Fab Five Stories I Treasure

Try to remember the first time you picked up a book that you’ve grown to love. Chances are you probably didn’t realize then what it would mean to you. But, as you turned the pages, delving deeper into the story, it hit you: the book touched something deep inside you. It resonated and moved you, stirring a passion for the author’s story, the rhythm of the words, the characters, and the setting.

When you find a book like that, all the elements come together, leading you down a path in which you discover something new about yourself. You might be left wondering, how is it that you could love a book this much? But you do, and so it goes, and there you have it.Boys+Life

Months ago, Brenda, a blogger friend who often writes about the art of writing, tagged me in a post about her Fab Five Books. I’ve been remiss in thanking her, and writing a post on the books that I treasure.

What strikes me is that the books on my list are mostly about coming of age and loss of innocence. Evocative of another time, these books can make your eyes widen with a sense of wonder, tug at your heartstrings, make you think, make you sad, give you a chuckle, and fill you with pangs of nostalgia. Exquisitely and flawlessly written, these books have protagonists I’ve come to really care about. In alphabetical order by author, they are as follows:

Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon. This is from an author who specializes in grizzly horror, but this book is unlike his usual genre. Set in the early 1960s, in a town called Zephyr, Alabama, it’s the story of an 11-year-old boy who, while out doing deliveries with his father, witnesses a murder. As the boy tries to unravel the mystery, he uncovers truths about his town, and the people who live in it.  He grapples with forces of good and evil, including a serpent-like creature that inhabits the river. I guarantee you will love this book. Part fantasy and semi-biographical, it is 100 percent lyrical and engrossing.  Truly, Boy’s Life is a masterpiece. Favorite Quote:

We all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. Told to act our age. Told to grow up, for God’s sake. And you know why we were told that? Because the people doing the telling were afraid of our wildness and youth, and because the magic we knew made them ashamed and sad of what they’d allowed to wither in themselves.

 

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I love stories about time travel and I love a good romance. The Time Traveler’s Wife has both. If you saw the movie version, please get it out of your mind, for it didn’t do the book justice. This story will make you think, and have you rooting for the couple—Henry, who has a disorder that makes him involuntarily time travel, and Clare the woman he marries—whom he first meets when he is 36 and she is, but six. They marry when Clare is 23 and he 31. Sound confusing? Just read it. It’ll have you believing that anything’s possible. Even true love. Favorite Quote:

Time is priceless, but its free. You can’t own it, you can use it. You can spend it. But you can’t keep it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.

 

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. If you want to know what perfection in writing sounds like, open The Bell Jar to any page and read it aloud. Plath was a poet and her prose reads like every word came from her heart and soul. She certainly dug deep and is unflinching in her honesty. Drawn from her own life, this is a book for the ages. Favorite Quote:A+Tree+Grows+in+Brooklyn

There is something demoralizing about watching two people get more and more crazy about each other, especially when you are the only extra person in the room. It’s like watching Paris from an express caboose heading in the opposite direction–every second the city gets smaller and smaller, only you feel it’s really you getting smaller and smaller and lonelier and lonelier, rushing away from all those lights and excitement at about a million miles an hour.

 

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I was in sixth grade when I first read this book. I vividly remember sitting in my family’s living room, reading the day away. And sobbing. Yes, it’s a tearful journey through life as a girl who comes of age in turn-of-the-century Brooklyn, New York, with a hard-working mother and an alcoholic father. And, all she wanted was an education. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is heartfelt and inspiring. Favorite Quote:

From that time on, the world was hers for the reading. She would never be lonely again, never miss the lack of intimate friends. Books became her friends and there was one for every mood. There was poetry for quiet companionship. There was adventure when she tired of quiet hours. There would be love stories when she came into adolescence and when she wanted to feel a closeness to someone she could read a biography. On that day when she first knew she could read, she made a vow to read one book a day as long as she lived.

Our Town has been performed more than any other American play ever written. My hands-down favorite is this 1977 version that starred Glynnis O'Connor and Robby Benson.

“Our Town” has been performed more than any other American play. The first performance I ever saw was at my high school, but I especially love this 1977 version, starring Glynnis O’Connor and Robby Benson.

 

Our Town by Thornton Wilder. This is not a novel, it’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning play, but that shouldn’t stop you from reading it. There’s nothing that captures a slice of life in small town America, circa 1900, like Our Town. Bare bones in set and feel, it leaves much to the imagination and yet it has the power to transport you to fictitious Grover’s Corners just like that. Our Town is about love, family, marriage and death, and appreciating the little things in life while we can. What makes Our Town so enduring? Watch the video below and find out! Favorite quote:

Good-by, Grovers CornersGood-by to clocks tickingand Mamas sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new ironed dresses and hot bathsand sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, youre too wonderful for anybody to realize you.

 

If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll read any one of these. And now, I’m pleased to tag my dear friend, Bella, of One Sister’s Rant, so she can share her Fab Five.

How about you? What are some of your favorites?

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28 thoughts on “Fab Five Stories I Treasure

  1. Monica, what a great selection, chica! How can I ever compete with that list?? I am honored to be tagged. As you knhow, I shally try to do your list justice, I just don’t know when. I read The Time Traveler’s Wife and I loved it! I am currently reading “Good in bed,” chick lit by Jennifer Weiner, and it’s a hoot! Hey, what can I say? I’m at the beach, right? hee hee! I read La Sombra del Viento (in Spanish) last summer. Does that redeem me just a little bit? hee hee! Hugs! And thank you for tagging me! (I think) hahahahaha! 🙂

    • Of course, Bella! You’d know I’d tag you any day. I hope you’re enjoying your stay in Spain. Wish I was there this year, too. Sigh. Happy reading and I’m so glad you agree re Time Traveler’s Wife. I LOVE that book so much! Kisses for Roxy!

  2. I’m glad you shared your books. I always enjoy seeing favorites of other writers. I have to confess I could never get past the first fifty pages of the Time Travelers Wife, but everyone swears once I do, I will be glad of it. I am committed to try. My dad gave me A Tree Grows in Brooklyn when I was a wee lass. It is the sort of story that roots in and never leaves. I love it when a book and author can do that with their words.

    I hope you enjoyed the journey. Thank you for being drug along on the great blog tag. It’s often hard for a writer to limit her thinking to a single topic. Much appreciated, Monica.

    • Brenda, I’ve heard that from other people re Time Traveler’s Wife. But that wasn’t the case for me. If it had been, I wouldn’t have read it at all. Life’s too short and I don’t believe in struggling through that many pages to get to the good part. It’s got to engross me right off the bat!

      Anyway, thanks again for tagging me on this. I believe in literacy and any chance to promote books is worthwhile in my estimation.

  3. On my nightstand for everyday inspiration are Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s “Gifts from the Sea” and Yann Martel’s “Life of Pi.” But my all time favorite is John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.”

  4. Monica, I have not read Bell Jar, but it is on my list. I am trying to read as much as I can before the Summer is over. I loved the Time Travelers Wife but not the film version as much even though I liked the actors. I am currently reading three YA books because my daughter received a whole lot for her birthday. There is no greater joy than reading for me and children’s books bring me a special kind of joy. I am also reading Temple of a Thosand Faces by John Shors. He has taken me to Cambodia and Angkor Wat. I always carry my characters around for weeks. Some stay longer,some leave immediately and I have no use for them. Often, I want to re-read my favorite passages and relive the life of a favorite character. I could talk forever as you know. Love this post.

    • MM, I’m glad you agree about the film version of TT Wife. You know initially, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston bought the film rights, when they were still married, for a production company they owned. I think they may have been planning on starring in it. Then, well you know. Anyway, the book is so much better, indeed. Happy Reading!

  5. The Hidden Persuaders, Future Shock, Megatrends and the Third Wave are non fiction that guided my understandings. No particular novels but I am often sorry when I finish one and the characters are not part of my daily life. I really do transport myself into the story and the characters are very real, part of my private imaginary world and lament their evaporation. Of course that has much to do with the author’s presentation. I am enjoying Jack Whyte’s Camulod Chronicles, novels post Roman Britain.

  6. Loved Time Traveler’s Wife, but Niffenegger’s one after that, with the twins, was pretty bad, IMO. Loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Bell Jar was fabulous. Not familiar with the first, and somehow, I have yet to see Our Town, but I intend to.

    • I haven’t read her other books. A Tree is inspiring. Bell Jar had a deep impact on my youth. Next time there’s a performance of “Our Town” in your community you MUST go. I’ve seen it performed about 20 times. A few years ago, the local high school was performing it, and even though I didn’t have any kids in that school at the time, I bought a ticket and went. I NEVER get tired of it.

  7. Monica, I am embarrassed that I read none of these even though I am an avid reader. I just missed these I guess. I’ll have to put them on the list.

  8. Any book that you love is worth reading again — isn’t it? So happens I reread ‘The Bell Jar’ almost a year ago. What I appreciated most was the perspective I now have, both as a grown (in a manner of speaking) woman and a writer. I do want to read ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife.’ And I admit to a little curiosity about going back to ‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn’ largely for sentimental reasons. Did I tell you, btw, how much I like the spiffy new look of your website/blog?

    • Why Deborah, I reread “The Bell Jar” last year! It was as good as I remembered. She had such a way with words. I made my daughter read “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” and she loved it. Thank you, Deborah, I’m so glad you like my new and improved blog look. I was getting tired of all that pink. The look actually felt dark and I wanted something that would brighten things us. This works!

  9. I must admit Monica when I was younger I was not a great reader of fiction, I was more likely to dip my head into a technical manual normally about some facet of radio.

    These days I read a lot more fiction especially with the e-reader, I tend also to go for new authors as well.

    Well known authors I like are poeople like Jeffery Archer & Peter Mayle, I favour light reads rather than heavy stuff. Having said that I have read a couple of Charles Dickens recently.

  10. My fondest memories of childhood involved going to the library, checking out an entire stack of books, then rushing home to curl up with them! I don’t think one can be a very good writer if one first isn’t a reader, do you? Enjoyed your five favorite books, but I have far too many on my list to narrow them down to five! Mark Twain was one of my favorite authors, as are Andrew Greeley, Nora Roberts, John Grisham, and James Michener. A varied list, no?!

    • I often went to the library alone, Debbie. As a kid of five, my mother would drop me off on Saturday mornings and I’d stay for story hour and check out books. When we moved to Long Island, I’d ride my bike to the library and spend hours there. That was heaven. Only thing is, the librarian kept an eye on what I was borrowing. I once tried to borrow “The Group” by Mary McCarthy. It had been a best seller and a bit controversial. Well, the librarian not only refused me, she called my mother and told her. Boy, that was humiliating. I was 16!

  11. My very first favorite book of all time was A Little Princess. I probably read it a dozen times when I was in elementary school. Then I read the Anne of Green Gables series and fell in love with it, too. Now I have too many favorites to list, but many of them have spunky heroines like my first “best friends.” Life is never dull with a good book close at hand.

    • I loved The Little Princess, the book AND the movie, starring Shirley Temple. But I also enjoyed the version that came out in the 1990s.
      Never read Anne of Green Gables but I loved the version that aired on PBS back in the 80s. It was so good.

  12. Wow–where would I even begin? I love Margaret Atwood novels–especially Cat’s Eye and The Handmaid’s Tale. Also, The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver. But, I adore The Bell Jar, as well.

    Sara and I have finally moved into our long-term rental here in Ecuador, and furniture arrived over the weekend. Now we have some place to sit. Maybe that means I’ll be able to write again.

    If you ever want to visit Ecuador, we’d love to have you stay with us. We have two guest rooms!

    Hugs,
    Kathy

    • Kathy, glad to hear you’re finally settled, and hopefully getting back to blogging. (The blogosphere hasn’t been the same without you.) Moving is such a process, even more so when the move is to another country, don’t you think?

      Anyway, thanks for sharing your book faves. They sound great. And thank you, thank you for the invite. I may take you up on it someday. Seeing you and Sara would be so much fun, maybe even more so than seeing Ecuador. 😉

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