TTT: Books with Characters who Read

TTTI kind of disliked the openness of this question. I already have to pick my 10 choices, now you’re making me decide on the subject matter, too? It was too wide open—it could be anything. That felt more than a little daunting, so I pulled it back in to the subject matter at hand: books.

Behold, a list of 10 books with characters who read…

The Book Thief. An obvious choice, perhaps, but an excellent one. Liesel’s passion for reading, for exploring worlds beyond the terrifyingly violent one she’s in, was the entire reason I picked up this book in the first place.

I Capture the Castle. Cassandra is well-versed in poetry and literature, and because of this comes across beautifully in her writing. She even politely reads Stephen’s plagiarised and terrible original poetry, and doesn’t hate a word of it.

The Girl with All the Gifts. Melanie is a very clever 10-year-old girl who enjoys learning. She particularly likes read Greek mythology, drawing parallels and blending them with her imagination and the world around her.

The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop. Technically not a character, as this is Lewis Buzbee’s memoir from a life spent working in bookshops and the publishing industry, but still. His bookish thoughts, observations and tales are wonderful.

The Book of Lost Things. After the death of his mother, 12-year-old David retreats into the world of books and stories, fantasy and imagination. Then his retreat manifests, trapping him in a world of fantasy. But does he want to get out?

Fahrenheit 451. Okay, so technically Guy doesn’t read the books he saves and secrets away, but it’s more the act and meaning behind his actions; the idea that books are powerful, that gets this book on the list.

The Art of Fielding. I guess both Owen and Guert count as characters who love books, but Guert is the only one of the two that I loved. He was perfect in his imperfection, flawless in his flawness. He loved books, his daughter, his lover, his school—all without reservation.

Breakfast of Champions. This is the book I am currently reading, It is witty and insightful and weird and I love it. Kilgore writes bizarre science fiction, the single copies of which he sends out in the hopes of getting published. The only place his stories end up are as filler for porn magazines, which he then buys in order to re-read his own work.

Walking on Glass. This is an odd, but very good, book. It focuses of three story lines, one centring around Steven, who believes he is trapped on Earth following his role in a galactic war. He reads science fiction in the hope of finding clues and messages.

Looking for Alaska. This book was a solid average for me: not bad, but not amazing. Alaska was a fascinating character, though. I can picture her room, piled with books, and it is wonderful. Of course, the fact that she never gets to read them all… less so.

Advertisements

TTT: Quotes

TTTI am all over this week’s topic. I love quotes. I love it when a short section, thought, moment or phrase from a book just stands out to me. When something makes me stop, makes me smile, makes me go, “Yes!” Or causes me to pause and think, and wonder and alter my thought process. I love it when something, some feeling, some concept, is summed up so neatly in a handful of words.

I am slightly obsessed with quotes, and more of my favourites can be found at my goodreads account or my twitter.

I usually expound upon my choices for Top Ten Tuesdays, but this week I am going to stand by the wise words of my dearest Zellaby, and let the quotes speak for themselves…

“Some quotations,” said Zellaby, “are greatly improved by lack of context.”

― John Wyndham, The Midwich Cuckoos

“Naturally, I never told him I thought he was a terrific whistler. I mean you don’t just go up to somebody and say, ‘You’re a terrific whistler.’”

― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

“Of course, I’m being rude. I’m spoiling the ending, not only of the entire book, but of this particular piece of it. I have given you two events in advance, because I don’t have much interest in building mystery. Mystery bores me. It chores me. I know what happens and so do you. It’s the machinations that wheel us there that aggravate, perplex, interest, and astound me. There are many things to think of. There is much story.”

― Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

“He would say that God had given him a tail to keep the flies off, but that he would sooner have no tail and no flies.”

― George Orwell, Animal Farm

“A fool tries to look different: a clever man looks the same and is different.”

― John Buchan, The 39 Steps

“Proud and insolent youth,” said Hook, “prepare to meet thy doom.”
“Dark and sinister man,” Peter answered, “have at thee.”

― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan and Wendy

“Fear,” the doctor said, “is the relinquishment of logic, the willing relinquishing of reasonable patterns. We yield to it or we fight it, but we cannot meet it halfway.”

― Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House

“If you read one book a week, starting at the age of 5, and live to be 80, you will have read a grand total of 3,900 books, a little over one-tenth of 1 percent of the books currently in print.”

― Lewis Buzbee, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a History

“Have you got any soul?” a woman asks the next afternoon. That depends, I feel like saying; some days yes, some days no. A few days ago I was right out; now I’ve got loads, too much, more than I can handle. I wish I could spread it a bit more evenly, I want to tell her, get a better balance, but I can’t seem to get it sorted. I can see she wouldn’t be interested in my internal stock control problems though, so I simply point to where I keep the soul I have, right by the exit, just next to the blues.”

― Nick Hornby, High Fidelity

“If you expect nothing from anybody, you’re never disappointed.”

― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

TTT: Female Heroes

TTT I hate the word “heroine” like i hate the words “actress” and “comedienne” and the connotations that they are somehow lesser than heroes, actors or comedians. Why the need to distinguish the sex between two people who are doing the same thing? So yes, this is a list of my favourite female heroes.

One of the obvious choices is Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games, and as much as i love her, i figure at least 80% of people writing for this topic will include her in their list. So i picked 10 others. As it is, i had to cut this list down to 10, so. Sorry Katniss!

Mrs Twit from The Twits. She was a nasty piece of work, but what I love about her is that she was just as nasty a piece of work as her husband. They have a hate-hate relationship, but in terms of the tricks they play on each other, Mrs Twit gives as good as she gets.

Liesel Meminger from The Book Thief. She’s an independent, strong-willed and intelligent young girl in a harrowing and terrible situation. But she manages finds friends, love, connection and joy.

Phyllis Watson from The Kraken Wakes. She’s a smart woman who sees the dangers coming years in advance, and plans accordingly without even involving her husband. When shit finally hits the fan, it is her plan that sees them through in the end.

Eleanor Vance from The Haunting of Hill House. Although in many ways Eleanor is timid, easily manipulated and cares far too much what people think of her, she can, when the mood strike her, be hot headed, strong-willed and fiercely independent. In some ways I pity Eleanor, because I don’t at all see things how she does, but in the end she stood by her own (perhaps misguided) opinions and did what she wanted.

Melanie from The Girl with All the Gifts. From the start of the book, where she does not have all the information as to what situation she finds herself in, to the the end of the book, where she is the one who puts all the pieces together. Melanie is a thoughtful 10-year-old girl, who gives this book the kind of hopefully bleak ending I love.

Amy Dunne from Gone Girl. Don’t get me wrong—i don’t like Amy, but I have to admire her. She was smart, she was patient, and she was thorough. She got shit done, and as situations evolved, she rolled with the punches and altered her plans. I hate her, but damn it I respect her.

Jane Fleming from All Fun and Games Until Somebody Loses An Eye. From repressed and tedious wife, mother and grandmother to arse kicking, gun toting, rescuer. This granny certainly kens the score.

Angelique de Xavia from A Big Boy Did It and Ran Away. She’s an innocent looking petite lady who wouldn’t stand out in a crowd. And she can kick your arse from 20 feet away before you blink.

Jasmine Sharp from Where the Bodies Are Buried. Failed actress turned private investigator, she’s willing to work outside the law and dig up long-buried secrets to get the job done.

 

This last one contains SPOILERS for The Wasp Factory. You have been warned…

 

Frank Cauldhame from The Wasp Factory. More of an anti-hero, but the twist that Frank was born a female and pumped full of drugs and lied to for most of his life made so much of his character work for me. The hatred of women he was surrounded by and the macabre nature of his hobbies. It made me like him.

The Book Thief

Title: The Book Thief.

Author: Markus Zusak.

Summary: Here is a small fact: You are going to die.
1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.
Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.
Some important information: This novel is narrated by Death.
It’s a small story, about: a girl • an accordionist • some fanatical Germans • a Jewish fist fighter • and quite a lot of thievery.
Another thing you should know: Death will visit The Book Thief three times.

Rating: ★★★★★ 5/5

Review: “Some important information: This novel is narrated by Death.” This line was the one that grabbed me, and made me want to read this book. And really, for me, the fact that the narrator is Death is what makes the book. He has the unique advantage of knowing what’s going on in far more depth and breadth than the characters could know. The fact that wherever he is, wherever he goes, he always sees humans in their last moments gives him an unparalleled point of view. As Death himself puts it:

“I’m always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both.”

Death is a step apart from the lives of the people this book is about, but in another way he is closer to each of them than they are to each other. This unique vantage offers an incredibly told story.

Also, Death is a tease. He outright states at various points what will and will not happen; who will and will not die. Then he admits he’s getting ahead of himself and slows right down. It’s infuriating, infectious and makes the book almost impossible to put down. You might know what’s coming, but you’re desperate to see how they get there.

“Of course, I’m being rude. I’m spoiling the ending, not only of the entire book, but of this particular piece of it. I have given you two events in advance, because I don’t have much interest in building mystery. Mystery bores me. It chores me. I know what happens and so do you. It’s the machinations that wheel us there that aggravate, perplex, interest, and astound me. There are many things to think of. There is much story.”

The story itself is about The Book Thief, Liesel. She steals books to read, escape and, perhaps most importantly, regain some semblance of control in her life, which is constantly changing around her. During her adolescent years in which the story is set, we see her make friends and loyalties, enemies and vendettas. We see her share secrets with the Jew hiding in her basement and strike up an acquaintance with a woman who has swastikas on her slippers. We see her ups and her downs, and those of the people around her. And then we see it all ripped away.

The characters are wonderful. They are true, and flawed and, each in their own way, perfect. I am so used to simply loving or hating characters completely, that it was really nice to like and dislike something about them all. They frustrated me, they delighted me. They disgusted me, they made me proud. Their motivations were clear and honest, if sometimes questionable. Fictional though they may be, i was made to care about them. I mourned each and every single one.

The amount of times this book ripped my heart out, stomped on it a little and then gently picked it up and carefully placed it back into my chest is unbelievable. Yes, i cried. (And if you don’t cry at books filled with words, characters and situations that are constructed to toy with your emotions, then please don’t read this book—it will be wasted on you.) I cried, but i also smiled and laughed and gasped and winced. And it was all worth it. I can’t say this book has a happy ending, but it certainly doesn’t have a hopeless one.

“I have to say that although it broke my heart, I was, and still am, glad I was there.”