March 2, 2009

Top Five Favorites

I'm taking this post idea from a friend of mine. I thought it was a great idea and a way to expand the dialogue between bloggers. The challenge is to name your top five favorite books and explain why you love them. You can only have one number one favorite (obviously). Hopefully I can get some good reading ideas from others posts. So let's try this...

By the way, this is difficult for me because I love so many, but I'll give it a shot.

5. Memoirs of a Geisha: I remember where I was when I read this book. I was lying in my bed when I opened it, wanting to read something to put me asleep. I didn't get any sleep that night because I COULD NOT PUT THE BOOK DOWN! I remember within the first few paragraphs I felt swept into another place and time in the life of a Geisha. It is beautifully written with vivid characters that you will never forget. It is extraorinary and the writing is superb. The author, Arthur Golden, paints a world of the life of a beautiful, young girl sold into the life of a Geisha and her transition from child to temptress and seductress, but more importantly..artist. This book completely changed my misconceptions of what a Geisha was. There was much more to them than just dressing like dolls in kimonos and having sex for money. No, no, no. Yes, some Geisha houses did that, but we are talking top of the line, 'real' Geisha's here. They were given strict guidelines, cultural knowledge and years of training in the arts before they could even think of making a dollar. Their goal was to achieve a level of success at the top. Believe it or not, there was a heiarchy to this business and everyone wanted to reach it, because that's where the men of power were. These Geisha's weren't trading their virginity for a measley Benjamin. We're talking mucho dinero here! What's Japanese for helluva lot of money?

Being a Geisha is/was an art form and by the end of the book, you respect their level of dedication to their craft. I loved this book because of it's literary ability to completly remove me from my bedroom to the streets of Japan and into a secret life of glorified prostitution. It was written so beautifully that you can envision each face perfectly, each beautifully designed kimono, each golden sunset. Ahhh....what a great book. Talking about it has me itching to re-read it.

4. The Thorn Birds: I heard about this book for years before I picked it up. When I read a synopsis I wasn't very interested...a story of a family on a sheep shearing farm in Austrailia? Booooring! WRONG! It was and is EPIC! I have written a review of this book on my blog before, so I'll make this brief. Yes it is the story of the Cleary family who travel from New Zealand to Austrailia to better their 'station' in life. It follows, and centers around, young Meggie Cleary as she grows into womanhood and who would ever think that the one person she admires and gets her worldy advice from is a Priest? Father Raplh De Bricassart comes to know Meggie as a young girl and the are instantly connected and form a close bond. She looks up to him and puts him on a pedastal, almost as if he were God himself. He sees her as the child AND lover he will never come to know because he has chosen celibacy and priesthood. As she grows into a beautiful young woman they both struggle with their feelings and he with his promise to God. This is a tale of forbidden love, struggle, betrayal, religion and lessons learned, and not learned. In the CLeary family, we learn that what goes around will always come back around.

Colleen McCullough wrote this sweeping tale with an amazing imagination. Every detail of the Outback and Drogheda (their home)was described so wonderfully that I could see it clearly in my mind's eye. Even when not reading the book, my mind could take me all around Drogheda into it's secret places and dusty and dry landscapes. Yes, sometimes the descriptions were a little too wordy, but it was fantastic nontheless. This is more than a he loves her, she loves him but neither could have eachother, drama. It is of epic proportions, questioning God's love for one and not for another, suffering through loss, love, being poor and being wealthy. It's also a story of ambition and greed. How much would you sacrifice to get to the top? Father Ralph went all the way to the Vatican, but once he got there did he have all he had hoped for? He didn't not have true love and he didn't have Meggie. Sigh. This is such a great read. I give it 10 stars and think it should be a part of American literature, truly. I personally loved this book because of the emotions it evoked from me. I don't cry lots while reading because in the back of my mind I'm like, it's fake, but these characters are so three dimensional that you invest in them. You root for them and you feel what they're feeling. For me, that is what great writing is all about. I cried my eyes out when Ralph came to visit Meggie on the island....when he pulled up in that car and she saw him. GASP! It is definitly a slow motion moment. I saw the mini-series after reading the book, it was a good B rate film, but lacks a little too, as all films do when they're coming from print.

3. Pride and Prejudice: This book is so wonderful. I read it before I saw any of the movies and I was an instant addict to all things Jane Austen. Her characters are so complex, funny, witty, loveable and on and on. This story is so great because it is set way ahead of it's time and the plot can span centuries. Elizabeth Bennet is my most favorite fictional character of all time. I think of her often, does that make me weird? Anyway, and Mr. Darcy...! He is every woman's dream and Jane constructed the most ideal storyline. Woman meets handsome man, discovers he's formidable, without humor, insensitive and lacking the good graces to call him a true gentleman, not to mention...he's a snob! Man meets woman, we have no idea what he's thinking, but it seems that he looks down upon her and her 'embarassing' family. Woman percieves man wrongly, man percieves woman wrongly. Pride and Prejudice gets in the way of the ulimate love. I never get tired of this book, nor the movies. If you haven't read this book...what are you waiting for? It's entertainment and exquisitly written from page to page. I love this novel because it reads much like a fairytale, without any of the pixie dust. I fall in love with Darcy all over again everytime I read it. What he does to help her family....priceless. It also speaks strongly about the bonds of family and it's amazing that Elizabeth is so strong and independant for her time. Bravo Jane!

2. Harry Potter
How could this series not be in my top five? I know it's unfair to put a series here, but I have to include them all. I think it was while reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone when I literally fell in love with reading. This series transports the reader into another world entirely, a world of magic and make believe, but the essence of it's tale is love. Good vs Evil is what drives this series that is a woven web of characters and magical places. I cannot do JK Rowling justice with my mediocre review, however it is a story I will take with me forever, and that is saying a lot. I often times forget if I even read certain books, but can remember specific details, theories and characters so well from HP that you'd think it was my own life. Wonderful writing, enchanting storytelling, compelling characters, strong messages and interesting plot lines. There is only one word to describe this series for me...Magical. It's a tale about friendships, family, right and wrong, loss, forgiveness, deceit, family etc....everything that real life is all about is thrown into this world of wizardry. How did she pull this off? I will never know. She created a whole new world, a new language, new species and spells...and guess what? You are made to believe it. That's talent. These are books I cn read again and again and again...and have.

1. The Diary of Anne Frank
I first read Anne Frank when I was 14. I was instantly absorbed in this young girl's life in hiding and then you, this is real. I have read this book about ten times over the years, so much that I had to buy a new one because the old one was falling apart. This isn't the diary of a young girl, but more about a young woman. Anne's writing is imaginative, descriptive, engrossing and intelligent. You have to remind yourself that this isn't a seasoned writer, but a girl writing to her beloved diary, Kitty. As a young girl myself at the time, I could instantly relate to Anne. She had a lot of the same thoughts and fears that all young girls do...concern for friends, having crushes on boys, being under the watchful eye of your parents, trying to find your own independance, having issues with your mother and trying to discover who you are. This is a coming of age story, but unlike most we get to read about, she is coming of age in an cramped attic hiding for her life because she was a Jew.

This story never fails to break my heart and rip it out of my chest. Anne had to hide away for years, they went hungry, got ill, never got to go out into the sunshine, yet she remained optomistic that there was good in the world. Even though they were hunted like animals and millions were killed and burned for no reason, she continued to find the good in people. That is the lesson that I learned from Anne.

Anne's words are written so eloquently. It's so compelling to read the words she wrote and shared her experience in the Secret Annex. She never knew the power that her words have evoked from millions of people. She really is an inspiration to me and I'm sure millions of others all over the world. When I get to the end of the book I always cry my eyes out. She sacrificed her life, as did millions of others. The numbers and truths are staggering and a nightmare. To think of what this sweet Anne had to endure in those camps is almost too much. I believe everyone should read this before they die and that it's a nessecary piece of literature. It is that profound.