Reading, Top Ten Tuesday

A Little Contemporary To Go With Your Classic: A Top Ten Tuesday List

Tuesday is fast becoming my favorite day! I’m participating in Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, for the second time this blog’s history. I’m loving the fun lists the bloggers from The Broke and the Bookish inspire each week. After you check out my list, be sure to go check out others’ lists as well, especially since this week is a dual theme. Book bloggers can choose between making a list of contemporary books that would be great paired with classics, or making a list of books that should be required reading in schools. I’m a little out of touch with school required reading and I adore classic literature, so I’m doing the first topic.

I probably wouldn’t choose the contemporary book over the classic in any of these pairings, but some of them come close. Especially the first one!

 

Ten New Books To Go With Ten Old Books

1. To Kill A Mockingbird and The Help

To Kill a MockingbirdThe Help

This one seems pretty self explanatory. The point of narration is quite different, but the humor, honesty, and themes are very similar. The Help has more women’s studies themes, but I think it’s still a book that anyone, man or woman, can enjoy and appreciate. Of course, no contemporary book can compare with Harper Lee’s insight and bravery in writing about what was a very current issue.

2. The Good Earth and Snow Flower and The Secret Fan

The Good Earth (House of Earth, #1) Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Pearl S. Buck’s classic The Good Earth is challenging to read, just as any literature about Chinese traditions is for most American women. Though it mainly follows the rise and decline of one man, Wang Lung, and his entire family, it begins on the eve of his wedding to a common, Chinese woman. The impact Wang’s first wife has on his life is of great importance throughout the book. Lisa See’s 2006 book Snow Flower and The Secret Fan gives more details about the Chinese way of life for women. I was educated by them both, though it was an unhappy education.

3. Anne of Green Gables and Before Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables (Anne of Green Gables, #1)

Before Green Gables

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have read the entire Anne of Green Gables series and still want more, Budge Wilson’s prequel, Before Green Gables, is an imaginative  and very readable account of Anne’s life before Green Gables. Though Wilson’s style isn’t much like Montgomery’s, she sticks with the facts of the original book very well; I’ve read the series through and through and didn’t find any discrepancies. Yes, it was a little bit of a downer, since Anne’s life was a hard one before she was rescued by Matthew Cuthberth on the platform of a railway station on Prince Edward Island. But there are bright moments and characters and one realizes how Anne could have had a chance to develop her bright, cheerful character despite her circumstances.

4. The Secret Garden and Mandy

The Secret Garden

Two books about orphans with secret gardens written in a charming and cheerful way = a lovely pair of must read literature for young girls. The Secret Garden was written by Frances Hodgson Burnett in 1911 and Mandy was published in 1971 by Julie Andrews. THE Julie Andrews. She was, no, IS a hero of mine, ever since I couldn’t get enough of The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins from age 2 to 10. Maybe Mandy is already considered a classic and doesn’t really count in this contemporary with classic pairing. Oh well.

5. I Capture The Castle and The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets

I Capture the CastleThe Lost Art of Keeping Secrets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What? You haven’t heard of either of these books? Well, I Capture The Castle should be a classic. Written by Dodie Smith, the author of 101 Dalmations, it tells the original tale of Cassandra Mortmain and her eccentric family who are living in a crumbling castle and on the verge of destitution. When two eligible young men move into the nearby manor, the book starts to have some Pride and Prejudice similarities, but those end almost before they begin and what we’re left with is an enchanting, witty book. The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets is by Eva Rice (daughter of famed lyricist, Tim Rice), and is not a masterpiece like I Capture the Castle, but it is set in the same time period and has a similar feel. It’s a fun read. I’d recommend them both. Oh, and please do not judge the book by the movie based on I Capture the Castle. I didn’t see the movie, but I can tell you by the trailer I watched that it is not very much like the book. Besides books always win over movies. Almost always.

6. Silas Marner and The Light Between Oceans

Silas Marner

The Light Between Oceans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silas Marner and The Light Between Oceans are both books that center on babes found by adults and adults finding salvation from grief in the babes.  Silas Marner is a more tidy and hopeful book, but both are powerful tales that prove love is the most excellent way. I reviewed The Light Between Oceans in a separate post here. While we’re on this theme, another book about a baby found is, aptly titled, Baby by Patricia MacLachlan. I love that book, though it always makes me cry. Oh, I just can’t tell you how much I love that book. If you haven’t read it, put it on top of your To Be Read list. It’s only 100 pages or so, and it’s beautiful.

7. Lord of the Flies and The Hunger Games

Lord of the Flies

 The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1)

 

 

 

 

 

The classic, Darwinian survival of the fittest in Lord of the Flies was written all over The Hunger Games. Yes, I have to admit, I enjoyed The Hunger Games more. But I have a hard time thinking of one of these books without thinking of the other.

8. Sarah Plain and Tall and The Magic of Ordinary Days

 

Sarah, Plain and Tall (Sarah, Plain and Tall, #1)The Magic of Ordinary Days

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sarah, Plain and Tall is the story of a strong, mail order bride on the plains. It is one of my favorite books. The Magic of Ordinary Days is a different kind of mail order bride on the plains, in a different era. Still, the decision to wed before love and the strength of the characters makes both these books great companions for grown ups. Please note, I said grown ups. Speaking of adults, if you’re a grown up that hasn’t read Patricia MacLachlan, I strongly recommend that you remedy that situation as soon as possible!

9. Gone With the Wind and The Kitchen House

Gone with the Wind

The Kitchen House

 

 

 

 

 

 

These books are both set in the Civil War Era, but tell very different stories. Gone With the Wind is a novel that follows the plantation’s mistress and The Kitchen House follows the black slaves that survive the war on the plantation. I didn’t particularly enjoy The Kitchen House, but I know a lot of readers that did and it is a stirring review of what life was probably really like for the slaves on a plantation during this time. Gone With the Wind is far and away a better piece of writing and story telling, though.

10. Fill in the blank!!! I need your help to think of another classic with contemporary pairing. If you think of one, please share. You’ll be featured in my separate post of number 10 in this list. =)

Reading, Reviews

A Glimpse Into Pain and Why It Matters

There are times when I feel I’m not fit to claim the label “intellectual” because I honestly want every book I read to end happily. Books that end tragically, that make me cry, they are often strangely beautiful and stirring, but I don’t go in for “tear jerkers” as a rule. I live a very happy life and I am so thankful for this moment in which I can honestly say that. But I know that books or movies that open a window into someone else’s life and pain also open windows in my heart to simply feel, whether its through my own story or someone else’s. We all can attest to the fact that days pass by and string into apathy if we let them, if we don’t actively seek out the joy existing inside or the pain that needs healing in the people around us.

HousekeepingThe truth is, I can easily become the person who will judge instead of try to understand. I first realized that about myself when I read Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. It’s the story of two sisters, Ruth and Lucille, whose mother is gone and who are raised by various family members in a rather haphazard fashion. They finally end up with their Aunt Sylvie, who has a history of transience. I had to look up “transience,” but I learned through the book it basically means that she often chose to be homeless. The book was a hard read for me, a woman who was raised in a cheery and loving home and who is very much a homebody. How much I learned, though! I saw into the struggle of “housekeeping” in a person’s mind who is unsettled about so many things. I learned that when I see a homeless person in my city, it’s not a given that they are suffering from addictions or poverty, but that they could be suffering something much harder to define. Kindness of heart and of actions should not be so hard to muster for people I don’t understand, yet it’s true that’s easier now I have some understanding of a mindset totally foreign to me. Someone once told my husband “There’s plenty of work to be had if you want it. No one has to be homeless if they don’t want to.” I had no idea how he could say that until I read Housekeeping. On top of the amount of insight I gained, the novel is a classic in its stark beauty and detail. It was bleak, it was at times depressing, but it is an important book to me.

The Language of FlowersI found the same insights in the more recent The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. I wasn’t expecting to be so confronted with a person’s inner turmoil in a book about flowers. The book is centered on Victoria Jones, an orphan who has aged out of the foster care system and is thrust into the world utterly alone. Her past is all pain that she doesn’t want to confront, but the future demands it. The wording of each chapter and the acute descriptions of childhood pain and loss and the pangs that never seem to end afterwards completely engrossed me even when I wanted to stop reading. My heart was broken for children born to mothers with the capacity to love who haven’t the capacity to act on that love due to the wounds still unhealed on their hearts. I know I’m bordering on gushy metaphysical hodgepodge, but I’m not sure how to explain this book without telling too much. The Language of the Flowers is one of the many books and experiences that led me to reflect on the blessings I have and what I’m supposed to do with them. I can’t say I’ve gotten very far with that question, but it’s one that I’m still working on and that was brought to the forefront of my mind by this book.

The Light Between OceansAnd just today, I finished The Light Between Oceans. The premise of the book is that a couple, Tom and Isabel Sherbourne, who live on a lonely lighthouse island off the coast of Western Australia, are longing for the family they can’t seem to have when one day a baby blows up onto their shore. They keep her, and their decision that they think will bring healing only adds links in a long chain of devastation. That description sounds totally hopeless, but there is a hopeful tone in the book, just as you would expect in a story centered on a lighthouse. I was conflicted about who to relate to in this book the whole time I was reading it. Of course, I’d never sympathize with kidnappers. Never, ever. But can I try to understand a mind unhinged by pain? Well, I guess I can try. The hero of the book, Tom, certainly did. His ability to forgive is humbling. In the end, I can and can’t relate to everyone in this book. But I can say that the words of Plato (or Ian MacLaren? The jury is still out), “Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle” came to mind many times as I read the book. I enjoyed this book more than the other two I’ve mentioned in this post. It was more adventurous and less focused on the psychology of the characters, though that did make up a good part of the book. Stedman’s characters go through hard times, and I found them to be often infuriating and always endearing.  She created a world on Janus Rock, the lighthouse post, that will be alive in my mind for a long time yet. I want to visit there, if it actually does exist. =)

There are some books that aren’t entirely “fun” to read but that grip you with ideas and the people the book creates and make you cry or laugh or just sit and contemplate “What if? What if that were me?” I want everyone to be happy (hang being intellectual!) and I would choose all books to end at least mostly happy, but there are some books who mix the bitter and the sweet to show the reality of what life is for some people. I wish that I had the courage or even the awareness to look people in the face and try to understand what life is like for them more often. These books I’ve mentioned are a few of the books that, though fiction, have pushed me into attempting to put myself in the shoes of people who seem wholly different from me. I could think of more, but I’d love to hear which books have done the same for you.

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