With no particular rhyme or reason, here are five of my favorite books. There are, of course, many, many, many more.
Hurry, scurry, get thee to a library!
1.) The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende
I grew up watching the movies and then discovered, quite by accident, there was an actual book! Just imagine–a never ending book! My 12 year old self knew not what to do! As I checked the tome eagerly to see if it broke the laws of physics and time, I saw indeed there was a last page. Once I got over this disappointment, I lost myself quickly in the world of Phantasia, rooting for Bastian, Atreyu and Artax. Oh, Artax. That horse stays with me even now.
This is a beautiful fantasy about a child finding himself, learning what it means to be brave, to create and how to relate to a distant parent. The creatures you meet (especially the Rock Eaters and the Racing Snail) remain with you after the last page is turned. I can’t say enough about this story.
2.) Night of Wishes, by Michael Ende
Yes, Mr. Ende gets two spots. I enjoy reading this book–one you can easily get through in an evening or two–especially around Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The cat and the crow on the cover are the main characters and find themselves fighting against time and a sorcerer who is brewing a potion to wreak havoc on the world through evil wishes.
It’s a small story, taking place within one building primarily (the sorcerer’s lair). The humor is incredible, the dialogue and commentary witty and lasting. This is one of the few books I’ve reread, over and over, and enjoy it every time.
3.) Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
I’m a sucker for a good ghost story, particularly one set in Europe in a mansion estate filled with mystery, darkness and ire. I admire Ms. Eyre and relate to her in some ways. I particularly admire her love of drawing and adamant refusal to be pushed around. She’s truly perseverant and does not cower away from truth, no matter how uncomfortable or undesirable. It’s a brilliant novel with layers of meaning, with stupid and brilliant characters alike, sometimes one and the same. Give it a try.
4.) Catherine, Called Birdy, by Karen Cushman
Ms. Cushman is one of my favorite authors. I love reading historical fiction with female lead characters, particularly ones full of fire, sass, intelligence and thoughts of their own. Birdy is full of this and cracked me up from beginning to end as she evaded marriage matches and courtship endeavors arranged by her tyrannous father. The ending particularly struck me and left me feeling oddly solitary. I felt as if I were telling a friend goodbye.
5.) Survival in Auschwitz (and) The Reawakening, by Primo Levi
This is nonfiction, of course, and deals with Mr. Levi’s WWII and post WWII survival of the Holocaust, including at the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp where he was imprisoned for almost a year of his life. The Reawakening follows and tracks Levi returning home, often by foot, commenting on everything from the food, the language barriers, the struggle to find work to experiencing rejection from other Jews because of his Italian nationality.
I’ve read a few Holocaust books, fiction and nonfiction (e.g., Night, Number the Stars, The Diary of Anne Frank and others) but Survival in Auschwitz brought the Holocaust closer to my eyes with clearer details. I felt I were alongside Levi at times, hunting for a pair of shoes in the mud of the camp, sleeping in the crowded, uncomfortable barracks night after night and wondering post-war how exactly I was supposed to live. May you rest in peace and feel G-d’s love, Mr. Levi. Thank you for your story.
Have you read any of these books? Plan to look into any of them? Leave your thoughts below and read on, fellow bookworms!