Books Before the Blog: Narnia

It’s time for the ‘A-Z challenge’- a post every day in April (except Sundays) working up through the alphabet. This year I will be writing about books that I read before I started this blog, that were important to me in some way. The vast majority are ones I still have on my bookshelf today, despite a move in house and sometimes many years since I first read it.


N

N is for Narnia
Book: the Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis

What is it about:
So I know that the book isn’t called Narnia, but I needed an ‘N’, and the whole series is good. I will mainly talk about the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe today.
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe is the first of 7 Narnia books written by CS Lewis, but the second chronologically. Two of the books he wrote towards the end take place much earlier in the over riding story arc, and in one letter to a fan, Lewis states that it probably made more sense to read them chronologically than in the order published. However, the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe is a much easier book to get into and enjoy than the Magician’s nephew, so I would still start with the former.

Peter, Susan, Lucy and Edmund are evacuated to the country during the second world war, and go to live in a big manor house. Lucy, the youngest, discovers a magical wardrobe, which acts as a door to a magical kingdom called Narnia, where animals talk, fauns and other mythical creatures live, and the land has been under the witch’s spell and remained in perpetual winter for years.

This is a high fantasy book, with strong Christian themes in it- Aslan the lion represents Jesus, the White witch is Satan etc. The story of their fight and the climax of the fight, is an allegory for our need for redemption and Jesus’ death and resurrection.

That being said, many non religious people still enjoy the Narnia series.

When I first read this book:
This was another book that was read at bedtime to my sister and myself. It also found its way into my life in other ways- there was a movie from I’m guessing the 80s that we had on VHS, and we also acted in a musical version of it.

Why it is important to me:
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe is probably CS Lewis’ most famous book. It is one of those stories that everyone knows at least a little about- it is somewhere in the background of everyone’s childhood.

Who should read it:
Older children or nostalgic adults.

Books Before the Blog: Magician

It’s time for the ‘A-Z challenge’- a post every day in April (except Sundays) working up through the alphabet. This year I will be writing about books that I read before I started this blog, that were important to me in some way. The vast majority are ones I still have on my bookshelf today, despite a move in house and sometimes many years since I first read it.


M

M is for Magician
Book: Magician by Raymond E Feist

What is it about:
Pug, an orphan boy in the land of Midkemia, is apprenticed to a magician. This sets him off on the beginnings of many changes and adventures. He saves the life of a princess, and is taken into the Duke’s court. A rift to another world opens, and he is involved in wars, meets elves and dwarves, gets trapped on the other world, develops his magic…

When I first read this book:
I think, although I am not 100% sure, that I read this book in year 12. I decided to write down the books I read to see how many I read in a year. Of course this acted as a subtle incentive to read more, and I ended up reading 100 books.

Why it is important to me:
This is the first book of the Rift war saga, and I love a good fantasy series. Feist has written many books, and my sister owned a lot of them, so by reading this book, I got myself a whole lot of reading time lined up!

Who should read it:
People who love the fantasy genre, and aren’t afraid of fairly long books.

Books Before the Blog: Too Soon Old, Too late Smart

It’s time for the ‘A-Z challenge’- a post every day in April (except Sundays) working up through the alphabet. This year I will be writing about books that I read before I started this blog, that were important to me in some way. The vast majority are ones I still have on my bookshelf today, despite a move in house and sometimes many years since I first read it.


L

L is for Livingston
Book: Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart by Gordon Livingston

What is it about:
Dr Livingston has put together a collection of writing on 30 things he has learnt during his lifetime as a doctor. The chapter titles include some idea of the gems he is trying to pass on: “if the map doesn’t agree with the ground, the map is wrong”, “any relationship is under the control of the person who care the least”, “the most secure prisons are those we create for ourselves”, “it’s a poor idea to lie to oneself”…

When I first read this book:
About a year or so ago

Why it is important to me:
While perhaps it isn’t a book that is going to radically change the world, there are thoughts and ideas in it that are worthwhile reading. I think that each person who reads it would probably already have worked out a good portion of the life advice, but would likely find one or two new things that resonate.

The idea that resonated with me, that I think is important, is in the chapter “the statute of limitations has expired on most of our childhood traumas”. It is well known that childhood experiences shape our coping strategies, our relationship style, the way we view the world and so on. There is also a tendency to blame the parents for all the ways in which we are dysfunctional. In this chapter, Dr Livingstone says that yes, our childhood made us the adults we are, but that it is our choices now that will shape the adults we will be from here on. Once we are adults, we can choose to let go of unhelpful ideas, beliefs and habits, and learn to do things better. If we have identified ways in which we are dysfunctional, and we are now adults, we can’t blame the parents or the past if we continue in this way rather than changing.

Who should read it:
Easy read, suitable for anyone.

Books Before the Blog: the metamorphosis

It’s time for the ‘A-Z challenge’- a post every day in April (except Sundays) working up through the alphabet. This year I will be writing about books that I read before I started this blog, that were important to me in some way. The vast majority are ones I still have on my bookshelf today, despite a move in house and sometimes many years since I first read it.


K

K is for Kafka
Book: the Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

What is it about:
Gregor Samsa, a travelling salesman who provides for his parents and sister, awakens one day to find he has been transformed into a giant insect. He is, obviously, unable to go to work. His family react with varying levels of disgust and compassion, and have to learn to both make their own money and to look after Gregor. Gradually Gregor starts to accept some of the new habits and urges his insect body gives him, despite his mind remaining human. Gradually the family forget his previous humanity and come to view him with less compassion, and more disgust.

When I first read this book:
A couple years ago, I was given the Meowmorphosis for Christmas- as a well known cat lover, there are always a few cat themed items. I decided to read the original work before I read the spoof. In case anyone was thinking of doing this, I recommend you don’t read them one after the other- the Meowmorphosis is largely a copy of the metamorphosis- about half the book is word for word excepting a few descriptive words changes so as to describe Gregor as a cat not an insect. Reading them one after the other thus becomes very repetitive.

Why it is important to me:
I wouldn’t rank this book as one of my favorites. But it is considered one of the most important works of fiction in the 20th century. There are several themes that can be discussed- alienation, dichotomy of mind and body, change, acceptance, the absurdity of life. To me there were two issues that stood out. Firstly, how Gregor has been trapped by his caring for his family- trapped in a job and a routine he didn’t like. This transformation was a horrible thing to happen, but it freed him from their dependence. And out of necessity they became self sufficient- implying that really he never should have had to be their provider in the first place.
Secondly, the depiction of illness and the reactions of those around us to it. Gregor’s metamorphosis into a despicable, degraded animal could be considered a representation mental illness or chronic disease. People often feel worthless, guilty, disgusting, helpless and hopeless when they have either mental or severe chronic diseases. And the people around them exhibit the same reactions that his family did- there are those who want to help and understand but just can’t like the mother. There are those who commit themselves to acting like a caring, supportive friend or family member, like the sister, but secretly have negative feeling towards the illness and often the person themselves. This usually comes out eventually- unless you truly feel compassionate, understanding and loving to a person, it doesn’t matter how much you wish to be that person for them- you will burn out and hate them eventually. And then there are people like the father who are openly disgusted or irritated by the changes and behaviours they see in the unwell person from the start.

Who should read it:
People who like classics and feeling educated.

Books Before the Blog: Harry Potter

It’s time for the ‘A-Z challenge’- a post every day in April (except Sundays) working up through the alphabet. This year I will be writing about books that I read before I started this blog, that were important to me in some way. The vast majority are ones I still have on my bookshelf today, despite a move in house and sometimes many years since I first read it.


J

J is for JK
Book: Harry Potter by JK Rowling

What is it about:
Do I really need to answer this? Who here hasn’t heard of Harry Potter?

Harry Potter is an 11 year old orphan, who lives with his aunt’s family. They have never been very nice to him, and to make matters worse strange things sometimes happen around him. Then he starts to get mysterious letters, and finds out he is a wizard. Off he goes to Hogwarts school of witchcraft and wizardry, where he has many an adventure, finds out about his past, and discovers he is part of a fight against the most powerful dark wizard of all time.

When I first read this book:
In year 5, our teacher read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone book to us. The first three books were already out, but I hadn’t heard of it before.

Why it is important to me:
My friend T and I loved the book. We borrowed the rest from the library and spent several weeks spending every lunch time reading them together. Then we moved on to acting them out, and creating our own stories. We pretended it was our secret game, even though we knew everyone else knew what we were doing. We spent at least a term doing this. I had been in some plays before, and knew that playing characters different from yourself was the most fun, and was ok to do, whereas T felt a bit funny about playing male characters. So I was all the male characters, and she was all the female characters, and when there were two males (eg Harry and Draco), I would switch to being the evil, or generally the non-Harry, character. I remember one day, one of the other girls wanted to play. She was someone who could at times be a bit odd (and I don’t mean that as an insult- I was definitely thought weird almost all the time), and somehow we ended up acting out a Harry- Ginny scene, which was rather a bit awkward. (At that stage they hadn’t gotten together, but Ginny was obviously adoring and star struck).
I always remember primary school fondly- the people, the games, some good teachers and the freedom to be a kid and explore our interests…

Who should read it:
I think that the Harry Potter franchise has become so big, and well known in pop culture, that probably everyone should read if only to be up to date and know what everyone else is talking about.

The books are written for children initially, but they do get longer and darker. At age 10 I found number 2 & 4 to be a bit scary, but more to the extent that I had to read number 2 in one session to know things turned out ok rather than not being able to read it. Number 5 has a fair amount of teenage angst, and generally the latter ones have less of a happy, magical fun feeling, and more of a serious, we need to do these quests to defeat evil vibe.

Books Before the Blog: Green Monkey Dreams

It’s time for the ‘A-Z challenge’- a post every day in April (except Sundays) working up through the alphabet. This year I will be writing about books that I read before I started this blog, that were important to me in some way. The vast majority are ones I still have on my bookshelf today, despite a move in house and sometimes many years since I first read it.


I

I is for Isabelle
Book: Green Monkey Dreams by Isabelle Carmody

What is it about:
Green Monkey Dreams is a collections of short stories, by Isabelle Carmody. They are on a variety of topics, but all with a bit of fantasy, and probably for the young-mid teenage group.

When I first read this book:
High school.

Why it is important to me:
I really wanted to put a book by Isabelle Carmody in here this month, as she was one of my favourite authors in high school. I have already posted about a couple of my favourites though. When thinking which book to write about, that would best fit my theme, I decided to go with Green Monkey dreams, because although I didn’t enjoy it as much as most of her novels, there were a few of the short stories that stuck with me. Yes, they stuck with me because I found an aspect of them a bit disturbing and didn’t like it, but it did make me think things- about the nature of reality and how we now if our understanding of it is correct.

Who should read it:
those who like young adult fantasy

Books Before the Blog: The Bobbsey Twins

It’s time for the ‘A-Z challenge’- a post every day in April (except Sundays) working up through the alphabet. This year I will be writing about books that I read before I started this blog, that were important to me in some way. The vast majority are ones I still have on my bookshelf today, despite a move in house and sometimes many years since I first read it.


H

H is for Hope
The Bobbsey Twins by Laura Lee Hope

What is it about:
The Bobbsey twins are two sets of fraternal twins in the same family; Nan and Bert the older set, and Freddie and Flossie the younger set. They have wholesome adventures, at home, at school, while on holidays; and sometimes even find a mystery or two to solve. They are from an upper-middle class family in the early 1900s- the first book was written in 1904, and the series continued (written by various authors under the pseudonym of Laura Lee Hope) until 1979. There were 72 books originally. There have also since been some remakes and a new series.

When I first read this book:
When I was little, dad used to read to my sister and I in the evenings after we went to bed. I can’t remember if this happened every night, or just regularly while we were on a particular book or series. The two main books I remember dad reading was the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis and the Bobbsey twins.
In late primary school I started to develop a love for collecting books- especially series. We already had several Bobbsey twins books, all with their thick brown spines. I did add a few to the collection, before discovering that they were not in fact all by the same author, which I felt was cheating a bit. It also got hard to remember which I had and which I didn’t.

Why it is important to me:
It is one of my main memories of dad reading to us.

Looking back at how it played a part in the beginning of my book collecting hobby, as well as the other main collection of Enid Blyton, it strikes me that both are old authors. I suspect that many people these days wouldn’t think to read their child a book from 1904. They would go for the newer, cooler books with prettier pictures and more modern stories. But these books and authors were a part of my reading journey, and I wonder if kids kind of miss out when we dismiss older, less cool books.

Who should read it:
Children
Nostalgic adults

Books Before the Blog: The Faraway Tree

It’s time for the ‘A-Z challenge’- a post every day in April (except Sundays) working up through the alphabet. This year I will be writing about books that I read before I started this blog, that were important to me in some way. The vast majority are ones I still have on my bookshelf today, despite a move in house and sometimes many years since I first read it.


F

F is for Faraway
Book: The Faraway Tree- Enid Blyton

What is it about:
Jo, Bess and Fanny move with their parents to the countryside, and discover a huge tree in the midst of a magic wood. They meet odd magical creatures like a pixie named Silky, Moon-face (who has a huge large round face) and the Sauce-pan man. There are many an adventure to be had.

When I first read this book:
When I was about 8, we moved house, which was rather fitting given the book starts with the children also moving house.

Why it is important to me:
Once I packed up my belongings, I didn’t really do much except ride back and forth in the car, and unpack my own things at the other end. This didn’t take me long, but the whole move took the family 3 days. In those three days I read the entire Faraway Tree Stories book, which is a compendium of three books in the series- the Enchanted Wood, the Magic Faraway Tree and the Folk of the Faraway Tree. That’s 559 pages, and I was very proud of my achievement.

I enjoyed Enid Blyton, and I liked that she had quite a lot of series. There is something about series that draws me more than stand alone books- I always want to collect them. For a little while I watched out for her books in op-shops, but one day I looked up her catalogue, and realised she had written hundreds of books, so even at only a few dollars each from the opshop- it would still take a lot of money (and bookshelf space).

Who should read it:
Children (I am not good at estimating ages that are appropriate but maybe from 6-10)
Those who want to reminisce about childhood books.

Books Before the Blog: Animaelia

It’s time for the ‘A-Z challenge’- a post every day in April (except Sundays) working up through the alphabet. This year I will be writing about books that I read before I started this blog, that were important to me in some way. The vast majority are ones I still have on my bookshelf today, despite a move in house and sometimes many years since I first read it.


GG is for Graham
Book: Animalia by Graham Base

What is it about:
Animalia is a beautifully illustrated picture book, which illustrates an unusual alliteration for an animal starting with each letter of the alphabet, starting with An Armoured Armadillo all the way to Zany Zebra’s Zigzagging in Zinc Zeppelins.

When I first read this book:
Sometime in childhood. We also had another picture book by him called the Eleventh hour, which was a mystery- you were meant to figure out who ate the birthday feast. I remembering having absolutely no idea how I was supposed to go about solving the mystery- and I rather want to find a copy to see if I can work it out now.

Why it is important to me:
The illustrations in these books were lovely, and I used to love spending time just looking at them.

Who should read it:
Children and adults alike, who like art, poems and animals.

Books Before the Blog: Change Your Thinking

It’s time for the ‘A-Z challenge’- a post every day in April (except Sundays) working up through the alphabet. This year I will be writing about books that I read before I started this blog, that were important to me in some way. The vast majority are ones I still have on my bookshelf today, despite a move in house and sometimes many years since I first read it.


E

E is for Edelman
Book: Change Your Thinking by Sarah Edelman

What is it about:
This book outlines basic CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) principles, and then focuses on how they relate to various situations or mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, anger, self-esteem and communication.

When I first read this book:
In early university.

Why it is important to me:
I love psychology- I think it is one of the most underrated things modern man has every created. No matter how good your physical health, how rich, how many friends etc if you have unhelpful thought patterns and coping strategies, you will be unhappy. Psychology also helps you interact with the world and other people in a more positive way, increasing your change of getting those other things I mentioned (friends, stability etc).
I seriously think that everyone should be taught CBT, ACT (acceptance commitment therapy- look up mindfulness training for a simple version), and resilience/positive psychology techniques.
It is also important to me because I found it helpful in improving my own thought patterns when I was feeling down.

Who should read it:
Everyone.
This book is written by a clinical psychologist who is also a university lecturer and trainer. It is accurate and informative, but should be easy enough that most people can read and understand it.