Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Commitment Day 7: Books I Love

Read the rest of my 30 Days of Commitment series here.

Hi guys. It's Day 7 of my series, and I have a terrible secret to share with you: I love reading.

Okay, so that's not terrible at all. Nor is it really a secret.

I've loved to read for as long as I am able to remember. Fun anecdote: my mother tells me that when I was three, she first found out that I was reading from my daycare teachers! I think they were worried about me sitting in a corner by myself, reading and not playing with the other kids? I'm not sure.

Anyways, I devoured books when I was a kid. I was very quiet and shy and probably kind of weird and oblivious, too (still am), so instead of horsing around with the other kids, I read books. It quickly became apparent that while I enjoyed reading of any kind (did anyone else grow up with the Charlie Brown 'Cyclopedia series???), my true love was fantasy. Wizards, fairy-tale kingdoms, strange creatures, all drew me in like a bee to honey.

I think the truly wonderful thing about fantasy is the worlds that the authors create. Entire cultures, rules for the properties and usage of magic, new lifeforms; all of these came to life for me in fantasy books. I loved imagining these worlds, recreating them, wanting to experience life in these worlds. It was just mesmerizing.

Now here's my problem: I am also a re-reader. I think this really started with the Harry Potter series. JK Rowling has this great knack for weaving together a complex storyline that suddenly brings together so many disparate elements scattered throughout the story. Nothing pleased me more than to read her books over and over, suddenly understanding her hidden clues, the not-yet-revealed backstory. It was intense stuff.

The only problem with this is that re-reading tends to leave me in a safety zone. I don't frequently go out and read new books, especially since college and med school have kept me busy. It's easier to relive a story you already know you love than venture forth and try to find a new one you will also love.

The point to all of this is that a lot of my favorite books, even now, are more young adult books. If you guys have any recommendations for more adult-oriented books, please feel free to mention them in the comments!

And so we begin... (click below to read my ridiculously huge list)

1) Coming in at first place is Tamora Pierce. I love, love, love this woman. She's a pretty prolific writer: so far she has published 28 books, primarily within two "universes". Her stories feature plenty of magic, knights, castles, and fighting, usually with strong female protagonists who are smart, powerful, and determined. The books pictured below are all the books in her Tortallan universe, which I collected just this summer (with the exception of the last book of the Beka Cooper  series...I've been waiting for the paperback to come out).

Tamora Pierce really grew through her career. Her earlier books (marked with asterisks) definitely reflect her relative lack of experience, but her writing style grows and improves and becomes more and more gripping to read. She weaves real issues into her books (again, particularly in her later works): war, politics, love, racism, sexism, crime, imperialism, and death. Her books are a thrill to read and I don't think I will ever, ever stop.

Tortallan Universe
  • Song of the Lioness quartet*
  • The Immortals quartet*
  • Protector of the Small quartet
  • Trickster series (2 books)
  • Beka Cooper series (3 books)
Emelan Universe

  • Circle of Magic quartet*
  • The Circle Opens quartet*
  • The Will of the Empress
  • Melting Stones
OtherTortall and Other Lands: A Collection of Tales

Soon...soon you will ALL be mine, muahahaha...

2) Okay, honestly, these probably don't exactly count as books, but whatever. Another of my favorite "reads" is the Calvin and Hobbes comics by Bill Watterson. They can be hilarious, thought-provoking, satiric, touching, and sometimes even profound. The comic is about a 6 year old boy named Calvin and the adventures he has with his stuffed tiger, Hobbes. I have no words, really, about how great this series is. It's a comic that I truly believe will never (and should never) be forgotten.

Hey, Calvin and Hobbes. Someday, you will also all be mine. Consider this your warning.

3) Manga. There are so many manga out there that are wildly different, and I feel bad grouping them together. But honestly, I think a lot of people will just skip this section anyways. So sad.

Don't get me wrong, I am aware that a lot of Japanese comics can be really bad, in many, many ways. But there are some that are really just outstanding, and it's a storytelling form that allows you to do things very differently from novels. I still don't know why graphic novels in America haven't caught on more.
  • Inuyasha
    • This was my first love, the first series that really managed to hook me into the world of manga. It's the story of a girl who falls back in time, where she must join forces with a half-demon, half-human in order to restore the fragments of a powerful, dangerous artifact. Thrilling, touching, funny, dramatic. I love the characters and have even written fanfiction about them. This might not be considered an actual "great manga", but I will always love it.
  • Fruits Basket
    • A girl stumbles upon a family's dark (weird?) secret: they transform into animals of the Chinese zodiac when hugged by a member of the opposite sex. It sounds like a ridiculous premise, and promises a lot of hilarity and romantic tension. However, it can also get dark and emotional, and it becomes a story of healing, forgiveness, and finding freedom.
  • Eyeshield 21
    • This is a story of a super-fast shrimpy kid who is forced to join his high school's American football team. This is is literally the funniest series I have ever read. Literally. And arguably my favorite. The personalities, characters, and situations can get so ridiculously outrageous, but you come love them, and you find yourself cheering for their victory, frantically flipping through the pages, hoping that they can surmount the unbeatable odds. It's long, but it's a fun read the whole way through.
  • Dramacon
    • I would technically file this under "graphic novel" rather than "manga", since the author is a Russian-born Canadian (funnily enough, she addresses this exact issue in her series!), but let's not split too many hairs. It's not very long (in the photo above, you can see the omnibus), weighing in at three volumes. But let's consider now that this is the only series I have ever bought with my own money. Manga is pricey, but this was worth it. This is the story of a girl, the author of an independent comic, who goes to an anime convention three years in a row. The story is unbelievably funny (her art is just so expressive!) and very touching. There's a scene that still makes me tear up every time I read it (those of you who've read it know exactly what I'm talking about). And you don't really want to know how many times I've re-read it.
  • Prince of Tennis
    • Like Inuyasha, this isn't really one of the "great manga" (actually, I don't think any in this list are, but especially these two). Like Eyeshield 21, Prince of Tennis is a sports manga, in this case about an extremely talented young tennis player and the rest of his team. I will admit, most of the premises in this story are wacked out, and the story can get a bit repetitive. 
    • But what truly clinched this as a favorite manga was not the manga itself, but the series of musicals (commonly referred to as Tenimyu) that followed it, and subsequently, my love for the characters in Prince of Tennis. Tenimyu has become sort of a career launcher for many young, male Japanese celebrities, but it is not particularly known for having the best music, or actors, or singers, or dancers...but it's FUN. It's so fun to see these characters come to life and see how different actors portray them. You bounce up and down with delight seeing their ridiculous tennis moves actually being staged. And no lie, it's pretty fun to see attractive young men dancing around with tennis rackets in their hands. Any other Tenimyu fans out there? Please comment if you are, no one else understands this part of me. :(
Wow, that was a pretty exhausting list of just manga, if you actually read through it. Just know that I acknowledge that there are lots of other good (and arguably better) series out there (Rurouni Kenshin, Ouran High School Host Club, Azumanga Daioh, and Buso Renkin jump to mind), but those are the one's that are close to my heart.

4) His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman. This series fascinated me. The many different worlds he created, with their different rules, and his view of the way our universe works, was enthralling. I first read it in high school and the way he explained the nature of our world fascinated me. Even now, in medical school, I could read it again and again and rediscover the truth (well, this story's truth) behind the universe with a new sense of wonder every single time.

5) The Sight and Firebringer by David Clement-Davies. These are both books about animals. The first is about wolves, a mysterious power called the Sight, and a prophecy of coming evil and the family that will fight against it. Firebringer, on the other hand, is about deer. There is also a prophecy in this story about the Herla (what the deer call themselves) falling away from their true way of life and the one who will restore the balance in their lives. Both of these books can take philosophic turns and often tie in with human history. The emotional turmoil and conflicts that these characters face are very thought-provoking, and I do love the religions and society rules he creates for these animals. He has written other books that I did not like quite as much as these two, although they certainly were still good books; some were a little bit too philosophical, and some not enough. 

6) The Darkangel trilogy and The Firebringer trilogy by Meredith Ann Pierce. Talk about creating your own worlds! The Darkangel trilogy takes place some time in the future, when humans created life on the moon, different from themselves. Don't be fooled, it's definitely not sci-fi. The Firebringer trilogy is from my unicorn phase: it is about a prophecy of the one who will lead the unicorns, long exiled by traitorous wyverns, back to their sacred home. She has written other books that I unfortunately haven't read, but these two trilogies are just fantastic. Definitely more angled toward the young adult audience, but the worlds that she created I found very intricate, and her plots aren't very conventional; her protagonists often don't quite play the roles that you would expect. And I love that.

7) Last one! A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin. This series is ridiculous. Complex politics, corruption, fighting (lots of blood and death), lots of love and sex, and a list of important characters longer than your arm. This story weaves itself across kingdoms and continents, telling itself through the eyes of numerous characters who can be sometimes crazy, sometimes likable, sometimes utterly distasteful...but never one-dimensional. The story is smart, epic, complicated, and gripping. Granted, there are slow moments, and the five books he has out so far are crazy long, but it's so worth it. Definitely not a book for kids. Oh, and I guarantee that he will kill all of your favorite characters. Because George R.R. Martin is secretly evil. You have been warned.

Wow. Talk about wordy. Did you guys manage to stick with me through the whole deal? If so, I feel like I should reward you somehow. @_@

Anyways, have you guys read any of these books? Did you love them as much as I did? Did you not love them? Do you have any recommendations for me to try, particularly so I can venture into the world of fiction for adults, rather than teenagers?

Thanks for reading!


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