Top Ten Tuesday adapted from http://www.flickr.com/photos/ceasedesist/4812981497/

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Book Covers

Top Ten Tuesday adapted from http://www.flickr.com/photos/ceasedesist/4812981497/

I didn’t have a chance to post my Top Ten Tuesday response yesterday. I love the topic for this week: Top Ten Favorite Book Covers of Books I’ve Read.

Despite the adage not to judge a book by its cover, we all do it, and we all pick up books because the cover entrances us. We have also probably eschewed perfectly good books because of unattractive covers. If we didn’t pay attention to covers, neither would publishers, who spend a lot of money (I am assuming) on graphic designers.

In order to write this post, I scrolled through my Read pile on Goodreads. Here are my favorite covers.

[amazon_image id=”0743273567″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Great Gatsby[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”1594746036″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0345802624″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Night Circus[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”B005UVW8NQ” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Map of True Places[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0393338487″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Emily’s Ghost[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0143105434″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Wuthering Heights[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0143106155″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Jane Eyre[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0060731338″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Freakonomics[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”B005EP2310″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Ahab’s Wife[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0679751521″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil[/amazon_image]

I could have chosen a lot of covers for this post, and indeed, I had trouble narrowing it to ten. There are quite a few books with arresting covers that have caught my eye. But I narrowed it down to these ten. I think the Cugat cover of [amazon_link id=”0743273567″ target=”_blank” ]The Great Gatsby[/amazon_link] is one of the most iconic and beautiful book covers of all time. Even Fitzgerald, upon seeing it (and fearing that his publisher would give it to another writer), said, “don’t give anyone that jacket you’re saving for me. I’ve written it into the book.”

The cover of [amazon_link id=”1594746036″ target=”_blank” ]Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children[/amazon_link] is an arresting black and white photograph of a levitating girl. Ransom Riggs’s book was famously inspired by a package of odd photographs he purchased, and he created his characters from those photographs. The girl on the cover is the little girl who floats unless she is tied to something. I love her ancient little face. She looks like little old woman. The font is also part of what makes this cover design appealing.

I didn’t much care for the novel [amazon_link id=”0345802624″ target=”_blank” ]The Night Circus[/amazon_link], but the cover is quite striking in black, white, and red. The artwork reminds me of paper doll cutouts.

The hardcover version of Brunonia Barry’s novel [amazon_link id=”B005UVW8NQ” target=”_blank” ]The Map of True Places[/amazon_link] caught my eye because of the gorgeous blue of the sky and water and the celestial map markings. I was lucky to receive two signed copies of this book when I won a sweepstakes connected to this novel. Obviously, that isn’t why I love the cover, but I surely did fall in love with Salem and with Massachusetts, and this book was a large part of that.

I think what I like about the cover of [amazon_link id=”0393338487″ target=”_blank” ]Emily’s Ghost[/amazon_link] is the juxtaposition of the striping on the bottom where the title appears with the gorgeous picture of the woman looking over the bare moors.

I think Ruben Toledo’s covers of the Penguin classics are all brilliant, but my two favorites are his covers of [amazon_link id=”0143105434″ target=”_blank” ]Wuthering Heights[/amazon_link] and [amazon_link id=”0143106155″ target=”_blank” ]Jane Eyre[/amazon_link]. I love the drawings of Catherine and Heathcliff on the first, and the excellent blue creepiness of the house and sweet little Jane on the second. The cartoonish nature of the drawings is fun and appealing. I think as a student, I might be more inclined to pick up the classics illustrated by Toledo as opposed to those versions with old paintings of women on the covers. You know what I mean.

The cover of [amazon_link id=”0060731338″ target=”_blank” ]Freakonomics[/amazon_link] intrigues me because it doesn’t meet expectations. The apple is cut open to reveal and orange inside. Not only that, but the apple is green, and for some reason, this cover wouldn’t work if the apple were any other color. I can’t stop looking at it, for some reason, and I definitely wanted to read it because of the cover.

[amazon_link id=”B005EP2310″ target=”_blank” ]Ahab’s Wife[/amazon_link] is one of my all-time favorites. I just love the wrecked ship and the way the woman on the cover is looking at it. You can tell she is remembering her story. “Captain Ahab was neither my first husband nor my last.” See? Now don’t you want to read it? It’s nearly as good an opener as “Call me Ishmael.” It’s a stunning book, and I love the stark beauty of the cover.

The last book I chose the famous image of the Bird Girl statue from John Berendt’s [amazon_link id=”0679751521″ target=”_blank” ]Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil[/amazon_link]. It is an arresting image in green, and the statue became such a draw for tourists in Savannah that the city moved it out of the graveyard, where it obviously was located when this photograph was taken, to a museum. It is not quite the same, seeing it there. The Bird Girl belongs in this graveyard under the large trees weeping Spanish moss. I hope they move her back there someday.

What are your favorite book covers?

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Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Historical Novels

Top Ten TuesdayHistorical fiction is my favorite genre, and I’m not sure I could pick an adequate top ten. There are so many great books that fit into this genre. You can find my list below with the following caveats: I simply haven’t had a chance to read a lot of great historical fiction that’s out there yet, so this list is necessarily limited to just those books I have experience with, and also I have decided not to include classics that were set during their own contemporary times but are history now (e.g. [amazon_link id=”0486284735″ target=”_blank” ]Pride and Prejudice[/amazon_link] or [amazon_link id=”1441408223″ target=”_blank” ]Jane Eyre[/amazon_link]). Also, these are in no particular order (aside from the order in which they occurred to me) because I couldn’t begin to rank them. Finally, I selected these particular books out of all the historical fiction I have read and loved because they so perfectly evoke their time settings that they bring the historical eras in which they are set alive (with historical accuracy) and simply couldn’t take place any other time.

  1. [amazon_link id=”034549038X” target=”_blank” ]The Dante Club[/amazon_link] by Matthew Pearl: Not only is this book a solid thriller with fun connections to Dante’s [amazon_link id=”0812967216″ target=”_blank” ]Inferno[/amazon_link] and the Fireside Poets, but it is also a great snapshot into life in Boston right after the Civil War. In terms of period detail and engaging reads, you could do worse than Matthew Pearl for sure.
  2. [amazon_link id=”0780748433″ target=”_blank” ]Catherine, Called Birdy[/amazon_link] by Karen Cushman: This is a middle grades/early YA novel set in 1290 in England. Catherine is the daughter of a knight, and Cushman captures the Middle Ages (particularly, the lives of a family in a small manor house) in exquisite detail.
  3. [amazon_link id=”0152164502″ target=”_blank” ]The Coffin Quilt[/amazon_link] by Ann Rinaldi: The subject of this YA novel is the feud between the Hatfields and McCoys. Told from the viewpoint of Fanny McCoy, the novel touches on all the major events of the feud and is simply one of the most well-written YA novels I’ve ever read.
  4. [amazon_link id=”0345521307″ target=”_blank” ]The Paris Wife[/amazon_link] by Paula McLain: This novel about Ernest Hemingway’s first marriage and time in Paris perfectly captures the lives of the American artist expatriates living in France during the 1920’s. It’s a gorgeous novel.
  5. [amazon_link id=”1565125606″ target=”_blank” ]Water for Elephants[/amazon_link] by Sara Gruen: This isn’t just great historical fiction. It really captures an era and a subculture that I’ve not seen captured as well in any other novel. Superb read.
  6. [amazon_link id=”0765356155″ target=”_blank” ]Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell[/amazon_link] by Susanna Clarke: While also classified as fantasy, this novel also explores England during the Napoleonic Wars, including brushes with Mad King George and Lord Byron as well as the Duke of Wellington. The footnotes are a great touch. I loved this novel.
  7. [amazon_link id=”039331507X” target=”_blank” ]Nothing Like the Sun[/amazon_link] by Anthony Burgess: I don’t think I’ve read another historical fiction book about Shakespeare that touches this one. Burgess’s characters speak like Elizabethans, and the events described are both believable and fun homages to Shakespeare’s plays. The premise behind the book is that Shakespeare’s tangled love life majorly influenced all of his work.
  8. [amazon_link id=”B000FC10KC” target=”_blank” ]Ahab’s Wife[/amazon_link] by Sena Jeter Naslund: Oh, how I love Una Spenser. She is my fictional BFF. She is amazing. I need to read this one again. As you might have guessed, this book takes the passage in [amazon_link id=”B003GCTQ7M” target=”_blank” ]Moby Dick[/amazon_link] in which Captain Ahab mentions he has a young wife at home and creates her character and her life (and it’s a fascinating life that, in my opinion, puts that of her husband to shame).
  9. [amazon_link id=”0061577073″ target=”_blank” ]The Poisonwood Bible[/amazon_link] by Barbara Kingsolver: This novel about Christian missionaries in the Belgian Congo right as the country declares its independence from Belgium is a fascinating snapshot into the Congo of the 1960’s as well as the lives of Christian missionaries and also serves as an allegory for America’s own role in colonialism.
  10. [amazon_link id=”0061990477″ target=”_blank” ]The Thorn Birds[/amazon_link] by Colleen McCullough: When I read this novel, I couldn’t put it down. I haven’t read a lot of books set in Australia, but this novel seems to so perfectly capture the times and setting. Meggie is an engaging heroine, and who doesn’t love Father Ralph de Bricassart?

Because I read a ton of historical fiction, I need to include some honorable mentions:

  • [amazon_link id=”0547550294″ target=”_blank” ]The Witch of Blackbird Pond[/amazon_link] by Elizabeth George Speare: This YA novel is set in Colonial Massachusetts and is a great vehicle for middle schoolers (or even their older siblings and parents) to learn about that time period in history. I can’t think of too many books that do as good a job with this era.
  • [amazon_link id=”0312378025″ target=”_blank” ]The Tea Rose[/amazon_link] by Jennifer Donnelly: This book is a fun read, but has a few lapses in terms of credibility (at least for this reader). Set in Whitechapel as Jack the Ripper ravages London, this novel is the story of Fiona, daughter of one of the Ripper’s victims, who makes her way to New York and builds a tea empire from scratch.
  • [amazon_link id=”B001NLKT2E” target=”_blank” ]The Commoner[/amazon_link] by John Burnham Schwartz: This story of a commoner’s marriage into the Japanese imperial family makes for a great read, too, though Schwartz takes some liberties to make his character’s ending happier than that of the real model for his heroine.
  • [amazon_link id=”0060515139″ target=”_blank” ]A Plague of Doves[/amazon_link] by Louise Erdrich: Some of this novel is contemporary, which is one reason I didn’t include it above, but it is one of the finest novels I’ve read and concerns the repercussions of a murder and hate crime that sent ripples through a community for generations.
  • [amazon_link id=”B003WUYROK” target=”_blank” ]The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane[/amazon_link] by Katherine Howe: Also partly set in contemporary times, this novel concerns Connie Goodwin’s attempts to learn more about her ancestors’ grimoire and secret powers.
  • [amazon_link id=”0399157913″ target=”_blank” ]The Help[/amazon_link] by Kathryn Stockett: While this book certainly evoked Mississippi of the 1960’s, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, it did not seem as realistic to me as some of the books I included in my top ten.
  • [amazon_link id=”0307588661″ target=”_blank” ]Madame Tussaud[/amazon_link] by Michelle Moran: This novel, set during the French Revolution, was an excellent read and shone a spotlight on a historical figure who hasn’t perhaps received as much attention as she was due.
  • [amazon_link id=”0143034901″ target=”_blank” ]The Shadow of the Wind[/amazon_link] by Carlos Ruiz Zafón: Barcelona’s book world during the 1930’s and 1940’s, though to me, the plot did not have to be set during era or in that place.
  • [amazon_link id=”0451202503″ target=”_blank” ]The Songcatcher[/amazon_link] by Sharyn McCrumb: Again, because this novel is set partly in contemporary times, I excluded it from the list above, but the historical fiction parts were my favorite. This novel is the story of how a song learned on the crossing from Scotland to America in the eighteenth century was passed down in a family and survived to the present day.
  • [amazon_link id=”039306915X” target=”_blank” ]Emily’s Ghost[/amazon_link] by Denise Giardina: The story of Emily Brontë and one of the better historical fiction novels about the Brontë family.
  • Pretty much anything by Jude Morgan. Love him. And Syrie James. And Tracy Chevalier. I mean, this was really a hard topic for me to narrow down.

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Emily’s Ghost

Emily’s Ghost: A Novel of the Brontë SistersDenise Giardina’s novel Emily’s Ghost is the third novel about the lives of the Brontës that I’ve read this year. The other two were Jude Morgan’s Charlotte and Emily and Syrie James’s The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë. Perhaps because Wuthering Heights is my favorite novel, I felt Emily’s presence lacking a bit in these other two novels as they were both told from Charlotte’s point of view. Giardina’s novel is told mainly from Emily’s point of view, but also includes the perspectives of the curate William Weightman, supposed by many to have been a love interest of Anne Brontë’s. Giardina chooses instead to depict William Weightman as Emily’s beloved. As no substantiation exists for a definite relationship with Anne, I suppose Giardina can take the license to offer a different portrayal of Weightman’s affections than is traditionally shown.

Emily’s Ghost is not a sweeping saga of the Brontës so much as a collection of important vignettes. Giardina notes that the story we traditionally read of the Brontës has been Charlotte’s, as she was the sister who survived and her biographer, Elizabeth Gaskell, naturally had Charlotte’s point of view to work with. Emily’s story, at least as Giardina imagines it, is very different. I found her William Weightman charismatic and her depiction of their relationship plausible. Patrick Brontë is particularly well drawn in this novel, and Branwell is portrayed in a much more sympathetic light than usual, due mainly to his concern over Emily’s reaction to Weightman’s death and his care for Weightman as he died. Charlotte, on the other hand, suffers a great deal from Giardina’s characterization. She comes off as a little bit man-crazy, and certainly whiny, self-absorbed, and vain (about her talent, especially). In the final pages, she’s downright appalling.

I actually think of the three Brontë novels I’ve read, I enjoyed this one the most. I was swept away—it’s easy to tell Giardina is a fan of the Brontës. I also felt somehow that this novel captured something accurate, something very real about the Brontë household. Or perhaps a somewhat romanticized version of it. It’s much more like Wuthering Heights than Jane Eyre, which is to be expected. A couple of favorite lines stand out:

They were sisters. They loved one another. They were also rivals, though they never admitted to it.

I can easily picture the Brontës feeling this way—so much talent in so little space.

And Emily, remarking to her sisters, who do not like Wuthering Heights:

And do you despise Heathcliff? Then despise me! Because I—” She jabbed her finger against her chest as she leaned forward across the table. “I am Heathcliff! I am!”

Be sure to check out the much more comprehensive review at BrontëBlog. If you are a fan of the Brontës, you will enjoy this novel.

Rating: ★★★★★

Happy birthday, Emily Brontë.

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Celebrating Georgette Heyer

Celebrating Georgette Heyer

Celebrating Georgette HeyerIn honor of Georgette Heyer’s birthday on August 16, Laurel Ann of Austenprose is hosting a month-long celebration of Heyer’s work. Yours truly is participating with a review of Charity Girl, which will be my first Heyer read. Please join us at Laurel Ann’s for the festivities.

In other book-related news this week, on this date in 1054, Siward, Earl of Northumbria, invaded Scotland to aid Malcolm Canmore against Macbeth, an event depicted in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Can’t wait to teach that one again this year! It’s also the birthday of Alexandre Dumas fils and the anniversary of the death of Gertrude Stein.

Tomorrow marks the birthday of Beatrix Potter and the anniversary of the death of Cyrano de Bergerac.

Friday is the birthday of novelist Emily Brontë. I hope I can have a review of the novel Emily’s Ghost ready to commemorate that event. Friday also marks the anniversary of the death of British poet Thomas Gray.

Saturday we celebrate the birthdays of J. K. Rowling and her creation, Harry Potter. On July 31, 1703, writer Daniel Defoe was also put in a pillory following a conviction for seditious libel. He was pelted with flowers.

On August 1, 1944, Anne Frank made the last entry in her diary. August 1 is also Herman Melville’s birthday.

Monday August 2 is Caleb Carr‘s birthday and also marks the anniversary of Raymond Carver’s death and William S. Burroughs’s death.

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Summer Reading

Summer is rapidly approaching. I have one more week of teaching, one more week of finals, and a couple of days of post-planning, after which my teaching responsibilities for 2009-2010 will have ended. Of course, before you tell me how lucky I am to have two months off (it’s not actually three), don’t forget I am actually not paid for that time. Most teachers are paid for ten months, but have their pay divided among twelve. Also, no teacher—let me rephrase that—no good teacher I know really takes that time off. Most of us usually spend that time planning for the next year, doing professional reading, and taking professional development courses or college courses. I’ll be doing all three. However, more time will also mean more time for reading. Here are the books on my radar (subject to change) for summer reading.

The Story of BritainThe Adventure of English: The Biography of a LanguageMedieval Lives

Rebecca Fraser’s The Story of England and Melvyn Bragg’s The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language are on tap as I plan my British Literature and Composition courses. I have also checked out the DVD companion for Bragg’s book from my school library. Both books should help me plan my courses. Terry Jones’s Medieval Lives should add some dimension to studies of Chaucer next year.

In terms of professional reading, I plan to finish some books I’ve started, specifically:

Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do  About It The Grammar Plan Book: A Guide to Smart Teaching

Even if I am not teaching 9th grade next year, which is the grade level at which our grammar instruction is focused, I still think a solid foundation in how to teach grammar in a way that will stick and will make a difference in student writing is a good idea. In addition, I would like to try to read this book:

Plagiarism

In this day of easy cut and paste, plagiarism is much easier, and I believe, more tempting than ever before.

Finally, for pleasure reading, I plan to select from the following:

I thoroughly enjoyed Syrie James’s second novel, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë, and as a fan of Jane Austen, I look forward to The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen. I originally purchased both The Forgotten Garden and The Meaning of Night for potential reading for the last R.I.P. Reading Challenge. My husband is thoroughly enjoying The Meaning of Night, and he highly recommends it.

These first two books will indulge my interest in the Romantic poets. The first book, Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land, explores the story of Byron’s own contribution to the famous writing challenge that produced Frankenstein and the first vampire novel. Passion: A Novel of the Romantic Poets explores the lives of Byron, the Shelleys, and Keats. As a child, I was extremely interested in dinosaurs and paleontology. Of course I want to read Remarkable Creatures, the first novel I know of written about Mary Anning, who discovered the fossil of an ichthyosaur and two plesiosaurs near her home at Lyme Regis.

The Little Stranger comes highly recommended from our art teacher. Emily’s Ghost promises to be an interesting novel about Emily Brontë: most of the novels about the Brontës either focus on Charlotte or broaden the focus on the Brontës in general. The Dream of Perpetual Motion will be my first steampunk novel.

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