Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My Year In Books

Well, well, well.  Look who finally got around to writing their one year blog post. They say the first year of blogging is always the hardest. No wait, I think that’s marriage. Anyway, all I know is is that if I paid as much attention to my marriage as my blog I would probably be in divorce court. Since I’m not married I guess it’s a non-issue.
So what is this post supposed to be about? I sure as hell don’t know. Actually, I wanted to talk to you about my year in books. I’ve read a lot of fantastic and some miserable books that I would like to recap. A few I’ve already reviewed, but they’re worth mentioning again for the influence they had on my life and the impact I hope they can have on yours.
It was around this time last year that I read The Help by Kathryn Stockett. My life at that point in time was, to quote Carrie Fisher, “a fall-down-shit-yourself-laugh-free riot,” and there was something comforting about the world Stockett created in her critically acclaimed debut novel. I certainly identified with 23 year old Skeeter as she attempted to fumble her way through a post-college existence. I actually associate the book more with Skeeter’s coming of age than I do with the civil rights issues presented in Stockett’s writing.  The Help ultimately taught me that life will pass you by if you let it, but it can be a unique and meaningful journey if you can find something you’re passionate about and surround yourself with a positive network of people. It also taught me not to eat pie made by someone who is PO’ed at you.
In addition to reading current fiction, I made a pledge this year to read more of the classics. I began the task by exploring Victorian Gothic, namely Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights by Charlotte and Emily Bronte respectively. The Brontes were fearless in their examination of depression, the human spirit, and our attempts at discovering the meaning of life. They thought and felt more than the average person and Emily seems to have been hypersensitive to the world around her and I often wonder if she didn’t suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder considering her inability to function while away from home. Not only do I appreciate their writing, I also felt a bond with the Bronte Sisters upon discovering that they were born in the town of Thornton, their father’s name was Patrick, and Emily is often categorized as having an INFJ personality like myself. When I think of English literature, it is the Brontes I think of before Chaucer and Dickens.
Over the summer I read a good English classic by Dodie Smith entitled I Capture the Castle. Smith is best known for writing 101 Dalmations which remains my favorite Disney movie, so the two of us got off to a good start. “Castle” takes place between World War I & II and is written in diary-form by Cassandra, a girl of 17 who acts as both narrator and protagonist. What unfolds is the life of a riches to rags family living in the ruins of an old English castle. Cassandra resides with an eclectic group of people including her father; Mortmain, her older sister; Rose, and her stepmother; Topaz, among others. The characters are just quirky enough to be endearing without being annoying, and Cassandra’s view of the world is both naive and insightful all at once. The book reminded me a great deal of Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series which I also devoured.
As summer has turned to fall I’ve begun my journey into the world of Anne Rice.  Over the past two months I’ve read Interview with the Vampire and The Witching Hour.  The latter disappointed me in it’s non-ending, but I enjoyed both books for Rice’s unique perspective on religion, philosophy, and ethics.  Rice used the vampire as a metaphor for the outcast, and I think we’ve all felt like outcasts at some point in our life which makes the book accessible to just about anyone.  Rice’s work is darker than what I usually read, but it’s also beautiful in a tragic sense. She’s a much more skillful writer than she’s been given credit for over the years.  Aside from J.K. Rowling, I’ve never read an author with more imagination than Rice and I look forward to delving further into the Vampire Chronicles, Lives of the Mayfair Witches, and her historical nonfiction (The Feast of All Saints and Cry to Heaven). She’s also a fellow Diet Coke addict so how can I not love her?
At the time of writing this blog, my reading life has come full circle.  I am reading City of Secrets, the sequel to the first book I reviewed, City of Dragons. Reading about P.I. Miranda Corbie’s life in 1940 San Francisco feels like I’m visiting an old friend. Author Kelli Stanley excels at setting the scene and setting an atmosphere that’s vivid enough to reach out and touch. I’m really looking forward to fully reviewing the book once I’ve finished.
All in all, it’s been an epic year in books for me.  I didn’t quite stick to my personal goal of reading a book per week, but I read somewhere around 40 books which is nothing to sneeze at either. I’m looking forward to continuing Reading Under the Covers into 2012 and hopefully that darn rapture won’t interfere with my blogging.  You’ll probably see more reviews of older works of fiction i.e. the classics as well as the earlier writings of Patricia Cornwell, Sue Grafton, and Anne Rice, but current fiction will still be reviewed regularly.  I’d also like to do between the book review reviews in which I touch on other subjects that relate to writing and literature.  Thanks for reading and I hope you’ll continue to do so. Your comments and enthusiasm keep me writing.