There are certain stories that haven’t left me. Their characters have become so real that they’ve become intimate friends. Their lives have become so entangled with mine that I can’t remember my life without them. Their places are so vivid that I can picture them as easily as if it were a photograph set before me, a set of events that seemed to have happened as easily as mine.
I have never left Cold Mountain.
Surprisingly, I didn’t know about the book until after I saw the movie in 2004. I remember sitting down in the theatre and when the credits rolled, I felt like I was with Inman and Ada. I was traveling through the Southern landscape as the war was fought around me. I was sitting alone in the farmhouse with Ada, struggling to live and hoping that he was coming home alive. And when it was done, I wanted go back and meet them again.
I found the book at Barnes and Noble. I bought it immediately; I didn’t care that I had to pay full price. I wanted my hands on it.
It took me an age to read the book. It’s a panorama of vistas. You can see where Inman and Ada are. You can see the rugged anger of Teague as he ruthlessly pursues his dream of regaining the land of Cold Mountain.
I was in love with these characters. They weren’t trying to sell you something. They didn’t make an effort to hide their rugged parts because that’s not who they are or what their life is about.
And the love between Inman and Ada: that was the realest of all. You rooted for them because you know this is what was supposed to happen. More shallow love affairs have suffered for less and lasted for longer. But true love comes at a price and sometimes you have to accept what real life wants from you in order to know the love of your life for just a moment. Sometimes you don’t get a happily ever after and Inman and Ada come to this realization in the most brutal of ways.
2017 marks the 20 year anniversary of when Cold Mountain was first published. I plan on re-visiting it again. I don’t think Charles Frazier realized how much of an impact his book had on me when I first read it and watched the movie. There is love and there is circumstances that keep us apart even when it doesn’t seem fair.
And even in the pain, the scars have healed and we move foreword with a different kind of ending.
I admire those people who can immediately delve into another book as soon as they finish reading one. Even though I can do that sometimes, especially if I don’t feel connected to the one that I just finished reading, I generally need to have some space between books even if it’s an hour or two.
Some people call this time between books as a “book hangover” because the reader’s thoughts are still in the previous book and trying to process it. Quite frankly, I don’t think this is an appropriate word for how I feel about it. I don’t get “drunk on books” so therefore I don’t get a “hangover” from them.
In the library world there are terms called acquisition and book processing. Acquisition is exactly what it implies, you acquire the books and catalog it into the system. And then the books get sent to the branches where circulation clerks and librarians process the books. This means checking the publication date to see if it’s the current year and if so, changing the status to new before checking it in and clearing the “processing” status.
I mention this because I feel like the word “processing” is a much closer fit to how I take a break between books. I acquired the book, I put it to my mind, and now that I’m done, I need some space to “process” what I just read about. It seems more gentle and less violent and painful than the term “hangover.”
This process is important for me. Even though I love to read and even if I enjoy the book that I’m reading, by the end of the book I feel like I’m in a marathon to finish it. It’s like the book will never end no matter how fast I try to read it. By the end, I’m exhausted and even thinking about touching another book is unthinkable.
If you need time to process a book, what is your ritual to get back in the mood to read? Or do you need one at all?
Psychology and mental illness are topics that have always interested me. I’ve always wanted to know why people do the things they do and what mental states have caused them to do those things. It’s a wonder that I never went to school for it since I read a lot of books that are either about mental illness or trying to psychoanalyze their choices. Maybe one day I’ll go back to school again for another degree and study it further. Until then, I prefer to read books about it.
Memoirs about mental illness are especially intriguing to me because the people writing them have either gone through the experience themselves or had a family member suffering through it and to read about it on a personal level rather than a professional looking in on it is always pulls me down the rabbit hole.
With that being said, here are some true stories of mental illness that have found their way onto my to read shelf:
My lovely Wife in the Psych Ward by Mark Lukach
Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia by Marya Hornbacher
Sybil: The Classic True Story of a Woman Possessed by 16 Personalities by Flora Rheta Schreiber
When Rabbit Howls by Truddi Chase
Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Anne Sexton by Linda Gray Sexton
Roald Dahl is an author who dominated my childhood. Even though they all contained magical elements, Dahl had the talent of making his fantastical characters feel as if they were real. As I read, I could feel the chocolate melt in my though and tremble before Miss Trenchbull. Very few authors can make their stories come to life before the reader’s eyes.
Dahl’s books were especially meaningful to me because I would receive his books from my grandmother every other year when she came over to visit from England. Having them hand delivered from England made me feel like I was getting them from the author himself.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
James and the Giant Peach
Bonus: Boy, Dahl’s memoir of growing up. Some of the stories he mentions of his childhood resonate closely to certain scenes from his books. Read it and see if you can catch them!
I’m not going to lie, I’m a sucker for teen fiction. I’m especially fond of teen realistic fiction. Why? Because I believe that teens face more experiences than what we give them credit for. We often ignore what teens have to say because we want to believe that they can’t face certain issues when in fact they can experience just as much, if not more than what the average adult will ever face.
I’ve probably read more young adult realistic fiction than any other genre because I enjoy it and it’s often better writing than adult books. If you’re looking for some good writing about real problems, you should probably check these books out in the teen section:
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
Willow by Julia Hoban
If I Stay by Gayle Foreman
Just One Day by Gayle Foreman
The Absolutely True Story of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
It’s hard to be myself sometimes. It’s especially hard to be myself when it comes to books. There’s a certain kind of pressure to appear cultured and refined. If you don’t read certain books, then somehow your opinions on good reading is undervalued or not at all.
A friend of mine is into speculative fiction. At one point she considered getting a Ph.d. in creative writing with a focus in fiction/speculative fiction. Apparently there were only a couple of universities that had one or two students that focused on speculative fiction. People just don’t think it’s a genre that carries much weight in the literary world.
It’s the same with romance novels and even erotic novels. There are people who come into certain libraries and when they check out these types of books they sometimes say, “I’m kind of ashamed to be checking this book out. I don’t want anybody else to know.” And when other people observe this they say, “If they’re that ashamed about what they’re checking out, then they shouldn’t be reading it at all.” And that’s why I don’t check these types of books out myself just to see what they’re about because I know someone might see me and silently judge me for my choices.
And that’s a shame because I think genre writing can carry a lot of weight. Science fiction presents certain ideas about life and society that we wouldn’t have thought about otherwise if that author hadn’t written about it. Historical fiction presents us with different viewpoints in different historical points and makes us interested in researching those time periods for ourselves.
Judging others for what they read and shaming them to read certain books isn’t going to make them do so. It only discourages them from wanting to read at all since society is shaming them from reading what they truly enjoy and if they do read what they love, then they tend to read it in secret. Why not encourage all writers to produce better quality of work? In the very least, it’ll encourage a diverse variety of reading choices and that’s all any of us are really asking for.
Something I always wanted to do was to read a book from each of the states in the U.S. I never did because 1. It’s time consuming and 2. I didn’t want to take the time look up books for each of the 50 states. Even as the bookworm that I am, I can be quite the lazy procrastinator (is that like a double negative? I don’t know…)
Well, I finally decided to Google it and Business Insider has a nice little article called “The Most Famous Book That Takes Place in Every State.” I thought that this might be a good place to start in my quest to read every state. I’m going to list the books and authors here if anybody’s interested, but click on the link if you want to know more about them. Or go buy the books themselves and find out on your reading time. It looks like some of the books I’ve read, but a lot of them I haven’t, so that will be fun to read (and maybe even re-read).
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (Alabama)
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (Alaska)
The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver (Arizona)
A Painted House by John Grisham (Arkansas)
East of Eden by John Steinbeck (California)
The Shining by Stephen King (Colorado)
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates (Connecticut)
The Saint of Lost Things by Christopher Castellini (Delaware)
To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway (Florida)
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (Georgia)
Hawaii by James Michener (Hawaii)
Housekeeping by Marilyn Robinson (Idaho)
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (Illinois)
The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington (Indiana)
A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley (Iowa)
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (Kansas)
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (Kentucky)
Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice (Louisiana)
Carrie by Stephen King (Maine)
Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler (Maryland)
Walden by Henry David Thoreau (Massachusetts)
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides (Michigan)
Main Street by Sinclair Lewis (Minnesota)
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (Mississippi)
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (Missouri)
A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean (Montana)
My Antonia by Willa Cather (Nebraska)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson (Nevada)
The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving (New Hampshire)
Drown by Junot Diaz (New Jersey)
Red Sky At Morning by Richard Bradford (New Mexico)
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (New York)
A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks (North Carolina)
The Round House by Louise Erdich (North Dakota)
The Broom of the System by David Foster Wallace (Ohio)
Paradise by Toni Morrison (Oklahoma)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey (Oregon)
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (Pennsylvania)
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult (Rhode Island)
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (South Carolina)
A Long Way From Home by Tom Brokaw (South Dakota)
The Client by John Grisham (Tennessee)
No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy (Texas)
The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff (Utah)
Pollyana by Eleanor H Porter (Vermont)
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson (Virginia)
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (Washington)
The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown (Washington, D.C.) – I’m taking this is a bonus book?
Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (West Virginia)
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Wisconsin)