wonderlanded: (Cecilia in field)
[personal profile] wonderlanded
Thanks so much to all of you for your help with my Books for Alice project. I took some of your suggestions, and didn't include others, mainly because I'm wary about recommending books of which I've never actually heard. Plus, I have a very low threshold when it comes to sci-fi / fantasy, so I feel rather hypocritical recommending them to others.

So here, by popular request, is My List of Books for Alice.

You’ll already have read some of these; others they’ll probably make you read at school, so try to get to them before dissecting them into themes and symbols ruins them for you; and some of them you’ll look at and say, “Is she mad? I read that when I was nine.” But I don’t want you to miss anything, you see.

Don’t try to read them in order. Never try to read anything in order, unless they’re series of girls’ school-stories. Just pick them up as they appeal to you.

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë. Read it again and again and again as you grow up, because you’ll find something new to love every time. Then read Villette, which is lovely too. But it’s a bit tricky if you don’t speak a bit of French, because you’ll always be flipping to the translation in the back which spoils the narrative a bit.

If you’ve never read any Jane Austen, now is the time to pick up a copy of Pride and Prejudice. I really don’t have enough words to describe how fantastically funny and snarky this book is. My second-favourite Austen is Sense and Sensibility, which is really gorgeous. There’s an excellent BBC miniseries adaptation of P&P, and a lovely Emma Thompson film of S&S, both of which I command you to watch immediately.

A lot of people say they don’t get all the fuss about Charles Dickens, but I think he’s fab. A Christmas Carol is the best one to start with, followed by something like Great Expectations. I loved Nicholas Nickleby as a book to savour; something to have sitting on your nightstand for months at a time, enjoying a little bit at a time. And Our Mutual Friend is fantastic.

Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain. Other people will tell you to read Huckleberry Finn first, but they’re clearly lying. You may not know that I appeared in a musical version of Tom when I was about your age – I played Mary. It was quite possibly the oddest theatrical experience of my life.

If you haven’t read any Agatha Christie, you should do so right away. My mum has a zillion of these. I love The Secret Adversary, and if you like Tommy and Tuppence there are four or so other books about them. Murder on the Orient Express is rightly a classic, so if you’re picking any of them up, these are the two to start with. They’re also fabulously easy to pick up for a few dollars at second-hand bookshops.

If you have a hankering for Shakespeare, start with the lovely ones – A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Much Ado About Nothing, both of which have had gorgeous film versions made. Remember that Shakespeare’s more fun if it’s read out loud; it makes more sense, too. I’d watch the films, and then read the plays. Oh, and don’t forget Macbeth. It’s awesome.

Anything you like by Georgette Heyer. She’s the literary equivalent of comfort food.

The Woman In White, by Wilkie Collins.

War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy. Yeah, I know. It’s big. But pick it up once in a while, won’t you, and just see if you feel like reading it. You’ll know when it feels right. In the meantime, it’s good for developing your biceps. Anna Karenina is also good for both the above purposes.

Dorothy L Sayers is fabulous fun – Lord Peter Wimsey is one of the best creations in fiction.

The Man Who Would Be King and other stories by Rudyard Kipling. It’s also a cracking film.

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald. Most of Fitzerald’s stuff is amazing, but nothing surpasses Gatsby in my book. There’s an excellent essay on Chicklit about Fitzgerald called “All the Sad Young Women”.

Have you read all seven of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books yet? My favourites are The Magician’s Nephew and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; James loved The Horse and His Boy best for years and years.

Katherine, by Anya Seton.

My Brilliant Career, by Miles Franklin. There’s a reason they named an award after her.

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Deserves its status as a modern classic; the one book that no amount of study at school can ever really ruin. Lee never wrote another book, but I don’t think she needed to, either.

Little Women and Good Wives, by Louise May Alcott. Alcott wrote some utter tripe, but these are just beautiful. It gets confusing because they’re published in the USA in a single volume, so they don’t even have a book called Good Wives any more.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton.

The Pursuit of Love, by Nancy Mitford. My favourite book ever. Follow it immediately with Hons and Rebels by Nancy’s sister Jessica Mitford, just to realise that Nancy’s unbelievable characters aren’t unbelievable at all.

The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde – the funniest play ever written. The Portrait of Dorian Gray is also wonderful.

Anything you like by Graham Greene. My favourites are The End of the Affair and The Quiet American, but all his books are wonderful.

Brideshead Revisted by Evelyn Waugh. Once you’ve read that, read Vile Bodies; it’s hilarious.

A Room With a View, by E M Forster, and then Howard’s End.

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.

If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller, by Italo Calvino.

Goodnight Mr Tom, by Michelle Magorian. Don’t forget your tissues.

Picnic at Hanging Rock, by Joan Lindsay. Read it, and then watch Peter Weir’s film – the old version on video is far better than the new director’s cut they have on DVD; I think my mum has my video copy. And then you can read the article I wrote about it.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde and its three sequels are littered with literary in-jokes – they contain so many references to great books and poems that you’ll figure out what you want to read next without even thinking about it.

Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder is an utterly fabulous book all about Western philosophy. Honestly, it’s not nearly as dull as it sounds. I promise.

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Dubliners by James Joyce.

Animal Farm, by George Orwell. Read this, then read 1984. Animal Farm is an allegory of the rise of communism in Russia in the early part of last century. With pigs.

The Sunne in Splendour, by Sharon Kay Penman – a novelisation of the Wars of the Roses, and a very easy (but pretty biased and taking some huge liberties with history) introduction to an incredibly interesting time in English history. If you like it, my mum knows an awful lot about it and has heaps of books on the subject. Just don’t try to argue with her about whether Richard III killed the two princes, okay? Because he didn’t.

You might also enjoy M M Kaye (especially The Far Pavilions) and Mary Stewart, who are also great for interesting historical novels.

The Russia House by John le Carré – other people like the Smiley books best, but this is my favourite, as much because of the beautiful love story as for the game played by a reluctant spy in the waning years of the Soviet Union. I’ve just realised you may never have heard of glasnost. That makes me feel terribly old, so you must read this book if only to make me feel better.

The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter. I haven’t read this one, but my friends Anna and Jess assure me that you’ll love it to pieces and must buy it immediately. You can trust them, they’re sure to be right.

Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta. This has rightly become the modern standard for the Australian coming-of-age novel; you’ll find a little bit of yourself somewhere in Josie.

The Time Quartet by Madeleine l’Engle, starting with A Wrinkle in Time, which you should find reasonably easy to pick up.

Glorious books for girls (of ALL ages) that you must read some time. You’re never too old for school-stories. If you can’t find any of these elsewhere, ask my mother – she has them all at her house.

The Chalet School series by Elinor M Brent-Dyer. I’m sure I’ve told you this before. They’re just about my favourite books ever that don’t feature Judy or Poppet Woolcot. There are 58 books in the series, which stretches over two generations of schoolgirls. The first books are the best, I think -- there are 15 or so that are set in Austria. Then there are a dozen or so set in England, and the rest are in Switzerland. With these, I can only give you the advice the King gave that other Alice: Start at the beginning, and continue until you reach the end, and then stop.”

The Sadler’s Wells books by Lorna Hill. Gorgeous ballet stories set in the real-life Sadler’s Wells Ballet School, which is now the Royal Ballet School in London.

Anything at all by E Nesbit or Frances Hodgson Burnett that you haven’t read yet. The Secret Garden is my favourite, but I have a sneaking suspicion that you might like A Little Princess best.

The Anne books by L M Montgomery, although you may like the Emily books better. Stand-alones I love are Jane of Lantern Hill and A Tangled Web. And don’t miss The Blue Castle, which is magnificent – Montgomery at her grown-up best.

And don’t forget poetry!

Don’t slog your way through entire poets until you find the ones you love; grab an anthology instead. Other Men’s Flowers contains a fairly broad cross-section of “classic” poetry from early days until World War II. There’s a gorgeous little book called For Weddings and a Funeral that was compiled by John Marsden which is just fantastic.

Having said that, my favourite poets include W H Auden, Christina Rossetti, A E Housman, Emily Dickinson, the fantastic Dorothy Parker, and Robert Frost.

You’ll recognise bits and pieces of Shelley, Byron, Keats, Wordsworth and Tennyson. They’re lots of fun, but don’t feel obliged to read all the guff they ever wrote. Some of it’s just awful. (There’s also an awesome episode of Blackadder that features the Romantic poets.)

The war poems of Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen couldn’t be more different, but they’re both worth it.

If you develop a particular love for any of these, then just email me and I’ll tell you about a lot more books you might like yet.

And remember, gorgeous girl, that reading is supposed to be fun. If you’re not enjoying what you’re reading, put the horrid thing away and pick up something light and fluffy and give your mind a spring-cleaning. Just because everyone raves about how brilliant and erudite a book is doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t find it pretentious and unbearable. And just because I love something doesn’t mean I’ll think you’re dreadful if you loathe it; you should hear some of the arguments my best friends and I have over Wuthering Heights, which you’ll notice was not on this list.

Date: 2005-03-07 02:19 am (UTC)
felinitykat: (Default)
From: [personal profile] felinitykat
That's so lovely. I wish I'd had someone like you to recommend books to me when I was a teenager.

Date: 2005-03-07 02:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sangerin.livejournal.com
I think you just described my bookshelves.

Okay, there's a few on that list I haven't read, but so very much that I have read and loved.

And Wuthering Heights, which you’ll notice was not on this list.?
Right there with you.

Date: 2005-03-07 02:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yiskah.livejournal.com
This is a great list, and you are lovely for making it. I think my head would have exploded if I'd read If on a winter's night a traveller at that age, but maybe Alice has a higher tolerance for post-modern narrative...!

I'm with you on Wuthering Heights, too.

Date: 2005-03-07 06:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jeejeen.livejournal.com
Heh. As am I. Which you know already, either instinctively or actually.

Date: 2005-03-07 04:32 am (UTC)
eanja: (Default)
From: [personal profile] eanja
There are a fair number of books on this list I haven't read yet myself, but mean to. And I'm in the group that loathed Wuthering Heights- not based on the writing, but simply because the characters were so unpleasant that I couldn't really fathom why I was supposed to care what happened to them. I don't think it matters too much if it's on the list though- I think most people who like the other Bronte's will give Wuthering Heights a try at some point just to see.

Date: 2005-03-07 06:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jeejeen.livejournal.com
Awwwwwwww! That made me go all fuzzy-wuzzy.

Also! Agatha Christie. I heart the Tommy & Tuppence ones, too. Do you know how many words I learnd from Agatha books when I was young? And I always trump at Scrabble with them, because no one ever knows Britglish! Wheee!

you should hear some of the arguments my best friends and I have over Wuthering Heights, which you’ll notice was not on this list.


Date: 2005-03-07 07:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fox1013.livejournal.com
You are so amazing for putting this together. Seriously, SO much.

I now simultaneously feel culturally illiterate, and the desire to go read more books.

Which is, really, perfect.


Date: 2005-03-07 07:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stellanova.livejournal.com
Ooooh, what a wonderful, wonderful list! Lucky Alice, with all of those fabulous treats in front of her. Although I'm afraid think she should try Wuthering Heights too!

Date: 2005-03-07 04:19 pm (UTC)
idella: (shoes gacked from mushfromnewsies)
From: [personal profile] idella
This looks fabulous. Lucky Alice!


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