Books, children, fantasy, reading list

The Year of The Author

I have a hard time keeping track of what books I read in a year. I start out well enough, in January and February, but by March, I’ve completely forgotten about writing down what books I’ve read. Probably because so many of them are re-reads, and it seems silly sometimes to write down that I’ve read Anne of Green Gables for the 500th time.

However, I did realize, recently, that I tend to have a year of an author. For the last few years, there’s been one author that I’ve discovered, either new to me or newly-loved, and I’ve spent the year reading everything I can get my hands on by that author.

First it was Dorothy L Sayers, and spending the year borrowing one Lord Peter book after another from the library. I even read all the Monty Egg stories I could find. Sayers’ writing still enthralls me – I find something new about it to cherish each time I re-read. And Lord Peter himself … I have mentioned before how bitterly I resented Harriet Vane because he fell in love with her, yes? All right then. Nothing more about that really need be said. He is as human and real and swoon-worthy a hero as was ever written.

Then it was Tamora Pierce – first Kel, then Aly, then Beka. Though Pierce’s tendency (as I see it) to sometimes subvert the story in favor of her point irritated me (and still does, though the more I write the more I understand that temptation, and also how easy that is to do without realizing it), I did so appreciate her strong heroines – especially Kel and Beka, who were both quieter and more sensible than many female fantasy protagonists and were not blessed with special gifts that made them stand out; it was their character and determination. I truly do love that.

This past year, it was Diana Wynne Jones. I’d read one or two of her books before last year, but 2011 was the year I fully fell in love. Also, it happened to be the year she died, which left me feeling outraged – I’d finally found out how much I loved her writing, and then she was gone, before I even had a chance to say or think “thank you.” The woman who created Sophie and Howl, Chrestomanci, Cat, and so many others, and wait, what, they just barely sprang to life for me and their creator was gone? Bad timing, Louise and world!

I think I already know what author will dominate 2012 for me – another one who died shortly after I’d finally read one of her books*, though that was a few years ago.

2012 seems a fitting year to immerse myself in this author’s writings, seeing as how it is the 50th anniversary of her most famous work. That work? A Wrinkle in Time, and the author is Madeleine L’Engle.

I’ve mentioned on here recently just how moving I found A Ring of Endless Light. 2011 (well, and 2010) was a year of a lot of personal darkness for me, and the message of hope and encouragement to persevere that rang through Vicky’s experiences was just exactly what I needed, when I needed it. I sobbed my way through the last few pages – and I am not a big crier (I mean, sure I get choked up Every Single Time I read OR watch Sam’s “I can’t carry the Ring, but I can carry you,” bit to Frodo in Return of the King, but who doesn’t? I’m not made of stone, after all).

While we were visiting my MIL for Christmas, I started reading A Circle of Quiet, one of L’Engle’s memoir-ish works. By the time I was a few pages in, I know this was going to be one of those books that picked me up, shook me out, and set me back down again dazed, refreshed, and seeing the world with new eyes – or old eyes that simple had too many scales on them now shaken off.

And I was right. My thinking hasn’t necessarily radically changed on anything, but the book both affirmed and challenged me right where I needed it, helped me shake loose some ideas that have been weighting me down, and filled up the spaces with fresh ones. It also made me laugh, which is grand.

So now I am certain that 2012? Is going to be the year I read everything I can find by L’Engle.

(*So, the story about why it took me so long to read anything by L’Engle – when I was very young, I picked up a book from the library called The Door in the Wall, which I thought was going to be exciting, and WAS NOT. I hated it. After that, I always got that book confused with A Wind in the Door, and so transferred my loathing of that darn non-exciting children’s book to anything by L’Engle. Kind of like how I never read anything by Jones for so long because I always saw cats on the covers of her books, and unless Lloyd Alexander is writing it, I have no interest in feline fantasy. It took me until I was an adult to finally brave picking up Wrinkle, at which point I realized it had nothing whatsoever to do with EVIL BORING DOOR BOOK, but it was so very different from what I had been anticipating that I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Same when I finally read Wind, and it really did take me until Vicky and Ring before I could start to better appreciate L’Engle’s beautiful, strange writing. The End.)

4 thoughts on “The Year of The Author”

  1. Of all the things I could comment on in this post, the first thing I'm going to say is OH! The Door in the Wall! You're absolutely right! I picked that up thinking it looked like it would be fun and it WASN'T! But by that time I'd already READ A Wind in the Door many times so I didn't have any misconceptions about their possible relation.But yes, this will be my L'Engle year too, but I'm pretty sure you already knew that. I'm in the process of rereading Wrinkle with sticky notes marking things I want to blog about. Wasn't it you who said, early on after you'd discovered my blog, that you thought you needed to give L'Engle another chance? I'm glad you did and found her wonderful!

  2. That's so funny how you got the two titles confused… I remember picking up The Door in the Wall from the library a number of years ago, and I never finished it because it never kept my attention. Glad to know I'm not the only one bored by that book! And yes, L'Engle is AMAZING. She breaks all the rules and it's somehow perfectly right.

  3. I am SO GLAD I'm not the only one to have that experience with The Door in the Wall! Actually, wasn't it in Half Magic that Mark borrows that from the library, and is disgusted to find it is a moral book disguised as a story? I think it is – I remember reading that and thinking OMG ME TOO.And yes, it was the thoughtful responses I've read by many people over this last year to L'Engle, people I respect especially as thinking readers, that made me determined to try her again. I'm SO glad I did – I think when I read her before I just wasn't in the right place in my own life to fully appreciate her.

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