Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My Favourite Books that are Older than I

I celebrated my 50th birthday this year, and it hasn’t hit me that I am “old”. Old is a matter of mind I guess. I know people in their 20's who seem older than I am. So I guess the following books are “golden oldies” -- they aren’t getting older; just better.

The Pulitzer Prize winner, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck will always be a favorite of mine. Steinbeck is a wonderful writer that brings the trials and tribulations of the common folk to light. All of his novels, from The Red Pony, to Of Mice and Men, etc. are fabulous. But Grapes is the one I studied in school, so it was the one I learned the most about and the most from. This is a novel that I can read again and again only to find something new with each reading. I guess this is where age comes into factor. As I get older, I find I identify with different characters. The story takes place in the dustbowl of the Great Depression. The Joudrey Family has been rejoined by their son, Tom, who was in prison. Between the weather and the bank the family is just one of thousands of Okies who are forced to leave their home. Their journey to California is both physical, emotional and spiritual trip for all members of the family. The reader comes to realize that family is the most important factor in your life.

Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. It is unusual for me to include a romance novel for a list that I create. Maybe I liked it because it was a bodice ripper but not a Harlequin romance type. Tess come from a humble poor beginning and rises above her station in life. Through a series of events it all comes to tragedy. When I first read this book it was the spring of the woman’s liberation movement of the 70's. This influenced how I read this novel and the emotional upset I received from it. Teenagers of today would have a hard time imagining the injustice of the world towards women and the poor. Perhaps that is all the more reason they should read this.

There are two novels that are linked in my mind – Animal Farm by George Orwell and Lord of the Flies by William Golding. After all the theme of equality in society plays a huge factor in both novels. The power struggle of the young boys in Lord of the Flies proves what animals humans are. In Animal Farm the animals are trying to break down societies roles which fails as “some animals are more equal than others”. What does the “little piggy” does to his society is quite interesting in both novels.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. It is funny this is one book that I seem to forget the title of but can’t get the ending out of my head. I won’t, of course, tell you the ending....you have to find that out for yourself. I will tell you this, the plot of the novel is reflected in the era it was written; materialism was becoming more and more commonplace as the world recovered from WWI. The world itself was becoming “smaller” as transportation to and media from other cultures was more available. The land of opportunity, the United States, declared itself a melting pot, not a mosaic. The novel even takes place “the year of out Ford 632" and like the assembly line of a car manufacture, people are willingly losing their individuality.

Perrault’s Fairy Tales. As weird as this sounds I didn’t really get into reading fairy tales until I was 15 or 16 years old. If anyone really knows the facts behind fairy tales these stories were not “children’s” stories at all. Often morality tales these tales have been “disneyized” over the years. I challenge our readers to go back and re-read the tales but in their true original forms. They could scare the “beejeezies” out of you.

So, dear Reader, what is your favorite book from before you were born? Or better yet, the year you were born? I would love to know.

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