What I’m Thankful For: Stories of Sisterhood and Friendship

November is a good time to remember what we are thankful for, and reflect on what is good and true in our lives.  This month helps our mindset be put into a ‘thanks’ and ‘giving’ kind of mood.  While it may be easy to reflect in our minds and moods, it’s not always easy to put down on paper.

Me and My Sister Stephanie early 80’s

I have been lucky enough to be blessed with an incredible little sister who is five years younger than me.  I was the typical bossy older sister and I never realized just how much she looked up to me until I was an adult.  I see it now in my two nephews the sheer admiration a younger sibling has for his or her older sister or brother.  I wish I knew as a child just how much I influenced her life.  She has certainly influenced mine probably more than she ever realized too.  My baby sister has grown up into a woman who I am so proud of, I could probably never effectively express her impact in my life. She is unbelievably strong, smart, generous and thoughtful, beautiful inside and out, kind and loving.  She is a mother, a daughter, a wife, and she will always be my first and best friend.  We laugh, argue, talk as any sisters would, perhaps more than others.

I never thought I needed other ‘sisters’ because well, I already had one.

I never thought a network of hundreds and thousands of Sigma Kappas could one day become my sisters.  Yet, they did.  Sigma Kappa is one part of my life that I am always thankful for, and hope I can always give back to.

To us women who call ourselves Sigma Kappas, November 9, 1874 is a very special date because it’s the founding of our beloved sorority.  The more I learn about our history and the time period in which these five brave and intelligent women met, I am amazed at their fortitude to form a sorority.   Women in 1874 were not seen as equals in the eyes of men, they could not vote or own property, and the women’s rights movement was just beginning.  Perhaps that movement was some motivation for starting an organization in which these five young ladies were not judged based on what others believed they could or could not do.  In fact, these five women praised and loved each other for their unique talents and gifts of lifelong friendship.

Over the years during my involvement with Sigma Kappa, I have met women across the country who I never would have met otherwise. I call these smart, funny, lovely women my sorority sisters even though I didn’t go to college with them.  It’s truly remarkable to have so many strong minds to engage with, and I’ve loved every minute of it!   As a librarian, I try to break the stereotypes of the crabby old lady with bun in her hair, glasses hanging on her chain and really ugly shoes.  As a self-proclaimed sorority girl, I hope I’ve broken the negative stereotypes by the work I do, along with the good and true person I strive to be every day.   I hope in 100 years when our blog posts are archived into databases, and other young Sigma Kappa women research us to find out what life was life in 2012, that I and my sorority sisters can be examples of voices strong and hearts united.

It’s not too difficult in today’s book world to find stories of sisterhood and friendship.  There are even titles and series such as, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares or Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells, with the word ‘sisterhood’ right in it.  These are great reads to try if you haven’t discovered them.  Yet, I wanted to dig a little deeper and find suggestions that also dug a little deeper into this idea of sisterhood and friendship.  Let me know if you’ve read any or have other ideas in the comments.  Enjoy and Happy Founder’s Day!

The Seven Sisters by Margaret Drabble
Perhaps a bit different in terms of the use of sisterhood or friendship, this is the story of Candida Wilton who starts over late in life.  She begins by writing in a diary about her new life in London, and eventually takes a trip to Italy with her new friends.  This is a uniquely written novel with some twists and turns in the ending.  I haven’t read this one but it’s made my to-read list.  Check it out on Google Books.

Dinner with Anna Karenina by Gloria Goldreich
I will admit, I chose this because it’s about a book club who reads Anna Karenina.  However, it’s also the story of six very different women brought together by their love of a beautiful novel.  It’s the story of friendship, literature and secrets and betrayals.  I haven’t read this but it’s on my to-read list now!  Find out more at Google Books.

Women of the Silk by Gail Tsukiyama
A novel about the women in communist China of 1926.  Rural families were often forced to sell or abandon their children so they could simply survive.  Pei Chung is a young woman whose family does just that as she then find her new life in a silk factory.  Yet, she forms friendships and a type of sisterhood with the women who work there.  This book spans decades as Pei grows up from a young child into an adult.  This book also has a sequel with equal positive response and praise called The Language of Threads.  Find Women of Silk here on Google Books.  The premise reminds me of Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden which also has a sense of sisterhood and friendship among the geisha women.  Another good read worth pursuing.

Sorority Sisters by Claudia Welch
This is a book in which some readers have described as a light read, yet I chose it for my list because it puts that typical sorority girl into a more positive light.  It does have some stereotypes, but the overall theme is everlasting friendship.   This is a book about four women in 1975 who become friends during their new member education period and how they build bonds that last after graduation.  Read more at Google Books.

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Spooky, Spooky, Spooky…

I absolutely love the fall season, and where I live, the trees are changing colors and the air is crisp and cool.  I recently visited my favorite apple orchard and winery and it was such a sweet and simple pleasure!  I am also one of those adults who likes to still dress up in a costume, and this year, I’m going to be a fairy at the library Halloween party.  I was never one for ugly costumes.  I am also going to attempt reading two ‘scary’ classics, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (which is one of my all-time favorite books) and Dracula by Bram Stoker, which I’ve never read.  If I’m feeling ambitious, I may try Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde whose premise has always scared me.  What are your favorite autumn or Halloween traditions or tales?

In my scariest witch cackle, I bring you a booklist of scary, thrilling and spoooooky novels to enjoy for the Halloween season.  I named this post after one of my favorite Halloween picture books for younger kids, appropriately called, Spooky Spooky Spooky! by Cathy MacLennan.   The simple rhyming story of velvety bats, howling cats and slithery slugs brings laughter and smiles every time I read this to a child.  Perhaps try discovering your childlike nature and take a few minutes at the bookstore or library to read a Halloween picture book.  I find many are creative stories that will bring the wonder of the changing autumn season back to your eyes.  You could even try an R.L. Stine Goosebumps or Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz.  These will definitely have you remembering how much fun it was to tell a spooky story at a sleepover or while driving in the car at night, without losing sleep because you are so ‘freaked out’.   I also discovered this website called “Scary for Kids”  which has scary stories, videos, games, music and much more, and I found the site to  be entertaining without being gruesome or too adult.

For those who are looking for a truly creepy novel to get you in the mood for Halloween, then try one of these.  Some are recommendations from friends thanks to another informal poll.  Others are simply books that I, as a librarian, would suggest to someone interested in a creepy read.   I would love to hear your favorite scary stories and tales in the comments below!

Tailypo;  Now here is a folktale I have never heard about and one that would scare anyone!  This version is retold by Jan Wahl and illustrated by Wil Clay.   I was researching the history of this tale, and it appears to originate as an African-American story typically told in the Appalachias.  No one ever knows what the Tailypo is, but this large animal haunts the man who tried to hunt him.  If this folktale isn’t for you, check out American Folklore online, it’s a huge resource for all kinds of scary stories.

The Shining by Stephen King;  I think we can all agree that Stephen King is the master of thrills and chills.  The Shining is undoubtedly one of his best.  This is the story of Jack Torrence as he starts his new job in the Overlook Hotel, looking for a fresh start in his life.  Winter begins to set in, and so does the horror.  Other popular tales from Stephen King are Carrie, Misery, It, and Pet Cemetery.  Check out Stephen King’s website where you can get to know him as a writer and learn more about his books.

Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris; This classic is the story of FBI agent Clarice Starling as she interviews the twisted mind of Dr. Hannibal Lector, a former psychiatrist who delves deep into the corners of Starling’s mind.   This is a series, and some say the sequels are not as good as this first one.  This book was also made into a blockbuster movie.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski;  According to Library Journal’s review, this is the story of a man named Johnny Truant who comes into possession of a strange manuscript which gains possession of his very soul. The manuscript is a complex commentary on a documentary film (The Navidson Record) about a house that defies all the laws of physics.   It is described as a horror novel, but also characterized as a psychological thriller, a quest, a literary hoax, a dark comedy, and a work of cultural criticism.

Nightmares:  Poems to Trouble Your Sleep by Jack Prelutsky;  Those of us who know Prelutsky know his poetry for being funny and witty.  His Nightmares poetry is perfect for sharing with older kids or reading alone as an adult, offering just enough “spooky” to delight on a Halloween night.   It also includes illustrations from Caldecott winning artist Arnold Lobel, so it’s a treat for your eyes too.

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice;  While most everyone now associates vampires with the Twilight series, Anne Rice was the original master.  Some of you may have seen this movie adaptation with Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise.  Now you need to read the book about the makings of a good-old-fashioned vampire, as he tells his story to a young reporter.  The Washington Post called the book, thrilling, original, sometimes horrible, sometimes beautiful and always unforgettable.

The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman;  Now a television series, the story started as a graphic novel!  In just a few short months, the world has reached the apocalypse and zombies have taken over.  The main character is Rick Grimes who befriends a group of survivors as they try to find their loved ones, and essentially figure out what to do in their new atmosphere.   If you haven’t read graphic novels before, give this one a try.  The artwork is muted colors, along with blacks and whites, giving it a more eerie feeling as you read.

Gaining Stories Through Loss

This month’s topic of Alzheimer’s, I admit was a little perplexing to me in the theme of books and reading.  The topic holds a special place in my heart, yet how I could relate it to my column was challenging.   I hope my post delivers some inspiration to your reading needs.

As a college undergrad and a member of Sigma Kappa Sorority, I admit, I did not realize the depth, nor fully understand the serious nature of Alzheimer’s disease.  While I participated in the Memory Walk, it still didn’t sink in as to why we, as a sorority,  were so involved.

As an adult, and a granddaughter, I now understand the importance of making such a disease known and its needs to be researched.  The sheer sadness of having a grandparent suffer with dementia is one I didn’t think I would experience.  Forgetfulness and losing your memory seems common, and mostly normal, in the elderly.  Yet, when my beloved PaPa, developed dimentia in his later elder years, it broke my heart.  He still had his charm with the ladies, his goofy laugh and smile, and the best WWII stories in the world, but this strong, tough, handsome, gentle and intelligent man started to forget more than normal.   It was then I realized just how serious Alzheimer’s and dementia can be to a person, and to the whole family.

How to relate this personal experience to reading?  Well, it certainly has peaked my interest in the topic.  I expect a large amount of nonfiction to be published about the disease and didn’t want to cover that aspect.  One idea I have is that Alzheimer’s is the loss and gaining of stories; family stories, individual histories, personal accolades.  While it can be easily understood that the disease is a form of loss, the gaining of stories is one more difficult to articulate.  We as family members lose a part of our beloved when they have Alzheimer’s, yet we also gain compassion for the sick and respect for the caregivers.  We realize the fragility of the mind.  We laugh at the silly new things our family member says or does because without a sense of humor, we will not be able to get past the sadness.  We gain new stories, accomplishments and histories to share.

I was surprised in doing my research for this post at the vast numbers and wide range of fiction stories available concerning Alzheimer’s patients as characters or stories about how the disease affects a family or person.  In an attempt to see how we can gain stories rather than lose them, I would like to share some thought provoking novels concerning the topic.

One book I picked up on a whim because it was a ‘bookmarked’ selection at Target, is called Still Alice by Lisa Genova.  It became a book I read in one night because I couldn’t put it down.  It became a book I suggest to everyone who enjoys reading about character-driven stories that will give you a new respect for your mind and brain.   Intelligent writing told in a brilliant perspective from that of the woman suffering from Alzheimer’s, makes this a must-read, especially if you are interested in the elderly or Alzheimer’s care.

I haven’t read these others, but they have made my to-read list.  Check them out and let me know if you’ve read any of them or how you like/dislike them.  The summaries are from NovelList Plus and I’ve included links to Google Books so you can find out more about these books and authors.

The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block
Resigned to memories of the family he has lost, seventy-year-old recluse Abel Haggard spends his life alone on the family farm while, hundreds of miles away, fifteen-year-old Seth Waller seeks to uncover his mother’s genetic history after a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s.

The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean
In a novel that moves back and forth between the Soviet Union during World War II and modern-day America, Marina, an elderly Russian woman, recalls vivid images of her youth during the height of the siege of Leningrad.

Memory Wall:  Stories by Anthony Doerr
A collection of short stories, set on four continents, describing how memory affects different people.

Keeper: One House, Three Generations, and a Journey into Alzheimer‘s by Andrea Gillies
‘Keeper’ is a very humane and honest exploration of living with Alzheimer’s, giving an illuminating account of the disease itself. Gillies tells about the time she and her family spent living with someone with dementia, in a big Victorian house in the far, far north of Scotland.

The Good Husband by Gail Godwin
The brilliant, charismatic Magda Danvers had once taken the academic world by storm with her controversial book, “The Book of Hell,” and now, gravely ill, she still influences and transforms the lives of those around her.

The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey
With his memories slowly eroding from Alzheimer’s, sixty-five-year-old Jake Jameson struggles to preserve his sense of identity by building stories about his feelings and the events of his life, unaware that even his clearest recollections may not be true.

Tangles by Sarah Leavitt
Recounts in graphic novel format how the author’s well-educated, intellectual mother, Mildred, known as Midge, began showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease at fifty-two, and follows the effects of the disease on the woman and her family.

Choke by Chuck Palahniuk
Medical school dropout Victor Mancini comes up with a complicated but ingenious scam to pay for his mother’s elder care, cruises sex addiction groups for action, and visits his zany mother, whose Alzheimer’s disease hides the bizarre truth about his parentage.
What is your story?  Share yours in the comments or message me.

School Supplies and Summer Reading

The crisp opening and binding crack of a never before read book reminds me of biting into a juicy piece of fruit. It’s absolutely delicious.  It is why I haven’t transitioned all my reading to an E-Reader.  I would miss that smell of the paper too much.   I have to say, I was a complete booknerd and had the same feeling about a school textbook…but only when I received the brand new textbook, because it had so much possibility!  No one else had smudged their dirty fingers on the pages or written their name on the inside cover. It was all mine, even if I didn’t really enjoy the content inside.

There is a great quote from one of my favorite movies, “You’ve Got Mail” in which Tom Hanks is writing an email to his then unknown love, Meg Ryan about the start of fall in New York City.  He says, “Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.”  Yes!  I love school supplies!  I want to buy that newly sharpened bouquet of pencils every time the end of summer comes around.  It reminds me of those brand new books I can’t wait to read.  It also reminds me of the books I didn’t get around to reading that were on the summer reading list.

Working in youth services at a public library means there are tons of requests for books on the summer reading list.  I love to scour these different lists to check off what I’ve read and to also see what unusual titles make the lists.  The best this year I found was The Crucible by Arthur Miller on a junior high/middle school list.  Yes, you heard right, a college level book usually found in American Literature classes Freshman year was found on a middle school list.  I have a BA degree in English and I didn’t read Arthur Miller until college.  I was very surprised.

I also thought it would be fun to take an informal poll amongst friends to find out what books they enjoyed most that were on their summer reading lists.  Have you read all of these books?  Did any of these books stick with you even today as an adult? Perhaps there was one you dredged through but ended up appreciating later on?

I have two books that make my all-time favorites and strangely, I was assigned to read them sophomore year in high school English;  The Catcher in the Rye and The Old Man and the Sea.  I love the wit and dry humor of The Catcher in the Rye and I think Salinger is one of the great American authors in modern times.  It’s definitely a character driven novel, and I love how he captures this young boy’s whining, his torments, and his anguish.  The Old Man and the Sea introduced me to the greatness of Hemingway.  Such a simple tale told in such carefully crafted simple prose, makes this a truly remarkable book.  Interestingly, both are male authors telling the story of one male figure, which is not a typical story I would be able to relate to.  However, when you look deeper at the symbolism and depth of human nature written about, it makes sense why I would love these books.

I did some digging to find the most assigned summer reading books and came up with so many choices, there could have been a list of 100 books.  I thought this was an interesting list from the Illinois State Library’s Read for a Lifetime program which appears to cover mostly contemporary literature.  Although now a bit old, this list from the Washington Post is a great mix of classics and contemporary authors.

Here are my top choices for summer reading catch-up ideas (aside from Salinger and Hemingway, which yes, you MUST read!).  I also included a list of the books that came about from the poll I took.  What would be your top books?

If you must give someone Charles Dickens, then give them A Tale of Two Cities.  War, love, Paris, nothing but the essentials of a great novel. One of my favorites of all time and a great book for British Lit lovers. Learn more about Dickens at Victorian Web.  Another fantastic family and semi-suedo-historical saga is East of Eden by John Steinbeck which has great scandal and family squabbles.  If I ever make it to Monterey Bay area, I will definitely put the National Steinbeck Center on my tour.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, 1984 by George Orwell, or Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.  You can also try The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins  or Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Even if you are not a science fiction/fantasy fan, read one of these fantastic books and you will be transformed. They will make you think more about the world in which we live and how we as humans react and interact.  Check out the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s of America website for even more ideas.

Kate Chopin’s The Awakening or Virginia Wolf’s To the Lighthouse will provide a beautiful read into the lives of women in literature.  Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar is another great insight into women’s literature.  While these are not necessarily happy-ending books, they will definitely have you think about and explore how emotions and struggles were once experiences and shared.  For more interesting women writers and topics try the National Archives.

Read a memoir or biography, even if it’s fiction.  A book like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer is one example of a fictional story told from the perspective of a young boy who lost his father on September 11th.  Even though it’s not true, you are instantly in this boy’s world.  You realize his story could be anyone’s in search of understanding an influential person in life.  Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos is a great read along with The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, all three a bit of coming of age combined with overcoming struggles stories with a bit of a fictional twist thrown in there. All are highly engrossing and entertaining.  For more biographies and memories, try this page on the Barnes and Noble website.

Other popular books that made the “Favorite High School Required Reading” from my informal pool were:

  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
  • The Scarlett Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne
  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Lee Harper
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • The Jungle by John Updike

I hope these ideas have brought back some great reading memories or inspired a new interest in your reading tastes!  If you have more ideas, I would love to hear them in the comments.

Bodacious Beach Reads: What I’m Reading This Summer

What’s on your beach read list this summer?

Here in northern Illinois, it’s been a bit difficult to think of diving into a juicy beach book because the weather has been less than cooperative and random. So to beat the daily up and down weather patterns, I’ve been searching for new books to fill my days with dramatic, romantic, saga-filled, luscious reads! Eventually, the weather will catch up, and I can bring these to the beach and sit by the lake to enjoy. Below are five books that are in my ‘to-read’ pile that I will be reading this summer.

I prefer to tackle a really big book, and love to delve into a saga or historical fiction novel, so I will be attempting The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory. I’m a huge fan of The Tudors and have always had a soft spot for anything about the British monarchy, so this is a book I’m looking forward to reading. I’m also a follower of the Game of Thrones series on HBO, so I will be reading the first in George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series, A Song of Fire and Ice. This will also feed my need for kings and queens, but in a completely fictional, medieval and fantastical manner.

Every woman I know has been bringing the racy book Fifty Shades of Grey up in conversation. Written by EL James, the erotic romance between characters Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey will, according to the author’s website, “obsess you, posses you and stay with you forever.” I’ve been warned this book is not for readers who don’t like spicy romances. I haven’t been able to get my hands on a copy because it’s sold out everywhere and the hold list at the library is about 25 people deep! Now I must read this to find out what all the hoopla is about. Have you read it? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Fans of Sex and the City will find a book by Candace Bushnell fun to read. Her stories about strong New York women struggling to find their way among careers, friends and men are great to settle into a lounge chair and read.  Her style of writing is witty, journalistic and entertaining.  Be sure to check out her Carrie Diaries series for a twist on your favorite SATC character.

If you like drama, courtroom thrillers or family dysfunction reminiscent of a Lifetime TV movie, then check out Defending Jacob by William Landay.  This book is the story about a well-respected, successful district attorney who must prosecute his 14-year-old son accused of murder. Character-driven and full of twisting and mysterious family secrets, this is a suspenseful novel sure to please.

What kind of summer reading do you enjoy? Are you a romance fan?  Mystery?  Women’s fiction?  Do you prefer to catch up on your classics like Jane Austen?  I would love to hear more about what is on your summer reading list below in the comments, or email me!

Sharing the Love of Reading

What does it mean to read from the heart? We are bombarded with the written word every day. We are thrown little tickers at the bottom of newscasts, huge advertisements on billboards as we commute to work, and then in our email which we get on every device possible. Sometimes all that reading overkill can dampen our spirits for reading for enjoyment, pleasure, escape, knowledge.

There are so many types of readers:

  • Casual readers who may not always have the time, and so they pick up the one great book of the year and love every bit of it.
  • There are those readers who don’t really enjoy books but prefer magazines, internet blogs or newspapers. This doesn’t mean they are not readers because they are not reading a traditionally bound book.
  • Some people simply enjoy the artistry and visual format of graphic novels or comics and stick by them through thick and thin! Are these novels? Are these comics? Such a debate in the literary world.
  • Another debate? Ereaders. Are these readers still reading books even if it’s on an Ereader? Of course! It’s just a different format.
  • Then there are those people like me who love to read, every day, will swallow up the written word and will read everything.

No matter what kind of reader you are, or what type of material you identify with the best, make sure you read. Even if you think you don’t have time to read a book, the amount of reading you do throughout your day is worthwhile.  You’ll find that even taking in little bits and pieces of reading every day will help you find a new outlet in the world to strike up a conversation or simply feel like you are involved in the world. I keep a small notebook where I write a note of something I want to visit later when I have time.  This simple technique can help you be a passionate reader again.

Try to remember how you felt when you were learning how to read as a child, was it a good experience? Hopefully, you were able to appreciate how it felt to read your first chapter book and the thrill to read the next one. If it wasn’t a good experience, wipe that slate clean!! Start over!  Even if you struggled with reading in school and gave up on the magic of books, you can get it back.  Try starting with a shorter book, a young adult novel, or a graphic novel and you just might surprise yourself.

Is there a child in your life whom you could share the love of reading and books?   I guarantee you it will be a joy you’ll want to experience over and over.   It might even make you appreciate picture books as an adult!

Since it’s February, and our theme is LOVE, I though I would share my love of reading with you, most particularly, my love of reading complete escapism books.  They are quick, easy, and allow me to forget the nonsense of the day.  My guilty pleasure is Nicholas Sparks books.  They are formulaic, often tragic or dramatic, but they always leave me feeling that I can believe in love and good in the world.  My other favorite author is Sophie Kinsella who wrote the Shopaholic series.  Her humor is witty and fun and her books always put a smile on my face.

Don’t let the stress of your day dampen your spirits for reading.  It’s the perfect destresser for even a 5 minute alone time moment!

Do you have any romance novels you want to share?  Any books you find to be complete enjoyment?  Any tips on how to rediscover your love of reading?  I’d love to hear them them in the comments or email me!

In The Beginning…Great First Lines

TheOnce Upon a time first line of a fantastic book.  It can be simple, just a few words that grab you into a story such as, “There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.” Don’t you want to continue reading to find out whose hand this is in the darkness and why is the hand holding a knife?  I know I do.  Neil Gaiman continues this suspenseful type of storytelling throughout his 2009 Newberry Award winning book, The Graveyard Book.   Definitely a mysterious, suspenseful book adults can enjoy as much as young adults.

Or that first line, can be complex, full of description and adjectives that provide such clear imagery in your mind, you want to keep reading because you are so engrossed in the story already.  For instance, this first line from master classic storyteller, J. R. R. Tolkien writes in the first line of The Hobbit, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort,” he provides us with such a description we can smell and feel the dirt, the wet mud, the stench and we want to find out:  who is this Hobbit?

One of my most personal favorites is from the classic children’s picture book, Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans in which he writes, “In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines,” serving as a charming beginning to this most beloved tale.  What could be more enchanting than an old house in Paris covered in vines? Read it again as an adult and I know you’ll love the magic created.

Woman Reading Book

Woman Reading in a Study, by Mary Ferris Kelly

Two books I’ve enjoyed and were completely surprised by, from the very first line include:

A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan was so unexpected, it quickly became a favorite book of mine.  A fast paced, unique story with interesting characters helped in keeping this book top on my list. I found this book inventive, quirky and creative. The book is stylistic and just so interesting to read visually and through its language.  Try it!

Still Alice by Lisa Genova was again, another surprisingly lovely book. A unique narrator gives us the first hand glimpse into a woman who struggles from Alzheimer’s at an early age.  It is a spectacular read.

When you take the time to choose a book to read this year, try selecting from just reading the first line.  Learn what type of stories you enjoy reading, from what first lines keep you engaged in the book.  Do you like those that keep you on edge by creating suspense on that first page?  You may like those that use such incredible description, you get enthralled by the setting or characters outlined by the author.

Looking for the classics or more great first lines?  Try this great article about the Best 100 Opening Lines. 

It’s a year, with new books to try.  Try that first line, first paragraph, first page, first chapter.  You may be surprised at the story that unfolds.