Books, the repositories of knowledge and portals to the imagination. How do I begin to sum up books, especially an entire year's worth of reading books? In 2018 alone, I read approximately 222 books!
This list is mainly geared towards novels/biographies and other stories involving plots and characters. There are countless other books that have had an impact on my life, including works by Montesquieu, Locke, Rousseau, and Voltaire.
I would like to begin this tribute to storybooks with a quote from "The Lord of the Rings":
"It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn't want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it'll shine out the clearer."
This is something that I noticed had a firm impact on each of the most influential stories in my life, whether the hero was a dissident in 1832 France, a Hispanic liberator, or a Polish woman hiding Jewish people: they all faced darkness and danger and overcame it. I would love to expand on this in a future article.
These questions are from my friend Tabby's book club, Inkhearts.
1. Most interesting biography/memoir.
This would be "Bolívar: American Liberator" by Marie Arana. I laughed, I cried, I read it over and over again. The historical figures were all portrayed as complex and fascinating individuals. Bolívar often has a tendency to be shown just as a hero on a white horse. This Bolívar was one with dreams, emotions, and flaws. Bolívar who had awkward moments, Bolívar who talked too much - Bolívar the human. I loved it! Antonio José de Sucre (the loyal best friend and voice of wisdom at Bolívar's side), Manuela Saenz, Francisco Santander, José Paez, José San Martin, Pepita, and many others made up the colorful cast of characters.
I also love "The Peasant Prince," a biography about Tadeusz Kosciuszko. It captivated his life and travels beautifully.
2. Prettiest prose.
A little French Revolution-era pamphlet about Kosciuszko's rebellion. Alas, were my hands worthy enough to touch this without gloves? It was from 1795, and the words poured forth into my hand, describing the action of the rebellion.
3. Book I wasn't expecting to like.
Hmmm, this is a hard one, for I always go into books with a neutral experience. I wasn't expecting "Declaration of Independence: A Global History" to teach me as much as it did, but it truly was a treasure!
"When the United States Spoke French" did much the same for me - an unexpected gem!
4. Book character I would spend a day with.
I'd love a day with Antonio José de Sucre from "Bolívar: American Liberator." He seemed like a very down-to-earth and non-judgmental individual. I hope that I'd know enough Spanish to talk to him as well. Simon Bolívar would be interesting as well. He was known to be quite the chatterbox!
From "A Cinq Heures Nous Serons Tous Morts," I would love to be with Charles Jeanne, the chief of the June Rebellion barricades and the inspiration for Enjolras from "Les Misérables." I admire how Jeanne stood before the king and wasn't afraid to proclaim the truth when it was unpopular.
5. Book with a place I'd love to visit.
I would love to visit Krakow from "The Peasant Prince." I still haven't been to Krakow! A city of much history that I have to see.
6. Book that made me cry.
The first book that ever made me flood the tear gates was "A Tale of Two Cities." Also in this category would again be "Bolivar: American Liberator." I do not want to risk spoilers, even in history books, so I shall not elaborate on why I cried. "Les Misérables" and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" are both beautiful and tear jerkers. "The Zookeeper's Wife," "Number the Stars," and "Hiding Place," all which take place during WW2, were tearjerkers. I wasn't expecting "Sense and Sensibility" to make me cry, but it did! "Henry Clay: The Essential American" did as well!
7. Book that inspired me to do something good.
This will be devoted to an article in and of itself! There are many books that have had a massive impact on my life.
"Bolívar: American Liberator" - Simon Bolívar encouraged me never to give up regardless of what obstacles I face and no matter how dark things are. Massive determination can prevail against seemingly impossible odds.
"Les Misérables" - This book encouraged me to always speak for the rights of the oppressed, and it showed me how kindness for humanity will go a long way. In the words of Enjolras, "Love, the future is thine."
"The Peasant Prince" - Kosciuszko always kept a good sense of humor during hard historical times and taught the importance of optimism.
"Amazing Grace" - William Wilberforce spoke up for the oppressed and the slaves when it was very unpopular. He was seen as threatening the very livelihood of the UK. But he did it, and he fought for human rights.
"A Cinq Heures Nous Serons Tous Morts" - In much the same way as William Wilberforce, Charles Jeanne was never afraid to proclaim the truth.
Oh, where shall I end? I can go on for many, many hours on more books. I used the ones that stuck out firmest and strongest in my heart for these answers. I would love to hear yours. Keep on reading!