Whenever the New Year rolls around and people start talking resolutions, I always tend to think about my age and the passing of time in general. It’s for that reason that I decided on our first month’s reading challenge: read a book that was published the year you were born. This is a search I had never done before and had absolutely no idea what would turn up.
Yes, I know that if you participate in this month’s challenge, you’ll have to give up your age. So will I. Here goes. I was born in 1978. And? Nothing. Age is just an arbitrary number and reading will keep us alive forever, right?
Read more about the challenge here: The Literary Feast 2018 Reading Challenge
Little did I know that when I perused the Goodreads list for books published in 1978, my eyes would alight on one of my favorite books of all time! Little things like that give me a nice, shivery thrill, like the universe was in perfect alignment for that to be true. Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast is the debut novel of Robin McKinley, who has gone on to author several more fairytale retellings and fantasy literature featuring strong heroines. That’s not all. Not only was Beauty published just four months after I was born, but the author was living in my home state of Maine, just a couple hours’ drive away. Shivers!
Beauty is a book that I discovered in high school, and is the book that I have most often reread. Until about 5 years ago (pre- children), I read this lovely book every year without fail. As it has now been several years since my tradition lapsed, I could not choose another book for this month’s challenge. It was like going home.
Related guest post on The Hungry Bookworm: 7 Cozy Book and Drink Pairings
Beauty and the Beast has always been my favorite fairy tale. I’ve seen it twice on Broadway, own both the animated and live-action movies, and can sing the soundtrack verbatim. I am open to all versions and will gladly read a retelling. Robin Mckinley’s Beauty is pure poetry. You’ll recognize the bones of the story, but the perspective is fresh, the heroine feisty, and the writing magical. Her descriptive powers will enchant you and there are bursts of wry humor throughout. I am the type of reader who rarely retains details of the books I read. (Which is why I love rereading favorites.) However, there are many passages of Beauty that are forever imprinted on my memory. Here are a few examples of its imagery, allusions, and humor:
“[…] every eligible young man– and many more that were neither […]”
“Grace said, ‘Of course. Why haven’t we thought of it long since? Orpheus.’ I made an incredulous noise and she smiled and said, ‘A little sister like you, dear, will upset the best-regulated mind.'”
“The towers were stone, and belonged to a great grey castle, but in the light of the dying sun, they were the color of blood, and the castle looked like a crouching animal.”
“I laughed suddenly, as I guessed what they must be: ‘Rose seeds!’ I said. ‘This Beast has a sense of humour, at least. We shall get along quite well together, perhaps.'”
“I finished lacing my boots as I went downstairs– two activities that did not mix well.”
“The breeze, which seemed to have been toasting its toes by the fire and waiting up for me, whisked over to help me undress, tutting over my wind-blown hair and rumpled skirts.”
“A miniature staircase, complete with a banister on one side, rolled up to me; I had the feeling that it would have cleared its throat respectfully if it had had a throat to clear. ‘You remind me of our butler in the city,’ I said to it. ‘He stood at attention just the way you’re doing now. Do you clean silver as well as he did?’ It moved in a half circle backwards, and I thought it was probably eyeing me in confusion. ‘Don’t distress it,’ said the Beast mildly. ‘It will try to clean silver to please you, and it isn’t built for it.'”
Do know that this is a fairy tale in the truest sense of the word, meaning, “they lived happily ever after.” Read it when you want life to be wrapped in a neat bow and all of your dreams come true. It’s sweet to the core, there is a bit of over-infatuation with outward appearances, but the heroine is relateable and slightly edgy. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
What are other picks for those born in 1978? I really had some great books to choose from. I was sorely tempted to choose The World According to Garp by John Irving. His book A Prayer for Owen Meany is on my all-time top ten list. Despite being from Maine, I’ve not read much by Stephen King, and he published two books that year. The Stand is one I’ve been meaning to try, and, crazily enough, I had the audio book downloaded to my phone before I wrote these challenge categories. I just started listening to it, so perhaps I’ll complete two books for this month’s challenge!
Another thrilling shiver– the quote I used on the “about me” page on my blog from day one is from a book called The Sea, the Sea by Iris Murdoch. I’ve never read it, but guess what year it was published? That’s right– my birth year. Other 1978 picks include The Inklings: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Their Friends by Humphrey Carpenter, Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett, A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett, and Freckle Juice by Judy Blume. A pretty good year for literature– especially children’s and YA!
I love that I got to start the new year by rereading one of my favorite books. Now on to new challenges!
Want to join both the reading challenge and a welcoming group of avid and aspiring readers? Clicking the image below will take you there!
Nota bene— I plan to give a copy of this delightful book to one lucky member of the Reading Challenge Facebook Group. Are you one of them?
Looking ahead-– February’s challenge: “a book with a food in the title.” You may have one on your shelves already!