“A book is the most effective weapon against intolerance and ignorance.” – Lyndon B. Johnson
I am a huge sports fan and I’m from New England so there’s a lot going on lately with so many of my favorite teams playing (I’ve never cared much for basketball so I don’t pay any attention to the Celtics but the Patriots, Bruins and Red Sox are going strong). Of course, sports games have a nasty habit of taking forever, especially when overtime or extra innings come into play. And as New England fans know all too well, some teams are especially skilled at drawing games out to painful, last minute drives for the points that put them over the top and bring about dramatic victories. Luckily, televised sports have many, many breaks for commercials that provide the perfect opportunities to catch up on some reading, which is ideal for breaking up tension from the fierce competition on the field (it also works for those times when things aren’t close at all). Definitely going to be making some progress on my book when tonight’s ALCS game breaks for commercials.
But, on to the next installment of my 1001 Books to Read Before You Die (sort-of) Challenge.
Passing by Nella Larsen
This was recommended to me by a professor after I expressed admiration for Larsen’s style in Quicksand, which had appeared on the syllabus. I’d only really read about passing in a few historic fiction novels, mostly set during America’s colonial days or in the years leading up to the Civil War. This short novel looks at an African-American woman’s attempt to pass for white in the early twentieth century. Compelling and poignant.
Perfume by Patrick Süskind
I remember seeing the trailers for the film adaptation of this novel long before I had to read it for my fantasy literature class in college. It’s one of those weird and dark tales that I can read but would never be able to watch. There was an episode of Criminal Minds that seemed to have been inspired by this novel and I did make it through that, but only just. Not a book for everyone but definitely one worth trying.
Persuasion by Jane Austen
This novel is tied with Pride and Prejudice for the honor of being my favorite Jane Austen novel. I don’t know whether I enjoy Anne Elliot’s hypochondriac sister Mary or their self-involved father and sister as much as some of the secondary characters of Pride and Prejudice, but the story itself hits closer to home for me. Anne knows she made mistakes in her past and, while she hopes for a second chance, she can’t be sure that she will get one or that she deserves one. I like that Anne Elliot is older than Austen’s other heroines. It makes the novel less of a fairy tale somehow, more realistic and relatable when re-reading.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Who doesn’t love Pride and Prejudice? As much as I love the back and forth between Elizabeth and Darcy, I love the dysfunctional but loving relationship of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet at least as much. Of course, the novel is also the best example of Austen’s prose. I’ve read this novel at least three times. It’s one of a handful of books I own that I can identify by smell alone. Every time I open it and flip through a few pages, that distinct mix of ink and paper wafts up. I bought my copy at a Scholastic book fair when I was in sixth grade and I’ve had to tape the cover back together where it has peeled along the edges. The last time I read it was for a class and I was going through one of my rare underlining phases so it’s pretty marked up now. It’s one of my Desert Island books and my copy is one I will never part with.
Quicksand by Nella Larsen
I had to read this novella during my African-American literature class in college. I don’t recall much of it except that I enjoyed it and Larsen’s style enough to read and enjoy Passing. It was one of my favorite assignments on the syllabus that semester (at least until we got to my perennial favorite, Toni Morrison). It’s impossible to ignore Larsen’s impact on later African-American and female writers, like Morrison and Walker.