Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A few of my favorite books

“He was fond of books, for they are cool and sure friends”
Les Miserables

Books have been my escape since I was 12 years old. Books about times long past and place I’ve longed to visit. I’ve read books in all genres except horror. I took an online quiz recently which asked the all-time questions: my favorite book. It’s hard to pick just one even with the criteria of a book I’ve read multiple times. It’s just so many books! I have books that I’ve read so much that the binding is falling apart and I’ve afraid to reread because I can’t replace them because they are out of print. So, I’ve decided to write about my top 3 favorite books (these are in no particular order):

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
I first fell in love with the story of the Phantom of the Opera one summer when I was 12 years old. I was visiting my Aunt Nancy’s and she had the original London cast recording of the musical. She let me listen to it and I did. Over and over and over again. So much that she would take me to see it for my 13th birthday. Ever since then I can’t get enough of this story. I found the book in which the musical in based on and I enjoyed the mystery and the tragic love story of the Phantom of the Opera. It is a story of a love triangle between Christine Daae, a young ballet dancer who dreams of the Angel of Music, Erik, a disfigured man who lives in the shadows of the Opera House and becomes obsessed with Christine and Raoul, Christine’s childhood playmate and love interest who returns to her life and offers her a life away from the horror of her Angel of Music. It was also inspired by real events at the Paris Opera House. This is the book that inspired me to learn French and visit the famous opera house. Even though I never mastered French, I still dream of going to Paris and seeing the opera house. I still love this story. I’ve read the book so many times. I’ve listened to the musical soundtrack so much that I have the lyrics memorized. I love the 2004 movie adaptation of the musical. It’s a great story!

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
I’ve watched the movie Gone with the Wind all my life. When I was 12 years old, I decided that I wanted to read the book. I first read it in the 7th grade and enjoyed it so much that I read it again. My reading teacher was so impressed that I was reading books beyond the recommended reading that she gave me a Reading Award for the Fall Semester. I love the history of the book. The picture of pre-Civil War Georgia to the devastation of Reconstruction. My favorite character is Rhett Butler, the dashing gentleman who walks the line between the genteel society and the taboos they so desperately avoid. He is the wild spirit to Scarlett’s fire. He represents the realization of what one had when it’s gone. Rhett realizes that he longed for the south of his childhood and not the world he came to be in. “Gone with the Wind” is a love story of two people who aren’t destined to live happily ever after. It’s also a story of death and survival. The death of a world with so much pride that they felt invincible and the survival of the ones who saw that they weren’t. It’s a story of remembering a world long past and learning to live in the world it had become. It’s a story of how hardships can make or break a person. Some people become stronger after struggles while others wither and break apart.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
I read “Les Miserables” for the first time in the 7th grade after I had finished “Gone with the Wind.” I was drawn to the story of Jean Valjean, a man who struggled to live a life in poverty, strived to live a holy life and escape his criminal past. The story of Fantine who fell in love, became pregnant, abandoned and left to find a life for herself and her child. The story of Cosette, a child who was left in the care of a family who abused her, raised by a mysterious man and learns the missing parts to her story. There are themes of love and forgiveness, social injustices of the French society of the 19th century and society’s inability to eliminate the rigid class system. The haves still had a lot and the have nots still struggled for their place in the world. The story of a group of students who saw these injustices and fought and died for the resolution. I was given the original Broadway cast recording by my Aunt Fran one Christmas after reading this book. I enjoyed it so much that I also have it memorized and recently enjoyed the movie adaptation. I have not seen the musical on the stage yet but it’s on my bucket list. “Les Miserables” is a story of struggles and injustices but, most importantly, it is also the story of hope, faith and love.

“The Phantom of the Opera,” “Gone with the Wind” and “Les Miserables” are just three of the books that I love and enjoy after many years of reading. Books have been my constant companion. I love books. I introduced books to my daughter at birth. When she’s a little bit older and can understand how to take care of books, we will take trips to the library and she can pick out her favorites. Then she can start her own list of books that speak to her and stay with her as she grows up. I love when I have a stack of books waiting for me to pick it up. I love going to the library and checking out the maximum number of books. When I got the opportunity to review newly published books I jumped on it. I love reading new books and reviewing them for future readers. I love books!