Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Beloved Books

So my dear brother blogged about books and inspired me to blog a bit about them too! I love books! I love curling up with a classic on a rainy day all wrapped up in a quilt. I love reading books to my girls, especially fairy tales. I love that Katie already shows a love of books and will sit and "read" for hours on end! I especially love old books. This comes from my general love of old things. I remember the very first old book I "rescued" from out local thrift store when we lived in Port Hadlock, WA. I was fifteen years old at the time. The book was titled "The Canada Book of Prose and Verse" published June 1935 and I still have it! It is very tattered but I love it! After I had boughten in I took it home and loving erased all the marks within its covers. It is a school book so there were a lot of pencil marks in it. There are still ink marks that bug me but I cannot remove those without hurting the book so there they stay! I still read through this book on occasion when I'm in the mood for some poetry. My favorites from this volume include "Who Hath a Book" by Wilbur D. Nesbit, "The Day is Done" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "The Ships of Yule" by Bliss Carman, "Locinvar" by Sir Walter Scott (I just have to mention here that this poem is parodied by 'Monty Python' and instead of our knight stealing away the bride he steals away the groom. Joel laughed heartily once I told him what the poem was originally and I was simply proud that I knew of the poem to begin with!) "Bannerman of the Dandenong" by Alice Werner "The Daffodils" by William Wordsworth, "Trees" by Joyce Kilmer (of course!), "A Handful of Clay" by Henry Van Dyke (this is a short story), "In Flanders Field" by John McCrae ... to name a few!

My next featured volume is "Whittier's Complete Poems" published in 1894. Whittier is my favorite poet and I was delighted to discover this volume in the same thrift store! It was previously owned by Francis B. Smith, January 15, 1929, Seattle. I don't like marks made in books but I do love inscriptions, it really gives the book more personality! I like knowing where a book has been and if it was a treasured gift! Some of my favorite poems include "Maud Muller", "The Yankee Girl", "The Call of the Christian", "On a Sundial for Dr. Henry I. Bowditch", "At Last", and "The Mystic's Christmas". Of course there are many more but I will not bore you with too long a list! :)

These next two books my brother Art gave me for my 18th birthday! Here is the inscription on the first blank page "To Karen Kilmer; Happy 18th Birthday! June 27th 1998; From Your Brother, Arthur Kilmer". These were published in 1910 and I treasure them because my brother gave to me! They were among the few volumes that I could not bare to part with and made my suitcase very heavy with when I traveled by train from Washington to Iowa to attend college! These books have many of my favorites including "The Lady of Shalott" by Alfrod Lord Tennyson "The Raven" and "Annabel Lee" by Edgar Allen Poe, and of course many Whittier poems.

Here is another one of my favorite books that I took along with me to college. It is not at all old (published in 1993) but I love it because my brother Art gave it to me when he visited me during the summer after his freshmen year (1999). He also gave me a blue candle holder with the book which I still have! This book also happens to be my favorite book and whenever I read "Pride and Prejudice" I read this copy!

This next volume was also given to me by my brother Art (he feeds my fetish!) and was published in 1906.
He sent it to me to read along with him so we could discuss it. I had lots of fun reading it, its kind of like "A Christmas Carol" only not at Christmas and much longer! :)

This next book is my oldest. My husband bought it for me for my 27th (golden) birthday! It is a volume of Psalms made into poems by our English standards. It is very cool and I have carefully read of few of the Psalms and it is very well done!

So those are a few of my favorite books that I own. I have a list of books that I read every year beginning on January 1st. They are as follows... The works of Jane Austin, "Little House on the Prairie" series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the "Emily" series by L.M. Montgomery, "Ella Enchanted" by Gail Carson Levine (if you have watched the movie and not read the book you have been cheated from a lovely fairy tale! That movie was an insult!) and the "Elm Creek Quilt" series by Jennifer Chiaverini. I fiddle with the list every other year or so, taking some off and adding others, that sort of thing. This year I might forgo the Elm Creek quilt books, at least the entire series, I might just read the first one which is the best anyway.

My favorite book is "Pride and Prejudice". I have read it once a year since I was 18! My least favorite book is "The Jane Austin Book Club" by Karen Joy Foster. To quote my brother it was "Quite possibly the worst book I’ve ever read. I feel like less of a person for having read it. It diminished me somehow.". I am sad the author and I share the same first name! For some reason this book has become very popular and there is even a movie in the works! Have they read the book? It is simply a load of trash! The basic premise is that a group of women and one man get together each month to discuss one of Jane Austin's works. I found the "Jane Austin" theme a poor excuse for the author to go off on her own tangents and try to create a modern day, character driven novel that would not have had any success without having Jane Austin's name in the title. I suppose my viewpoint is tainted by the fact I have morals and do not enjoy reading about her character's different "encounters" with the opposite sex (bad and good ones) or the same sex and dirty thoughts about school boys! If you have not read this book DO NOT READ IT! I innocently picked it up off a library bookshelf thinking "Oh goody! This book must be great if its about Jane Austin, my favorite author!" and happily devoured the first chapter before the horror of what I had gotten myself into dawned upon me. I read on hoping the author would redeem herself but it was not to be! I felt sullied by it! Plus I do not think she had a good understanding of Jane Austin's characters and I was insulted by some of her conclusions! I could go on but I will refrain!

One of my favorite modern day authors is Gail Carlson Levine. She takes classic fairy tales and makes them her own by putting original twists on them. My favorite is the afore mentioned "Ella Enchanted", the prince is truly charming and our main character "Ella" is fun, smart, clever, and engaging. She also dabbles in languages and though not as well done as say Tolkien's languages (the man was a linguist and knew a billion real languages so I guess it's not fair to compare!) it really made her world seem more real. Joel has boughten me two of her volumes about "Neverland" fairies and I love them! I plan to read them to the girls when they are old enough (which is part of the reason he got them for me)! Her short stories "The Princess Tales" are really fun and would be great to read aloud to my girls as well! "Fairest" is also very good and though "Sisters of Bamarre" has a very slow start it has a fantastic ending and I love the character she gives to her dragons! I often think of her as a feminine version of Tolkien who writes for young adults.

Some more of my favorite authors/stories include Dickens esp. "Great Expectations", and "David Copperfield"; "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte (who I like to think of as Austin meets Dickens); the "Anne" series by L.M. Montgomery; the "Elm Creek Quilts" series by Jennifer Chiaverini (although there is no proof that quilts were used in the underground railroad its still a good read as that is not the only plot line); "Emily" by Candice F. Ransom (This one is about a girls coming of age and while its a newer book by an author who is not famous, its a pretty good read!) The LORTR trilogy, The Hobbit, the Similarian (actually all his works!) by J.R.R. Tolkien (I love his poetry!) Now I have to stop here and say while the movies done by Peter Jackson are great they don't quite do the books justice though they come very close! I'm still mad about the whole changing of Faramir and Sam and making Gimli a little too silly but I guess nobody's perfect! At least the sets and wardrobe were awesome! Okay, back to my list! The "Narnia" series by C.S. Lewis ( the first movie was pretty good, I'm looking forward to Prince Caspian!) ; James Herriot's books about his experiences as a country vet in England, "Peter Pan" by J.M. Barrie, "Kidnapped" and "The Black Arrow" by Robert Louis Stevenson, "Around the World in Eighty Days" by Jules you can see I could go on and on and on!

If you notice most of my favorite authors are older, and that is because it is getting harder and harder to find a good, well written, CLEAN, modern day book! I do not know why authors feel driven to include inappropriate scenes between their characters, even if they are happily married it is not okay to write about what goes on in the intimate part of their relationship! I not only speak of secular authors, Christian authors often dabble in this too. I have all but given up on the "Christian romance" genre, though not as explicit as some secular authors they come awfully close and while I do not mind an occasional kiss between characters some really push the envelope! Not to mention the plot is poor, the characters unrealistic or so pathetically stupid that you just want to beat them over the head until they show some sense! Also I hate the inevitable misunderstanding that most authors feel their characters must have. The girl sees or overhears her love interest in an unflattering interlude/confessional and mistakes it for unfaithfulness or treachery and then turns on her boy, whom she has just sworn to love ,without waiting for an explanation. This plot pitfall has been done a thousand times over and I'm kind of tired of it! Honestly, If you love the boy you would give him a chance to explain!

I do enjoy some of the Amish stories that have come from this genre but I think its starting to get a bit overdone. It was nice to see some time and thought put into them!

I don't want to end on a bad note so I must say that a well written word can make a day worthwhile! And now for some final thoughts: Books should inspire us to do great things, to better ourselves, not bring us low by base thoughts and immoral behavior! Books should entertain and uplift our spirits! If it is a tragedy it must have a point! An unhappy ending can be just as satisfying as an happy one if done right (though like most people I prefer a happy ending!)! When I read the line "once upon a time" I get shivers!

I hope my ramblings about books has made some sort of sense, sometimes I do tend to go on! :) I will close with a poem that I mentioned at the beginning of my entry. I think it expresses what a book can be perfectly! For some reason my computer will not put the appropriate spacing between the lines of the poem, hope its readable!

Who Hath A Book

Who hath a book

Hath friends at hand

And gold and gear

At his command;

And rich estates,

If he but look,

Are held by him

Who hath a book.

Who hath a book

Has but to read

And he may be

A King, indeed;

His kingdom is

His inglenook.

All this is his

Who hath a book.

-Wilbur Dick Nesbit


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