Reading Is Bliss
We've all encountered heartbreak before, in many guises and forms, from the searing hot iron pain that is the breakup of a romantic relationship, to the slow surrealism that comes with the death of loved ones, the end of a friendship, betrayals of trust, and everything else in between.
So today's post is appropriately about the literature of heartbreak. More specifically, the books that will help you cope with the emotional turmoil that occurs when life unexpectedly comes crashing down.
I've tried to explain why or how I think they can help beneath each title.
The Five People You Meet In Heaven
I know that Mitch Albom is the Emperor of Cheese, but he does excel at this particular genre of uplifting fiction. This book is good for when you're so, so low and down in the dumps that you can't even muster up the energy for cynicism. It is a book that will make you cry, but you'll want to anyway and this is as good an excuse as any. It will also make a tiny little corner of your heart perk up at the thought that perhaps it is true that nothing is ever forgotten, and that no good deed, no matter how small, goes unnoticed.
The Brief History of the Dead
If you've ever been touched by death, this book will help you make some sense of your grief. It doesn't matter what religious denomination (if any) that you are. I'm largely an atheist, with an agnostic bent, and I took the story to be an allegory about the process of dying. Kevin Brockemeier has an interesting view on the afterlife, but what you'll take away from this is the comforting sense that we are all never truly alone, and that no love is ever in vain.
I've been inspired by this list of the 23 best parts about being a book lover to come up with my own list of the happiest moments of being a reader.
Space and quiet are the two things that all readers cherish. Reading requires solitude (and fortitude, but we'll get to that). But I think most readers would agree with me that being able to carve out pockets of solitude, by tuning out the world and getting lost between the pages of a book, is one of the most cherished things about being a reader. I know that noise makes it difficult to concentrate when I initially start reading something, but once I get absorbed into the story, it's like I've locked myself into a bubble - and nothing else exists but me and my book. Bliss.
Lying down while reading
In bed, on a couch, on the sand, on the grass, underneath blue sky and sunshine. Being able to lie down while still being intellectually stimulated, imaginatively engrossed and creatively blown away is one of the best things about being a reader. How many non-readers can work away on their hobbies while lying down and in a state of relaxation? Some may call it laziness, but I prefer to think of readers as people who like gentle, docile activities on the outside, but are hardboiled adventurers on the inside.
The day after All Hallows, when kids are waking up with high fructose corn syrup hangovers from cheap candy and parents are waking up with lack-of-sleep hangovers from squeezing themselves and their offspring into cheap polyester costumes that are but poor imitations of the real thing.
It would be the perfect time to talk about my favourite spooky stories. Or literary villains. But I've written about them before in previous posts, and shall say no more till there is fresh ground to cover.
I have decided to dedicate today and this post instead, to one of the best characters of all time - Severus Snape. The Harry Potter series began when I was but a wee, wide-eyed high schooler in Doc Martens and perfectly ironed uniform, with quiet rebellion in my heart.
I started out, like many others, intensely disliking Snape. Who was this snarled-browed, dark-eyed, bitter wizard who had such a deep capacity for cruelty and a seemingly bottomless well of hatred for Potter?
But then slowly, a kind of grudging respect for his mulishness crept in. If Snape had seemed somewhat like a caricature at the beginning, J.K Rowling very quickly turned this around and he developed into a unique and intensely individualistic character.
At the beginning of last year, when I first got my Kindle, I went on a bit of a spree and downloaded dozens of free e-books from the Amazon store. There is something magical about the words "free" and "book", especially when strung together. It's like having a special literary Christmas only for bookworms.
If I'm to be frank, I was actually disappointed in the quality of many of the free e-books. Of the newly written e-books, there were a few stand-outs - one an e-book called The Old Man and the Wasteland by Nick Cole that reminded me a little of Stephen King, and another called Zomblog by TW Brown that was the diary of surviving a zombie apocalypse.
The other ones I liked were books that was now out of copyright and could therefore be downloaded for free digitally. I particularly enjoyed The Monkey King, a translated excerpt from an old Chinese fantasy novel, and The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura. Just for the hell of it, I also downloaded some books I had previously read: notably Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, and Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov.
I think if there's a strong case to be made for a modified version of the traditional publishing model to survive, it is that the best quality e-books, in my experience so far, are still the ones that have been professionally edited.
So it's time again for my round-up of which book-to-movie adaptations I'm most looking forward to. After the disappointment that was the Cloud Atlas movie adaptation, I'm keeping my hopes for these very small and quiet. Click on the titles for trailers (if there are any).
Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
Now I admit that there are many, many problems with Orson Scott Card as a person but as a writer, especially for this book? Genius. I read this as an adult and was still impressed by the breadth of his imagination. The twists kept coming, and I can easily see how this would translate well to the big screen. Explosions, kids torturing other kids, evil grownups, military strategy, this is a little like Lord of the Flies, but set in the future in a simulated space station. I'll say no more.
Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
Best psychological thriller of 2012/2013. Nick and Amy has the kind of marriage that you hope yours doesn't become. It's amazing that the novel manages to be both fast-paced and emotionally complex. There's been no set release date for the film yet. I don't think it's even been shot, although the cast has been named, with Rosamund Pike as Amy and Ben Affleck as Nick. Affleck's kind of a teddy bear, so it will be interesting to see how he pulls off playing this role.
The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
I've heard a LOT about this book, which I've yet to read. I am now torn between watching the film first, or reading the novel first. It's meant to be a completely self-indulgent sapfest, which I'm not opposed to at all. Sometimes a girl (or boy) just needs to cry. Thoughts on whether I should read or watch first, people who have read it?
The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
This is a beautiful story, just begging to be made into film. The trailer is exquisitely shot, although it looks a tiny bit Schindler's List-like. On the surface of it, this is a story about Nazi Germany. But it's so much more. It covers all the big themes: friendship, love, loss and more importantly, is an elegy to the power of the written word - both to transform and to destroy.
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