So last week I did a post on current “fun reads” I keep on my nightstand or at the top of my Kindle queue; and after it went live I realized that three of the four books were ones that I’ve read multiple times over the years, just because I love them so much. Additionally, the fourth book was the only truly “fun read” that had nothing to do with school.
So today I’m going to change things up and divulge my guilty reading pleasures – again, those that I keep near at hand by my favorite reading chair, or at the top of my “this is just for me” Kindle queue. Not only that – but these are all books I am reading for the first time, and not my usual pattern of re-reads.
I picked up a used copy of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell at the local library book house a couple years ago. Even for a book nerd like me, it’s a daunting size – 1024 pages of Gothic magical goodness, with the kind of crisp, watertight, complex storytelling you’d expect if Charles Dickens teamed with Jane Austen to rewrite the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm.
Really. It’s THAT good.
The only thing about this book is, because of its intricate and expertly woven storylines, this is not the sort of book you can put down for a couple weeks, pick it back up, and be back in the groove of things at once. It requires a bit of effort on the part of the reader to keep all the wonderful characters and slithering storylines straight. If you’re up for a magical tale that requires a bit of stamina on your part – jump on in. Deep or not, the water in this pool is just fine. 🙂
Okay, so I lied. There’s at least one cerebral read on this week’s list, and this one is it. The Picture of Dorian Gray is by Oscar Wilde, the same quirky, irreverent Victorian mind that crafted my favorite stage play ever: The Importance of Being Ernest. But I include this book among my “fun reads” because – although I will add this book to my list of novels to teach next year – right now I’m reading it for the sheer enjoyment. Of course, it’s obviously a dark tale, and Henry Wotton’s every sentence is lifted straight out of the Enlightenment philosophers – so much so that his monologues are amusingly terrifying (or terrifyingly entertaining, however you choose to see it) – but the plight of Dorian Gray is so fascinating that I cannot put the book down. Thank you, Oscar Wilde – you’ve done it again.
Before Harry Potter, it was Madeleine L’Engle’s book A Wrinkle in Time that sent up a howl of controversy. I never read the book growing up – so I am now. It is a tale that was definitely penned before it’s time; but I’m not really sure that I can confidently put it square in the “like” category yet. But the tesseract idea is intriguing, and the trio of children are engaging (I’m especially partial to the brilliant Charles Wallace), and I have no clue where she’s taking this yet – so I’m in it for the whole ride. Will give another two cents on this one when I finish.
The Tale of Despereaux is one of those books that took me by surprise – even before I read it. It seemed impossible that the story of a cutesy-wootsie mouse would take readers by storm; I mean, hadn’t Stuart Little already “been there, done that?” – and a good deal earlier in the publishing world? Still, I heard enough about Despereaux (even before there was a movie) that when I finally had a few extra brain cells to spare, I downloaded it onto my Kindle. O my, but I am loving this mouse. I am also loving DiCamillo’s sweet-yet-ironic narrative voice, that keeps the tale from being either too saccharine or sarcastic. Still eagerly waiting to see what happens next (no, I haven’t seen the movie and no, please don’t spoil it for me), which is the highest compliment I think anyone could pay any author.