As I have probably mentioned before, I have always been an avid reader. My mom was a great influence in that way, though she generally ran the way of Harlequins, as most of the women in my extended family. I read every chapter book I could get my hands on, including classics like Charlotte’s Web, Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Prairie, any Judy Blume…even Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. (No, I’m not THAT old. My grandmother kept the volumes my mom and aunts read when they were younger.) All of these books impacted me in one way or another…but it wasn’t until I was older and able to comprehend more of what I was reading did I start compiling books that would keep me coming back over and over throughout the years.
These are not in any particular order of importance, but when I decided to do this post, the first book that came to mind for me was The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub.
On a brisk autumn day, a thirteen-year-old boy stands on the shores of the gray Atlantic, near a silent amusement park and a fading ocean resort called the Alhambra. The past has driven Jack Sawyer here: his father is gone, his mother is dying, and the world no longer makes sense. But for Jack everything is about to change. For he has been chosen to make a journey back across America-and into another realm.
I am a HUGE fan of Stephen King. I know that a lot of people who are well read think that he is beneath good literature, but I could never turn my back on an author who manages to get inside my head the way this one does. Some of his books are a miss for me, but that’s generally true for any author. This one in particular, I’ve read at least a dozen times. I was young the first time I read it, and it was my version of The Neverending Story. I felt like I was right in Jack’s head, along with him every step of the way on his adventure, good times and bad. True to King’s form, it was brutal journey in parts…especially for a 13 year old boy. That is what I enjoyed about it though…it wasn’t another fairy tale. One of the characters, Wolf, joins Jack on his journey into our world from his. Their interaction is what buried this story deep into my heart. And it breaks wide open every time I read it.
My second choice is The Chrysalids by John Wyndam.
The Chrysalids is set in the future after a devastating global nuclear war. David, the young hero of the novel, lives in a tight-knit community of religious and genetic fundamentalists, who exist in a state of constant alert for any deviation from what they perceive as the norm of God’s creation, deviations broadly classified as ‘offenses’ and ‘blasphemies.’ Offenses consist of plants and animals that are in any way unusual, and these are publicly burned to the accompaniment of the singing of hymns. Blasphemies are human beings; ones who show any sign of abnormality, however trivial. They are banished from human society, cast out to live in the wild country where, as the authorities say, nothing is reliable and the devil does his work.
Sounds precious, doesn’t it? This book was introduced to me in high school, and though I began reading it as a chore, it quickly became a favourite. A big part of that is due to the character David, who unlike his parents and many of those in the community, questions why people are treated so brutally for being different, especially after he meets and befriends a little girl with an extra toe on each foot. David has an abberation of his own to hide that is not physical, something he knows that others would believe is not normal. The themes of prejudice and intolerance that religious dogma perpetuates are topics that never get old, so the fact that this book was written in 1955 has no relevance. It’s just as powerful a message today…one that we all need reminding of from time to time.
My next pick is The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining fertility, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…
I kind of have a thing for post-apocalyptic/dystopian society-type stories, don’t I? Again, I was introduced to this book in my high school. At the time I first read it, I was appalled that women’s freedom could be taken away so easily. As a teenager privileged to live in Canada, I was blissfully unaware that this happens to women across the globe in today’s world. Now that I am grown, and a mother myself, I couldn’t imagine a greater horror than losing my child, followed by the loss of my personal freedom. This book is NOT comfortable subject matter, which is entirely the point. Again, it touches upon religious fanaticism and shows us how terrifying it can be when married with politics. Makes me thankful, every time I read it, for every damn good thing I have and the life I have to live it.
Last but not least… Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (see Elena’s review here)
Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead, subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity. She takes up the post of governess at Thornfield, falls in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman’s passionate search for a wider and richer life than Victorian society traditionally allowed.
I know…predictable, right? So be it…I couldn’t NOT include it in my list of nostalgic reads. This was not an obligatory read for me, I picked it up after reading and devouring the complete works of Jane Austen. I did not think I would find Victorian-era heroines like I did in Austen’s books and I was pleasantly surprised by Charlotte Brontë. Especially considering the type of heroine I was exposed to in Wuthering Heights, by her sister Emily. Don’t pick up the pitchforks…I do not dislike Catherine…I just have issues with aspects of her character. Anyway…considering the time this book was written? Jane KICKS Victorian society ASS. I love her character. She is a perfect match for Mr. Rochester. He’s a force to be reckoned with, and man, does he make Jane work at remaining true to herself and keep from succumbing to his will. I admire her strength of character, and find her to be my ideal as a heroine. Now if only I could find a Mr. Rochester of my own…
Before I go, just a few honourable mentions in my list of nostalgic reads…
It and The Shining by Stephen King
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (I could go on, but I think I’ll save that for a separate post)
The Fionavar Tapestry Trilogy by Guy Gavriel Kay (The Summer Tree, The Wandering Fire, The Darkest Road)
Jane Austen of course…notably Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility.
Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
New books/series that have become part of my future nostalgic reads…
The Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer
Now lets hear what your nostalgic reads are?