If you are new to this blog or are a returning reader, my purpose should be clear – to recommend good books that will enrich your life. But I want to demonstrate to you that I am also a receiver of recommendations, and inspire you to continue your quest to hear from others.
Isn’t it true that each one of us, no matter our age or experience, possesses limited understanding of good reading material and finite resources for discovering it? I believe everyone can benefit from the process of “cross-pollination” in our reading choices. (cross-pollination: “the transfer of pollen from one flower to the stigma of another.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
Sometimes others are simply ahead of us, having heard about a wonderful book from another person or media outlet. Their “ear to the ground” hears of it first, or we may never have access to the information they do. Brat Farrar, by Josephine Tey, was a British mystery recommended to me by Margaret Turner, an 80-year-old woman I helped as a Red Cross volunteer when she became legally blind. She gave me her tattered copy when I moved away.
Other times, the different tastes of our friends or relatives bring us into contact with new experiences. My father, an avid reader, was a fan of western novels. I finally got over my “reader’s block” recently and tried a Louis L’Amour novel, Sackett, and enjoyed it immensely.
I especially cherish the way my children, and other younger readers, pollinate my reading. Luke, my 19-year old son, raised the bar of my reading by his affinity for C. S. Lewis’ essays and non-fiction (his favorites: Mere Christianity and The World’s Last Night). I need to be stretched past my beloved Narnia Chronicles to read “headier stuff”.
My daughter, Rachel (age 15), read The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale this summer. I bought a copy of it several years ago for my girls on the advice of a friend whose teen daughter listed it as one of her top five novels. (Thanks, Sarah Reyes).
Rachel took off with this book and then blazed through the rest of the novels in Shannon Hale’s Books of Bayern series. (The titles in order of publication: The Goose Girl, Enna Burning, River Secrets, and Forest Born.)
“Hey Mom! You HAVE to read this!” I genuinely attempt to prioritize my kids’ book recommendations; although my “to read” queue is fairly long. When Rachel saw that I had The Goose Girl in my hands at bedtime with a telltale bookmark peaking from the pages, her voice rose several octaves: “What?! You started reading it and didn’t TELL me!” Her accusation whipped across my bedroom and figuratively shook me by the shoulders. I recollected how much I love to hear feedback from a friend who is reading the book I recommended and realized I had broken the cardinal rule of book sharing!
Here is Rachel’s recommendation for The Goose Girl in her own words: “All teenage girls should read this book. Its plot is intriguing, and mystery is unraveled in every page. The main character is Ani, the sixteen-year-old crown princess. She starts off as a quiet girl who is being trained to become Queen, however she hates everything involving her role as future head of the kingdom. Only when she is out of doors and conversing with, yes I know it sounds crazy, birds does Ani ever feel herself. Through the story, surprising events and incredible plot twists make this book my top read. This queen-to-be goes through life-threatening situations and starts to find out who she really is.
Ani is a princess who doesn’t wait to step into her destiny by being rescued by a ‘knight in shining armor’, but she doesn’t have the ‘I don’t need anybody’s help, I have to do this by myself!’ attitude either, which seems popular in modern stories. Like the Beatles recommend, she’s going to ‘get by with a little help from her friends’. Oh, and a little romance doesn’t take away from the story either…”
The Goose Girl just celebrated its 10-year anniversary. Author Shannon Hale posted on her blog: http://oinks.squeetus.com/2013/05/ten-years-man.html
So dear reader, let us share books so that reading is not a solitary happening, but a satisfying conduit for building common experiences. Our ideal “book clubs” can consist of the people in our inner relational circle – children, spouses, parents, librarians, and friends. We can gain connectedness and bridge generational barriers, which is such a boon in our culture that touts same age and same generation interaction as the be-all and end-all.
Please keep sending me your wonderful ideas. Mrs. Mike was one such recommendation – a spin-off from a blog post on our most memorable books from childhood.
My questions to you: What have others recommended to you that enriched your inner world? If you are 25 years old or younger, what would you tell us older folks to read?
Note to self: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan has been sitting on my “to read” bedside stack too long. Get to it, or Hannah (age 14) will be coming after me.