Monday, August 3, 2009

Just Plain Good Books

Lest I make you think that the only books I will read are books written by Christians (for Christians or for a larger audience), let me take a minute to introduce you to some of my all-time favorite books. Good literature is good literature as far as I'm concerned, and though this doesn't really factor into the current discussion I'm trying to orchestrate, I think I'd be remiss not to mention these amazing books. I won't go into specifics on each book, but be forewarned that they are not all for the faint of heart or easily offended. But I can say that I found something heartbreaking, redemptive, hopeful, or just plain beautiful in each and every one.

In no particular order, a few books that make me reach out and touch their spines when I wander into my library/office:

Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen

The Other Boleyn Girl - Philippa Gregory

Alias Grace - Margaret Atwood

Wicked - Gregory Maguire (You can read my thoughts on it here.)

Bel Canto - Ann Patchett

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

East of Eden - John Steinbeck

Have you read any of these books? Do you have any to add to the list? And, is there anything in a book that will make you stop reading? Most of the above books include some or all of the following: sex, violence, vulgar language, things that offend my sensibilities or break my heart. And yet I love them. Hmmm. What do you think?

PS - Don't forget to leave a comment on my last post if you would like to be entered in a drawing for Luci Shaw's Breath for the Bones! It's an amazing book...


  1. I haven't read any of those books. But I did watch the movie, The Other Boelyn Girl and really enjoyed it. Not exactly your happy ending. Speaking of movies, one of my favorite movies of all time is Love Actually, which also has sex scenes/nudity and vulgar language. But I can't help but love it. It definitely does warrant a Hmmmm....

  2. Love Actually is one of my favorites, too! Aaron and I watch it together every Christmas. It's our holiday movie. :) If you like Love Actually, you have to try A Love Song for Bobby Long. It's amazing... John Travolta is an aging alcoholic and Scarlett Johansson is the young woman who... Well, I won't give anymore away. Let me know if you ever get a chance to watch it!

  3. I love Love, Actually. Even for all the vulgarity and nudity it is a wonderful movie. Of course, sometimes, I rear my chin back at some of the scenes and squint my eyes and have to look away. :p I'll have to check out A Love Song for Bobby Long. Plus, I've already written down some of the books you suggested us to read. They sound very interesting. Thanks Nicole!


  4. We watch it every Christmas too! I have the biggest crush on Colin Firth (sigh...Mr. Darcy) and his proposal in that movie is classic, absolutely classic. Anyway, I've never heard of A Love Song for Bobby Long, but I'll def. check it out, since I really like Scarlett Johansson and John Travolta.

  5. Bel Canto was a book I listened to on audio and it just stays with me. Great book. I have Water for Elephants on my "to read" shelf and we're going to read The Guernsey Literary.." for one of my book clubs in September. I loved East of Eden.

    One book I tried to read and couldn't was John Irving's Cider House Rules, I think. I couldn't stomach it. I should try to re-read it, but there are so many books out there. I rarely stop reading a book that I've started but I have gotten pickier the older I get. In college I once described myself as a "book slut - I would read anything and everything," but I don't think that's necessarily true for me anymore. :)

  6. Oh yeah - and Love Actually is a favorite movie of mine as well, and one that I always watch during the holidays! What fun!

    And once a summer I try to watch the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice with Collin Firth! :)

  7. The BBC version of Pride and Prejudice is the ONLY version as far as I'm concerned! I didn't like Keira Knightly as Elizabeth Bennett...

  8. I love getting book recommendations...except that it makes my book list just grow longer! Water for Elephants made me want to go join the circus :) Gruen is wonderful with words! And for anybody who has read it, can you maybe illuminate the underlying biblical Jacob story that Gruen mentioned at the back of the book? (It's been awhile since I've read it, but I do remember feeling like I missed that layer - I would love to find out more about it, though!) Wicked - absolutely wonderful! (And the soundtrack for the musical is phenomenal as well - you MUST listen to it!) Your blog post on Elphaba being misunderstood is right on, Nicole. I loved how MacGuire made me think of the other side of every person - especially those with tougher personalities. I am more in tune with people thanks to Wicked! (Mirror Mirror was my other top choice by him). East of Eden is fabulous, as well, (though I never am too fond of Steinbeck's portrayal of women) though I think I would pick Of Mice and Men as my favorite Steinbeck thus far. It just blew me away at the end. (And also, I am incidentally reading Bel Canto right now and loving it! What a fantastic premise - kind of an inversion of Lord of the Flies, one reviewer said).

    Okay, so after far too much book talk (I get excited when other people like the same stuff I do!), some of my favorites are A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (or anything by Betty Smith), The Bell Jar, and The Secret Life of Bees (though I know Nicole commented in an earlier post about her dislike for the book!). I just loved them ALL - both for their writing and their characters. The Life of Pi is another one of my favorites - the ending made me want to go back and reread the whole thing!

    As for what would make me stop reading a book - I have never stopped reading, but I sometimes skim when a sex scene gets too explicit. That makes me uncomfortable, and I don't feel like I'm missing much of the plot when I skim through those.

    And finally, in the company of fellow book lovers, has anyone read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle? I've been looking at it for awhile, but if anyone has some thoughts on it, I'd love to hear them!

  9. I've never read Betty Smith, Amy. Thanks for the recommendation! And I'm glad you got my observations on Elphaba. ;) As for The Secret Life of Bees, I didn't hate it, it just didn't live up to all the press for me. But isn't that how it goes sometimes? You have such high expectations... Edgar Sawtelle is on my list, but I have a stack a mile high to get through before I'll find the time. Let me know what you think if you get to it before I do!