If you have been over to my “Books” page anytime recently, you will likely notice something: I read a lot. This is partially because I love losing myself in stories (good ones, of course) and partially out of reaction to our culture that seems to encourage illiteracy (perhaps I’ll elaborate on that in a later post, but the gist is that we’re becoming an increasingly simple and visual culture).
Regardless, the result is that I read a lot. My favorites often include female heroines, but please don’t confuse my understanding of “chick” books with either romance novels or feminist agenda pieces – I look for simplicity of lifestyle, gentleness of spirit, a little spunk, and characters that challenge me to be better. So far, I am not an Austen fan. Pride and Prejudice was one of the hardest reads I slogged through for my high school literature classes. I hope to someday try again, as I someday hope to complete either Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights, both of which I started in middle school…
Here are two of my favorites:
Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery
Perhaps my favorite book of all time, this beautiful novel and its subsequent series (eight books total) are perennial reads – meaning I take a romp through all eight of them every few years. Anne is an orphan, wide-eyed, imaginative, and searching for a place of her own where she can get away from taking care of other people’s twins. On a fluke, she is installed in the home of Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, an older gentleman and his spinster of a sister – who want a boy to help with their family farm.
But Anne, in spite of all the odds, finds a place in their hearts and their home in this amazing tale of finding beauty in the redemption of forgotten things. The simplicity of life displayed in this (and the other books in the series) challenge me to live simply and in faith.
And because there are seven novels that follow, it is a journey that only begins with this volume. The journey’s end is just as breathtaking as its beginning. Rilla of Ingleside, the eighth and final volume, concerns the coming into adulthood of Anne’s youngest daughter, Rilla, during the tumult and upheaval of the first World War. In many ways, Montgomery seems to have written each of the preceding books in order to get to this one and have it stand as a testament to the changes in daily life and the innocence stolen from the entire world as the Great War fell upon it.
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
You can easily tell what my favorite books are by the age of the copies on my bookshelf and the fact that I won’t let them out of my house. Little Women and Anne of Green Gables easily rank among my oldest tomes. I inherited my copy of Little Women from my maternal grandmother and the pages are so old that the entire thing is falling apart.
But that old book smell is awesome.
I greatly appreciate the March sisters and the way that Alcott so deftly integrates them into the family structure at such different times in their growing up. They are all, first and foremost, family, and then Alcott examines their differences and how they overcome their vanities and faults.
Meg is beautiful and gentle, if a little vain; Jo is intelligent, fiercely loyal, and yet headstrong and independent; Beth is a homebody, a gifted musician, and possesses the most gentle and quiet spirit of any female character I’ve known; and Amy, the youngest, is impulsive, spunky, vain, and yet somehow endearing in her youthful follies. Their mother is stalwart, raising them and seeking their best in the absence of their father, who has been taken away from them by war.
It is a timeless tale of growing up and seeking to know our own hearts, and it has so much variety in its pages that I never seem to be bored with these beautiful, strong, loyal women – and I see the depths of my own heart better through their lens.