27 July 2012

My TBRR Shelf

(originally posted on The BIG Blog as a guest post)

Everyone has one – a TBR shelf on the bookcase. Well, if you’re as obsessed as some of us are about your reading, you do. It’s the shelf that you have all those books that are “To Be Read”, that you’ve bought at book sales or book store ventures. You put them there for safe keeping and when you’re ready for that next read, you start plucking for the literary enjoyment.

Well, I have a TBRR shelf – books that I love so much, they fall on the list of “To Be Re-Read” and re-enjoyed. The stories that touched my soul on such an visceral level that the stories made me laugh and cry and cheer and fear…and yearn to fall in love with them over and over. Modern, classical; it makes no never mind to me. If I loved it that much, at some point, I’ll re-read it.

My list isn’t all that long but quite a few of these are series books; they just count as one because I will not touch another book until I’ve finished the series.

The Stand by Stephen King: This book was and is one of his best. The megadrama of “end of the world” annihilation mixed with incredible characters and nail biting “good vs. evil” explorations. It was so nice to find someone who understood my views of religion at large and the story drew me into it so deeply, I felt as if I were living it along with the characters. King has the ability to write a classic that doesn’t put plot before character or character before plot. It’s the perfect balance and King was waxing quite philosophical in this one. It’s a brilliant piece and I re-read it annually.

The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon: My mother was actually the one looking into this series, suggested by her quilting group. I remember going with her to ask about them. The salesperson waxed poetic on the “romance novels” and I immediately tuned out, not keen on them at that point. Until the woman followed it up with “time travel” and “Scotland,” and I tuned back in. Mom turned to me at that point and said, “That sounds like something you’d love.” Truer words have never been spoken. Diana Gabaldon is a born storyteller, one of the best. There is romance but it’s only part of the historical drama that plays out over these books. 18th Century Highlander Jamie Fraser (a 23 year old virgin with a wicked sense of humor when we meet him) and his 20th Century time traveling wife, Claire (who’s already married in the 20th century but forced to wed Jamie for reasons that you find out when you read the book), fight through his outlaw/traitor status to the battle of Culloden Moor to being separated by time again to being reunited again to…well, so much goes on in these books that I get caught up in the reading. I fall in love with Jamie (who doesn’t) and admire Claire. These books are so well written that it feels as if I’m standing on the highlands or traipsing through the North Carolina back country with them. These people are my friends and their adventures leave me spellbound. Another annual re-read.

The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer: I can’t even begin to explain how these books touched me other than that I was an outcast in high school and my friends – if you can call them that – were the types that didn’t fit in with the “acceptable” crowd. Bella is so much me when I was in school that I really can identify with that “mature before her age/hanging with the weird kids/physically clumsy but verbally adept” character. That her friends and boyfriend/husband are vampires and werewolves only enhances that not normal but deeply interesting characteristics of them. The themes of social graces and cliques and “normal” reflect so much of my youth that this story grabbed me by the heartstrings and took me along for the ride. And when I finish the books, I have to put them away somewhere or I’d start reading again. No, they’re not the height of literature, but they are good reads. Movies, notwithstanding.

The Fifty Shades Series by E. L. James: Okay, I trashed the first book in my original review and got guilt tripped into reading the other books. But I admitted to the Guilt-Tripper that she was absolutely right about them. The books needed a good editor but damn they are fine. And as soon as I had that moment of clarity about Christian Grey – and that last chapter in Fifty Shades of Grey – I was hooked. Once the spit hits the spam, so to speak, at the end of book one, things happen at such a clip that it’s like getting caught up in a wind tunnel and you’re just a piece of paper. I can’t put it down, I can’t not read, I can’t let go, and I can’t separate from the books. I’m in there. I’m part of it. It’s a weekend’s read that has a deeper story line than many give it credit for and a final ending/payout that is so satisfying, I want more. Will there be more? Only time will tell. But in the meantime, I can read and read and read…annually. 

And last but not least, The Kent Family Chronicles by John Jakes: The eight book series starts with a young Phillipe Charbaneau, The Bastard  child of an English nobleman, who is thrust into a battle between his mother and the duke’s wife and legitimate son. The Bastard takes Phillipe from France to England to the shores of the new world in America, where he becomes Phillip Kent and part of the revolution. Phillip meets the Founding Fathers of the soon to be new country and when the war is over, starts his own dynasty of the Kent Publishing business. But the series only begins with Phillip – subsequent books follow the Kent family and each new book is about another member. The series spans from 1776 to the early 1900s. Jakes ability to weave history and fiction is amazing; everything flows together and the plots are tight and well written. I fell in love with these books after the first book was made into a mini-series and I read them whenever I can. 

When I don’t have anything to read. When I feel the need to revisit an “old friend”. Or when I just miss some great story telling. I keep my re-reads nearby and I go visit them at least once a year. Oh, there are other books I’ve read a few times, but not like these. These are my annual reads, my sanity in an insane world. And good story telling is always a plus.

Do you have a TBRR shelf? What do you have on yours?


Ciara said...

I've read The Stand, Twilight, and I'm about to read The Outlander series.

JVRC said...

I'm just finishing up my re-read of the Outlander series. I'm about to start up on my re-read of the Twilight series. So much better than the movies!