I have read a lot of books. I devoured The Chronicles of Narnia in fourth grade, made my way through high school requisites such as The Red Badge of Courage and The Great Gatsby, survived the deluge of required texts for my English degree that included The Canterbury Tales and excessive amounts of Shakespeare, and now read the books that I want to or that my current book groups choose. I have a great relationship with books and the books that follow are some of my favorites.
Have you read any of them? Would you put them on a favorites list? Or did you not like any of these?
As I made the list, I just didn’t realize that all of them have female protagonists. This surprised me.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn: I’ve read this book twice now and it’s still my favorite. It’s Betty Smith’s classic story of a girl, Francie, growing up in Brooklyn. Her life is analogous to the Tree of Heaven that grows through the cracks in the cement and it’s a beautiful story of life persevering and conquering a broken world. The images still stick with me: Francie tucked inside the branches of the tree, reading her book from the apartment’s windowsill; visiting the library and wanting the librarian to recognize her as the little girl who consumes books; the jar that she and her brother bolted to the floor in their closet to save pennies; experiencing her little piece of New York. Reading it is a rich experience with life.
These is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901: I read this for a book group and loved it. I loved it because of the history behind it: the author based the story on her own family memoirs; I loved it because Sarah is a woman of spirit and fire living in the harsh Arizona territories; I loved it because Sarah is a smart kid, then a defiant young woman, and then a loving mother; I loved it because her life was joyous and tragic and all of it poignant. I would be impressed with myself if my own journals recorded life with such beautiful words and were filled with as much adventure, love, fear, and history. It’s the wild, wild west from the point of view of a strong woman.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog: the writing is absolutely gorgeous. In fact, it’s writing like this that hits me with the reality that I could never write a book with such beautiful prose and filled with great philosophy because this is how it should be done. I do not have this level of talent. The book is the story of families living in a Parisian apartment building, families that are both great and good, but not often both at the same time. There is Renee, the concierge of the building. She lives like an actress: playing her role. She understands what is acceptable as the concierge and keeps her passions and hobbies a secret, if they cannot consolidate with this role. Meanwhile, Paloma, is the little girl living in one of the posh apartments and is disillusioned with it all. On her thirteenth birthday, she will end her life. Are you ready for this?
Their Eyes Were Watching God: A classic. A boy that I liked leant me this book to read my senior year in high school. He gave it to me with a disclaimer: it’s slow going at first until you get used to the language. And it was true: it took me some time to adjust to the Ebonics of the natural language of the book’s characters, but then my eyes were opened to their beauty. It’s filled with love and cruelty and finds these strong characters who rise above those around them that are small of heart. Reading it will teach you a little about wit and pathos. Hurston’s novel was far ahead of its time because of its strong female protagonist, who is black.