"The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak

I loved this book. I feel like there is hardly anything I can say to describe how wonderful it is while also being incredibly heartwrenching. It is the story is of a young girl in Nazi Germany and how WWII affected her life and the lives of the people she loves.

The interesting thing about this book is that it is written from the perspective of Death. He is the narrator and the observer of everything going on in the lives of the characters. At first this threw me a bit, but it ends up being a very effective way to tell the story. Zusak portrays death as a sympathetic character, rather than a cruel or sadistic one. And by presenting the story from that perspective, you get a more intimate look at what was going on with the people who could not escape Hitler and the Nazi rule.

As my sister told me, don't let the beginning keep you from reading the whole book. It's strange at first (because of the Death perspective) but in the end, you'll appreciate Zusak's choice. The characters are beautiful and complex and you want to cheer them on as they make their small, individual stands against the injustice of Hitler's regime.

I love WWII stories. And I think this one, even though it's fictional, is one of the very best I have ever read!


Books to Read: First One!

The first book I read from my "list of books to read before the end of 2013" was The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. It is very short, only about 70 pages, so technically it would be classified as a novella.

I loved it! The musical stage version is the only version of Jekyll and Hyde that I've ever really been familiar with, so it was fun to read the original text and see where the story came from. I love the musical, but there is so much added to make it exciting and dramatic - extra characters and situations - that are not in the original story.

Does being a Hyde obligate you to read this book? Well . . . I always felt like it did. Any book with your last name in the title should probably be on your list of books to read, right? Well it only took me twenty years, but I finally did it. I think it was worth the wait.

Books to Read

I decided that once I'm done with school in December, I'm going to start reading all the books I've always wanted to read, but never had the time and/or motivation for. So I've made a condensed list: Books I want to read before the end of 2013. I figure that gives me enough time and hopefully I'll be able to add in a few more fun ones along the way.

As I go through, I'll return and update this list, striking out the ones I've finished reading.

The List:
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (5/11/12)
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (9/5/13)
The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. (4/7/13)
Jesus the Christ by James Talmage
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (1/30/14)
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (reading for the second time) (11/3/13)
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain (10/27/13)
The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain (May 2013)
The 5000 Year Leap by Cleon Skousen
The Majesty of God's Law by Cleon Skousen
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (8/15/13)
Dracula by Bram Stoker (6/24/13)
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1/31/13)
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (2/16/13)
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (2/21/13)
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (9/20/13)
Emma by Jane Austen (3/27/13)
The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara (1/14/14)
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (9/9/13)
The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis (10/13/13)
Orson Hyde by Myrtle S. Hyde (my grandma's book!)
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (7/4/13)
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (struck from the list)
The Divine Comedy by Dante
East of Eden by John Steinbeck (12/29/13)
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy (1/27/13)
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (5/19/12)


"Moby Dick" by Herman Melville

Yes, I read "Moby Dick" the entire way through. It was required for my American Literature class this semester and I have to say . . . it was HORRIBLE!

The story itself is wonderful (and very sad) but Melville found it necessary to include every detail about every thing ever mentioned in this book. There are complete chapters on: the whale, the tail of the whale, the eyes of the whale, the rope used on the whale-ships, the harpoon, how the blubber is removed from the whale after it is killed, etc. etc. etc. for a grand total of 135 chapters! Not fun.

But! I do have to say I feel pretty proud of myself for having read it. And now that I'm done reading it, I'm really enjoying being able to talk about it. This book is overflowing with symbolism and Bible imagery. Everything stands for something else and each character is unique and interesting.

I wouldn't recommend reading this one unless you have a lot of time, a lot of patience, and a willingness to learn more about whales and whale-ships than you ever thought possible. Even then . . . it's not the best choice. But being able to say you've read it is pretty cool! Maybe not worth the hours it took to get through, but for an English Lit nerd like me, this is what cool looks like.

"Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley

I remember reading "Frankenstein" in high school and being so bored that I couldn't finish. But reading it again for a college class was a much better experience! I LOVED it! The book is so well-written and the actual story is so much better than the Hollywood version that we automatically think of when we hear about Frankenstein's monster.

Mary Shelley was the daughter of two famous English writers, Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin. She married Percy Shelley, another famous writer, and wrote "Frankenstein" as part of a ghost story contest with Percy and some other big writers of the time. It's amazing to me that THIS is what she came up with. The story is beautiful and tragic and horrifying all at once.

Definitely read it if you haven't already. And I'll leave it up to you to decide who the real monster is: Victor Frankenstein or his creature.


"Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Harriet Beecher Stowe

What can I say about Uncle Tom that hasn't already been said? I don't know why it took me so long to finally read it, but I'm so happy that one of my professors assigned it this semester. I read it in one week (over 500 pages!)

The story of Uncle Tom is both tragic and beautiful. Stowe portrays American slavery realistically, drawing on many factual sources for many of the incidents told throughout the book. But she also uses different characters as symbols of slavery as a whole or as symbols of religion. You can't help but love Uncle Tom so much for his goodness and dignity, and loathe and pity his oppressors for their cruelty and ignorance. Humanity can be just as ugly and oppressive as it can be beautiful and loving. Stowe shows that so vividly in this book. After reading it, I felt as though Tom were a dear friend. Not every writer can create a character so real and beloved!

This book has been described as "the single greatest work of propoganda ever to be published in this country." That is a true statement! If you haven't read "Uncle Tom's Cabin," please don't put it off as long as I did!