List by Tosca
"Feelings are the universal language and are to be honored. They are the authentic expression of who you are at your deepest place."
- Judith Wright
Sometimes the way I react to books isn't necessarily about how well-written or solid the storyline is. More often than not it's to do with how the book makes me feel or what kind of reaction it evokes. For example, Andrew Davidson's 'Gargoyle' was exceptionally well-written and yet it didn't move me. I admired the skill and the talent it took to write the novel but had no feeling or empathy whatsoever for the characters involved. I saw myself more as an interested observer. Then, earlier this year, I read 'The arrival' by Shaun Tan and immediately felt like I had a personal connection to the story, which is weird because I'm NZ Maori and this is my homeland. I know no other country, unlike the father who sets off to make a home for his family to join him. There's no rhyme or reason or even method to my madness, I only know that there are definite books I don't enjoy other than in a technical sense. There are also titles I hope to never read again in their entirety. My reasons are nothing to do with logic and all about my own personal prejudice and bias...and the top 5 of those are listed below.
I don't expect that everyone reading this will agree with my selection, so I'd like to encourage you to leave your version of this list as a comment and we can upload it easy, peasy :)
Pounamu, pounamu / Witi Ihimaera
A collection of short stories by Witi Ihimaera.
Tosca's note: I always felt uncomfortble reading Pounamu, Pounamu in school. The characters were not familiar to me and I did not know people who behaved or talked like they did. It doesn't mean they weren't real, only that I had no experience of them. When school friends/teachers would scoff at me for not identifying with the characters I didn't really have the words to respond. Nowadays, I'd be more inclined to say that not all Maori experience everything the same way and nor should we. I'm not sure I want to face those feelings again, though, regardless of how funny the stories were, so I don't think I will ever re-read this title.
War and peace / Leo Tolstoy
Tolstoy's masterpiece of love and loss, tragedy and triumph is set against the panorama of the Napoleonic Wars at the dawn of the 19th century. An unforgettable story of two Russian families whose lives become intertwined amidst a collision of empires.
Tosca's note: Epic masterpiece - yes, without a doubt but also incredibly loooong winded and desperately sad. Probably read it much too young - I think I was about 10 or 11 and not truly able to appreciate it - and that possibly put me off it for life.
Gone with the wind / Margaret Mitchell
Set in Georgia at the time of the Civil War, this is the story of headstrong Scarlett O'Hara, her three marriages and her determination to keep her father's property of Tara, despite the vicissitudes of war and passion.
Tosca's note: Detested the movie, liked the book more BUT thought Scarlett was a total moo cow! It was all, 'Me, me me,' and 'I want, I want, I want.' She was so incredibly cruel and selfish and stomped all over people like they were her personal red carpet. Yet another book I probably shouldn't have read so young because that one time was enough to convince me to chuck it out forever. If I see it on a library shelf I cruise right on past.
The Holy Bible : containing the Old and New Testaments in the King James Version
Holy Bible : King James version, words of Christ in red, dictionary/concordance. Coloured map on endpapers.
Tosca's note: As books go, the bible is the penultimate blockbuster - it has: sex, murder, revenge, incest, adventure, crime, suspense, action, travel, biography, memoir, romance, history, fiction, nonfiction, etc. That alone makes it worthy of a read at least once in your life, but more hours than I care to remember spent in Sunday school, service and, later, study have made me realise that in bits and pieces it's great. But the thought of giving it another go...oh no. No way at all. I don't have the fortitude to do it all over again.
Flowers in the attic / Virginia Andrews
The four children have perfect lives in a happy, golden family. Suddenly their father dies and the children now live alone, hidden in an airless attic. Their mother promised they would stay only long enough for her to inherit the fortune but gradually she forgets how much she adored them.
Tosca's note: I remember when I was about 10 the next door neighbour's daughter was both scandalised and titillated by this book. I hate not knowing stuff so, not wanting to be left out, I read it. And haven't touched it again since. It was truly awful! Incest, sex, scandal, kids locked in an attic - and the grandmonster/grandmother was appalling. It was over the top and badly done although, at 10, what did I know about any of that *rolls eyes* I did read the rest of the series (another pet reading peeve is finishing any series that I start, even when I detest it) once. That was enough for any lifetime. Ugh.
Once were warriors / Alan Duff
Tosca's note: This book angered me and then, when the movie came out, I was angry all over again and with nowhere to direct it. You would not believe the number of non-Maori I met who thought that this was MY norm. I wasn't raised like that, I didn't grow up knowing that lifestyle - it is not my experience. I've never read the book again and I won't be in a hurry to. I start to froth at the mouth if people just mention it! GRR.