Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Happiness is...a good book!

So, I probably spend 80% of my time reading on any given lie.  Work consists of various tasks, all involving books; reading them, shelving them, choosing the best ones for displays and story times, critiquing them, foisting them off on the unsuspecting and/or eager public.  I spend time following a bunch of book blogs and reading review magazines like School Library Journal and Publishers Weekly or perusing Amazon, Barnes and Noble and GoodReads and adding more and more and more titles to my own To Be Read list or suggested titles for the library where I work. I write book reviews for an online database. I have a stack of 8 or so full-length books waiting patiently for me at work, along with a stack of 20 or so picture books.  And to fill my grown-up need (which almost always takes a backseat to my love of children's lit) I have 4 or 5 books next to my bed, alongside my scriptures, that I work through when I get a chance (usually at the expense of a good night's sleep!)

And when I'm not flipping through the pages of a book I can be found surreptitiously reading gossip magazines in the checkout lane, shampoo bottles in the shower, cereal boxes at the breakfast table, facebook posts and emails, billboards...pretty much anything with letters!  But books are always my first love.

Sometimes I read a book because I can relate; to the characters, the situations, the emotions.  Sometimes I read a book because I can't relate at all; they take me to new places, introduce me to people and circumstances I would probably never have the opportunity to experience in real life. I find comfort and validation in the familiarity.  I find knowledge and expansion in the unfamiliar. I become a more well-rounded person because of the books I read.  Even in a book I don't like or can't finish (which doesn't happen very often, I have this sick compulsion to always power through) I find something I can glean from it; what I don't want to become or how not to write or just a supreme feeling of gratitude that my life doesn't resemble what I've just read.

Because my TBR pile is so enormous I often have a hard time convincing myself it's okay to re-read a favorite.  (Especially when my list of favorites is almost as long as my list of books to be read!)  But there are a few that I come back to over and over again.  Like a good friend or your favorite pair of jeans, there is nothing like the perfect book to boost your spirits or hug you in just the right places and it's one of my goals this year to make more time for hugs!

Ideally I'd like to make a book spotlight entry once a week or so as I get more into this whole blogging scene.  But for now, here are a few of my favorite books in no particular order.  These are the ones I turn to when I don't want to take the risk of reading something mediocre, when I need a pick-me-up or a guaranteed cry or to have my faith in the world restored or to simply get lost in someone else's world for awhile.

Elizabeth Peters is one of my favorite authors (along with Mary Stewart who wrote similar type stories back in the 60s). I've been reading their books since I was in Jr High and have read them all, multiple times. Fun, romance (100% clean!), mystery, adventure, exotic locales, and a healthy dose of history all make for the perfect feel-good, make-you-smile and wish your life was little more exciting, rainy day afternoon read.  Both ladies were/are very prolific so there's no end to the entertainment.  This is probably my very favorite of them all and feeds my obsession for men in kilts!

Juliet Marillier is a more recent discovery.  I first read this YA (young adult) book a couple of years ago and fell in love with her amazing talent for bringing to life fairy tale worlds.  She's been writing for years and started out doing adult fantasy (her Sevenwaters Trilogy--now up to 5 installments--is fantastic!)  Her writing is lyrical and beautiful and the way she captures emotions and relationships is fantastic.  She's the first author I recommend to friends when they ask for someone new.

I don't care if you are an adult, there is absolutely no way you can read one of Mo Willems books without at least cracking a smile unless you are made of stone.  He has an incredible gift and it shines most brightly in his beginning reader series about the two friends, Elephant and Piggie.  Seriously, these books are hysterical.  I dare you to read one without laughing.  (And if you do, we can no longer be friends.)  Whenever I need a quick pick-me-up I read one of these babies (it takes about 2 minutes, tops) and my mood is guaranteed to soar.  I read this one to my mom and sister in the car on the way home from the bookstore and they were giggling right along with me.  Love it!!

Yes, I realize this is actually the score and not the novel, but I couldn't find a good image of the book cover so deal with it!  Love, heart break, redemption, fighting for a just cause, and a slightly Dickensian tragic/happy ending (and the music's pretty good too!) I've never read the complete book, I always opt for an abridged version (shame on me, I know) but the spirit and message of it are the same. A classic for a reason.

Another classic and it seems a little cliche to mention it, but I really do love this book.  It's life changing.  This is one where I will never know what it's like to experience the things these characters go through, and yet the themes are universal and powerful.  The characters themselves are so multi-faceted and rich that you long to know them in real life.  And while I am often torn on the book to movie phenomenon as so rarely do the movies measure up to the written word, this is one where I think the film version was spot on and spectacularly done. Who wouldn't want Gregory Peck as their father? (Love you Daddy! :)

And to finish us off, a brand-new but soon-to-be-classic picture book.  This little beauty won the Caldecott Award this year, and deservedly so.  It's precious!  (And lest you be turned off by such a saccharin word, read it and then tell me what you would call it.) It manages to be charming and sweet without being saccharin.  An elderly zoo keeper comes down with a cold and his animal friends venture to his home to take care of him the way he always cares for them.  My favorite is the little penguin but they all have their appeal.  A wonderfully simple tale of friendship with pitch-perfect illustrations.  If you have young children you must read this book, right now! (I implore you!)

Well, I could go on and on and on but it's past 11 and with my luck I will not have the snow day I'm hoping for tomorrow, so look for more to come. But I'd also love to hear feedback from you, dear readers.  (And I do have readers now!  What an awesome feeling to know that I'm not just typing away for the great void out there!)  Do you consider yourself a reader?  Why/not? Have you read any of these? What are some of your favorite go-to books? I'm always looking for more suggestions, my list can never be long enough!  Now, I'd like to say that it's off to bed for me, but I'd be lying.  I've got a book to read!


  1. I love To Kill a Mockingbird. So powerful. I love the message of love and forgiveness. So good. Anything by Jane Austin. Almost anything by an English author. They have such a way of putting things. And their humor is always refreshing.

  2. Hey my friend! Thanks so much for the comments! I agree with the Jane Austen, she's brilliant. I recently read The Tale of Two Cities and loooved it. Not necessarily full of humor but so good.

  3. I just thought you should know that this blog post inspired me to check out some Mo Willems books for my boys at the library the other day. I love his books but haven't read them in a while. I think one of my favorites is the naked mole rat book. Boy boys were mesmerized by them and they keep getting them out and reading them all on their own!