"The Glass Castle" by Jeannette Walls

I started a new job about a year ago and found myself among a group of women with very different literary tastes. I was so excited to find that one of them appreciates classics and "old literature" as much as I do - she and I have spent hours talking about books like Dracula and authors like Charles Dickens. Another coworker is slightly obsessed with all things Harry Potter. A literary soul sister for me there! A third coworker has very different literary taste than I do. Her all-time favorite book (according to her) is The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. For the last year, she has told me repeatedly how wonderful it is - sad, but wonderful - and how inspired she is by Walls, her life, and the way she's risen above the trials of her childhood.

I won't deny it. I have a rebellious streak in me and whenever anyone - and I mean anyone - tells me that I have to read a certain novel or I have to watch a certain movie because it is just that good . . . I resist. The independent streak is also a bit of a prideful streak that has, somewhere along the line, convinced me that popular opinion does not necessarily suggest good opinion. So until someone convinces me that their opinion is actually good, I tend to assume otherwise. I trust my coworker's opinion and love her dearly, but I resisted picking up a copy of The Glass Castle for all these months simply because it was so strongly recommended. And maybe also because when I gave this same coworker my copies of The Middle Place and Shattered Silence to read (because of course I have great taste when it comes to literature!), she admitted that The Middle Place didn't really appeal to her. A clear sign that our taste in books is vastly different.

Anyway. I finally finished The Glass Castle this afternoon. And did I enjoy it? Yes and no. Jeannette Walls has a unique story and her childhood was as strange and difficult as any I can imagine experiencing. But I still didn't love the book. Memoirs are one of my favorite genres, but this one dragged a little. It's not a long book, so I still got through it fairly quickly, but I was anxious for it to end. Or maybe just anxious to find out how Walls finally rose above the trials of her youth to become a successful adult. I find it especially interesting that Walls rarely, if ever, expresses genuine love for another human being. It makes me wonder if she really has hardened herself to love and affection or if it is only her writing style that makes her seem a bit cold. I am constantly looking for warmth in the characters I read and in Walls, that warmth is lacking. Regardless, her experiences make me appreciate the warmth and comfort of my own life. Reading about the hardships of others always makes me appreciate my childhood, my family, and the little blessings that I normally take for granted.

I am glad I finally took my friend's suggestion and read this book. If you're thinking of reading it, I won't tell you not to. I'll just tell you that you should really read The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan next. Or something even more light-hearted. Like a Calvin and Hobbes comic book perhaps. I think I have one nearby - that's where I'll be for the next hour or two.


"Stardust" by Neil Gaiman

I wanted a quick read from my list and the movie "Stardust" is one of my all-time-favorites, so I decided that the book should be just the quick literary fix I was looking for.

After finishing the book, I had a long talk with my dad about it. He had recommended that I read The Graveyard Book, also by Neil Gaiman, so I figured he'd probably read Stardust, too. The agreement we came to is that the novel is fun, magical, and enjoyable without question. And . . . that the movie took this short little gem of a novel and expanded on it to make something even better.

I almost wish I had read the book first. Almost. Because the Robert De Niro character in the movie is not found in the book and he is by far my favorite. But maybe if I had read the book first, I wouldn't love Captain Shakespeare as much - who knows. Either way, I did see the movie first, so my expectations about the book were slightly skewed.

If you haven't seen or read either, I have no idea which one to recommend first. They are both wonderful. The movie, if you can believe it, is a bit more innocent. Seems like Hollywood would take the less-than-innocent parts of the book and expand on those, but it actually improved on them in many, many ways. I think both choices are excellent and I'd like to high-five Neil Gaiman for creating a story so imaginative and wonderful that it could be expanded upon! That is not always the case. But Gaiman does it masterfully! I need to finish The Graveyard Book now - before someone makes a movie out of it.