Top Five Love Stories (In The Past Twenty Years)

Ta-Da! I’m back!

I haven’t really able to write recently for a myriad of reasons, but mostly the past couple months have just been hard. I don’t want to lie to you guys and tell you that life is great 100% of the time, because that’s not how life works. BUT life is filled with little bits of extreme happiness and love. And fortunately I have love from my family and my significant other to help me through.

It’s exactly that love that I want to discuss today, because on Monday the 16th it will be mine and my boyfriend’s anniversary (whoopie!!! part-ayyy!) and I’m psyched! I love our anniversaries, it reminds me of when my life really began to feel complete (okay okay, I’m sorry I’m sappy!)

Nonetheless, the past couple days I felt an overwhelming feeling of love not only from my boyfriend but from my family as well. And because of that, I began thinking about the books that I’ve read that have stuck with me as great love stories, or stories of triumph in situations because love was prevalent. Some of my favorite love stories actually don’t have that much romantic, intimate love in them. But I remember the following books as incredibly well written and often struck me as the best love stories of all time. Or at least of the past 20 years.

These aren’t necessarily in any particular order, and this is just my opinion – but let’s be honest, my opinion is always right. So here we go:

1.  Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

This is a book that I love. I just absolutely adore this book. In no way is it a traditional love story, in no way is it a happy story – but it’s the story of a girl with a dream so big and a heart filled with so much love for one person that she is willing to do anything to make it a reality. Now I know that doesn’t sound very romantic, but had you been thrust into a Geisha lifestyle at the age of  nine-years-old and sold for your beauty, you would probably think this story was the most romantic thing you’d ever heard.

2.  The Fault In Our Stars – John Green

This is an easy one, but I would be remiss if I didn’t add it to my list. This novel, with its beautiful writing and striking humor coupled with an incredibly believable and heartbreaking story, has made me cry more than any other novel I have ever read. And this is coming from a girl who has dealt with the deaths of Dobby, Fred Weasley and Remus Lupin all in one book (madness!!!!) But nonetheless, Green writes a novel from the point of view of a girl dying of a disease. Going to support groups for it, she winds up meeting a boy who also has a disease, but not one he’s dying from. The plot thickens from there, but this book was written with grace, amazing humor, and such unpredictability that I was on the edge of my seat (crying) the entire time.

3. Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert

Alright, this one I’m honestly a little embarrassed to put on the list, but I cried so much during this book that I had to put it on here. This book, while a love story, is a true story about a woman finding herself and loving who she is. It’s a struggle between living a life she was just comfortable in and a life that has purpose. In this case, her life of purpose includes meditation, lots of pasta and a man she fell in love with. This one struck me as less of a book about the love between two people but rather a book about the love of oneself. The idea that you can live your life, and you can do it your way. The idea of looking at your body in a mirror and saying, “hey, if someone doesn’t like it, then they don’t need to see it. And also, screw them!” and I really like that.

4. All of the Harry Potter Books – JK Rowling

I really don’t need to go into detail on this one, because anyone who has read the books will understand why this is on my list. Despite the romantic relationship stories in this series, the most prevalent, and most important relationship is the friendship and kinship between Harry, Hermione, and Ron/The rest of the Weasleys. If I go into too much detail I’ll start crying over here, so instead I’ll just leave it at this: the HP books have given me a lesson in all the different types of love someone is capable of having. From the smallest bit of kindness to a huge show of affection: love is everywhere.

5. The Valley of Amazement – Amy Tan

My girl! Amy Tan is the shit. I’m in love with all of the books she’s every written, and honestly I wanted to put this book and The Bonesetter’s Daughter on this list, but TBD was less about love and more about over coming obstacles (also I didn’t want to overcrowd you with Amy Tan – but please read that book because it’s fantastic!) Anyway, this novel is incredible. It’s about a woman’s journey as half-Chinese, half-American living in China as a courtesan. Honestly this book has a similar feel that Memoirs of a Geisha has but without the feeling of the main character being a slave and unable to do anything about her own life. This book has so many different moving parts to it, but the thing you need to know is that when this book had loving moments in it, it had heart warming, heart breaking, all consuming, vulnerable, tears rolling down your eyes moments. Read this!

So that’s the last of it. I’m sure if I wracked my brain a little more I’d be able to give you some other books, but for now here are the top five books that center around love that are my personal favorites.

If you have other books that you think ought to be on the list, let me know in the comments or e-mail me at rachel@booksandcleverness.com

The next time you hear from me will be after my anniversary, which means that the next time you hear from me I will have gained twenty pounds from all the pasta I’m going to eat at our favorite Italian restaurant. YESSS! Ciao!

Rachel

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Everyone Drop What You’re Doing And Re-Read A Book

Hello blog friends! I’ve been meaning to discuss something that’s very dear to my heart: re-reading. I’m a habitual re-reader and proud. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read Harry Potter or The Hunger Games and don’t even get me started on how many times I’ve read Hamlet. I just love it. Shakespeare for the win!

But really, it’s an amazing joy for me to re-read books that have meant a lot to me. So I’m here to tell you to do it. Alright, let me rephrase that because you’re your own person and you can do as you please. But let me give you a little insight as to why you should re-read.

When I was in high school I read some of the best books. Not even a part of the curriculum, just good books. When I started college I had so many stories to read as an English major, that I needed the comfort of a genuinely good book that I didn’t have to think about the symbolism for, or have to think at all really. I mean there’s only so many times you can read The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman or D.H. Lawrence’s The Rocking Horse Winner before you’ve run out of meanings behind it. I mean for Christ’s sake they’re only like 15 pages long!

So rather than lose my shit over the books and stories I had to read, I started re-reading to clear my mind. As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, I tend to read to relax. So all I wanted was something I didn’t have to think about. The first things I started re-reading like crazy were the Harry Potter books. I’ve read those books since they first came out so Hogwarts is more or less my second home. This was a wonderful thing. Being submerged in a world entirely unlike your own for just a couple of hours, with the characters and places you love, before you have to go back to the real world is something that I’ll never take for granted. It’s freeing to be able to escape for a while.

As time went on, and the work got more difficult, I read even more (oddly). This time I delved into Amy Tan books. The Bonesetter’s Daughter was read and re-read in less than a week. Hamlet, The Hobbit, My Horizontal Life, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Night, I re-read them all. Of course I don’t want to give you a false impression: I read a lot of new books too, or at least books I’d never read before. But my comfort was more with re-reading books I’d read.

So, here’s what I propose: think of a book that has made a huge impact on you, or at least a book you’ve read that you’ve enjoyed reading, and re-read it. I know re-reading isn’t for everyone. A lot of people think, “I’ve already read it, I know what happens! Why would I read it again??” And here’s the answer: Why not?

There’s absolutely no harm in reading a book you’ve enjoyed again. Yes, you may know what happens, but do you watch movies that you’ve seen before? Seriously, my Jaws DVD is WORN OUT because I watch it so much. I can guarantee that at least once in your life you’ve re-watched a movie. You know the plot, you know who the bad guy is and who gets shot at the end, but you watch it again anyway. So why not try the same with a book? Yeah you know the ending, but it doesn’t make the story any less good. And it certainly shouldn’t make you not want to read it again. It should make you say, “wow, I remember loving that book. I should read it again and understand why I loved it so much.”

Now, I’ll say this: there have been times when I’ve read a book that I loved and then when I re-read it I was utterly disappointed and thought to myself, “This? This is what I was so excited about?” But don’t let that discourage you. Give another book a shot. One you’ve read more recently and know you’d still enjoy. Perhaps you’ll find new meanings in the story – I’m still finding new hidden things in Harry Potter. That shit is loaded with hidden meanings. But that’s why it’s amazing!!!!

So give it a try and let me know what you think in the comments or via e-mail. The books might surprise you.

Until next time,

Rachel

e-mail: rachel@booksandcleverness.com

The Genre Dilemma

I’m at a dilemma. After reading The Mime Order I’m kind of stuck in a rut due to my current love of the supernatural.

I ought to give you the whole backstory. You see, I have a predisposition of getting obsessed with a genre and sticking to it for a really long time until I get bored with it and move on. I do this a lot – the most memorable and long obsessions began about two years ago, when I started reading books about Asian culture.

It all started with the wonderful Amy Tan and her first novel The Joy Luck Club which chronicled a group of older female Chinese immigrants and their daughters in San Francisco. I had actually read an excerpt of the novel and was absolutely fascinated to the point where I just had to read the book. It was, and remains, one of my favorite books of all time. It’s heart warming, heart breaking, and everything in-between.

After that I decided to read her newest book The Valley of Amazement about a Chinese/American woman living and working in multiple courtesan houses. Now this book was incredible. I’ve mentioned before that a great book makes you feel as though you’re the character. That their pain is your pain, that their activities are your activities. That is exactly what happened here. I felt so connected with the main character that I actually took the book with me places so I could read while I was waiting for appointments or classes or whatever I had going on that day. I would literally break down in tears while in public reading this book. In fact, I was waiting for a class to start (I had two hours before it started) and decided I would buckle up and read the rest of the novel. I finished it in an hour and a half, and spent the next thirty minutes crying in the women’s restroom. It, too, was spectacular. Absolutely amazing, and gut wrenching at the same time.

Soon I had read nearly all of Tan’s books (I only have one of her books left! I’m saving it for the perfect time!) and was watching a documentary on olden days China on Netflix when I came across a documentary on Geisha girls in Japan. Oh my god was I fascinated. I was so fascinated that when I finished the documentary I immediately ordered Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, who was featured in the film. I was so entranced by his novel that I actually ended up writing an entire essay based on Geishas and their customs. It took a lot of documentaries and a lot of books, but I couldn’t have been happier doing that research.

So, for me at least, finding a subject that I enjoy and want to learn more about means reading a ton of novels based on the topic. My sister and I even went to Boston and I saw a woman reading a book on the subway based on a Japanese family’s life over the span of something crazy like 100 years, and I took note of the book and author so that when we got home I could buy the book. That happened about 7 months ago. I was on this Asian kick for nearly a year. I was that obsessed.

Now, I’ve moved on to supernatural/fantasy novels, usually young adult. I’ve always loved this genre – I mean my blog name is based off of a line from Harry Potter! But last January when I read The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon, I began to slowly integrate fantasy novels into my repertoire, until it became all I was reading. I read books in the meantime (and I’ll admit some of them were about Asian culture – you never get rid of a love!) but I waited an entire year for the Bone Season sequel to come out. That was “my precious.” Then I finally got and read the sequel, The Mime Order, all I want now is for the next book. My next “precious.”

And this is where the dilemma begins. After reading such an wonderful novel, it’s so hard to find something similar that can live up to my expectations. So, I can either stick to my guns and continue reading supernatural/fantasy novels (I’m currently almost done with The Maze Runner by James Dashner) or I can reach out and find a new topic to hone in on. I was thinking of switching over to romance novels – I just bought One Day by David Nicholls, or perhaps a John Green novel… but then fantasy novels are just amazing, and so exciting to read! Dilemma, dilemma…

Let me know what you guys think. Maybe I’ll start taking some suggestions!

In the meantime, let’s get reading! Until next time.

Rachel