My Favorite Reads – The Forsyte Saga

Alyce from At Home With Books features one of her favorite reads each Thursday and this week my pick is…

The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy.

The Forsyte Saga

From the back cover: The Forsyte Saga is John Galsworthy’s monumental chronicle of the lives of the moneyed Forsytes, a family whose values are constantly at war with its passions. The story of Soames Forsyte’s marriage to the beautiful and rebellious Irene, and its effects upon the whole Forsyte clan, The Forsyte Saga is a brilliant social satire of the acquisitive sensibilities of a comfort-bound class in its final glory. Galsworthy spares none of his characters, revealing their weaknesses and shortcomings as clearly as he does the tenacity and perseverance that define the strongest members of the Forsyte family.

My edition contains all three novels: The Man of Property, In Chancery, and To Let as well as a few interludes including Indian Summer of a Forsyte and Awakening. It’s a monster of a book at 878 pages. It also has a rather large and complicated family tree at the beginning which is still dog-eared for easy reference.

Several years ago, at least 8, maybe 9, PBS aired The Forsyte Saga mini-series and a few of us decided that we should read along with the mini-series. I cheated and pretty much kept reading while everyone else waited for the series to air. I didn’t expect to get sucked in to the lives and loves of this family but something wouldn’t let me stop reading. I remember being thoroughly disappointed when I got to the last page. Even after the marathon that it had been, I wanted more. To this day, I still regard this book as one of my favorites. There was something just so lovely about the writing, the setting, and also very juicy since all the dirty laundry of this prestigious, well-known, rich family was being aired. Oh, the drama.

My Favorite Reads – The Dharma Bums

Alyce from At Home With Books features one of her favorite reads each Thursday and this week my pick is mostly an old memory.

The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac.

The Dharma Bums

Since I can’t find the book on my shelf, I’m using the Amazon summary (Amazon.com): First published in 1958, a year after On the Road had put the Beat generation on the map, The Dharma Bums stands as one of Jack Kerouac’s most powerful, influential, and bestselling novels. The story focuses on two untrammeled young Americans—mountaineer, poet, and Zen Buddhist Japhy Ryder and Ray Smith, a zestful, innocent writer—whose quest for Truth leads them on a heroic odyssey, from marathon parties and poetry jam sessions in San Francisco’s Bohemia to solitude and mountain climbing in the High Sierras to Ray’s sixty-day vigil by himself atop Desolation Peak in Washington State. Primary to this evocative and soulful novel is an honest, exuberant search for an affirmative way of life in the midst of the atomic age. In many ways, The Dharma Bums also presaged the environmental, back-to-the-land, and American Buddhist movements of the 1960s and beyond.

I read this so long ago, I think it may have been my freshman year in college, and was fascinated by it. The idea of walking away from life and living simply was so interesting, but not necessarily appealing to me (city girl :-)), that I remember thinking about this book months after I read it. I know I re-read it several times just wanting to understand what made a person want to run out of their own skin. It’s too bad that I can’t find it on my shelf now because I wonder if I would have a different opinion of it today. Oh, to know if the fascination still holds…

My Favorite Reads – The Book Thief

Alyce from At Home With Books features one of her favorite reads each Thursday and this week my pick is a recent favorite of mine.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief

From the inside flap: Narrated by Death, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young foster girl living outside of Munich in Nazi Germany. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she discovers something she can’t resist — books. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever they are to be found. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, Liesel learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids, as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

There are two things that I love about this book: 1.) it’s about books and, 2.) Death is the narrator. Don’t worry, I’m not giving anything away by telling you that Death narrates this story. He introduces himself on page 1. What it does is lend an amazing quality to this book that’s already set against an incredibly sad backdrop. Liesel is someone you automatically fall in love with. She’s clever, scared, and has seen way too many things for her young age but a good portion of that is due to current circumstances. The story itself is heartbreaking but worth every tear-inducing word on each page of this book. While Death is trying to make sense of the horror strewn landscape of World War II, you learn about his compassion through Liesel’s story. It’s simply a fantastic tale and one you shouldn’t miss.

Got a favorite read to share this week?

My Favorite Reads – Warrior Women: An Archaeologist’s Search for History’s Hidden Heroines

Alyce from At Home With Books features one of her favorite reads each Thursday and this week my pick is about strong women.

Warrior Women: An Archaeologist’s Search for History’s Hidden Heroines by Jeannine Davis-Kimball, Ph.D. With Mona Behan.

Warrior Women

From the back cover: After raising six children and working as a nurse and a cattle rancher, Dr. Jeannine Davis-Kimball became fascinated with the ancient legend of the Amazons. Traveling to remote Kazakhstan, a region halfway between Moscow and Mongolia, she went in search of history’s most powerful women. Now she describes her exciting, dangerous odyssey and what she found on the trail of the real-life female warriors, heroines, and leaders left out of the history books…until now. Pursing the truth from Asia to Ireland, Dr. Davis-Kimball discovered:

  • A troop of riding, sword-wielding women who were real, not a myth
  • The origins of the Irish warrior queens whose sepulchers remain on the fields of Eire.
  • The real identity of the fabulous “Gold Man” of Saka
  • The secret of China’s mysterious, mummified, auburn-haired priestesses

I read this book many years ago but the memory is still very vivid. Let me tell you a tale of a plane ride home from Las Vegas. I was on my way home from a business trip to Las Vegas and this was my flight home read. I had saved it specifically for the trip home because I knew it was going to be good. I settled myself in for the long ride and began reading. Two college boys on the way home from Spring Break took up the seats next to me. The poor guy who lost the battle for the isle grudgingly took the middle seat and ordered a drink as soon as possible from the flight attendant. A short while later he took note of my book and we struck up a conversation about it. He was reading it for a class and thought that it was one of the best books he read in years. I was only a few chapters in but had to agree — it was fascinating. Not only are the artifacts and the ancient cultures she uncovers interesting but the stories about the women are just amazing. She also intersperses the book with short excerpts about her travels which makes it read like an adventure.

I just noticed something odd about my favorites reads posts — all three have been non-fiction picks. I don’t think that I read enough non-fiction but obviously I have in the past. Who would have thought…

Got a favorite read to share this week?

My Favorite Reads – Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Alyce from At Home With Books features one of her favorite reads each Thursday and this week my pick is based on a recent trip.

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

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

From the back cover: Genteel society ladies who compare notes on their husbands’ suicides. A hilariously foul-mouthed black drag queen. A voodoo priestess who works her roots in the graveyard at midnight. A morose inventor who owns a bottle of poison powerful enough to kill everyone in town. A prominent antiques dealer who hangs a Nazi flag from his window to disrupt the shooting of a movie. And a redneck gigolo whose conquests describe him as a walking “streak of sex.”

I spent last weekend in Savannah, GA. Let me re-phrase that — I spent about 48 hours in Savannah, GA last week. It was a work trip and because of other commitments, I didn’t get to spend more time but luckily this wasn’t my first trip. Let me tell you, the city is a charmer. It’s a beautiful place in the spring. This year the flowers are a few weeks behind and everyone seemed to be waiting — some patiently, some not — for the azaleas to bloom. I didn’t have my usual chance to wander the city, explore the squares, and take in the flowers in the gardens but there’s something about Savannah that always makes me happy.

Anyway, my short trip made me think about this book and that’s how I ended up deciding to feature it this week. It’s a non-fiction, true crime travelogue which may sound like a very odd way to describe a book but that’s what it is. The writer goes to Savannah to write about a murder but ends up meeting and getting involved with some of the city’s most peculiar residents. It’s perverse, funny, and addicting.

As a bonus, if you ever visit Savannah, you can tour all the sites where the movie was filmed. (It’s featured on a tour and I know this because the tour was going by while I was walking and this is how I learned this fact without having to take the tour.) I wish I could find my old photos to share but no luck this morning. You’ll just have to visit the city itself, read the book, or watch the movie.