Once Upon A Time, Before Words For Worms… (Top Ten Tuesday- The Prequel)

April 9, 2013 Blogging, Coming of Age, Contemporary Fiction, Crime, Dystopian, Family, Friendship, Frightening, Humor, Memoirs, Psychological, Top Ten Tuesday 64

Good Day Bookworms!

It’s Tuesday, which can mean quite a number of things… What it means on this blog, however, is that we make LISTS. That’s right, it’s time for Top Ten Tuesday with The Broke and The Bookish! This week’s topic is the top ten books I read before I was a blogger. Here’s the thing. A lot of stuff I’ve blogged about, I read before I was a blogger. I learned to read when I was like 5 or 6… And I’ve only been blogging since August… That’s a whole LIFE of reading outside of the blogosphere. I’ve tried to narrow today’s list down to ten books that haven’t gotten a whole lot of attention on my blog… I feel like I’m screaming Outlander and Gone With The Wind and Song of Achilles every week, so I’m trying to feature some of the lesser known heroes of my bookshelf.

toptentuesday1. Stones From The River by Ursula Hegi. If you liked The Book Thief, you will love Stones From The River. It’s about a woman named Trudi who has the bad luck to have been born a dwarf in what would become Nazi Germany. Spoiler Alert: Both books involve books, resisting the regime, and hiding Jewish people at great personal risk. It’s a fantastic read and I highly recommend it!

2. Fortune’s Rocks by Anita Shreve. Anita Shreve wrote an entire series of books set at the same beach house throughout different points in history. I don’t know if I should really call them a series, though they are all obviously entwined. The characters and situations are all so different, only the landscape ties them together. Anyway, Fortune’s Rocks is set in the early 1900s (I wanted to say “turn of the century” but the stupid HANDS OF TIME just keep on ticking and that phrase is no longer useful to me!) There’s a young girl, an older man, and the kind of scandal you’d expect from a young girl getting involved with an older man (who happens to be a “fine” “upstanding” married doctor with children.) This is BY FAR my favorite Anita Shreve title, so you should probably read it.

3. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. This book was given to me by one of my dearest friends (who happens to have just recently graduated from veterinary school. Can we all give Dr. Erin a big CONGRATS, Words for Worms Style?) Dr. Erin gave me this book on my 19th or 20th birthday (I cannot remember, I am very, very old.) Sedaris’s humor is quirky and irreverent and bizarre and wonderful. My personal copy may look a wee bit worse for the wear, but it’s one of the books I practically beat people with until they agree to read it. (That may or may not be why it’s a wee bit worse for the wear…)

The Easter Bunny doesn't leave chocolate for French children. Church bells that fly in from Rome do. I know. I KNOW!

The Easter Bunny doesn’t leave chocolate for French children. Church bells that fly in from Rome do. I share David Sedaris’s WTF?! on that one!

4. The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan. Okay, maybe I’ve discussed some of these titles before, but dangit, they’re awesome! I read this for a literature class in college and was astounded to find myself with a taste for eel and sticky rice and a host of other Chinese dishes that I’d never eaten nor cared to taste. The mark of badass prose? Making exotic food sound appealing to a girl with a bland palate. High five, Amy Tan!

5. Fall On Your Knees by Anne Marie MacDonald. I know some of you out there shy away from anything bearing an Oprah sticker, but trust me on this one. It’s practically a Greek tragedy, except that the characters are Lebanese and Canadian. Really amazing, disturbing stuff, and it’s stuck with me for years. Side bonus? The title always gets “Oh Holy Night” stuck in my head, which is among the most beautiful Christmas carols (which has absolutely nothing to do with the content of the book, it’s just the way my brain works.)

6. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. This is a YA title, but it deals with THE TOUGH STUFF. Basically? The main character is date raped at a party just before she starts high school. She calls the police who come to bust up the party and is treated as a pariah. Everyone knows she was the narc, but nobody knows WHY. She never reports the rape, but has to attend school with her rapist. The emotional aftermath is raw and real and frightening. It’s a great book, but if you’ve got some of your own personal demons on this subject, you may want to skip this one.

Kristin Stewart starred in a movie version, but since brooding an morose is her default expression, it might not be too bad...

Kristin Stewart starred in a movie version, but since brooding an morose is her default expression, it might not be too bad…

7. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. Awww yeah. Dystopia time. The premise of this book is that society has begun to breed human clones in order to harvest their organs for the greater good of the population. This novel takes you inside the lives of these clones. It’s a little bit science fiction, a little bit dystopian, and a whole lot of ethical conundrum rolled into a tasty little package.

8. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. This book tells the story of an intersex individual from a Greek family that immigrated to the US. Thanks to a genetic mutation, the narrator is raised believing she is a female until hormonal changes at puberty eventually lead to the discovery that she is biologically male… Sort of. It’s a fascinating look at a medical condition I was never aware of, and the impact gender can have on one’s psyche and family unit. If you can read this book without empathizing the crap out of Callie/Cal, I’m concerned about the size of your grinchy heart.

9. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. When Susie Salmon is brutally raped and murdered by her creepy neighbor, she continues to keep track of her family from the “other side.” Yes, this book starts out with a horrific tragedy, and it’s not easy to read. That’s really not a spoiler at all, because it’s at the very beginning of the book. The meat of this book is watching how her family deals with the tragedy. It also goes to show that the BEST murder weapon is, in fact, an icicle (which is NOT, by the way, the weapon that is used on Susie.)


I wasn’t a huge fan of the movie… I get grouchy when they stray too far from the book. That said, Stanley Tucci is one creepy creepster. ::Shivers::

10. The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood. This is one of Atwood’s lesser known novels. It never gets the accolades of The Blind Assassin or Alias Grace but I thought it was fantastic. It’s about a psychopathic woman who makes it her life’s mission to destroy all of her “friends'” love lives. It taught me a great many things, not the least of which being that one can give oneself scurvy by being bulimic. As if we needed ANOTHER reason eating disorders are horrible. Now you know you can get swarthy pirate conditions. Not cute, y’all.

So, Bookworms. I know that a lot of you aren’t bloggers, let alone book-specific bloggers, but I like to think that this top ten list is more of a memory lane sort of theme. What are some of the best books you’ve read in the not so recent past?

64 Responses to “Once Upon A Time, Before Words For Worms… (Top Ten Tuesday- The Prequel)”

  1. Stuff Jeff Reads

    “Lovely Bones” is the only one I’ve read from the list so far, although “Middlesex” is on my shelf. Thanks for the suggestions!

  2. Kelly

    So many great choices here! Speak, Lovely Bones, Never Let You Go…all on my awesome list. I am leery of the Sedaris though. I listened to one of his books on audio (Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim) and was not a fan. Which seems weird, because people recommend him to me ALL THE TIME. Maybe it’s time for another try…

    • Words for Worms

      I adore Sedaris, but he’s certainly not for everyone. I’ve lent out Me Talk Pretty One Day and gotten mixed reactions from the recipients.

  3. JoulesDellinger

    Ok, this one is a random one… but I have a well-read (aka cover torn 1/2 off) copy of Return to Oz that I’ve probably read more than a dozen times. So. So. Good. And there was a movie version that scared the crap out of me too — not as good at the book though, obviously.

    • Words for Worms

      I haven’t read Return to Oz, just the original Frank L Baum version. I know there’s a giant series of them. I should probably expand my horizons. The witch and the flying monkeys in the big Hollywood Oz used to terrify me!

      • JoulesDellinger

        Basically Dorothy is taken to a mental hospital because her Aunt Em is worried that she’s crazy because she keeps talking about Oz. In a random, magical way she ends up going back to Oz, but it’s a seedier, nastier side of Oz.

        Damn, now I want to read it again…

        Oh and Fairuza Balk (from The Craft) played Dorothy in the movie.

    • Lauren@FilingJointly

      Ohhh Return to Oz, it is been so long since I’ve thought of that movie. Things that are awesome about it: The lunchpail tree, Tik Tok, Jack Pumpkinhead. Things that are creepy about it: The Wheelers, the lady that changes her head and has a hallway full of heads because WHAT IS THAT ALL ABOUT. Also, I don’t like talking chickens.

      • JoulesDellinger

        The witch with the screaming heads scared the crap out of me when I was a child! And the wheelers WERE super freaky!

  4. April

    I LOVE Top 10 Tuesdays! I just picked up Stones from the River at a book sale… I know what I am going to read next. And you got me on Lovely Bones; I cannot get past the first part. Maybe I will skip it so I can get to the ‘meat’ you speak of. HAPPY TUESDAY!

  5. Andie

    I’d never heard of Stones from the River but The Book Thief is one of my favourites so I’ll have to check it out! I’m always pushing people to read The End of the Alphabet – super short but so beautiful.

  6. Akilah

    Is Me Talk Pretty One Day the one with the chapter on soap operas? If so, I read it and I dug it.

    The Lovely Bones is gorgeous. I was hesitant to read it because of the rape and murder aspect, but the grief of the family is the real story, which makes it not as gruesome as I thought.

    • Words for Worms

      I believe that is in Me Talk Pretty One Day and that’s part of why I loved it so much! When I was in high school and reading Oedipus and Shakespeare I kept thinking that they were like old school soaps, and that somehow I’d teach people to appreciate classics by spoon feeding them soap operas. Ah. Youth.

  7. Rory

    My intro sounds just like yours…I couldn’t recommend Jane Eyre and and Owen Meany again! I’ve read several of these and they are excellent – I love Sedaris, though I only caved recently and started reading him. I agree about The Lovely Bones adaptation.

  8. Rhian

    Damn, my list disappeared. Stupid iThing. Let’s try again.

    Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
    Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
    The Professor and the Housekeeper by Yoko Ogawa
    The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
    Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
    Vroom with a View by Peter Moore
    Notes from a Big Country by Bill Bryson
    The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
    The Household Guide to Dying by Debra Adelaide
    Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

    There’s tons more but I’ve kept it to ten. I’m not even sure this is my top ten but they’re the ones that came to mind. I’m sure if I went into my library I’d add some others!

    • Words for Worms

      Good stuff on your list! I’ve read quiet a few. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society has been on my radar for a long time- I take it I should get off my duff and give it a read?

  9. Ashley F

    Ok, Ok. I will read an Oprah’s pick. Because I’ve read all the other books on this list and as a result I love you just a little bit more because I adored them all.

  10. Megan M.

    Speak and The Lovely Bones… yes, yes. I saw the movie of Never Let Me Go and it was gut-wrenching. I might have to check out Fortune’s Rocks!

  11. Zen A.

    The Lovely Bones is one book I want to read. I made the grave mistake of watching the movie first (I didn’t know a book existed!) so now that I know how it ends, I’m kinda putting it off to read books I don’t know anything about.

    Some fantastic books I read recently: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairy Land in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente… to name a few!

    • Words for Worms

      Oh, The Fault In Our Stars just tore me apart, but I loved it. It’s made many of my Top Ten lists, but I read it after I started blogging, and I feel like I rave about it all the time!

    • Words for Worms

      Yeah the movie left out an awful lot of important points, but you know. at least it didn’t, you know, COMPLETELY change the ending like My Sister’s Keeper. I’m still irrationally angry about that…

  12. Samantha

    I’ve read three of these! Middlesex, The Lovely Bones, and Never Let Me Go. Loved all of them. I have The Robber Bride on my nightstand, ready to be read. I could probably use another Margaret Atwood book soon anyway (I love her). And now I’m wanting to add the other ones I haven’t read. I have read part of Me Talk Pretty One Day, but I didn’t enjoy it so far as much as Naked.

    • Words for Worms

      Atwood is so brilliant! Was Naked by chance the first Sedaris you read? I read Me Talk Pretty One Day first, and no matter how many others I read, none have taken the top spot. I’ve heard people say that you love your first John Green more than any that follow, so I’m wondering if the same principle applies here…

      • Samantha

        It was the first one I read, so maybe that’s why. I read it during a nonfiction creative writing class I took, and our professor actually read from Me Talk Pretty One Day in class, but I ended up reading Naked myself first. It’s interesting. 🙂

  13. PinotNinja

    Middlesex and Never Let Me Go both had be in tears — lovely writing, fascinating and difficult subject, and compelling characters. Just so damn well done.

    My favorite from the past and not so distant past (because these books are old friends who I love to revist) are any of Alice Munro’s short story collections. She writes complex female characters better than anyone I can think of — what she can do in 20 pages is simply unbelievable.

  14. Charleen

    Middlesex has been on my TBR list FOREVER. Okay, like since college, but since that’s when I started reading for fun again, it feels like forever. But every time I see it on there I’m like… eh, not in the mood right now. I really do need to just read it.

  15. Sami

    I don’t know if you like non-fiction but Same Kind of Different as Me is one of my favorites. I also love The Secret Garden…my mom read it to me when I was a child and it’s one of my favorites as well. I also need to tell you that your stream of consciousness is cracking me up!! You were on fire today!

    • Words for Worms

      I have not read your suggested Non Fiction, but I DO enjoy The Secret Garden. Only, I read it last year because I wasted my childhood on RL Stine.

  16. Jenny

    Did you like the film of Never Let Me Go? I got dead bored of it. I thought the three main actors were all very good — I never tire of movies in which Andrew Garfield spectacularly loses his shit — but the script seemed to depend a lot on voiceover, and not to rely on its main actors to convey information and nuance as much as I’m sure they were capable of doing. It bummed me out because I thought the book was excellent.

  17. The Underground Writer

    “Back When We Were Grown Ups” and “Amateur Marriage” by Anne Tyler took my breath away. The problem with reading Anne Tyler though, is that she writes so beautifully that so many books are duds in comparison. My goodness! I have become an Anne Tyler Snob!

    • Words for Worms

      I need to give Anne Tyler another shot. I wasn’t a big fan of Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant so I haven’t picked up another. However, I really love the title Back When We Were Grown Ups, so I might have to get brave.

      • The Underground Writer

        I didn’t like Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant either – and i LOVE Anne Tyler. “Back When We Were Grown Ups” is my all time favorite book of hers. I also loved, loved, loved “Breathing Lessons.” I forgot to mention that one!

  18. Heather

    FALL ON YOUR KNEES! That book is so good. Whenever I describe it to someone, all I can say is, “It’s…WHOA.” That is one powerful book. You’re the first person I’ve ever seen mention it on a book blog.

  19. jennpower

    I read Little Women (It had both Little Women and Good Wives in one book: Called them Part one and part two of Little Women) when I was seven. It took me a year, but I started to use books then like an addict would use alcohol. I read Jane Eyre when I was 9, I always loved classics, and those are the two books I will definitely keep forever.

    • jennpower

      I read the lovely bones when I in high school. It was good. I’m glad that when I saw the movie they didn’t show everything-that was my first crime novel/detective novel, and I liked the point of view the author chose to narrate from-thought it was interesting.

  20. Sarah V

    Hello there. I just found your blog. It’s lovely. And I love the list. Middlesex is one of my favorite books ever.

  21. travelmore99

    I tried to leave this comment before but don’t think posted. In any case, I love lists so love your idea of a list day. Also, Stones from the River and The Book Thief are two of my favorites.

    • Words for Worms

      Well hello! I’d love to take credit for Top Ten Tuesday, but it’s the brain child of another blog, The Broke and the Bookish (I linked it in my blog if you’re interested.) I thought about writing a compare/contrast piece of Stones and Book Thief, but they’re just too beautiful to pit against eachother.

  22. Sarah Says Read

    Woooo Amy Tan! I always wanted rice when I read her books. That I’d find that after reading like 3 books by her in a row, I’d walk around saying “Wah” like the ladies in her books, which was weird to say the least.

    • Words for Worms

      LMAO! That might be the greatest thing I’ve ever heard. After reading Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (which is NOT by Amy Tan, but it’s about Chinese women) I remember every time I got annoyed thinking “I should compose a song of vituperation!”

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