Happy Fri-yay readers and welcome to the end of the week! With the holiday season in full swing we hope you remember to take a moment to self pamper and be kind to yourselves this holiday season. This week's Friday fun we are continuing with the Sword & Silk Staff Recs series, a fun little insight to our staff, their reading tastes, and the books that shaped them as readers.
This week we are hearing from our fantastic Content Editor, Jennia Herold D'lima, with five books in her 'save in a fire' pile.
Let's dig in, shall we?
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
As a fairly antisocial, fifteen-year-old goth kid, this book had everything I could have ever wanted. Heathcliff became my bad boy archetype (and explains some of my early dating choices). Tormented by his tragic past, too handsome for his own good, and basically using spite as his main motivator-how could I not fall in love with all of that? My adolescent heart practically exploded.
Not that I’d ever seen a moor in real life at this point, but they soon dominated my daydreams, where I pictured myself and some as yet unidentified soulmate gallivanting across them. I craved a love that was so all-consuming that we would truly feel like two parts of one whole, much like Heathcliff and Catherine describe their feelings for one another. Its influence on my burgeoning romantic notions led me to seek out other books, contemporary and classic alike, with similar themes of eternal (and often catastrophic) love. As an adult, I’ve adopted a healthier, watered-down version of this ideology, though certain quotes can still turn me into an overcome swooning puddle of emotion.
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
So many books promise to be funny, but few truly are. The reader sees the punchline from a mile away, yet the characters are depicted as laughing uproariously at whatever not so witty thing’s just been said or done. When I was a college freshman, a friend passionately convinced me that I MUST read Good Omens. Hesitant, I accepted her copy, not quite sure what to expect but I’d barely finished the first page before I was hooked. Apart from having a novel and fascinating take on a familiar plot (representatives from Heaven and Hell clash during the lead up to the End Times), it showed me how well humor could be conveyed in written form (and led to a brief period of randomly shouting “Ole!” with some of my friends who had also read it).
Having grown up on BBC, heavy on anything Monty Python, I was familiar with typical British humor, but this was my first time seeing it in a book. Good Omens felt clever in a way I’d never encountered before. The heavy usage of footnotes that weren’t for academic purposes, contemporary interpretations of millennia old religious ideology, and a lovable and loyal hellhound all blew my mind. That I can randomly remember bits from this book and still snicker some twenty years later should attest to its pure genius.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
My mom urged me to read The Book Thief during a time in my life when I wasn’t reading YA. I thought it would be too young for me and that storyline would be too simplistic to keep my interest, so I put it off. Like most moms, though, mine knows just what to say to get me to do something, so I caved and picked up the copy she’d given me. You know those moments when you begrudgingly admit to yourself that your mom was right after all? Yeah, I had one of those.
The lyrical writing alone would have sold me, but main character Liesel’s evolving worldviews and inner strength and the unconventional narrator pushed it into five-star territory. To call it haunting wouldn’t begin to do this story justice, but there are simply no words to describe something this stunning and heartbreaking.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
I purchased many of my books as a child from thrift stores and garage sales. My introduction to the romance genre consisted solely of bodice rippers in the stacks of used books being sold for a quarter a piece. The covers all featured bare-chested men and the women in some state of undress, their yards and yards of satin and taffeta somehow barely covering more than a few inches of skin. I was expecting more of the same when I first picked up Outlander for a book club, despite the more subdued cover art. It would soon destroy all my generalizations of the romance genre.
Fierce, intelligent Claire and tough yet vulnerable Jaime became my OTP after my first reading of the series. I don’t usually reread books simply because my to be read stack is staggering, but Outlander is the one I go back to year after year. The settings are raw and filled with all the muck and unpleasantness that were probably truer to real life than the glossed over versions depicted in other historical novels, but Claire and Jamie’s unassailable love story conquers even the direst of circumstances.
The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss
I know I just told all of you that I rarely re-read books, and apart from Outlander and my final selection, that is still true. I grew up in a small town and lived within walking distance of both a river and a large wooded area, so naturally I spent the majority of my time outside (when I wasn’t reading, of course). Leaning more towards adventure than princess stories, I enjoyed playacting much of what I read outdoors. I daily pretended to be my favorite characters, creating additional escapades for them with my own imagination.
For a kid who wanted to go back in time to visit King Arthur’s Round Table and thought she’d survive just as well as Brian from Hatchet, The Swiss Family Robinson was like literary gold (and could be the reason I am even now somewhat obsessed with upcycling). This is the only book I read so many times that the cover fell off and had to be taped back into place (though now the tape has become brittle and lost its stick with age, so a second surgery is in my copy’s near future). The story is as much about family and leaning on others as it is about adapting to a new environment. Their resilience and “aw, shucks” Pollyanna-ish outlook inspired me then and continue to do so now.