Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Forever books & food moods

Over on Facebook, my friend Kayley tagged me on a meme that I couldn't resist (which is saying a lot). The instructions were:

Don't take too long to think about it: fifteen books you've read that will always stick with you. Make sure it's the first fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.

Then we were supposed to tag 15 friends, but I didn't do that. I have a (nonexistent) sign on my (nonexistent) desk that says, "The Meme Stops Here."

With each of these books I remember something different--a scene, a character, a concept, or the way it made me feel in that moment. With most, I can remember where I was when I first read it, the same way I associate certain songs with certain stretches of highway where I first heard them (or where I played them on infinite repeat).

In no order other than when they popped into my brain:

1. Possessing the Secret of Joy by Alice Walker
2. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
3. Call of the Wild by Jack London
4. Stupid and Contagious by Caprice Crane
5. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
6. "Notes from the Underground" by Fyodor Dosteyevsky (technically a novella)
7. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
8. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
9. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
10. A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engel
11. Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones
12. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
13. The Solitaire Mystery by Jostein Gaarder
14. L'Etranger by Albert Camus
15. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell


Rather than discuss the rationale for each one (because it was meant to be quick, after all), I wanted to point out one book that I was just thinking of a few minutes ago (which led to this blog post): Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel.

In a central scene, the novel's protagonist Tita is forced to cook the wedding food for her older sister Rosaura, who is marrying the man Tita loves (and who loves her back but for custom's sake has to marry the oldest girl because the youngest has to stay home forever and take care of her mom--bogus!).

Anyway, Tita cries bitter tears as she's preparing the cake, and the tears kinda get mixed into the batter. At the reception, everyone who eats the cake starts crying. These episodes continue throughout the book, as Tita's repressed anger and passion infuse her cooking.

Takeaway message: the spirit in which food is prepared affects its taste. So ever since I read this book, I try to be merry or at least calm when I cook. I have certain carefully chosen CDs that can play while I make dinner. (Most of my favorite music would make food taste really nasty.)

Oh, and a glass of wine or beer helps a lot, but not until I'm finished with the knives.

----

What are your "Forever 15" books? If you only have a minute, give me five, or even one, and tell me why. What parts of the book will you always remember--the characters, a scene, the philosophy, or the feelings it gave you?

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10 Comments:

Wasn't The Handmaid's Tale the best!?! I remember that after I finished reading it, I sent copies to several of my friends as well. Was tempted to send a copy to Sandra Day O'Connor, but didn't. :D

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman? Also an outstanding choice!

Great list! Will have to check out some of your other choices.

Have a great night!

Posted by: Blogger Alexia561 at 6/23/2009 10:40 PM

It didn't specify fiction or non-fiction, so the first one is a non-fiction book. They are not, necessarily, my all-time favorite books, but the one's that had lasting affect on me.

1) The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell. The book that has inspired me more than any other. It set the groundwork for my life's journey & is my personal "bible".
2) Boy's Life by Robert
McCammon. The book every male should required to read.
3) The Complete Edgar Allan Poe. He gave me my love of reading.
4) The Complete H.P. Lovecraft. He gave me my love of horror.
5) The Thief of Always by Clive Barker. The story that helped me rediscover my childhood reawakened my love of children's literature.
6) Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. My first coming-of-age story.
7) The Books of Magic graphic novel by Neil Gaiman. Years before Harry Potter there was Tim Hunter. This story introduced me to Neil Gaiman & showed me that comics aren't just about superheroes.
8) The Essential Ellison by Harlan Ellison. Brilliance all in one place.
9) Pet Semetary by Stephen King. The scariest damn novel ever written.
10) Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Taught me so much about language & struggle.
11) Weaveworld by Clive Barker. Fantasy & Horror can mix & this book showed me the way.
12) Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist. The best "vampire" novel ever written (sorry Bram Stoker).
13) Hell House by Richard Matheson. The best "haunted house" story ever written.
14) Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Made me appreciate & love the humor novel and lead me to other authors in the genre.
15) The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. My introduction to the fantasy genre.

Posted by: Blogger Edward Brock at 6/23/2009 10:49 PM

Bootstraps: From An American Academic of Color by Victor Villanueva
Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
The Value of Believing in Yourself: The Story of Louis Pasteur by Spencer Johnson
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
The Uncanny: An Introduction by Nicholas Royle
The Professor's House by Willa Cather
A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle
The Violent Bear it Away by Flannery O'Connor
Microserfs by Douglas Coupland
Lie Down in Darkness by William Styron
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Posted by: Blogger Miss Marjie at 6/24/2009 1:22 AM

1.Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
2.A Thousand Words for Stranger by Julie E. Czerneda
3.A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick
4.Little By Little by Jean Little
5.Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
6.That Scatterbrain Booky by Bernice Thurman Hunter
7.A Place for Margaret by Bernice Thurman Hunter
8.Hilary Knight's Cinderella by Hilary Knight
9.Comeback by Dick Francis
10.Magic & Malice(Mairelon the Magician omnibus) by Patricia C. Wrede
11.The Adventurous Four by Enid Blyton
12.From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
13.Cowboys Don't Cry by Marilyn Halvorson
14.The Masterharper of Pern by Anne McCaffrey
15.The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien

the spirit in which food is prepared affects its taste

I dunno! Some of my friends got together to bake some desserts for fun one evening. Let's just say those desserts didn't taste fun. Unless...they somehow would've tasted even worse had everyone not been so happy while making them...*shudder*. Heh heh heh! ;)

Posted by: Blogger Pissenlit at 6/24/2009 2:27 AM

I'm so glad I was able to crack your meme fortress of doom! It seemed like such a simple meme, but when I sat down to think mine out, it was really a beautiful experience. None of the most recent books I've read came to mind - nothing from my years as an academic - but the books I read when I was young, that gripped me tight and wouldn't let me go, that made me want to write my own, that made me believe in the cliche but oh-so-very true magic of the written word. Some were better written than others ;) But all had a profound effect on me in some way, and I can see how they've shaped my tastes and style, and how some have plain changed my life...

And now, I can't believe I forgot Madeleine L'Engel! Many Waters, A Wrinkle in Time...Some of the first fantasy worlds I fell in love with.

Your lovely description of Like Water for Chocolate has me hungry for cake and a good book to go with it. One of my favorite combinations ;) I've never read the book, actually, and I'm really intrigued by this strange cooking process...

Thank you for sharing these, Jeri!

Posted by: Blogger Kayley at 6/24/2009 8:13 AM

Some of my "books" will be poerty, so here goes in no particular order of importance:
1. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man James Joyce
2.Good Omens Gaiman and Pratchett
3. The poetry of William Butler Yeats
3. The poetry of John Donne
4. Possessing the Secret of Joy Walker
4. The Sparrow Russel
5. Romantic poetry
6. The Power of Myth Campbell
7. Neuromancer Gibson
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Dick
9. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Adams
10. The Tempest Shakespeare
11. On the Road Kerouac
12. The poetry of Allen Ginsberg
14. The poetry of Gerard Manly Hopkins
15. Othello Shakespeare

OK, so I really cheated and threw in lots of poetry and plays, but that's where I live.

Cecilia

Posted by: Anonymous Anonymous at 6/24/2009 9:55 AM

10 BOOKSShare

Hi Jeri,
I did this for Facebook also; here are my choices. Now I need to read the other responses.

Sunday, March 22, 2009 at 7:33pm |
10 Books

Mine are in no particular order.


1 The World According to Garp - John Irving

2 Mysteries of Pittsburgh - Michael Chabon

3 Broken Music - Sting

4 One Train Later - Andy Summers

5 Secret Lives of Bees - Sue Kidd Monk

6 Daddy Longlegs - Jean Webster

7 White Palace - Glenn Savan

8 My Name is Asher Lev - Chiam Potok

9 Even Cowgirls Get the Blues - Tom Robbins

10 Listen to the Silence - Marcia Muller

Posted by: Blogger Mimimph at 6/24/2009 6:22 PM

Jeri, I deliberately did not read the responses until after I posted my list which was originally written in March on Facebook & copy & pasted here. What are the chances that out of a handful of responses, Miss Marjie & I would both choose My Name Is Asher Lev by Chiam Potok??? I find this exciting...and it happened on your 15th wedding anniversary!
XO
Mimi

PS - I'm writing this on 6/24 @ 6:30 pm...the time on google is wrong!

Posted by: Blogger Mimimph at 6/24/2009 6:31 PM

A Room with a View by E. M. Forster

This is a book about worriers and as a worrier I find it instructive.
You may know it as being about going to Italy and coming back home but for me it is about getting into a muddle and finding a way out of it.

My favorite quotation:
"There is a certain amount of kindness, just as there is a certain amount of light," he continued in measured tones. "We cast a shadow on something wherever we stand, and it is no good moving from place to place to save things; because the shadow always follows. Choose a place where you won't do harm--yes, choose a place where you won't do very much harm, and stand in it for all you are worth, facing the sunshine."

Posted by: Blogger tumbletell at 6/24/2009 8:34 PM

Alexia: The Handmaid's Tale scared me more than any other book of my life, I think. Good Omens was such pure fun! I love anything with demons and angels.

Edward: I thought I'd read all of Gaiman's graphic novels, but I've never heard of Books of Magic. Yay!

Miss Marjie: Oh, I loved The Sun Also Rises so much, it was almost painful. In addition to reading Microserfs, I also listened to the audio version, read by Matthew Perry.

Pissenlit: Would you believe I have never read Anne of Green Gables? I should have my girl card revoked. ;-)

Kayley: It's funny, mine were mostly from my twenties, after college. The only one from college was the Dostoevsky, but that could've been because I did my best to avoid classes on novels. Ironic, isn't it? ;-)

Cecilia: It didn't even occur to me to include poetry/plays, much less nonfiction. I wish I'd thought of that.

Mimi: I have my blog's time set to Tehran to help obscure the Iranian bloggers from the Powers That Be. That's why it's off. :-) I LOVE Tom Robbins. JITTERBUG PERFUME is one of my favorite books. I can't say it really affected me, other than to go WOW, great book. ;-)

tumbletell: That's a fantastic quote, and so true. Thank you for sharing that. I'll have to take another look at that book.

Posted by: Blogger Jeri at 6/25/2009 9:09 PM

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