There is an avalanche of Christmas music on the radio these days, which means either they are advertising a very gay and less depressing revival of RENT at my local community theater, or Christmas is not very far away. I’m guessing it means that Christmas is not very far a way (although I’d be curious to see a more gay and less depressing version of RENT, wouldn’t you?) I thought that due to the HUGE popularity of my post: “5 Books You MUST Read Before You Die” it would be fun to do another post where we all recommend some of our favorite books to each other. Also, seeing that Christmas is just around the corner, it might help some of you give your “significant others” some ideas about what books to gift you for Christmas, or give you some ideas about what books to gift YOUR significant others for Christmas.
Now, today’s Book Recommendation post was inspired by one very sleepless nights where I had nothing else to do but read all of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” from start to finish. It turned out to be the most pleasant sleepless night I had ever had. Ever since then, I have tried to keep a book just like “Alice” close by my bed just in case the Sandman ever decides to skip my bed again.
So, today I would like us to talk about books that are short, easy to read, have a little magic and whimsy in them, some childlike wonder, and a dash of darkness to match a sleepless night. First, as always, here is my list of 5 GREAT BOOKS TO READ DURING LONG, SLEEPLESS NIGHTS:
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Yes, the original is still the best. I was fascinated to find that Carroll gives Alice and his other characters no back story whatsoever (at least none that make any sense), and doesn’t give its primary setting (Wonderland) any back story either. In this way, the reader enters Wonderland just as clueless as to who Alice is as much as she’s confused about who she is. This lack of history or context throughout the story makes it seem like the reader is in a storm, riding on a boat without an anchor. This also means that every time the reader decides to journey into Wonderland it’s always a new experience and the meaning behind it all always changes. This brilliant and sly move on behalf of its author is probably why the book has remained a classic–and a pop culture phenomena–for such a long time.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Yet again, the original is so much better. Scrooge is so much meaner, his adventure through Christmas past, present and future are so much more magical, and his transformation at the end is a whole lot less cheesy and so much more deeper in its meaning. The story is really about the class divide and how this divide leads to dehumanization more than anything else. In this age of greedy, old, selfish, cold corporate CEO’s pressing hard on their warm, kind, desperate and selfless employees, A Christmas Carol has become as timely and as identifiable as ever. It makes me wish we can all employ three ghosts to haunt every corporate executive on Christmas Eve and make these executives walk in their employees (or ex-employees) shoes. Maybe then we can restore some much-needed humanity and (hey, why not?) a little bit of that old Christmas magic we remember from when we were kids.
Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
When a Curandera woman (sort of like the Mexican version of a witch, but not quite) moves into a Mexican-American’s family’s house in New Mexico, the main character, just a boy, is not sure what to make of her. She is mysterious and powerful. Wise and frightening. She commands respect and fear. What is most certain is that she changes everything in that boy’s life and we watch as that boy’s innocence slowly slips away and he has to face the cruel realities of the adult world. This book is a rumination on the power of the individual to influence the fate of other people, and that, even with good intentions, bad consequences can result from seeking divine retribution.
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Overshadowed by its epic (and verbose) sequel, The Hobbit is a delightful little read that is a lot less darker than its sequel but no less awesome and full of adventure. Bilbo is a different kind of hero than Frodo. He is a lot less brooding and conflicted, more playful and willing to enjoy the ride that his adventure brings him through. Of course, the stakes at this point in the history of Middle Earth are a lot lower than they are in LOTR, and Bilbo doesn’t yet know how oppressive being a bearer of The Ring is going to be. No, in this first part of the long long tale, ignorance is bliss and there’s about 12 or so dwarfs who help make the whole adventure a lot more silly and less full of chivalry and war. But the great parts in this book are some of Tolkien’s action sequences (some of the author’s best of the entire saga, in my opinion). I won’t give much away for those who haven’t read it, but Bilbo’s fight with a certain group of eight-legged creatures and his encounter with the big bad villain at the end are some of my favorite moments in all the books I ever read.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
I read the synopsis for this novel and I was instantly hooked. An orphaned toddler ends up in a graveyard and is raised by the dead people who live there? LOVE IT. At first, the world that Gaiman paints is terrifying, even for his adult readers, and you find yourself somewhat hating the graveyard instead of loving it. But slowly (you really never noticed how) the author makes you fall in love with each character and when you reach the very last page you find yourself not wanting to leave the graveyard at all, and forgetting that graveyards are supposed to be scary and depressing places where nothing happy and exciting happens. Turns out you can have a whole lot of fun and plenty of amazing adventures while hanging out among a bunch of old, dusty tombstones.
much “seasons of looooooo-uuuuu-oo”ove,
What books do you think would be great for a long sleepless night? Something short, easy to read, with a bit of childlike wonder and maybe a dash of dark magic?
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