Read Around the Rainbow is a blogging project featuring yours truly, A.L. Lester, Ofelia Gränd, Holly Day, K.L. Noone, Amy Spector, Addison Albright, Fiona Glass, Lilian Francis, and Ellie Thomas. Every month, we pick a topic and then we blog about it. Check the other blog posts by clicking the RAtR widget in the sidebar, or the links at the bottom of this post.
The RAtR topic for August is “What are your top three non-romance reads?”
First of all, I want to let you know I’m going to break the rules and pick five favorite non-romance reads. Because that’s the kind of person I am, a rule breaker. Also because picking only three favorite books is impossible. Even five was difficult; I almost made it six 🙂
We’ve picked non-romance so you’ll get to know us a little better, learn who we are more than romance readers and writers. Because all of us in this webring are book lovers…which I believe is a requirement for authors, wouldn’t you agree? 🙂
But without further ado, here are my top five picks (in no particular order, all of them are number ones!)
Ronja Rövardotter (Ronia the Robber’s Daughter) by Astrid Lindgren
On the night Ronia was born, a thunderstorm raged over the mountain, but in Matt’s castle and among his band of robbers there was only joy — for Matt now had a spirited little black-haired daughter. Soon Ronia learns to dance and yell with the robbers, but it is alone in the forest that she feels truly at home.
Then one day Ronia meets Birk, the son of Matt’s arch-enemy. Soon after Ronia and Birk become friends the worst quarrel ever between the rivals bands erupts, and Ronia and Birk are right in the middle.
As a Swedish person, I’ve grown up on a steady diet of Astrid Lindgren, the author of Pippi Longstocking, who’s probably our most famous author. I’ve read most of her books, and while I love Pippi, I love Ronja more. This book was released when I was nine and can’t even guess how many times I’ve read it. I’ve read it as an adult, too, and I still love it.
Ronja is a fierce heroine. She befriends Birk, the son of her father’s arch enemy, she knows right from wrong and isn’t afraid to speak up when she learns that her father actually steals stuff for a living, and she doesn’t hesitate to stand up to him when push comes to shove. She stands up for what’s right, she sides with Birk when her father forces her hand, and she doesn’t give up. He’s the one who crumbles first, he’s the one who comes to her and asks her forgiveness, not the 12-ish year old girl.
If that isn’t the best kind of role model any young girl can have, I don’t know what is. And that’s why I’ll read this book to my darling grandbaby when she gets a little older.
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Just like Ronja Rövardotter, I’ve read Dracula so many times I’ve lost count. It was my favorite novel as a teenager, and it was the book that made awakened my love of epistolary novels. I don’t really know what it is about epistolary novels that fascinates me so much, but I absolutely adore a story told through letters and newspaper clips like this one. Or emails, DMs, text messages, and everything other modern day equivalent to the classic letter you can think of.
But Dracula is also responsible for awakening my love of horror stories and making me a fierce defender of the vampire as the best supernatural being ever (yes, me and the hubby has had long conversations which is best: vampires or zombies), and it’s the reason I devoured every vampire book in existence for years and years. These days, I don’t read a lot of paranormal books, but I’ll gladly make an exception for a good vampire story. But I’ve honestly never found a better one than Dracula.
The Poems of Catullus
Odi et amo. quare id faciam fortasse requiris.
Nescio, sed fieri sentio, et excrucior.
I studied Latin in high-school. It was one of my favorite subjects, taught by one of my favorite teachers ever. She loved Latin and old Roman history with a passion I envied as a teenager. She loved it so much that she made me love it, too. As someone who already read poetry at this age, I fell head over heels in love with classical Roman poetry. Especially Catullus.
The short poem above is my favorite and I can recite it in Latin. It’s about the woman he called Lesbia in his poems, who really was a married woman named Clodia, and the poems about her display a range of emotions from tender to sad to sarcastic as their relationship starts out happily then fizzles out and they fall out of love.
His poems are great. In fact, I think I’ll go find my copy and re-read them right now. Because what better way is there to spend a lazy Saturday (the day I’m writing this post) than with a good poetry book?
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
Tell me you love Shakespeare without telling me you love Shakespeare.
My daughter’s name is Ofelia. 😁
That being said, I prefer the comedies over the tragedies, so Hamlet is not my favorite Shakespeare play. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is.
It’s probably because I was in an amateur acting group in my late teens/early twenties, and I played the part of Titania when we played AMND. And my now husband, then crush, played Nick Bottom who Titania falls in love with (albeit under the influence of a love potion, but still). That meant I didn’t have to try to play it cool and pretend I wasn’t desperately in love with him; I could live out my feelings. Very practical. 😁
Acting was so much fun and for a while, I dreamed of a career as an actor. Not for movies or television, but for the stage. Me and some of the other actors lived and breathed theatre and plays (and movie adaptations of Shakespeare plays; I’m looking at you, Much Ado About Nothing!) for years, but then life happened and my acting dreams fizzled out.
But my love for Shakespeare didn’t.
Aednan by Linnea Axelsson
Aednan is the newest book on my list (it was published in 2018). It’s a Swedish novel-in-verse that tells the story of two indigenous Sámi families. The nomadic Sámi traditionally make a living by herding reindeer over vast distances, across country borders. They live up north, in the northern parts of Sweden, Norway, Finland, and even in Russia. As many other indigenous people, the Sámi has been abused, violated, experienced racism (still do to this day), and has been forced to change their way of life.
The people in this book get to experience all that and more. They’re humiliated, deprived of their identities, ridiculed. Aednan is 760 pages long, but never has such a long book with so few words on every page made me feel so much. I ached when I read it, both because of what they are forced to endure, but also because it’s stunningly beautiful.
This is one of the best books I’ve ever read and I wish I could tell you all to go read it, but it’s not translated to English, except for a few short verses I’ve found that I’ll post below.
The Swede’s fingers
all inside my mouth
across the floor
it was because of my
that the traveling doctor had come
With hard tools
he measured me
in every nook
I could tell that the
was taking shape
on their papers
Using royal ink
the racial animal
of our obedience
my home-sewn belt
My breasts hung
their distaste blazed
I saw how they
all the while
My friend beside me
was quick to help me
on with my kolt
Then she quietly translated
about what we did
Over the doctor’s shoulder
And I heard him
say in Finnish:
The way their men drink
makes God cry
and the Devil laugh
And the shame
took root in me
because of my dark hair
That’s it. That’s my top five non-romance books. But don’t forget to check out the other posts on the topic. It’s always so interesting to read what my fellow writers come up with and I love that the same topic creates so wildly different content. I can’t wait to read what they’ve written.