K is for (Books About) Kindness #atozchallenge

For A to Z 2018, my theme is Books About ____. If you’re stopping by from your own A to Z blog, feel free to leave a link. If you need help with how to do that, you can look here.

If you’re someone looking to read a lot of great blogs, here’s the link for¬†the A to Z challenge.

When I did an Internet search to help me brainstorm what books are about kindness, I got lists upon lists of books for kids.

What? We don’t need to be kind anymore once we’re adults? I’d argue that it’s perhaps more important since our actions as adults are often more impactful than our actions as children.

Luckily, there are books out there that teach kindness without an overt lesson. And if you haven’t heard, reading literary fiction promotes empathy. Not that I needed an excuse to read, but I’ll take it!

Where The Heart Is, by Billie Letts (contemporary): You only saw the movie, you say? Fix that. The movie was good, but, say it with me, everyone, “The book was better.” ūüôā This is one of my all-time favorite books, for a myriad of reasons. One of those is the fact that for every awful person in the book, there are multiple kind people waiting to¬†help. I really believe the world is like that. It’s just that what we see is all the awful stuff that happens. When 17-year-old¬†Novalee Nation gets ditched by her loser boyfriend, she encounters a number of people who offer her simple kindness, and eventually become her family. It’s a lovely book, full of heartbreak, but also kindness and forgiveness.

The Silver Link, The Silken Tie, by Mildred Ames (YA science fiction/ fantasy): I am the only person I’ve ever met who’s read this book, and it is one of my favorites. Tim and Felice are both outcasts, and when they first meet, they bring out the worst in one another. An impulsive invitation throws them together, and they become friends. It’s not long before they realize that all their assumptions about one another are wrong, and they start treating one another with care and kindness. Not that this has anything to do with the theme of today’s blog, but this book also involves mind control and shared dreaming. It’s weird, in a good way.

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte (literary): I know that there are a lot of Rochester-haters out there, and to you, I say, “You’re wrong.” Rochester wasn’t a nice man, by any means, but he was kind to Jane. He treated her with care, and like an equal. Jane was abused by people growing up, yet she grew into someone who consistently treated people around her with kindness. There are many lessons in its pages. And yes, I know people take issue with the way Rochester treated his wife, but honestly, I’ve heard about asylums from back then, and she probably had it better in the attic.

What books about kindness have you enjoyed?


What Makes a Memorable Book?

img_6613I read a lot of books every year. ¬†Some are new, and some are re-reads. ¬†I don’t re-read them because I’ve forgotten them. ¬†I re-read because it’s like visiting an old friend. ¬†If I’m re-reading a book, it’s most often because I remember it, and remembered how much I loved it.

So, what exactly makes for a memorable book?

It has¬†something different. ¬†I went through a time when I read a ton of romance novels, and many of them were the same. ¬†Romance novels, in general, have a pretty predictable structure. ¬†Boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, or just have sparks, insurmountable obstacle happens, obstacle is surmounted against all odds, happily ever after. ¬†A romance novel doesn’t have to deviate from that recipe in order to be good. ¬†But it does have to bring a more interesting conflict than the normal one. ¬†Sign of Seven¬†trilogy, by Nora Roberts comes to mind. ¬†It’s romance mixed with paranormal happenings. ¬†If you haven’t read it, but you like romance and big evil bad guys, check it out.

Characters have unique traits. ¬†I love characters with unique traits. ¬†In The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, the main character is antisocial and communicates through flowers. ¬†In Where the Heart Is, by Billie Letts, Novalee is superstitious about 7s. ¬†The thing about unique traits, though, is that they can’t be for no reason and have no impact on the story. ¬†Character traits have to mean something, or else they fade into nothingness in my memory. ¬†Not to mention, meaningless quirks can irritate me into abandoning the book.

The characters make me care about them. ¬†Not all characters have to be likable, and not everyone has to be a hero, but I have to be drawn into the story and care what happens, otherwise I’m indifferent. ¬†When I’m indifferent to a character and story, I end up putting the book back down. ¬†Holden Caulfield from the Catcher in the Rye is an example, as are Amy and Nick Dunne from Gone Girl. ¬†Sure, they start off as likable, but I quickly came to hate them both. ¬†It didn’t stop me from reading. ¬†I wanted to know what happened!

It gets an emotional reaction. ¬†This one is related to the last one, but if a book makes me laugh or cry, I’ll remember it. ¬†I cry every single time I read Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls. ¬†I’ve¬†reread that book so many times over the last 20 (or so) years, but it gets me every time, just like it did the first time. ¬†At least I know to have tissues.

But my emotions aren’t manipulated, and¬†they don’t come cheap. ¬†If I’m going to invest in a character, I want the sense that the author is invested in the character too. ¬†If bad things are going to happen to a character, I want to know who the character is, if you expect me to care. ¬†In The Martian, by Andy Weir, I was really rooting for Mark Watney to get off Mars. ¬†My heart raced every time something bad happened to him, and I was genuinely excited when he was finally rescued. ¬†I wouldn’t have been so invested if Mark had just rolled over and died, or passively waited to be rescued. ¬†He worked for the victory, so I happily cheered him on.

The title makes sense. ¬†This one isn’t a deal breaker, but I remember a book so much better if the title actually relates to the book in a meaningful/ memorable way. ¬†The Night Circus is clearly and unambiguously related to the plot. ¬†Bonus points because it’s title that would make me want to read the book.

What makes a book memorable to you?  Do you re-read?