Thursday, March 20, 2014

Books like Chocolate Cake

Pleasure reading.
How many times do we let ourselves read books that really have no bearing on what we are researching, or what we are assigned or what we think we ought to read. How many times do we let ourselves dwell in the literary version of a piece of chocolate cake: a thing in which we partake because it is familiar and good and conjures up the best memories? Well I think we ought to indulge more frequently in the good old favorites. Oscar Wilde said it first:
"If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all."
 So today I'm featuring a list of my favorite comfortable, chocolate-cake-y books. I wonder what your lists look like, and if we share some of the same favorites?

The James Herriot series is one that I always forget about until I slip back into the gentle cadence of the stories and feel how soft and worn they are, like a favorite pair of jeans. I always wonder how I ever left the world of the Yorkshire Dales and the real-life experiences of this beloved veterinarian.

An Old-Fashioned Girl is one of those books cursed with an unfortunately boring name. This book quickly became one of my favorites ever with its witty, improbably romances and gentle but clever heroine. The story is now so well-known to me that I have favorite chapters, and I have found a friend on the road before me in Polly Milton. Don't let the prudish name scare you: this story is probably my favorite book by Louisa May Alcott...though Eight Cousins follows close behind.

I have talked about The Railway Children before, but I don't know that anyone believes me when I say that it's one of the best kids' books ever. I just love E. Nesbit's way of spinning a story of three children in a grown ups' world. Hilarious, poignant, and never grows old. Read it.

Anything Wodehouse makes this list. Again, if you will only take my word for it, there will never be a need for ibuprofen when you have a headache again. Just crack the spine of one of these awesome stories and your cares will soon be gone the way of Aunt Agatha. Hilarious, light-hearted and always worth it, Wodehouse is the panacea for the world's woes.

Similar to the James Herriot books, Jan Karon's Mitford series is also a homely, precious set of books that don't require much brain-power. I don't mean to suggest that you can't relax with a book that does require brain-power. I'm only stating the facts. I like some of the novels better than others, but through the whole series you will find an awesome cast of hilarious, touching, fabulous characters. I think by the end of the series, Jan Karon had invented over seven-hundred characters. Ay yup, Jenny, she's giving you a run for your money!

You know those books that you read so many times as a kid that you can still remember the topography of the pages and where you were while reading them, and even now can still point to definite things inside you that were affected by that book? Anne of Green Gables is this for me. I don't care if it sounds typical. I really don't. I know you'd expect this title to show up on a list of favorite books. But maybe we're just chronological snobs. There is nothing wrong with Anne of Green Gables that should make me exclude it. Maybe it's on so many lists because it is just that good and deserves to be a classic. I love this story and its people and I plan to love it forever an' ever, amen.

This is a book that a friend told me I would enjoy. I was a little skeptical because it didn't sound that interesting and I don't usually like books about orphans. But when I was at the homeschool conference, I found a copy and decided I would try my luck. By the end of the first reading, it had thoroughly endeared itself to me. I don't know what it is about this book that is so wonderful and just is. I don't know what else Jean Webster has written, but she gave the cozy world a gift with Daddy Long-Legs

Winnie-The-Pooh. Oh come on. You knew it was going to happen. I think every swinging one of you knows exactly how I feel about A.A. Milne. this. Please. Think how much money some people spend on Prozac and counselors when what they could be doing is reading about Pooh-Bear and Tigger and Christopher Robin and finding themselves so much less stressed.

Well. These are the first books I thought of. I know there are other old favorites that would also fit this list, but these are the ones that stepped forward and volunteered as tribute. Also, you may have noticed that the majority of these titles are kids books. OH WELL. I happen to like well-written children's literature just as much as I like regular literature so LET us not quibble. Here's to one more day of my North Carolina "vacation". The sun finally came out and heralded spring, and life here is pretty much beautiful. Also, I randomly (not so randomly, actually) bought a hard-cover volume of the letters of P.G. Wodehouse. I am so excited! Book splurge. I never do it.


Lady Bibliophile said...

James Herriot, An Old-Fashioned Girl, Jan Karon--three of my favorite 'chocolate cake' books.

Oh! And Winnie-the-Pooh! We love that dear old bear very much indeed, and all his friends. Even though our family is now mid-teen on up, he is still greatly loved and much talked about. Never too old for A.A. Milne's original Pooh books. :)


Esther Brooksmith (wisdomcreates) said...

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!
I love James Herriot.
I love Louisa May Alcott (not just Old-Fashioned Girl, although I have lost count of how many times I have read and loved that particular one).
I don't think I have read The Railway Children.
I haven't read Wodehouse or Karon, and I am beginning to feel rather the odd-man-out because of it.
Yes to Anne of Green Gables...and honestly, I think the first book was and is still my favorite. Plus I would like to state for the record that the characters in the Megan Follows version of the movie are the real characters. ;)
I liked Daddy-Long-Legs when I read it a long time ago.
And, of course, Milne made it into this list. :) Your predictability in this respect makes you feel rather like a cozy, much-beloved character in a story. Maybe that is one of the appeals of your blog as well. You are as fascinating a character as any you invent. :)

Éowyn said...

P.G. Wodehouse is truly one of the Greatest Authors ever! I know not how many evenings I have spent reading his works distressing my wonderful siblings with my fits of uncontrollable giggles. :)Of all his books, "Thank You Jeeves" would have to be my favorite; how can one get to much of Bertie? "Daddy-Long-Legs" is such a comfortable book. Have you ever seen the silent movie adaption starring Mary Pickford? Even though it does not have sound, it is quite funny and romantic. :)

Lydia said...

I LOVE an old-fashioned girl! One of my all time favorite books ever! And Jeeves...I love him! I haven't read all of them but I find it soooo funny. And i absolutely adore Daddy-long-legs!!!!!!

Unknown said...

I love Winnie the Pooh too! The old-fashioned version and the Disney version. :P

Abbey Stellingwerff said...

Those are some great books! I haven't read The Railway Children in forever, but I love E. Nesbit. She's wonderful.
P.G. Wodehouse is a genius. I just discovered him about a month ago and he, Jeeves, and Bertie, have quickly grown to be favorites. I was wondering if you had read him... you style of writing (at least your blog posts) reminds me of his stories.

Elisabeth Grace Foley said...

I've read all these except for Herriot and Karon, and I greatly approve of your taste. Isn't The Railway Children wonderful? And the entire Anne series is such familiar but well-beloved ground. And Winnie-the-Pooh is an institution, or ought to be. Everybody knows who Pooh is, but if you haven't read Milne's original you're missing out entirely.

Now, I wonder what I'd put on a list like this...?

Rachel Heffington said...

Lady Eowyn, I have not seen the silent film version (or any film version for that matter). I ought to rummage it up sometime.
Abbey, I am glad you seem to detect Wodehouse in me. I think it's unintentional on my part,but just as I tend to pick up vocal accents, I tend to pick up literary accents too, I think.
The rest of you: HURRAH FOR MILNE. I swear, my two goals in life are to spread Jesus and Winnie-the-Pooh. So there.
Elisabeth: you should put your own list up! Jenny did. And where two or more writers do the same thing, there the others will follow! ;)

Unknown said...

You are definitely a "kindred spirit" as Anne would say and of the "Race that knows Joseph" as Miss Cornelia would say!

I love your chocolate cake-y book list. I love Anne of Green Gables, Winnie the Pooh, Daddy Long Legs, Mitford, An Old Fashioned Girl, and P.G. Wodehouse.

I haven't read All Things Bright and Beautiful or The Railway Children, so I might need to check those out right away!

Nice post, Rachel!

Éowyn said...

I just wished add one thing about the B+W "Daddy-Long-Legs".. There is one scene, when she is a little girl that is supposed to be amusing but rather failed. Not indecent or anything just a little bit, ahem. Excepting that however it was quite good. :)