Since everyone has until November until the release of “The Magic Council,” and reading “The Crimson League” will probably not keep you busy until then, I wanted to post my suggestions of works to add to your book bucket list: you know, the books you really, really MUST read at some point in your life. These are the books that have really taught, inspired, and shaped. Each one struck a chord in my soul, and I return to them again and again, and continue to learn more about life, about humanity, and about myself.
With the exception of the first two, the books are in no particular order. Please please PLEASE, if you have suggestions of your own, put them in the comments! I’m always looking for more amazing, soul-touching reads!
1. LES MISERABLES: Victor Hugo’s mastepiece is required reading for basically anyone born human, in my opinion. It is so powerful in so many different ways. It’s a beautiful story of redemption, love, sacrifice, war…. Feel free, if you’re not interested in Hugo’s views of monastic life or his take on the Battle of Waterloo, to read an abridged version.
Basically, I learned to read French to read this book in its original language. It moves me THAT deeply. Make sure to read before the movie adaptation of the musical, starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, and Amanda Seyfried comes out! (I am so excited about this film I can hear the people sing!!! :-)…. yeah, really bad joke. Sorry guys. Actually, I’m really nervous and unsure about casting Crowe as Javert, but we’ll see!)
2. DON QUIXOTE: Cervantes’s novel–the first modern novel–inspired me to pursue a doctorate in Hispanic literature after reading it. No joke. It’s so amazing…. And it’s enjoyable on SOOO many levels. It can be deeply philosophical, an indictment on society’s lack of imagination, or just a funny book. Seriously. It’s kind of the 17th century equivalent of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Why WOULDN’T you want to read this? Everyone should read this and figure out for themselves whether they are a Quixote or a Sancho Panza. I’m definitely a Quixote myself!
3. THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING, T. H. White: By far my favorite adaptation of Arthurian legend, White’s tale spans the entire lives of Arthur and the sons of Lot: Gawain, Gaheris, Agravaine, Gareth, and Mordred. Lancelot too. Sir Gawain is just wonderful. This novel is basically a story for adults disguised partly as a children’s story. I first read it in college, and like “Les Miserables,” it speaks so powerfully of what it means to be a human person that I read it over and over and over. My favorite scenes are the ones with Lots sons as children. They inspired a number of scenes in “The Magic Council.”
4. The HARRY POTTER series, J.K. Rowling: I know these books have their flaws, and I know they’re not for everyone, but not only are they incredibly readable, they are readable with a powerful positive message: friendship matters; friends and family are worth sacrificing for; doing the right thing can be hard, but it’s worth it in the end; our choices and values define us and not our talents OR our physical limitations. Those messages are what make these books so dear to me. As Dumbledore says: (SPOILER ALERT! don’t read quote if you haven’t read the books or seen the movies)
“Lord Voldemort’s gift for spreading discord and enmity is very great. We can fight it only by showing an equally strong bond of friendship and trust. Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open. It is my belief — and never have I so hoped that I am mistaken — that we are all facing dark and difficult times. Some of you in this Hall have already suffered directly at the hands of Lord Voldemort. Many of your families have been torn asunder. A week ago, a student was taken from our midst.Remember Cedric. Remember, if the time should come when you have to make a choice between what is right and what is easy, remember what happened to a boy who was good, and kind, and brave, because he strayed across the path of Lord Voldemort. Remember Cedric Diggory.” (from “Goblet of Fire.”)
5. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, Jane Austen: Starts off slow, but I love its point that no one is perfect, and the snap judgments we often make of people are frequently wrong. People are worth getting to know, worth our patience, because we ourselves each have our flaws.
6. I HENRY IV, William Shakespeare: The contrast between Prince Hal and Hotspur taught me much and is worth reading about. The end of the work provided me much fodder for contemplation. Hotspur is probably my favorite Shakespearean character.
7. LIFE IS A DREAM, Pedro Calderón de la Barca: Spain’s most famous work of baroque theater, titled “La vida es sueño” in Spanish, this play has the anti-Hamlet in Segismundo and the anti-Ophelia in Rosaura. Very, very powerful. Deep. Symbolism that will make you reevaluate your life view. The soliloquy at the end of Act II is world famous.
8. KING LEAR, William Shakespeare. My favorite Shakespearean tragedy. It’s an amazing work. Just incredible. I love Cordelia so much!
9. JANE EYRE, Charlotte Bronte. A little on the long side, it made me really consider the place of women in the world. How will you feel about the novel’s end? How uncomfortable does it make you?
10. HARD TIMES, Charles Dickens. Read this when my friend and former roomie Megan suggested it, saying it was one of her favorite books. I don’t know if I’d say that myself, but I’m really, really glad I read it. Another great study of humanity in all its glory and filth, its angelic as well as demonic capabilities.
SOOOO……. those are my top ten, if you’re looking for a read to get you thinking about things. To turn you pensive. To teach you something. Do you have any suggestions for me? I’d love to hear them!