Reading Narnia: The Magician’s Nephew

The-chronicles-of-narnia-the-magicians-nephew-book-coverI have never read all the Narnia books before. I read The Magician’s Nephew and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe when I was little, but then I got bored when I started The Horse and His Boy and found out that it introduced new characters when I thought we were going to stick with Peter, Susan, Lucy and Edmund for a while, or at least Polly and Digory. And that was the end of my Narnia reading as a child.

But a few weeks ago I decided to give it another try. The cat is out of the bag – I know that the series covered many characters, and I now know about the Aslan/Jesus metaphor – another aspect of the books that I wasn’t aware of when I first read them. I also watched Lion, Witch, Wardrobe and Prince Caspian recently and it got me in a Narnia mood.

Even though I’ve never read through the Narnia series, The Magician’s Nephew was a book that I returned to a lot as a child so it was pretty familiar to reread. I also used it in my senior paper about children’s literature and the changing view of the British Empire through the 20th century. Sounds kind of obscure but it was really fun to write. So in a way I was returning to an old favorite.

Reading The Magician’s Nephew for fun was much different than the last time I read it for my paper though. I found myself enjoying it much more than I expected, even though the story is a familiar one to me. Digory Kirke lives in London with his aunt, uncle, and sick mother. He is playing one day when he meets a girl named Polly next door and the two of them discover what Digory’s Uncle Andrew is creating in the attic – magic rings that will take the wearer to new worlds.

C.S. Lewis meant The Magician’s Nephew to be a prequel to the rest of the series, and I found that although a lot does happen in this book, there is a lot of set up and not as much action as in future books. It does have some memorable scenes and characters it though – the evil queen who wants to take over whatever land she is in, Uncle Andrew who is slightly mad and power crazy but is intimidated by the queen, Strawberry the talking horse, Digory, Polly, and of course Aslan.

Lewis also did a good job of telling the creation story while still making it his own. I love the idea of Digory et. al. watching as Aslan creates Narnia, and the way Lewis describes each person’s reaction to what is happening before them. The Queen is just too obsessed with power to notice, Uncle Andrew ignores Aslan as much as he can, convincing himself that he is just a silly lion and argues with the queen, and Polly and Digory want to simply observe the creation but are constantly distracted by the Queen and Uncle Andrew. The only character that is fully present is the London cabby and his horse who came along by accident – the most unlikely king of Narnia.

That’s one of the things I like about Narnia. It’s characters from our world are regular every day people who are introduced to Narnia and Aslan, and it is from that place that they do amazing things.  That is seen over and over again throughout the series. It is something that Lewis himself focuses on, and I’m excited to look at that further in these blog posts.

The story has a very 50’s children’s story feel to it, almost as if Lewis is narrating the story himself, which I liked. I feel like that’s not seen as much anymore with the author directly talking to the reader, and I felt like I was being read to.

I also liked the way The Magician’s Nephew set up The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (I need to find an abbreviation for that) by explaining the lamp-post, the Queen, and the wardrobe.

So although I found other Narnia books more action packed than this one (I am currently on The Voyage of the Dawn Treder), I enjoyed being reintroduced to Narnia and the characters that it holds. And whether you see Aslan as Jesus or simply as the lion in Narnia, there is no denying that he is awesome.

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 9.46.01 PM

 

World Book Night Update

So this past Wednesday was the third annual US World Book Night as I mentioned in my previous post (I was too busy yesterday to update so here I am now). Like last year a group of NYU SPI people and I went to The Barclay Center to hand out books at the Atlantic/Pacific subway station in Brooklyn since it is sufficiently busy there. We had three people handing out books – Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman, and Pontoon by Garrison Keillor. I managed to get a copy of Code Name Verity and The Zookeeper’s Wife for myself. Code Name is fiction while Zookeeper is nonfiction, which I do still want to read more of, and both are about World War II, so I might start another World War II reading phase shortly depending on how long my to read list is/what I want to read next. For a list of books that were handed out at World Book Night click here – there was a good variety this year.

Handing out the books never takes too long in the subway, although we didn’t have quite the rush at the end that we did last year. People were pretty wary of us giving out free things without a catch. There’s no money involved, we don’t ask for credit card info, and we didn’t even require emails, and that makes New Yorkers nervous. We also didn’t seem to have as many people ask what we were about as compared to last year, although there were a few. Most people just grabbed whatever book it was we had in our hand without breaking their stride or making eye contact. Welcome to New York. There were a couple of people who stared at us or the books and then just kept on walking, and there was a little girl who grabbed a copy of The Zookeeper’s Wife, which is about hiding Jews from the Nazis in a zoo, so maybe her mom will like it, because she herself was pretty young for that kind of thing…

Anyway, once again we managed to get rid of all our books, so hopefully people have good books to read on their commutes or over the weekend. When we were done we went out for really good Mexican food. I also signed up for the World Book Night Newsletter – I was going to last year and then life got in the way, so next year I can actually get a box of books to hand out myself. I’m definitely looking forward to it. Happy Reading!

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 9.46.01 PM

Happy Birthday Shakespeare! How Would You Do in Today’s Market?

shakespeare

Hello! For the past few weeks I have been busy working on a project that wrapped up last Friday, and I didn’t really have anything to blog about, but I am back now and ready to go. So today is William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, and if my memory of ninth grade English is correct it is also the 398th anniversary of his death as well. Poor guy. I read so much Shakespeare in high school, and had so many pop quizzes on his plays that I actively avoided any Shakespeare classes in college, which actually wasn’t too hard to do. But I have since gone to see the ballet of Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night with Stephen Fry,  and I love Shakespeare in Love. All in all, I feel like enough time has passed where I can appreciate his work again. So I couldn’t help but post this article from the Wall Street Journal – Some Hollywood Advice for Shakespeare. The editor/movie go-er side of me really appreciated this.

In other news tonight is once again World Book Night! (See my post from last year). I will do an update tomorrow hopefully about how the night went – two posts back to back – wow!

Also (lots of things to catch up on) April 10th was the 2 year anniversary of goodbookscents! I can’t believe that a little over two years ago I was sitting in my dorm room posting a review of The Hunger Games and talking about how groundbreaking it was for YA literature. That seems like a while ago… Anyway thanks to everyone who has read this blog since then! I really appreciate it 🙂 Have some cake.

birthday-cake-vector

 

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 9.46.01 PM

How to Organize Your Books 101

I am still working on the project of organizing my bookshelves, although I am nearing the end. I just have my collection of notebooks that I have accumulated over the years (which is a lot) left to sort through and then it is on to my desk – a whole other project which will be a whole other post.

But in all of this organization that I have been doing lately, I have spent a good amount of time figuring out how to organize everything. Right now my books are in loose categories. I have a young adult shelf that starts with Dystopia goes on to fantasy and ends in general YA fiction. Below that I have a poetry/short story/miscellaneous shelf with room to grow, and below that are notebooks.

My second bookshelf has more general/literary fiction, a Christianity section, Harry Potter, my high school yearbooks, and playbills from over the years. I debating alphabetizing the various sections that I have, but I ultimately decided against that.

But then I got thinking – what other, more fun, less conventional ways were there to organize my various books? Genre is predictable but what about by size? Hardcover vs. paperback? How about something like:

Books That I am Emotionally Attached To:  This could include any book that would be unthinkable for me to get rid of. Most are from my childhood but not all. This list also includes books that are not currently on my shelves but that I love anyway. Some examples are:

2-red-heart– Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling- no explanation necessary

– American Girl books – also no explanation necessary. My American Girl books are in storage in the attic, but they are still loved, I can assure you.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – absolutely blew me away, and I don’t think I ever came back.

– My entire Billy Collins collection – because who doesn’t like Billy Collins. He came to speak at my high school, and it was amazing!

– The Collected Short Stories of Amy Hempel – Another staple of mine. Amy Hempel was the one who introduced me to sentences that can blow you over in ten words or less. I thought short stories were boring until I found her. I’m not entirely sure if I really fully understood her stories when I read them as a sophomore in high school, but I could still tell that they were amazing.

Also in Movies:

– The Sound of Music – I had the tape growing up and I finally bought the DVD recently, which was an excellent life choice. I must have watched this movie at least once a month, if not more for a long time.

– The Parent Trap (do not own) – I distinctly remember the day when I learned that Lindsey Lohan didn’t have a twin, and it changed the way that I looked at movies. I also watched this on a regular basis on about the same schedule as The Sound of Music

– Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – This movie didn’t have as long an interest span as the other two, but it definitely was a staple, particularly on weekends when my family went to Long Island. This is referring to the older version with Gene Wilder, not the Johnny Depp version.

– Up – I have a deep, meaningful connection with Dug the Dog.

I Want to Go to There: Books that feature fantastic places where I would want to visit/return to/never leave. There will be some overlap starting here, which is why this system is probably not the most practical way to organize books as duplicates may be required.

plane

– Harry Potter – again, no explanation necessary. And I’m not just talking about Hogwarts here, although that is definitely high on the list. I am also including Diagon Alley (although I don’t think I would be a fan of the Gringotts carts), Hogsmeade, The Burrow, Grimmauld Place, The Ministry of Magic (preferably not during the 5th-7th books), and the Quiddich World Cup.

– The Night Circus – a real magical circus? Who wouldn’t want to go!

Stardust by Neil Gaiman – I want to go to Wall and Faerie.

– Narnia – I have’t actually read all the Narnia books, and it is something I am planning on doing on soon, but I would love to have tea with the badgers and Mr. Tumnus as long as the White Witch has already been banished. And of course, Aslan.

I Do Not Want to Go to There: Most of these books I really loved, but if I was offered a chance to go to their world I might pass it up for something else. This includes:

Boy_Scared

– pretty much any dystopian novel (specifically the Hunger Games, Divergent, and Matched series) – Adventure is good, but I also like my democratic government and free will, thank you very much.

Les Mis by Victor Hugo – Amazing movie, still haven’t read the whole book although I would love to. Goes along the same lines as the dystopian books though. That and I tend to get sick pretty easily, so revolutionary France might be a bit rough for me.

Books That Made Me CryThis is slightly different from Books That I am Emotionally Attached to, although there is some overlap. This list is smaller though, because I have noticed it takes a lot for me to cry while reading a book. The same is true for movies, although I have a slightly lower threshold when it comes to movies, probably because they are more directly visual than books are. But this list includes:

Sad-Whiner-Emoji

– Harry Potter – Honestly, HP could probably end up on every list. The only time that I cried when reading Harry Potter was during the last book. I think it was during the battle, although I don’t specifically remember what part (it might have had to do with the Weasleys 😦 ). Plus, it was also about four in the morning by the time I got to that part and my defenses were down.

The Book Thief  by Markus Zusak – I was fine through most of this book, and then it got me in the end. This means that between my love of Geoffrey Rush, and the plot itself, I’m pretty much guaranteed to cry my way through the movie.

Also for Movies:

– Finding Neverland – I tend not to like sad movies, or rewatching movies that make me sad but Finding Neverland is my exception. First of all, its Johnny Depp. Second of all, Freddie Highmore was so young and such an amazing actor then. Third, it’s about a writer and Neverland. Much like The Book Theif, I can get through most of the movie okay. The few scenes that get to me are when Peter destroys his play, when they see Neverland, and the final scene with J.M. Barrie and Peter. But it is soooo good!

And anytime an animal dies in a book or a movie (particularly a dog) it is unacceptable!

Books With Awesomely Strong Female Characters Who Do Whatever They Want: This shouldn’t be a surprising category for me to have. It could also be titled as Books With Fully Flushed Out Female Characters. This is true for any character, really, regardless of gender.

female-icon-md

– Harry Potter – again, no shocker. But really, there’s Hermione, Ginny, Lavender, Luna (I love Luna so much!), Mrs. Weasley, McGonnagall, Trewlawney, and Lily Potter. Need I say more?

– The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – Again, this is not shocking. Katniss doesn’t really do whatever the heck she wants because of the capital, but she does a pretty good job of working within her parameters/breaking out of her parameters/not caring about the Capitol at all. Good job, Katniss. Also, Jennifer Lawrence, so yea…

– Divergent by Veronica Roth – Tris is a really good example of a strong character who is quiet, which isn’t always the case, and can be a bit tricky to pull off during the writing process. She definitely is a Dauntless and a Divergent, and she does what she needs to do, but she is also quiet and calm and an overall great character. (See more of my thoughts here).

Graceling by Kristin Cashore- I even talk about strong female leads in the title of my post on Graceling, so it has to go into this category. I do not own Graceling, I borrowed it from a friend, but I would be okay buying it, as I will want to read it again. Katsa is strong at the beginning of the book in that she fights and is independent and all that, but she also finds out more about herself and her powers as the book goes on which makes her develop more. That and she and Po have an awesome and refreshing dynamic.

Books That I Enjoyed More Than I Thought I Would: The title pretty much speaks for itself. I read it for fun (or not) and was pleasantly surprised/blown away.

12820442882053136041exclamation_mark-hi

– The Book Thief – Again with the repeats, but honestly I wasn’t expecting that book to be what it was. I’ve been debating reading Zuzak’s other book at some point as well.

– The Help by Kathryn Stockett – I bought this book at college as a last-minute purchase to keep me entertained on the train ride home from break, and I continued to devour the book throughout vacation. It was back a few years ago when The Help was really big, but honestly it is a great read, not too hard – just right for a school vacation, and I really enjoyed it.

– Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – This one we read in high school, but reading it for school didn’t completely ruin it for me, and I have read it again since then. I don’t think I was able to pick up on Dickens’ style when I was reading it as homework, and I haven’t read any other Dickens books, but I was pleasantly surprised by this one.

– Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller – Blue Like Jazz is a great book. It was the first Christian book I read, and it definitely wasn’t what I thought it would be. Donald Miller writes casually and realistically about real issues. There are also fun anecdotes and comics as well, but at the same time he isn’t afraid to go deep.

And finally, my last category is

Books That I Decided to Keep, Whether I’ve Read Them or Not, to Make my Bookshelf Look More Impressive: Again, the title is pretty self-explanatory for this one as well. Whether it’s because I want to be have the ultimate BA in English or because I actually have read or want to read these books at some point in my life, here are the books that I have that bulk up my shelves.

wise_owl_sofa_logia– Underworld by Don DeLillo – Most of Don DeLillo’s books are short, but Underworld is a tome. I got through a good portion of it I am proud to admit. He has a great style that I do really enjoy. Maybe I will pick it up again some day.

– Great Expectations – I did like this one, as I said before, and so what if it makes my bookshelf look more impressive? It’s a good book. Jane Eyre also fits here as well

– A Passage to India by E.M. Forester – This is another one that I liked, and it does bulk up my classics section a little more. Also, I could see myself rereading it again sometime in the future.

– Les Mis – While I could probably fit three more books where Les Mis is, I still keep it on my shelf, because one day I will sit down and read it.

– The Sun Also Rises by Earnest Hemingway – Confession: I still haven’t read Hemingway. He was on my to read list when I got out of college and had time to read, but a lot of other things were on the list as well, and I never got around to it. He’s the type of author I am expecting to enjoy. One day it will happen.

So there you have it. My ultimate, not so feasible book organization method. How are your bookshelves organized?