Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Of Heating Vents and Good Books

I remember on winter afternoons as a child, grabbing my fuzzy blanket and a book to read and curling up, blanket tented around my shoulders, over our family's favorite heating vent. 

What?  Your family didn't have a favorite heating vent? 

Well then, you probably didn't grow up in Minnesota with parents who kept the thermostat set in the low 60's to save money.    Cozying up with a warm blanket over a heating vent was our idea of bliss and getting the heating vent that also happened to be in the direct path of the afternoon's sun rays was pure heaven.  Being the oldest meant that I usually got the coveted spot on the family room floor myself, but occasionally some bold sibling would get there and try to lay claim to it before I did.  It was then that they learned that  I was more than just poufy bangs and tapered jeans.  I won't divulge my enviable dueling tactics, but let's just say that I usually reclaimed my spot very quickly, which was good, because the heat made my  bruises feel better. 

While I read many a book, curled up in that spot, it also become my favored nap location.  In fact,  on Sunday afternoons the whole main floor of the house (where the heating vents were on the floor) became Naptime central.   You could literally walk around the house and find kid after kid curled up sound asleep, not in their beds, but over their special heating vent.    I can't be sure since I was usually sleeping, but I'm pretty convinced that visiting relatives would jostle us the first few times they witnessed this strange behavior just to make sure we were okay. 

Rest assured, we were more than okay.   We were making warm and fuzzy memories (other than the bruises) that will never be forgotten.

I haven't had to duel anyone for a heating vent in over 20-years and thankfully now live in climate that does not require tented heating vents to get warm in the wintertime, but still I associate reading with sitting in the warm  glow of the winter afternoon sun in my living room.    Even now when I feel like I'm deep in the trenches of life,
setting aside some time to read a novel never fails to soothe my soul.   Though it seems counter-intuitive to do something as seemingly  unproductive as reading while my brain is caught up in the worries about all the things that lay undone, it's still therapeutic to me to get lost in a book for a few hours.  That's why joining a book group a few years ago was just the motivation I needed to make sure that at minimum I was reading a book a month.  

Through my participation in the book group over the last several years, I've read a lot of great books (and a few not-so-great ones too) that I never would have read otherwise.  Recently I  came across this list of what books were considered to be among the top 100  in American literature.   I'm not sure where the list came from and I'm not sure that I would necessarily agree with all the books that are listed, but I was struck when checking off the ones that I have read, at what a dent I've made by reading a book or two a month for all these years.  

some of the books I've read in the last few months

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 The Brothers Karamosov - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince- Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

I know that I would not be considered all that well-read in literary circles,
I still like to think  that thirty-six out of a hundred isn't too shabby for someone as busy as I am.  Speaking of busy,   it's high time that I get back to the task at hand.  The task for which I sat down in the computer in the first place.  Book group is tonight and I am leading the discussion.  I read the book (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks) while on the plane to California, but have yet to compile my list of thought-provoking questions.  
While I sit here thinking deep thoughts about medical ethics, I'd love to hear how many books you've read on the list. 

Happy Reading! 


Superfit said...

This is great--I was just working today to compile of reading list for myself. I decided to pursue the Pulitzer prize list, I'm going to read through the list! But, your list will be next! I just read about Henrietta Lacks at school--I'm thinking about staggering my Pulitzer reading with a nonfiction choice. Would you recommend that book?


Tim e said...

I've read 34 of them. Of course, there are four or five that I haven't read since I was 10 or 11, so I can't say I remember much of anything about them ("The Wind in the Willows," "Charlotte's Web," etc.)

Lara said...

I would highly recommend "Henrietta " as an excellent book choice. It was engaging, well written and very thought provoking. I like your Pulitzer list idea.

Deanne said...

So sad I couldn't make it tonight. I bet it was a good discussion! I really enjoyed the book! said...

Ironically I've read 36 as well! Now I want to print out the list and use it as a guide for future book selections.

Dad said...

Sad to report that at my advanced age that I have only read 33 of them (unless I can count twice for reading Le Petit Prince in French and English-as well as some of the Russian classics in both languages)

Could add another 12-15 to the list if I could count the movie version. ;o)

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