On the 7th day of Christmas my true love gave to me… 7 swans-a-swimming!
Or — in my case — seven books-a-swimming, drifting, sailing all around my literary inclined faculties.
It has been a great year, in terms of book reading and literature devouring. I’ve finally caught up with the many years of reading I had lost because of lack of time and resourcefulness (yep, you read that right — resourcefulness not resources). This year, thanks to e-books and excess books, I was able to grab hold of many worthy reads, reads which have long been on my list but I have never gotten round to ticking off.
Now, I must choose seven which will serve as my seven swans-a-swimming. So without further ado, let me introduce those swans to you:
1. Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne
“If you happen to have read another book about Christopher Robin, you may remember that he once had a swan (or the swan had Christopher Robin, I don’t know which) and he used to call this swan Pooh. That was a long time ago, and when we said good-bye, we took the name with us, as we didn’t think the swan would want it any more.” (Introduction, Winnie-the-Pooh)
See. One swan-a-swimming. But that would be the last you would read about swans because, upon poring over the rest of the book’s pages, you’ll find out that this children’s tale won’t make mention of any more fowls but would proceed to elaborate about the adventures (and misadventures) of the much loved Edward Bear (or Winnie-the-Pooh, as we all know him now), Christopher Robin, and their friends at the Hundred Acre Woods.
I bought this book at BookXcess at a super low price (RM5). You can not believe what joy it gave me when I found the little orange book peeping at me from the shop’s bargain tray. I’ve been wanting to read this book since forever — my mom used to read it as a bedtime story to me and my brother back when we were kids, you see. Now, at 24, I still find every childlike page magical. Who could beat silly-old-bear and his unassuming antics? This is a must read if you just want something fun and amusing to make you chuckle and shake your head in wonder.
2. Monkey Bridges by Lan Cao
Another book I bought at BookXcess. I really like books set in non-US countries. They give me glimpses of other cultures. Other ways of thinking. This book was written by a Vietnamese woman and tells a story of a young Vietnamse girl and her mom who were forced to migrate to the US because of the Vietnam War. The summary’s paragraph reads: “Like navigating a monkey bridge — a bridge, built of spindly bamboo, used by peasants for centuries — Lan Cao’s narrative traverses perilously between worlds past and present, East and West, in telling two interlocked stories. One of these stories is the Vietnamese version of the classic immigrant experience in America, told by a young girl; and the second, a dark tale of betrayal, political intrigue, family secrets and revenge — her mother’s tale.”
I traversed through the monkey bridges during the early part of this year, when I still commuted to work using buses and trains. It was easy to get lost in the narrative, easy to forget I was in the train to bound for Putrajaya, easy to think I was in Saigon, Little Saigon, Ba Xuyen, and Farmington instead.
I loved it.
3. Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones
This one I bought at National Bookstore last year while I was on “Christmas Break”. 90% of the book is set in Papua New Guinea and the protagonist here is a young girl who finds herself absorbed in the tale of Pip in Dickens’ Great Expectations. It gets a bit morbid around 80% into the tale but the rest of the book shows the profound effect of literature on the life of people young and old, on men and women dark and white. I was shaken when I got to the end. Shaken in a good way.
4. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
I bought The Moonstone at MPH because it was thick and cost only RM10. Did I say it was thick? It was thick. It’s a classic and was one of the first detective stories during its time. At first, I couldn’t find myself finding the story in the thread of narratives told by varying characters. But once the plot eventually unfolded, I couldn’t put the book down. I even brought it with me during my “Midyear Break” in the Philippines. Trust Mari to lug a bulky book like that around.
5. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
This could actually stand as the seven swans on its own because the set consists of seven books. But I shall count the sevenology (is there even such a word???) as one. And yes, I, the book buff, have only read this series just this year. I feel so ashamed. I guess I was just too stingy to shell out cash for the collection.
Well, this year, I managed to grab hold of an e-book containing ALL the seven books: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe; Prince Caspian; The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; The Silver Chair; The Horse and his Boy; The Magician’s Nephew; and The Last Battle.
C. S. Lewis is a genius. I still feel a bit sad about Susan though. Oh but the spoilers will end there. But I love how the stories leak out Christian truths in an adventure-filled and magical way.
6. Strictly Business by O. Henry
Strictly Business is a collection of short stories by O. Henry. Mr. O (not his real name — and O. Henry is just the guy’s pen name) is quickly becoming one of my favourite short story authors (well, I still have many more short story authors to discover). But it’s crazy how his stories suddenly take uncanny twists in the end. You may know him from one of his more famous works, The Gift of the Magi.
I have yet to grab a physical copy of his collections. I read Strictly Business in the Project Gutenberg repository and put up with online reading because I found the New York tales so amusing. My favourite shorts there would include The Thing’s the Play and Proof of the Pudding. READ THEM.
7. Uprising by E. R. McManus
And a non-fiction inspirational book makes it to the list. I LOVE MCMANUS. The back portion of Uprising warns readers: “This book is dangerous! It is only for those who are ready to join the uprising — a revolution of the soul that will change and ordinary life into an extraordinary one. It is only for those who want something more out of life, who desire to tap into the divine potential that was placed in them at their creation.”
I like how McManus breaks it into “Quests” instead of the usual “Chapters”. In his book, you go from your Point of Origin on a Quest for Honour, a Quest for Nobility, and a Quest for Enlightenment until you get to your Final Destination.
Read this book and be changed. And while you’re at it, read McManus’ other books as well.
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Well, this entry turned out to be one of my longer pieces. I decided not to break it into parts but I hope it still worked out well with you all, dear readers.
So how about you? What books did you read and love this year? They might just make it to my next year’s reading list. ;)
Nothing beats “real” books.