A is for Austen, Jane Austen.
B is for Book Clubs. Really good book clubs, with challenging books, insightful discussion, passionate readers… and wine, of course. (I’m looking at you, Rediscovering the Classicsmembers!)
C is for Canon. The literary Canon may be controversial, it may be weighted toward white European men, and it may sometimes be hopelessly stuck in the mud; but oh! It’s filled with so much beauty, history and emotion! It simply can’t be ignored, and at the very least it’s a great place to start your journey.
D is for Dark chocolate, an end-of-the-day reading necessity.
E is for T.S. Eliot, whose “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” has been the first and last word on poetry for me since I originally came across it at the age of fifteen.
“I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.” (It still gives me chills.)
F is for F. Scott Fitzgerald. Is it predictable and cliché to think The Great Gatsby one of the most moving and finest bits of writing of the modern era? Call me predictable and cliché then.
G is for all the great Gastronomic fiction out there. Some of the books that never fail to give me food cravings are: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which always makes me want a hearty cioppino or fish stew; Pride and Prejudice, which gives me a hankering for cold ham, roast chicken and a glass of sherry; and Julia Child, of course, who makes me crave anything French, creamy and fattening.
H is for Heinlein, and his absolutely wonderful Stranger in a Strange Land, which served the multiple purposes of fostering in me a love for Science Fiction as well as an early appreciation of Philosophy and Theology.
I is for Iago, the very best literary villain ever. Othello may not be my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays (King Lear holds that honor) but Iago is the creepiest, smoothest, most ruthless, most insidious bad-guy you’ll ever find. Move over Machiavelli, Iago reigns supreme.
J is for Jeeves, that quintessential gentleman’s gentleman. Resourceful, proper, patient, and with a wit as smooth as a dry white wine; without having read any of these stories by P.G. Wodehouse your literary funny-bone simply can’t yet be fully developed.
K is for Kartography, my favorite contemporary novel. A simple story of two economic classes, two generations, and two people who are meant to be together. And the added bonus: Kamila Shamsie’s prose is like poetry.
L is for the Library, that modern temple of the muses, quiet refuge, safe haven, place of inspiration, provider of opportunity, great intellectual equalizer. I spent the greater part of my elementary and adolescent years worshipping in my local library and will happily wish the same for my own children.
M is for McSweeney’s, the fine literary journal and website, which I (sadly) didn’t discover until May of 2010, Volume 28. I will be searching for volumes 1-27 until I have the entire collection. Yes, I am that obsessive. What I wouldn’t give for just one afternoon with the group of brilliant people who produce it!
N is for Narnia, the one imaginary construct that could still seriously tempt me to give up family, friends, and life as I know it, without even a backward glance.
O is for Orpheus, the original singer of songs, weaver of words, and maker of storytelling magic. Anyone with the power to raise the dead with his words is a worthy literary hero.
P is for Purses large enough to carry books with you wherever you go. (Hermione Granger’s charmedhandbag in the 7th Harry Potter book would be my personal preference.)
Q is for Quiet, uninterrupted time to lose yourself in a good book. If you find yourself lounging in the strong branches of a tree, or curled up in a secret closet reading nook when this happens, then all the better.
R is for Kay Ryan, Poet Laureate from 2008-2010. Her deceptively short and simple verses are like “one imperial thunderbolt that scalps your naked soul.” (I guess she reminds me a little bit of Emily Dickinson, too.)
S is for Shelf Space. Unlimited please.
T is for the Tragic Hero: Hamlet, Jay Gatsby, Boromir, Anakin Skywalker… what girl doesn’t swoon over these passionate figures, doomed by the very qualities that make them so compelling in the first place…
U is for Used Bookstores. There is no greater joy for a reader than that of coming across a literary treasure in a used bookstore, cast off by some simple and unappreciative owner.
V is for Verisimilitude. Let’s face it, every good story needs it, and too many stories these days lack it. (And not to point fingers, but I’m thinking specifically about all the rehashed action movies I’ve been seeing released these past few years. Yeah, I’m talking about you, Hollywood! Okay, I guess I am pointing fingers.)
W is for the Window Seat I’ve always dreamed of having in my library.
X is for Anaïs Nin. Oh so good, and very X-rated, my friends.
Y is for the Ya-Yas. The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhoodwas a lifesaver when my kids were babies and I felt trapped in the dark burqa of motherhood. The wild and boozy women of Rebecca Wells’ book kept me sane (and kept me from feeling like a terrible mother) during the Dairy Queen and diaper pail years.
Z is for Zombies. I used to think it was Vampires or Werewolves who were the rock-stars of the monster world, but the past 10 years have shown me that Zombies are the true celebrities. And let’s face it, any monster that can convince thousands of otherwise uninterested parties to read Jane Austen deserves a little recognition.