Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Authors I REALLY Want to Meet

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Authors I REALLY Want to Meet

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(Capitalization as provided by the ladies at The Broke and the Bookish, as I definitely don’t feel that strongly about it!)

I almost skipped writing this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, but then realized if I didn’t sit down to work on this blog entry, I’d have to sit down and write a paper about ethics and travel writing that I just haven’t quite sorted out in my brain yet. (You know when you have an idea of what you want to say, floating around in your head, but none of it is coming together into any sensible order? That is where I am at. So, rather than sit down and focus on creating an outline there, I’ll procrastinate with a Top Ten Tuesday list!) The reason this list almost went undone is because I have just never been super drawn to the idea of meeting celebrities. (Okay, I met Michelle Obama last year and that was about the best thing ever, but still…) I don’t really get starry-eyed over the rich and famous, but the more I thought about this topic of authors I’d like to meet, I realized it would be fun to put together a list of ten authors I would like to invite to the same dinner party and then just sit back and watch what happens! As you read, imagine them all together for an evening, the conversation taking itself where it would…With this group of characters, the possibilities are endless!

Beverly Cleary- Ramona! How do you not invite the creator of Ramona to a dinner party? These books were the first “chapter books” I read on my own (although we didn’t call them that back then) and I couldn’t get enough of my box set of paperback. Beverly Cleary has opened up reading to generations of young kids and I would love to hear her take not only on current children’s literature, but see her chat the classics with Poe and Hemingway.

Edgar Allan Poe- Of course. No one who has spent any time on this blog would not expect to see him on the list. I’d love to see his reaction to his current fame, considering he died destitute in a gutter.

Erik Larson- I credit Larson with turning me on to narrative non-fiction writing. Before reading Devil in the White City, I would only pick up non-fiction when it was required for a class, but after being drawn in to his style of weaving various stories into a single true tale, I’ve become quite the follower of new books in this genre.

Ernest Hemingway-I think he would probably be a pompous ass. But, just entertaining enough to put up with for an evening. Besides, we’ve got to have some Idaho representation at the party !

Haruki Murakami- This is an outlier, but I’m strangely drawn in my Murakami’s writing. When I am actually reading it, I don’t always understand what I am reading or where the story is going. I don’t even necessarily like the writing while I am in the midst of it, but somehow, each time I finish one of his novels, I walk away with a sense that I really loved what I just read, even if I barely scratched the surface of understanding.

Maya Angelou- She’s amazing and inspirational and I can’t imagine a literary gathering without her.

Orson Scott Card- Again, an author chosen for having opened the door to a new genre for me. I’m wouldn’t call myself a big science fiction fan, but before reading Ender’s Game when I was in high school, I would not have even given the genre a chance. Ender’s Game caught my attention in a way that surprised me and I quickly read through his entire library at the time. I honestly haven’t stayed as current with his writing as I probably should have, but as the doorway to a new genre, he deserves a place at my table.

Roald Dahl- I had a love hate relationship with this man as a child. I loved The BFG but was terrified by James and the Giant Peach, and yet, I couldn’t not pick up those books filled with just enough irreverence to make me think I was getting away with something. (So much fart talk!)

Stephen King­- Possibly a surprise member of my dinner party, since his novel It made it onto my recent Top Ten Books I’ll Never Read list. But, while I can’t go in for the horror he creates, I do think he is an amazing writer and has some important idea on the teaching of writing. I really respect him academically and think that these dual qualities would add to the conversation on many levels.

William Least Heat-Moon- I just finished Blue Highways by Heat-Moon and really liked the smoothness of his writing style. There is a comfort and ease to his writing; although I am sure the writing itself was neither comfortable nor easy. Blue Highways was published in 1983 and I’d love to catchup with the last three decades of his ideas.

In hindsight, getting these ten authors together on a single night might be utter chaos. The whole thing could quickly dissolve into egos and power plays, and yet, I do think the sidebar conversations would be worth the efforts. With a mixture of classic and contemporary authors, fiction and non-fiction writers, the literary world would be their oyster!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I Will Probably Never Read

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I Will Probably Never Read

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I love this week’s prompt from the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish, as let’s face it, even the most bookish of us have titles that we either have good intentions of getting to but always seem to drift to the bottom of the “to read” pile, or we have those ones that we are just well aware that we will never pick up unless we’re desperately stuck with nothing else to read. (Actually, I’m experiences a bit of that now, having traveled without proper bookage and am not forced to choose between the few English channels my hotel in Singapore gets or a terribly boring book I brought along, hoping it would be better. I might be wishing a bit for a few of the books on this week’s list after all.)

Again, in the normal “no particular order” I present you with ten books I will just probably never get around to reading…

50 Shades of Gray by E. L. James I know these were super popular, but they just never held any appeal for me. Not that I need all of my books to be super “literary” but I do think I’d like a bit more plot than it sounds like these offer and honestly, I have a hard time with the fact that that crazy relationship was somehow twisted to be a positive and mutually respectful one. Not really a score for feminism, I’m afraid.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky– I just never went down the Russian literature road and don’t really see it in my future. I did read Anna Karenina and was so annoyed with her character that I didn’t go any farther with the genre.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert­- Again, a caveat on this one, as I may end up picking it up by the end of the year since I am currently studying travel literature, a topic I find fascinating, but this one never drew me in. It feels so overly self-indulgent and self-centered. I’m all for travel narratives that incorporate personal growth along the way (a theme heavily relied on in many travel narratives by female writers), but this one just seems over the top. (Again, having not read it, I base that on what I have read/heard about the book, so it is probably not a totally fair summary, but since this week’s list is of books we don’t plan to read, I assume we are all in the same boat on that particular issue.)

It by Stephen King– Just too scary! There is no way I could make it through this book without having to store it in my freezer, a Joey move from Friends. I saw the movie the summer I graduated from high school and didn’t sleep well for weeks. There is no way I could handle the imagines my mind would come up with if I were reading it.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville– This is probably sacrilegious considering I have a BA in literature and am currently working on an MA in literature, but Moby Dick just isn’t for me. I had to read it as an undergraduate and somehow skimmed enough of it to take part in class discussions and was lucky enough to find totally unrelated topics for my term papers because skimming is a pretty generous term for what I did on this book. My undergrad days were before internet was super useful for such searches, so I basically read topic sentences, a paragraph or two per chapter and called it in when it came to class participation. I definitely will not be picking this one up again! The white whale may be been Ismael’s nemesis, but this narrative is mine!

Snow by Orhan Pamuk- I tried. I really did. It was a Nobel Prize winner, after all. And yet, I just couldn’t get into it. I think I stuck it out for about 100 pages before finally setting it aside, something I rarely do with books. I’m a bit of a finisher when it comes to books, even the ones I don’t totally love because I never know when I am going to miss out on something spectacular. Any maybe I am. I must be. It won a Nobel Prize, after all…

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson- The first of these books came out in English while I was in the Peace Corps, so I wasn’t able to jump on the bandwagon early and then they became so crazy popular I was kind of turned off by them. But, the more I learned, the less likely I was to pick up this series anyway. Graphic violence is just not my thing, either in books or movies, and I feel like there was enough of this to make me look other places with my book buying dollars.

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks- (Or any of his other books, to be honest.) I have a sister-in-law who is going to kill me for this addition to the list, but I’ve just never been able to get on the Sparks bandwagon. I don’t know why. I am not much of a fan of romance novels and judging by the books covers (a no-no, I know) it seems like they all follow a very similar plotline with few characters outside the realms of middle class white folk.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values by Robert M. Persig- I gave this one a shot. Actually, several shots. Over the years this one has been recommended to me time and time again, but each time I pick it up I don’t make it far before being thoroughly confused and bored. I know it is supposed to be deep and meaningful, but I can barely follow the plot/theories and often end up thinking about lunch, a nap, the laundry and just about anything else other than the words on the page. Even if it is pushed my way again, I doubt I’ll give it another go.

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling– I am putting this one last so that maybe people won’t give up on me until they’ve read the rest of my list. I know for a lot of book-folks out there, this is the be-all, end-all of series, but I just never really go into it. (Please don’t hate me!) I read the first two. Liked the first one a lot, felt indifferent enough about the second I never picked up the third. I saw the first movie and called it good after one there as well and I have no real intentions of going back to the books at this point. I never say never though…

After finishing this week’s list, I’m not sure I’m as enamored with the topic as I was when I started writing an hour ago. I feel so negative about books right now!(In my defense, I had a hard time coming up with ten books/series, so there is much more good stuff out there!) There are so many great ones out there and even those on my list are loved by loyal readers, so I feel bad panning them because they aren’t my cup of tea. In the end, read what makes you happy! This is my list of books I doubt I’ll ever pick up, but as I learned on Reading Rainbow many years ago, “Don’t take my word for it!” Find a book, a series or an author you love and read until there is nothing else to read.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books Which Feature Characters Who (Travel)

Top Ten Books Which Feature Characters Who (Travel)

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This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is about finding ten books whose protagonists have something in common. Of course, because my entire reading life revolves around travel literature at this point, my mind went instantly to that place, but I didn’t want to fill my list with non-fiction narratives, so tried to expand and include some of my favorite “travel” books of all time. As always, because I have a hard time just getting to ten, I avoided having to choose a #1 by putting them in alphabetical order. (Cop-out, I know!)

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson– (Non-fiction) This is a hilarious adventure of hiking on the Appalachian Trail. If you’ve not picked up something by Bryson before, I’d say this is the one to start with!

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie– (Fiction)- Beautifully written story of a Nigerian woman who lives in the US for a time and then returns home, juxtaposing the two worlds. I loved the discussions of being African in America, but not African-American, a distinction that I had never thought about before, as well as the peek into the world of Nigeria, a country a deal with on a daily basis, but mostly in terms of warning people away from scams.

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini- (Fiction) Another beautifully written story that has many elements of travel in it, both within Afghanistan and from the US to Afghanistan. This is one of those books that I can’t stop thinking about. It was both heartbreaking and magnificent at the same time. Again, if you’ve not read Hosseini before, this is the one to start with!

Blood River by Tim Butcher- (Non-fiction) This is the travel narrative of Butcher, who attempts to cross the Congo, following the path of the famous journalist H. Stanley (“Dr. Livingston, I presume”). It is a powerful look at what the country has become post-colonization and post-dictatorship with a great mix of history and culture included in the tale of his journey.

Carpe Diem by Autumn Cornwell- (Fiction)- One of my all-time favorite YA novels and a huge reason I decided to study a combination of YA literature and travel literature. If this book doesn’t make you want to pack your backpack and catch a flight tomorrow, I don’t know what will. (Kelsey, if you are reading this blog, find this book!)

Peak by Roland Smith- (Fiction)- Another great YA novel about travel- this one awfully timely with the horrific earthquake in Nepal this week. The main character heads to Everest in an attempt to be the youngest to ever summit the mountain, but along the way learning as much about himself and life as he does about technical climbing skills.

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro- (Fiction)- A new release, just having come out earlier this year, this book is amazing. It is a strange but great combination of fairy tale and fantasy with a touch of historical fiction thrown in. The story itself meanders a bit, but I loved the overall theme of memories and whether we should take the bad with the good and what it is worth in the end. Powerful!

The Martian by Andy Weir- (Fiction) – I suppose there is no travel father than to Mars! If you haven’t read this one yet, do it before the movie comes out. (Always read the book first!) I’ve given this book as a gift to several friends/family members and have had only positive reviews.

The Odyssey by Homer- (Fiction)- What list of great traveling characters would be complete without The Odyessey? It is the first and foremost leader in travel narratives! Really, no further comment is needed.

Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time by Mark Adams- (Non-fiction)- I didn’t want to get away from this week without at least one more contemporary travel literature entry. I love this one because Adams writing makes you wish you were there with him on the adventure, even when you really don’t want to be a part of some of the situations he encounters. Now that is great writing!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Quotes from Books

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Quotes from Books

toptentuesday(Inspired by The Broke and the Bookish. Check them out here.)

Top ten lists are never as easy as they sound since the problem rarely lies in not enough choices, but rather the overwhelming abundance of great choices. Each week I struggle with whether I should stick to a theme to help narrow my thoughts (YA literature, travel literature, non-fiction, etc.) and yet each week I seem to end up with a seemingly random assortment. With this week’s theme being favorite quotes from literature, I’ve put together a list that really is all over the place. Some are quotes that are memorable because they are great “sound bites” from the narrative (The Hunger Games and The Outsiders), while some are powerful and stand firmly on their own, without needing any further knowledge of the work itself (East of Eden and The Infernal Devices).

So, presented without further commentary, here are ten literary quotes that speak to me:

“And may the odds be ever in your favor.” –Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”
—John Steinbeck, East of Eden

“Beauty is an enormous, unmerited gift given randomly, stupidly.”
—Khaled Hosseini, And the Mountains Echoed

“Do I dare / Disturb the universe?”
—T. S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together…there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart…I’ll always be with you.”                                                                                                                                                                            -A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

“In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.”
—Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank

“One must be careful of books, and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.”
—Cassandra Clare, The Infernal Devices

“Stay gold, Ponyboy.”                                                                                                                                                                     – S.E. Hinton, The Outsiders

“Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it yet.”
—L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

“What are men to rocks and mountains?”
—Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Characters You’d Like To Check In With

Top Ten Characters You’d Like To Check In With

Here’s another book-driven “top ten” list as suggested by the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish.

(As always, in no particular order because it is hard enough to keep my lists to ten, let alone come up with a numerical order for them!)

  1. Ebenezer Scrooge- A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

I’d love to know how well Mr. Scrooge stuck by his newly-minted resolve to be a better person. Many of us make resolutions at this start of the year, in hopes of being better than we were the year before, but oftentimes the best of intentions fall to the wayside, as it takes a lot of work to break behavioral cycles. While I have great hopes that Scrooge stuck by his better self for years to come, I would love to pop in and see it from time to time, much the way he got to pop in on scenes throughout time.

  1. Narrator- “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe

I’m a huge Poe fan and would love to pop in on a variety of his characters, but figured for the sake of this list I should choose just one, so I am going with the narrator of “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Once he rips up the floorboards, I am sure the police arrest him, but then what? Does he plead insanity? Does he get off for the murder of the old man? Does he recover his wits or live the rest of his life listening to the incessant beating of a heart thrumming in his ears?

  1. Esperanza- The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Rightly so, Esperanza is a character filled with hope. She wants to use her writing to get herself out of her rough neighborhood, creating a name and home where she is safe and has the physical and emotional space to be the author she wants to be. She’s a teenager in the book, but I would love to see her at 25, 35 and 45 and see whether she broke the cycle of poverty in which she was raised and if she now has a daughter of her own to whom she can pass along her wisdom and love of words.

  1. Ponyboy- The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

This was my 3rd quarter go-to book when I was teaching 8th grade literacy. It was always a tough slog of a term, after the hype of the Christmas holidays and before the beautiful spring weather sets in. Ponyboy and his gang of friends was the perfect draw for all readers. Over my nearly ten years of teaching, I must have read this book cover to cover at least thirty times. So, I want to know, just like with Esperanza, did Ponyboy continue to write as a way to escape the hardships of life? Did he go to college and also create a better life for his family? (I’ve never thought about them in the same vein before, but now I am thinking Esperanza and Ponyboy might make a great couple!!)

  1. Hillary Clinton- Hard Choices by Hillary Clinton

With an assumed presidential candidate announcement not too far off and the current email hubbub making headlines, I could really use an extra chapter in this book. We regularly see Clinton in the media, so it is not so much that I don’t know what this “character” is up to these days, but I would love to have some additional questions answered!

               

  1. Female characters- The Wives of Los Alamos by Tarashea Nesbit

I connected strongly with the female characters of this novel, who were carried along by their husbands’ jobs. New homes. New friends. Maybe a job. Maybe not. I would love to pop in a decade later and get each of their thoughts on their time at Los Alamos. Was it worth it? What did they think once they found out what their husbands had been working on during that time? Would they change anything?

  1. Cady- We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

This was one of the best YA books I read last year, mostly because it broke the mold of the dystopian trilogy that has taken hold within the genre. (Don’t get me wrong, I love a great dystopian book, but I’d like to see YA authors branching out a bit more.) I won’t throw in any spoiler alerts, because if you haven’t read it, you should go get a copy right now, but suffice it to say that the whole thing is a bit traumatic and I would love to know how Cady deals with the good and the bad of her situation five and ten years down the road.

  1. Claire- Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman

I know this is an odd inclusion on this list, as I did not have a lot of great things to say about this book after I read it. The narrator was horribly unsympathetic and the book was painful to read. One thing that really bothered me about it was the ending and how abruptly Claire is dismissed from the narrative. I couldn’t believe Gilman wasn’t more curious about what eventually happened to her. Plus, I have my own theories about why she behaved the way she did and I would love to not only see where she is at today (and hear what she thought of the book!), but to see if I am on the right track with my guesses about the roots of her strange actions.

  1. Students- Miss Nelson’s Missing! By Harry Allard

My love of reading started young, so I wanted to include a few childhood favorites on this week’s list as well. I remember loving this book as a kid, the fact that poor Miss Nelson was run off by her horrible students. The kids may have won the battle, but they lost the war, because in Miss Nelson’s place, the odious Miss Viola Swamp arrives! She kicks those kids in to gear and makes them wish they had their sweet, kind teacher back once again. It would be great fun to drop in on those kids as adults and see what they remember about the great-teacher-switch and if they ever had an inkling what was really going on. Plus, they probably all have children on their own now and I want to see if they ended up with angels or hellions. (I am sure at least one became a teacher too, so, how did that work out?!)

  1. Ramona Quimby- Ramona, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary

There are no ifs, ands or buts about it, Ramona Quimby is awesome! I feel like she and I had a lot in common growing up, as I too was the “annoying” little sister. I always pictured us as about the same age, so I would love to see where she ended up now that she would be in her 30s. Does she have a family? What does she do for a living? Is she close with Beezus now?

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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books You Recently Added To Your To-Be-Read List

While this blog is mostly a travel blog, it does have a second life as a book blog, although I must admit to having neglected that section in recent months. It is something I feel guilty about. (I do guilt pretty well.)

But, recently, the owner of the fabulous Erratic Project Junkie blog and friend from high school (also my amazing dentist) recommended that I participate in a book-driven top ten list run by The Broke and the Bookish. What a great idea! This will give me a focus for my book blogs that is more than just the reviews I was doing before and hopefully keep the literary part of In Search of the End of the Sidewalk from dying entirely. I can’t promise I will post a new top ten list every Tuesday, but at least this will resuscitate my floundering “Book Musings” tag.

This week’s theme is “Ten Books You Recently Added To Your To-Be-Read List” which is absolutely perfect as my new term at school starts a week from today and I spent this last weekend Skyping with my thesis adviser and creating a reading list for one of my courses. I placed a huge start-of-the-semester order with Amazon yesterday, so now I eagerly await the boxes to come rolling in through our embassy mail room. (It is times like this that two-week mail kills me!)

So, without further ado, here is my inaugural Top Ten Tuesday list.

(In no particular order, but can you sense a theme here?! I may or may not be working towards a thesis about travel literature, so these books are going to be my life for the next year or so.)

                    Ten Books You Recently Added To Your To-Be-Read List
1. Angry Wind: Through Muslim Black Africa by Truck, Bus, Boat, and Camel by Jeffrey Tayler

2. Methods for Teaching Travel Literature and Writing: Exploring the World and Self (Travel Writing

Across the Disciplines) by Eileen Groom

3. Forgiving the Boundaries: Home as Abroad in American Travel Writing by Terry Caesar

4. The Impossible Country: A Journey Through the Last Days of Yugoslavia by Brian Hall

5. The Long Hitch Home by Jamie Maslin

6. Blood River: The Terrifying Journey Through The World’s Most Dangerous Country by Tim Butcher

7. The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux

8. Tourists with Typewriters: Critical Reflections on Contemporary Travel Writing by Patrick Holland

9. Wrong About Japan by Peter Carey

10. Wide-Open World: How Volunteering Around the Globe Changed One Family’s Lives Forever by John Marshall

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