Books Glorious Books (old blog entry)

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Another question from Formspring worth sharing:

“Hi Cat, I have just discovered your blog and I spent a whole day just going through your archives. You are an amazing writer, your entries are subtle but they pack a lot of punch. Anyway I would just like to ask what kind of books do you like to read?”

Thank you for your kind words. I think the best way I can answer this question is to pull out an old entry from my now dormant blogspot. Hope this gives you a better idea.

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a love affair with books.

Coming from a family where all the women are voracious readers, this aspect of my life should come as no surprise. But, yes, every woman close to me: my mom, her sister, my grandmother, and my great grandmother.

All had their own book shelves filled to the brim with different types of paperbacks. Exchanges and recommendations were often made during gatherings and everyone would put ratings on the first page of the books they’d already read.

“excellent”

” good” 

“just okay”

These ratings were almost always written with a thick ball-point black pen in the beautiful script handwriting of my grandmother and her mom. I think my mom and tita couldn’t be bothered most of the time.

As a kid, one of my favorite tasks was choosing a bedtime story for my mom to read to my brother and I. Dr. Seuss was a regular favorite. Which is why Oh, the Thinks You Can Think and Because a Little Bug went Ka-choo! are forever imprinted in my head. Other frequent visitors in my dreams were stories from the series The Berenstain Bears, Clifford the Big Red Dog, and Babar.

“Oh the Thinks You Can Think, if only you try.” The last line in the book and the one that taught me how the wonders of your imagination are endless. And how your imagination is one of the few things in this life that is actually free.

As I got to my tweens I discovered how books that didn’t have pictures in them could actually be more fun. I remember telling my mom, “it’s like playing my own movie in my head when I read now.” My teeny-bopper girlfriends and I, complete with hair wraps and ‘puff painted’ t-shirts, would spend our hard-saved allowance money at National Bookstore buying the latest Nancy Drews or Sweet Valley Twins. Lest we not forget that this is when crucial, life-altering questions were discussed such as, “Who are you more like, nerdy Elizabeth or prom queen Jessica?” In other words, what kind of priorities will you have for the rest of your life? Do you plan to work hard or use your beauty to get to the top? Who would have thought a tween book would be so profound?

Then I began to stumble upon incredible writers. Authors who could spin a magical story as easily as one makes strings of sugary cotton candy. Beautiful, mind-blowing stories that have stuck with me for more than a decade. So for posterity’s sake, here is a list of five books (in no particular order) that are such brilliant pieces of work.

1. She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb: A book that feels the deepest pains of a woman. And yet, was written by a man. If you ever feel that your life is hard and unfair, I highly recommend entering the world of Dolores Price, Lamb’s protagonist. You’ll realize that all you need to do to reach the surface is to keep on swimming.

2. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera: A man. A woman. A flawed yet beautiful relationship. A simple synopsis for a story so deep in meaning about life’s cycle. This book always reminds me of a silent European movie. With so few words, Kundera is able to pack a book with such heavy questions. Whenever I think of this book, I think about the quiet beauty of things that are scarred.

3. So Far From God by Ana Castillo: A beautiful story about Chicana women struggling through poverty, abuse, and religious battles. And through it all, lies a whole lot of mysticism and faith. Castillo is an incredible story teller. I’ve read this book three times and I’d gladly pick it up again; it’s that good.

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4. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman: Carl has told me he’s not a big fan of this book, but I absolutely loved it. Who hasn’t thought about a dark underworld just below the one we live in everyday? Filled with rules, magic, and characters so beyond our everyday norms. I just couldn’t put this book down. I’ve also read American Gods, Smoke and Mirrors, and Stardust. All great books but Neverwhere was my first introduction to Gaiman and for that it deserves a place.

5. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: I am such a fan of magic realism and Marquez is a master of this craft. This novel follows the lives of a family spanning a hundred years, you get so attached to his eccentric characters that you hate to see them leave the pages. The ending is so bizarre that I walked around shell shocked for a whole day.

Honorable mentions:

1. The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaleid Hosseini

2. Kafka On the Shore by Haruki Murakami

3. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

4. Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

5. White Oleander by Janet Fitch

6. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

7. House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

8. Woman Hollering Creek by Sandra Cisneros

9. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

10. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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Comments

  1. Hi Cat!
    I was going through your archives as well and I feel like I could trust what you write. There’s no BS, you give it as it is. You’re an inspiration for a baby blogger like myself.
    It was fascinating that you passed through the Nancy Drew and Sweet Valley High stage with books. I went through the same phase and thought that it’ll interest you to know what happened to Elizabeth and Jessica after 10 years. Francine Pascal wrote a new book titled “Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later..” 🙂

    • Hi Jen! Thank you for such kind words. I will definitely look out for that book. It would be fun to see what happened to Jessica and Elizabeth. 🙂

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