Summer Reads–Don’t Miss the Greatest Books

If you’re looking for some summer reads, may I recommend this list?

The Greatest Books

If you haven’t already discovered some of these, you don’t want to miss out on some excellent literature.

Many years ago I found a similar list. With a goal of reading one or two from the list each year, I started with some books that I thought I could stomach: romances by Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte, My Antonia by Willa Cather, The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (only because it was very thin).

All of them were fascinating. Who knew?

Then I got brave and read some that looked endlessly boring and painfully long–The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes–only to be pleasantly surprised at how easy they were to read and how hard to put down (Don Quixote made me laugh out loud!).

It gave me a feeling of satisfaction to check them off the list one-by-one. I also noticed that a sense of camaraderie with other readers of classics as I started to understand cultural references to these stories.

Soon I discovered an online classic book club through my public library. One of them sent the first three chapters of a classic novel by email at the beginning of each month. That was do-able, and I found more authors I liked.

That was the beginning.

These led me to lesser-known old books, and the best books I’ve ever read (hence, my posts!). This is how I began collecting old books at book sales, and my experience has shown that I can trust most books written more than fifty years ago to be a quality read.

I no longer carry that list in my purse because my “list” is now on my shelves, each awaiting its turn–as time allows!

And here is a list for classic children’s books.

What are your favorites on the list? Or if you aren’t yet into the classics, how about taking the challenge?  One or two from the list each year?

Happy reading this summer!

My appreciation to the following for open source images:

http://thegreatestbooks.org/

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Great_Books.jpg

https://pixabay.com/en/book-teacup-nature-summer-reading-2388213/

Positive, uplifting, and humorous reads

I’ve just realized how much time I spend looking for good, upbeat, contemporary fiction.

My friend said she doesn’t want to read depressing books and did I have any to recommend, so I browsed my yearly lists of books read for happy fiction. I was surprised at how many serious titles were on there and how few cheery.

Pilcher and Heyer

I am always game to check out older books, as you know, and I find most fiction between about 1950 and 2000–women’s fiction, romance, mainstream–usually cheerful and positive enough to enjoy. Rosamunde Pilcher, a U.K. author of women’s fiction, and Georgette Heyer, who wrote humorous Victorian romances, are two authors that never let me down.

I think I’ve read every one of Pilcher’s books, except some of her volumes of short stories. The first one I read was Under Gemini, and I was hooked with the location and the warm, intricate treatment of characters’ relationships. The Shell Seekers and September are my favorites, and they are nice and long. Click here to read my review of Winter Solstice.

Here are my three posts about my favorite Georgette Heyer books (so far!), Cotillion, Arabella and The Convenient Marriage.

New books

I do like to keep in touch with the new books, too. There are so many books to choose from, where do you begin? It can be overwhelming. I browse the categories on GoodReads and Amazon. But I like to hold a book and flip through it, so I browse bookstores and sometimes take snap shots of shelves with my cell phone, then try to find them at the library (it amazes me how many new books are in the library system!). The library, too, has its “New and Notable” shelves and racks of recommended reading, so I check out a lot of those.

Sometimes the new books I read are considered “important”. I certainly want to expand my mind and experience the lives and cultures of many of the contemporary authors. HOWEVER. What is with all the dark, negative fiction these days? Books or movies, I don’t know what has made it so popular, but it’s not popular with me.

I can get an important impression or message from a book without reeling at all the explicit details and closing the book feeling like I’ve gone through the wringer. I do wish authors would go back to being more subtle!

Contemporary books that bring a smile

When I want to clear my head, to do a re-set, I look for something intelligent, sunny, optimistic, and relaxing to read. But finding that is a challenge. I do a lot of searching shelves and online for good humorous fiction. Here are some of the fiction books I’ve read lately that have brought a smile, and provided an enjoyable, relaxed read.

Falling for June by Ryan Winfield

Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray

Fanny Bower Puts herself out There by Julia Ariss (ebook)

Lunatics by Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel

Harriet Beamer Takes the Bus by Joyce Magnin

The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

Sassy Cinderella and the Valiant Vigilante by Sharon Dunn

What a Girl Wants by Kristin Billerbeck

The Promise of Jenny Jones by Maggie Osborne

 

While browsing my library’s humor and other sections, I ran across plenty of funny non-fiction. Here are some that I thoroughly enjoyed.

You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty by Dave Barry

I Remember Nothing by Norah Ephron

Reasons My Kid is Crying by Greg Pembrooke

Around the World in 80 Dates by Jennifer Cox

Surely you’re Joking, Mr. Feynman by Richard Feynman (Nobel prize-winning physicist)

Contemporary books that are uplifting

And here are some more books on my recent Books Read lists that are not necessarily humorous, but are uplifting, intelligent and calming. All are fascinating accounts or stories of neighbors, family, goodness, kindness, and life-changes, without the cringe-factor.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Until the Harvest by Sarah Loudin Thomas (here’s my review–the author left a comment!)

Suncatchers and By the Light of a Thousand Stars by Jamie Langston Turner

Dewey: the Small Town Library Cat who Touched the World by Vicki Myron

Poems for a Good and Happy Life compiled by Myrna Reid Grant

 

What have you found?

Most importantly, if you’ve FOUND good upbeat contemporary fiction or non-fiction, PLEASE do share! I am sure that many people will appreciate it!

 

Photo credits: Pixabay and unsplash at Pexel.com

Quality Romance worth Reading

I love Valentine’s Day because I love LOVE. And I love reading about love. I have been browsing through my binder of book notes that goes back to about 1995, and I’ve picked out my 20 favorite books about romantic love.Valentine fr Bruce

How did these make the cut?

What I look for in a story of love between a man and a woman, in addition to excellent writing, is the qualities of the main characters.  I like to get involved with authentic, realistic characters that I would actually want to spend time with, people with qualities such as integrity, forgiveness, kindness, humility and goodness. By the end I want to see them overcome significant struggles, go through a positive transformation, or experience a revelation that results in a better life for them and those around them.

I look for the author to go beyond the action to expertly convey feelings, motivation, and attitude throughout the story, teach me something new, provide a good pace, and include humor or at least a generally positive outlook. I will stop reading stories with a huge amount of introspection, lengthy descriptions of scenery or houses, a depressing tone, or overdone violence or immorality.  I like a gentle writing style as long as it doesn’t get boring, and as long as the story keeps pointing towards significance.

Here is my list!

Here is a mixture of classic and contemporary books, published from 1605 to the present, which include history, humor, mystery, chick-lit, inspiration, and various locales such as Scotland, California, Mexico, England, Colorado, and more.  I include the year of their publication.

My top 20, in alphabetical order by author:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen 1813 – exquisite

What a Girl Wants by Kristin Billerbeck 2004 – hilarious!

Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore 1869 – incredibly intense, especially the ending

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte 1847 – a roller coaster with the perfect ending

what a girl wants_Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes 1605 and 1615 – idealistic knight, surpisingly funny

La Dame aux Camellias by Alexandre Dumas fils 1852 – true love’s sweet sacrifice

Sassy Cinderella and the Valiant Vigilante by Sharon Dunn 2004 – laugh out loud mystery

Reason to Believe by Kathleen Eagle 1995 – gentle story of two cultures

Nick’s Kind of Woman by Margot Early 1997 – fascinating relationship and action set in my home state of Colorado

The Well Beloved by Thomas Hardy 1892 – “a sketch of a temperament”

Arabella by Georgette Heyer 1949 – who knew the proper Victorian era could be this funny?

sassy cinderellaThorn in my Heart by Liz Curtis Higgs 2003 – the story of Leah and Rachel moved to 18th century Scotland

The Story of a Whim by Grace Livingston Hill – sweet, creative, upbeat surprise

Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson 1884 – love amid racial discrimination after the Mexican-American War

Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale 1992 – rakish mathematician Duke meets intelligent Quaker

My Favorite Goodbye by Sheila O’Flanagan 2001 – light and funArabella by G Heyer

The Promise of Jenny Jones by Maggie Osborne 1999 – never laughed so hard

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers 2001 – pointing to the source of love

Happy Ever After (also called Family Happiness) by Leo Tolstoy 1859 – light, easy, insightful

The Sunset Coast by Susan Devore Williams 1995 – gradual awakening of love and faith

I hope you will be inspired to read something off your normal reading track!  If you do–or if you have some to recommend to me–please leave me a comment!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

San Diego 527

Discovering Out of Town Book Stores

While on holiday visiting relatives in the Denver area, I decided to check the yellow pages for used bookstores, just in case I had some time to visit them. And I lucked out and got to go to three of them!

The Bookworm in Boulder, Colorado

This bookstore came highly recommended by a friend of our family who lives up in the mountains west of Boulder, an earthy town northwest of Denver. This was originally just to be a place for me to meet another dear friend, and what a great choice that turned out to be, since I got way more browsing time than expected. Clean, well-lit, organized, stocked with a huge supply of books, nicely labelled categories, and staffed by pleasant people, this was a dream of a used bookstore. After browsing my favorite sections (writing, children, fiction, religion) for over an hour, I wandered close to the cash register area and hit the mother lode of old books. Many of their antique books had been shelved along with the newer books, so I was surprised to see one large section (surrounding a desk) completely filled with books published fifty or more years ago. I found this at just the time that my friend was planning to pick me up, and as I awaited her text, I hoped she’d be delayed just a bit longer.

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After being assured by staff that I was allowed to snoop through these shelves and the boxes on the floor, I kneeled down on the floor and pulled some books out that were hidden behind a stack of boxes. One of them, I discovered, was a Bible published in 1865. After researching its value, the lovely manager of the store said, “I’m sorry, but this is quite expensive.” It was worth $75 U.S.–more than I wanted to pay. But in her hands were three other old children’s books that she thought I might like, which was a very sweet gesture. I ended up buying two old school readers for $3 each, and the Mere Christianity Journal for $6 in perfect condition. (The idea of using this journal to “dialogue with” C.S. Lewis about his thoughts is thrilling!)

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Red Letter Books in Boulder, Colorado

After a fantastic lunch of fish tacos, my friend wanted to browse around another book store–happy dance!–so we went to Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall to one recommended by the sweet manager at Bookworm for its many old and rare books. Red Letter Books was a different type of store, smaller, crowded, not as organized and tidy, but with a bigger selection of interesting books. Outside on the sidewalk were its $1 sale books, and I snatched up a hardcover of Gilead, the Pulitzer Prize’ winner by Marilynne Robinson, for my friend. She in turn bought me Watership Down, which has twice been recommended to me by my pastor. (Now is apparently the time for me to read it, so in spite of the two other books I have on the go, I started reading it immediately!)

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I came away with 5 additional books from Red Letter Books, most between $5 and $10: the two books I was missing from my set of 1950’s Winnie the Pooh books, a 1904 romance novel called God’s Good Man, and two other children’s books, Child Rhymes, and Stepping Stones to Literature, both published in the early twentieth century.

Capital Hill Books in Denver

While wandering around and taking pictures in Denver of the gold-domed state capital, the spires of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, and the Molly Brown House, I stopped in Capital Hill books. A small but bright and orderly used book store, it has various notes and communications around the store that give it a cheerful personality.

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It is arranged and labelled well, and although it has few old children’s books, I couldn’t resist a 1905 edition of my all-time favorite children’s book, A Childs’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. I also have a 1950’s version of this beautiful book, which I bought with my allowance money in 1965, as well as a more recent large edition that I bought because of the gorgeous illustrations

In a way, I’m surprised at how these stores are apparently thriving while many other new book stores are failing. I am so grateful to the owners, and all the other used book lovers that help keep them going!

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5 Hours in the Library and No Reading Allowed

Our grade 12 students did their final exams last week and I helped supervise the tests. I was with students in the library, and as supervisors, our job is to move among the students to ensure security, so we are not allowed to sit, catch up on our work, or check emails. Or read!

 

After several hours, most students had finished and left, and there were only a handful remaining which were well spaced apart. As I cruised in circles around the library, I began to scan the sets of books stacked on the counters and in the returns carts as I walked by. MacBeth, To Kill a Mockingbird, Life of Pi, Tuesdays with Morrie, War Child, A Long Way Gone, The Kite Runner, Of Mice and Men, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. How many of these had I read?

 

I mentally ticked off A Long Way Gone, as this was our school-wide reading project this year, a first hand account of the horrors of life as a child soldier in Africa. I’d read MacBeth when I was in high school, and more recently read Life of Pi, Tuesdays with Morrie, and Of Mice and Men, so I ticked those off, too. It was tempting to try to read one of the others on the sly during the next hour or so.

 

Soon there was one student left, and I found myself scanning all the shelves. Did they have any 808.02 books (writing books)? (To my disappointment, they did not.) What could a book called Guns, Germs and Steel be about? There were many intriguing titles. I found a sticky note and jotted down some of them to add to my reading list.

 

On the counter I also saw a sign that said “Summer Reading”, and nabbed one of the sheets of paper in the box. I was happy to see that I’d read a few of the ones on the list (but not many), and now have more recommendations of new works to balance out my many old books that I’ve recently acquired.

 

Here are the books that one teacher is recommending to our students. See how many you’ve read. Should they be on a list of top-notch books? Did you enjoy them, or not? Do any of the others strike your interest?

 

1984 – Orwell

The AshGarden – Bock

The Bean Trees – Kingsolver

The Chosen – Potok

Crime and Punishment – Dostoevsky

CrowLake – Lawson

Davita’s Harp – Potok

Fifth Business – Davies

The Grapes of Wrath – Steinbeck

Great Expectations – Dickens

The Great Gatsby – Fitzgerald

Heart of Darkness – Conrad

The Hero’s Walk – Badami

The Kite Runner – Hosseini

House of the Spirits – Allende

The Lovely Bones – Sebold

Life of Pi – Martel

The Metamorphosis – Kafta

Monsignor Quixote – Greene

The Mosquito Coast – Theroux

My Name is Asher Lev – Potok

Frankenstein – Shelley

No Great Mischief – MacLeod

Obasan – Kogawa

The Outsider – Camus

The Poisonwood Bible – Kingsolver

Pride and Prejudice – Austen

A Separate Peace – Knowles

Snow Falling on Cedars – Guterson

The Stone Angel – Laurence

Things Fall Apart – Achebe

Under the Ribs of Death – Marlyn

The Wars – Findley

Wild Geese – Ostenso

Windflower – Roy

WutheringHeights – Bronte

Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, MacBeth, The Tempest – Shakespeare

 

Happy Summer Reading!