I realize that I haven’t updated in more than a week. I am actually abroad now, and when I’m traveling, since there’s less time to read and watch movies/TV, I get out of my media “mode.” As such, I’ve found it difficult to write about media – or even edit pieces that I’ve already written. But once I get back home, I’ll go back to posting more regularly.
This week, I thought I’d begin to list my Top 5 favorite books, plays, movies, and TV shows and briefly explain why they’re favorites of mine. These are works I’ve probably already talked about and will no doubt discuss further. Today, I present Part I of the list: books and plays.
BOOKS: I am unapologetic about my list of favorite books. I know that only two or three of these five could be considered so-called “great” literature, but despite that, all of these books have gripped me completely, and I’m still thinking about them long after reading them.
1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling: Rather than put the whole series as one, I chose my favorite Harry Potter book to top the list. The series has meant so much to me over the last 13 years – has it really been that long since I picked up Sorcerer’s Stone? – that there’s no way I couldn’t put one of the books at the top. Deathly Hallows in particular is the most emotionally intense and well-crafted of the books. And yes, I like the camping scenes and the epilogue.
2. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie: I’m not a complete mystery aficionado, but I doubt there exists a mystery book as utterly shocking as this one. Its genius ending completely floored me when I first read it. But in addition to this, its exploration of justice poses a number of moral questions to complement the roller coaster of a plot.
3. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien: So much has been said about The Lord of the Rings that I hardly know what to add. Suffice to say that I love its scope, its characters, its language, its setting – its everything. It’s a mammoth book, and Tolkien’s attention to detail – which first tired me – makes for a completely immersive reading experience.
4. East of Eden by John Steinbeck: It’s hard to put a book like East of Eden into words; on paper, the saga of two families filled with Biblical references may not sound like the most exciting of books, but East of Eden pulled me in immediately. At times moving, at other times disturbing, East of Eden is all that a book could be.
5. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway: This book sucked me in and, quite simply, never let go. I must pinpoint Hemingway’s stark prose as the most compelling element of this book. It fits hand-in-hand with the somewhat morose story, which just pulls at my heartstrings. Reading A Farewell to Arms was an emotional ride – one of the earmarks of a great book for me.
PLAYS: Unlike my favorite books, curiously, my favorite plays generally deal with academic subjects that interest me, but all are nevertheless well-crafted and, of course, entertaining.
1. Arcadia by Tom Stoppard: It’s hard to think of a subject not brought up in Arcadia; there’s Romantic poetry and English garden history alongside the Second Law of Thermodynamics and the competing theories of chaos and determinism. I studied this play during AP English Literature in high school and have since had the pleasure of seeing two different productions of it. No work makes me laugh and think equally and so much. Arcadia is intellectual entertainment at its finest.
2. Macbeth by William Shakespeare: I’m not sure if my love of Scotland biased me towards Macbeth, but no other Shakespeare play has entertained me as much as this one has. I must say that what draws me most to Macbeth is the complicated relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, whom I consider two of the most fascinating characters ever put on paper.
3. Proof by David Auburn: Proof (which I’ve already discussed alongside Arcadia in this post) is a simple play – it has two acts and only four characters – but it is deceptively so. Among the many questions it explores are the nature of genius and madness, of the relationships between fathers and daughters, and truth itself.
4. Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw: My undergraduate degree is actually in linguistics, and I must say that the sociolinguistic questions raised in Pygmalion are precisely what got me interested in the field in the first place. I love its exploration of how accent determines social class. I also admire the character of Eliza Doolittle for her optimism – and Henry Higgins is just delightful to watch. I’m just glad that he wasn’t my phonetics professor!
5. A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen: I read A Doll’s House in one sitting. It’s a play that defied my expectations and completely turned the tables on me as I read. My perceptions of all the characters and events fluctuated as I read, and I came to see the lead, Nora, as a truly groundbreaking female character. To date, I haven’t yet seen a production – live or filmed – of A Doll’s House, and it’s high on my list of plays to see.