In honor of High Fidelity, I have been compiling a list of my own All-Time Top-Five favorite novels. But I couldn’t limit it to five, because, although I could put five novels in the top slots, I could not dismiss the rest of the list. But before publishing today, I decided to browse Freshly Pressed, and so discovered a problem with my list (and even more, with my reading.) Here is my list (Maybe you will see the problem right off, but I didn’t.):
- Pride and prejudice by Jane Austen
- Grapes of wrath by John Steinbeck
- A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick
- The Help by Kathryn Stockett
- The Book Thief Markus Zusak
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
- 1984 by George Orwell
- Last night at the Lobster by Stewart O’nan
- Forrest Gump by Winston Groom
I’m a little nervous to tell what the problem is, because I don’t want to diminish the importance of the books I have chosen in any way. In my opinion, they are all worthy to be there. All of these books mean something to me personally, and I feel they have great potential to influence society. For example, number 9. I am lucky to have had Stewart O’nan as a customer somewhere I used to work years back, so I’m probably a little partial. However, he is a phenomenal author with the ability to capture the essence of everyday life for the everyday person. Not doctors, lawyers, private investigators, FBI agents, but in the case of Last Night at the Lobster, restaurant workers. His work is deep and resounding, and important.
With that said, here is the issue I found with my list. I read this blog post on Progress on the Prairie and came across the idea that women writers are underappreciated (to say the least) in the publishing world, and in the realm of literary criticism. Obviously, this under appreciation can affect readership. So, looking at my own list, I realized that only 2/10 (20%) are by women.
This realization raised some questions for me. Do I read mostly male authors because of the influence of the education system (many of these authors were read in school, while my literary tastes were forming)? Or is this, as Progress on the Prairie suggests a problem of sexism within the literary world? Is it both? Is it something else entirely? These questions certainly deserve some digging around on DuckDuckGo.
But for now, it will suffice to say that whatever the cause, I have made a definite commitment to read more women authors. After all, women are a necessary part of life, and a wonderful part of society. We have much to contribute, and we should learn from each other, grow from each other, and help each other be heard.
I’m curious to know, what are some of your All-Time Top books (regardless of gender of author)? And what are some of your favorite works (fiction or non-fiction) by female authors?
Source: Purchased as a nookbook from Barnes and Noble
In The Book Thief, the reader is not taken to a historical setting of the holocaust in terms of widespread horror and tragedy, but instead to the small microcosm of Liesel Meminger’s life on Himmel Street. A microcosm filled with all the same horror and tragedy, but also with love and beauty and words. This is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young girl growing up in Nazi Germany during WWII. After moving in with a foster family, she suffers with the loss of her mother and brother. She also suffers humiliation at school for being behind in her education. As a way to ease her mind, she begins to learn to read with the help of her papa, some paint, and her first stolen book. As the years go on, and her life becomes more complicated, Liesel’s eyes begin to be opened to the nightmare going on all around her. But through her friends and her stolen books she learns of the beauty that exists alongside it.
This book literally “tackles” the ideas of love and beauty, tragedy and evil, victory and defeat. It covers how humans are the workers that bring all of all of these things to reality, and how a person is affected by them. This can be a tough topic to handle without becoming sappy and cliché, but this book is neither of those. The reason it is so grounded and believable is because it is the story of a little girl, and her child-like acceptance of the reality around her. She sees the lack of adequate food, and the Jews marching to Dachau through the same eyes that she sees the beauty of the clouds in the sky.
Zusak masterfully brings his characters to life in this novel. You will love Liesel and you will love the people Liesel loves. You will feel like you have walked down her street day after day and met her neighbors. The feelings that these characters evoke in the reader are the pathways of an emotional journey that will stay with you forever. Every part of this book, from the author’s choice of Death as narrator, to the way Death is portrayed, to the way Zusak brings his characters to life and makes you love them, to the actual style of the words on the page, is not merely written, but crafted. You will love this book not just for the story, not just for the characters, but for the beauty of the use of the words themselves. I highly recommend this book to not only young adult readers but also to adult readers. This book will certainly open the minds and hearts of anyone who reads it, and will stick with you long after you finish.
** I read and reviewed this book by my own choice and was not asked to do so by the author or publisher.