlea (Book 2 of the Anne series)

41rryji1bvl-_ac_us218_4. Romeo Montague from Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare was my literary crush when I was about twelve or thirteen. I eventually outgrew this one. But I always felt that those who accused Romeo of being fickle were misreading the text- I still do. Romeo’s initial infatuation with Rosaline isn’t supposed to tell us his love for Juliet isn’t true. Just the opposite. It’s supposed to tell us that this isn’t a boyish infatuation; he’s already had that. When he meets Juliet his language changes significantly, and he begins speaking in elegant poetry. That indicates that love has brought him to greater sophistication. As for love at first sight, no I don’t really believe in it (I do think people can fall in love quickly but perhaps not that quickly!). But I don’t believe in ghosts or witches either and their presence doesn’t keep my from believing the characters in Hamlet or Macbeth! Plus, who wouldn’t want to be the woman who inspires a man to speak like this?

O! she doth teach the torches to burn bright
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear;
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear.

51xphws9jdl-_ac_us218_5. Jamie Fraser from the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon- A lot of people who list Jamie as a literary crush argue that he’s perfect. I’m including him here because he’s far from it. He’s got flaws, and not just the kind that the writer threw in because someone told her that characters can’t be perfect. His flaws are as much a part of who he is as his strengths, and sometimes they’re one and the same. His stubbornness makes him act like a jerk at times; but it also makes him as devoted as one can possibly be to his loved ones. At times his views of women come off as old fashioned, which is also good: an 18th century hero who talks like he just finished reading Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinham wouldn’t ring true. But whatever he might say and whatever mistakes he makes, he’s still the 18th century guy who saw a crazy lady running around in her underwear, spewing foul language, and skillfully providing healthcare and fell hard.

When the day shall come, that we do part,” he said softly, and turned to look at me, “if my last words are not ‘I love you’—ye’ll ken it was because I didna have time.”

-From The Fiery Cross (Book 5 of the Outlander series)

51omzinvtpl-_ac_us218_6. Alexander Belov Barrington from The Bronze Horseman series by Paullina Simons though I might break up with him after something he pulled in The Summer Garden… I overlook it here only because that whole part of the book seemed very out of character to me. In the first two books (and through most of the third) Alexander is the brave, stubborn, devoted man who brings you ice cream. That’s the dream isn’t it?  Well Alexander has a temper, and sometimes sees things as black and white, when they’re not. But that’s balanced by a strong sense of right and wrong, and a willingness to sometimes do the wrong thing for the right reasons, and vice versa.

“Tatiana…you and I had only one moment…” said Alexander. “A single moment in time, in your time and mine…one instant, when another life could have still been possible.” He kissed her lips. “Do you know what I’m talking about?”
When Tatiana looked up from her ice cream, she saw a soldier staring at her from across the street.
“I know that moment,” whispered Tatiana.”

41gwjpjhljl-_ac_us218_7. Gabriel Oak from Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy- Gabriel Oak is a farmer. He works his land, and he works hard. He’s reliable and has common sense. He proposes to Bathsheba Everdine early in this novel and is refused. He remains her loyal friend throughout. Even when she is acting impulsive or unwise, Gabriel never wavers in his devotion. When Bathsheba eventually realizes what she gave up when she turned down Oak’s proposal, he doesn’t gloat. He doesn’t tell her to get lost. He is simply happy because the woman he loves wants him. The life that he wants with her is simple:

And at home by the fire, whenever you look up there I shall be— and whenever I look up, there will be you.

51zpob-ijil-_ac_us218_

 

8. Sir Francis Crawford of Lymond from the Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett- Though his spot on the list might be temporary. In the first two books he earned his place on here, but I haven’t read the rest of the series yet. He might break my heart. Lymond is  a difficult character to describe because it’s hard to get to know him. He’s handsome. He’s incredibly smart. He speaks a number of languages and is extremely well read. He’s generally good at fighting and intrigues. But we spend most of the books seeing him from other people’s points of view. That makes him intriguing as a literary crush! But as I said, I’m only two books into the series. I might learn something I don’t like!

Considering Lymond, flat now on the bed in wordless communion with the ceiling, Richard spoke. “My dear, you are only a boy. You have all your life still before you.”

On the tortoise-shell bed, his brother did not move. But there was no irony for once in his voice when he answered. “Oh, yes, I know. The popular question is, For what?”

-From Queens Play (Book 2 of the Lymond chronicles)

419ewleob1l-_ac_us218_9. Fitzwilliam Darcy from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen- the only Austen hero to make my list (I like a few others two but there were reasons they didn’t make it on the list) seems like someone you could potentially be happy with. We get to know him first through his faults; pride (and prejudice!), stuffiness, a tendency to be judgmental. But when we get to know the other side to his personality- loyalty, a fundamental sense of decency, honesty, we get a fuller picture of whole person.

In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.

51nbhw4ql8l-_ac_us218_10. Carl Brown from Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith- In 1927 Carl and Annie fall in love and get married. Most books would end there, but that’s where this one starts. Carl is a second year law student. Annie left school at the age of 14 to work and support her family. Right away the couple face financial difficulties. Carl’s work and his studies keep him busy. Annie is very intelligent and an avid reader, but isn’t well educated, and feels awkward and a bit uncomfortable in a university setting. Even when he doesn’t always understand where Annie is coming from, Carl always loves her. When things get difficult her doesn’t regret his decision to marry her. He never wavers in the certainty that this is who he is supposed to spend his life with.