"It was my candle to St. Jude"

Announcement: I ♥ librarians. Why? Because librarians love information, know how to find it, know how to use it, and know how to help other people find and use it; and because librarians love, care for, and offer us BOOKS. And school librarians, in particular, share their awesomeness with young people without condescension. Thanks so much to the New Jersey Association of School Librarians for inviting me to their fall conference this past weekend. You guys are inspiring.

Housekeeping: I got a great suggestion the other day from an audiobooker who wished she could see the maps of the kingdoms while listening. Please see my new link to the left, Maps of My Book World, which shows both the maps so far, both drawn by Jeffery C. Mathison. Click on the maps to make them bigger.

In other news, in case anyone's wondering, Spike is still beating Beethoven in the highly scientific Spike Versus Beethoven: You Decide! poll -- but Beethoven is holding his own! I'm proud. I thought old Ludwig Van was gonna get creamed.

Moving on. After my 96-book post the other day, a few people asked for some recommendations. Well, I'm always mentioning the books I'm reading, so do go back through posts and see what you find; and stay tuned, because if I trip over any gems, I'll be sure to mention them here. You could also search my blog for the tag "books" (either type "books" in the search box at the top or simply click on the tag "books" in this particular post). Also, I'm finally putting together a list of middle grade recommendations to go with the YA recommendations I posted some time ago. That should post before too long.

In the meantime, all the recent dance talk got me wanting to recommend one of my all-time favorite books: A Candle for St. Jude, by Rumer Godden. Her writing style is distinct -- you might not like it -- but I find it gorgeous and mind-opening, so much so that I've gone on to read China Court and In This House of Brede, the latter of which is a 650-page novel about nuns in an abbey, which I'll admit isn't for everyone, but I found it fascinating. Anyway. A Candle for St. Jude takes place in a dance school and is about art and power and talent and attraction, being young, being old, and growing into your own. In case this is relevant to you, there are no nuns and it's not bizarrely long :o). It's out of print; try your library; I've also bought a couple of used copies through Amazon.

While I'm at it, here are some other absolute favorites from my shelves. I'm terrible at writing reviews, so check out Amazon if you want more specific information. These were published for a range of markets: adult, young adult, middle grade. I don't have a lot of patience for the distinctions. (I would not make a very effective librarian!!) They're all really good works of art.
  • Contact, by Carl Sagan. The SF movie with Jody Foster was based on this book. This never happens, but I loved both the book and the movie, despite significant differences.
  • The Tricksters, by Margaret Mahy. Have you read this yet? My blog is named after it, and I'm going to keep blabbing about it until you do. Magical realism.
  • The Catch Trap, by Marion Zimmer Bradley. An unconventional circus tale about love and relationships. I read the whole book, finished the last page, turned back to the beginning and read the whole thing again.
  • Heat and Other Stories, by Joyce Carol Oates. If you've never read any Joyce Carol Oates, give this a try. Small Avalanches is another of my favorite story collections of hers. BTW, I say this as a person who is not a short story fan.
  • Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier. Then re-read Jane Eyre, then read Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart. They make a great trio! (Intertextuality!)
  • The Mouse and His Child, by Russell Hoban. You might think you don't want to read a book about wind-up mouse toys. You would be wrong.
  • My Heartbeat, by Garret Freymann-Weyr, who has three names, none of which I can spell without looking. A book about love, sex, friendship, and family that takes place in upper-middle-class Manhattan.
  • A Piece of Justice, by Jill Paton Walsh. A short, well-designed, and, in my opinion, LOVELY English mystery novel.
There, see? I didn't say a word about Lord Peter Wimsey, Kristin Lavransdatter, the essays of E.B. White, The Satanic Verses, or Ramona Quimby. (Age 8.)

(Also all favorites. ^_^)

What are some favorites from your shelves?


Caroline said…
On my shelves, I love The Hunger Games series (dying for number three to make its appearance). Tamora Pierce (all of her quartets, standalones, sequels!), His Dark Materials, by Phillip Pullman, and of course, the Harry Potter series. Kristin, you're books are definately on my favorites shelf, and finally, I love Michael Scott's The Secrets of the Immortal Nicolas Flamel. Kristin, what is your absolute favorite book of all time? Thank you all who listened to my long rant on favorite books!
PS I'm first to commment, never happens!!
Lindsie said…
Very weird- this is the second post blog on my reader to mention Carl Sagan today. The XKCD comic featured him...

I love all things Tamora Pierce, Sarah Dessen, Megan McCafferty, Suzanne Collins and so many more. Those are just the ones I get stuck on when someone asks me my favorite book/author and I start rambling how my tastes are rally diverse and it's so hard to choose, etc...
tinkandalissa said…
Well...Fire easily bumped up to become one of my most favorite books! I also love The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Nine Stories by JD Salinger...and more recently I enjoyed:
Shiver by Maggie Steifvater (she's just lovely! not only a great writer but a great artist and musician as well!!), her other two, Lament and Ballad are next up on my TBR list
The Hunger Games & Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Oh, I could go on and on...
Anonymous said…
From Libby in south Florida
Your recent mention of L'Engle's A WIND IN THE DOOR convinced me to do what I'd been thinking--read it again. Delightful. How did she get all that scientific information? Quite impressive.
Yes! Lord Peter Whimsey
Also, anything by Dianna Wynne Jones. Thank goodness the USA has finally noticed her. She is brilliant, and each book has a unique voice.
Glad you had a good time at Books of Wonder. As I've mentioned before, it is my favorite bookstore, bar none! I AM prejudiced--Peter Glassman is a long time friend.
Anonymous said…
You may not have mentioned Lord Peter, but you alluded to him nonetheless, since Jill Paton Walsh not only wrote those Imogen Quy mysteries but also finished Dorothy Sayers' Peter-Harriet novel, THRONES, DOMINATIONS. Another wonderful and amazing Jill P-W novel is KNOWLEDGE OF ANGELS, about a child raised by wolves and whether religion is inherent in humans.

I raucously applaud the choices that made your list, since many of them are also mine, especially THE TRICKSTERS, MY HEARTBEAT, and IN THIS HOUSE OF BREDE (not on your list, but in your post; don't ask me why an agnostic would be so taken with a 650-page book about nuns, but I am!).

I'll add Megan Whalen Turner's THE KING OF ATTOLIA and Cynthia Voigt's heartbreaking ON THE WINGS OF A FALCON (in fact, all of her Kingdom books).

And an essay on the subject of writing, "That Crafty Feeling," from Zadie Smith's brand new collection of essays, CHANGING MY MIND.

Believe it or not, my post tomorrow is called Bookshelf Top Ten, where I list my favorites I happen to own. Here's the list:

1. Possession - AS Byatt

2. The Count of Monte Cristo -
Alexandre Dumas

3. Katherine - Anya Seton (it's
long and has nuns!)

4. The Power of One - Bryce

5. The Phantom Tollbooth - Norton

6. What's Bred in the Bone -
Robertson Davies

7. Angle of Repose - Wallace

8. The Selected Journals of Lucy
Maude Montgomery, volumes 1-5
(I'm cheating here, I know)

9. Shadow of the Almighty -
Elisabeth Elliot

10. Into Thin Air - Jon Krakauer

Just started reading Graceling and am very much enjoying your world.

And Ramona is one of my favorite characters ever, especially now, as a mother. Re-reading Ramona books gives me more patience and compassion when dealing with my sons. Beverly Cleary has an amazing understanding of a child's mind.
Hester said…
I totally have a favourites shelf including um... you, Maria V. Snyder, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maggie Stievfater, J.R.R. Tolkien, Philip Pullman, Diana Wynne Jones, Philip Reeve and... Cassandra Clare
Kristin Cashore said…
Oh, thanks for all the comments, everyone! Rab, you named a few more of my favorites -- and you guessed what led me to Jill Paton Walsh in the first place :o). Have you read A Presumption of Death? Walsh wrote it based on notes Sayers left behind, and I loved it even more than Thrones, Dominations. And -- On the Wings of the Falcon is my favorite of the Kingdom books, which I think makes us kind of unique, because I more often hear people saying that's the one of the 4 they didn't love.

I have not read nearly enough Diana Wynne Jones. I need to get on that.
Kristin Cashore said…
PS -- I loved the Carl Sagan XKCD! And Caroline, thanks for the reminder of The Phantom Tollbooth -- what a great read.
MelissaKeaster said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
MelissaKeaster said…
Favorites: Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns is probably my all-time favorite; Harry Potter (all)--I just can't help myself; The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, I am a Jane Austen junkie, The Awakening by Kate Chopin, My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult, The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, my Emily Dickinson anthology, The Lord of the Rings, your Fire has taken root in my heart, and I love my Ramona Quimbys, Laura Ingalls Wilders, and several things Elizabeth George Speare from childhood.
Kate F. said…
Eeeee, I adore Rumer Godden (and Sayers--I feel like starting a very specific book club for people with this taste!). I often find myself using that quirk she has when writing dialogue, where it goes: "Blah blah blah," she said. And "I blah blah blah" said other character. Do you know what I'm talking about?

Godden's adult novels are fantastic, but have you tried her YA/children's stuff? I grew up reading them over and over. "The Diddakoi" is amazing, and I am still convinced that the Billy Elliot people just stole the plot of one of my favorite books of all time, "Thursday's Children," wholesale and didn't bother attributing it (it's crazy, actually, how similar major plot points are). For younger readers, "Miss Happiness and Miss Flower" and "Little Plum" are lovely, and deal really well with feelings of displacement, jealousy and loneliness. "The Doll's House" and "The Rocking Horse Secret" are good for even younger readers, and then in picture books I still love "Holly and Ivy." I think the only book of hers that I didn't end up reading over and over is "The Greengage Summer," but I think I was just a bit young for some of the content when I read it in 5th or 6th grade. I'll have to try it again.

Just got the email that "Fire" is in at the library--the new Cambridge Main Branch; have you visited it yet? I can't wait. BTW, the last two people I got to read "Graceling," my brother and a good friend, each sent me text messages reading simply "OMG Graceling!" once they finally got copies. Hee.
Kristin Cashore said…
Ah, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Elizabeth George Speare -- The Witch of Blackbird Pond may have been my favorite book growing up.

Kate, it's funny you ask about the library, because I haven't had a minute to go yet, but my friends have been raving about it, and just today I put some books on hold based on the comments to this very post and chose Cambridge Main as my pick-up place so I'd HAVE to get myself there soon. I can't wait to see it! I hear the old part is called the stone building and the new part is called the glass building and the light is beautiful. OMG I can't wait.

(And no, I haven't read any of the younger Godden stuff!)
Kate F. said…
Hee. I've been watching the library construction progress (slooowly) for what seems like forever; I'm just excited to be done w/ the sad little Central Sq. branch. Add "Thursday's Children" and "The Diddakoi" to your hold list--I think you'll love them both. And let me know if you ever want to get a cup of coffee and discuss them!
Angiegirl said…
Oh my goodness, I love MY HEARBEAT. So fun to see someone else mention it as I don't hear much about it. But what a beautiful book and how much I wanted to sit in cafes with Ellen and Link and James and just be witty and chummy together.

Anonymous said…
Hey, Kate F., I like that little Central Square branch! I adore the new one too, of course. :)
Anonymous said…
Kristin, I am a librarian. Thanks for the love. Actually, I work at a county library in Texas as the Childrens'/YA specialist, so these kids are a great passion of mine.
Right now I am in love with Graceling (just bought my copy of Fire), The Hunger Games series, Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, The Maze Runner by James Dashner (awesome), and currently reading Unwind by Neil Shusterman. Good stuff!
Thanks for Graceling. We, down in Texas, love you!
Anonymous said…
Hi Kristin, I have really enjoyed your books. I am curious if Fire will be coming out in Spanish soon? Im sorry if I am posting this question in the wrong place. Fire is such a great book and already some of my friends here in Colombia have read Graceling in Spanish and are waiting for Fire. Thanks. Blake
mysteryflavour said…
Diana Wynne Jones is the author that got me to love reading when I was twelve years old. My favorite by her is Deep Secret - get on it!

I also recently reread Silent to the Bone by E.L. Konigsburg. It's a super fast read, but it has wonderful character, and does a great job expressing things that are hard to express in words - like loneliness, and friendship, and love, and fear.
Anonymous said…
Thanks for the reccomendations :)
My favorite books (so far) are:
-The Pellinor Series by Alison Croggon
-The Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
-The Lord of the Rings (all three) by J.R.R. Tolkien
-The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseni
-Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
-Bruchko by Bruce Olsen
-The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
-Hush by Jacqueline Woodson
-Crazy Love by Francis Chan
-Almost all of the books by Meg Cabot!
-Any book by Ted Dekker (some examples: Showdown, Sinner, Saint, Black...)
-Graceling by YOU!
Unfortunately, I haven't yet read Fire, because our library doesn't have it yet... :/
(sorry for such a long reply!)
AndrewsMommom said…
The Stand by Stephen King
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Any of the 7 Harry Potter books
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Graceling by YKW

I'm halfway through Fire and I think I'll have to do some rearranging of the above bedtime favorites so they don't topple over on me in the middle of the night! :-)

Oh, and I've decided NOT to ask St. Nick for a Kindle. I love buying and reading books but I especially love passing good books on...that's hard to do in Kindle form. Yeah books! :-)
Anonymous said…
I have too many favourite books to name but I will say this - one of my current favourite things is going directly from your blog to my online account for my local library and requesting books that have been recommended. Libraries are one of the truest sign of a civilized society. I love my library! Isn't it the best when someone recommends one new book to you, you read it and love it and then find out there are 20 more by the same author you never even knew about and don't know how you could possibly have missed? But then there they are all lined up in front of you ready to read... I love that feeling of promise!
Elyse said…
Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. Ella Enchanted. YOUR BOOKS, of course. Hunger Games series. His Dark Materials is a must. Melissa Marr, JK Rowling, Francesca Lia Block, Diana Gabaldon, David Eddings, Laurell K. Hamilton, Jodi Picoult, Stephenie Meyer, etc etc any books by these authors! I just love books to pieces! :) I could go on and on and I love reading everyone else's comments about how passionate they are about books too! Book love!! :) I would love to be a librarian. My books are the only thing that's organized! lol.
Nina said…
I'm totally grateful for your recommendation of the Attolia books in that post from April. I'm completely in love with the series now! :D
Jennifer C. said…
Thanks to all the wonderful comments, I have been able to check out some new books from the library. I now have "The Witch of Blackbird Pond", "Shiver", and "The Lightning Theif", that even though it hasn't been mentioned, it reminded me that it was on my waiting list. So, I can't wait to get started.

I have so many books that I adore, Graceling and Fire are among my top favorites, but to recommend something I would have to say that "The Host" by Stephanie Meyer is amazing. I really enjoyed reading "Daughter of the Forest" by Juliet Mariller(Spelling???) and I hope to finish the series whenever I can actually get a library other than my school one. I absolutely loved reading "East" by Edith Pattou; it was amazing and I'd gladly read it again and agian. The Chanters of Tremaris Trilogy by Kate Constable is absolutely fabous as well and I was very pleased with how the series ended.

There are so many wonderful books out there, so I can't write them all or read them all, but I hope to be able to read as many as I can!

Also, any other suggestions of books with a female hero are appreciated. I just love the whole "women can be heroes too" idea.
ch1n0b0 said…
I just started reading Graceling and I must say, I'm thrilled to have happened upon another great writer/series! Hallelujah! And now this post and a whole host of good recommendations. Bravo, folks.

For me, I adore all things by Juliet Marillier who writes mostly Celtic fantasy novels, some based on old legends and folktales. Along that note, Jules Watson's series beginning with The White Mare blew me away. Oh, and simple and sweet, Shannon Hale. All greats, my friends, all greats. :)
Anonymous said…

hey, i was reading this blog the other and i found it so interesting. it raises a few points about female protagonists. yes, my inner feminist has come out and fully supports this article. And it has a shoutout to Katsa for her rocking a sword!! love Katsa!


Anonymous said…
Hah, I just read these comments today, so Elyse, if you're still reading along: heh, I AM a librarian, and MY books are the only things about me I have organized too! Well, books and CDs. And I had DVDs organized, but my toddler can reach those shelves, so I gave up. But everything else? My lack of organization in the rest of my life rather stuns people when I try to explain that I like the organizing aspect of librarianship....

Since I'm here, ought to respond to the main post-- but I have no clue where to begin! Anyway, I wrote about Madeleine L'Engle LAST time I responded to one of your posts, which would be where I would begin usually! Maybe if I just stick to books no one else has mentioned... is it possible no one else has mentioned Jane Austen? And Alice in Wonderland? Also, here's two I haven't seen here: The Ear The Eye and the Arm by Nancy Farmer-- an amazingly nothing-like-anything-else-I've-read bit of science fiction/magic realism/suspense/adventure/humor set in 22nd century Zimbabwe, and that alone makes it worth seeking out-- the marvelous characters keep it in your heart though. And Holes by Louis Sachar, which I hold as the pinnacle of perfectly crafted plotting. I always say it inspires me as I try to write good plots, but actually it just makes me feel hopelessly inferior at plotting in comparison.
Anonymous said…
I love Margaret Mahy, and I remember crying when I finished "The Mouse and His Child" - I was in elementary school at the time. Thanks for bringing back some great memories to me. - Rachel
lora96 said…
I love the idea of reading certain books back-to-back because of their evocative interplay (ooh that sounded like some BORING jacket copy, sorry). :P

I personally just reread Jane Eyre back to back with Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair to see if I'd missed any references.

My faves: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Bel Canto, Superfudge, anything by Marisa de los Santos (she writes the way I would think if I were cleverer and much more delightful), The Star of Kazan, and More than You Know.

Hmmm, most of those have a coming of age component to them...never noticed that before....



PS Read your FAQ section and imho Raffin and Bann can be whatever they want I like them and I really admired Katsa's honesty with herself about which path was right for her. My favorite line was the one about how her freedom would be a gift from Po, if they were married, rather than something truly her own.
Mitch said…
At the moment I can't stop reading Fire. But my favorite shelf (okay try shelves) is full of Robin Hobbs Farseer, liveship and tawny man trilogies, the first 3 books by Tom Lloyd and everything by Anne Rice haha. And a book called Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Anonymous said…
From Samantha in Nova Scotia

Hello :) Once in a while I turn up here to see what you've been up to and how Bitterblue is coming (I regret to say I'm not much of a blog reader, but you're very close to turning me into one)

Lately I've been hovering strictly in the urban fantasy and steampunk/gaslamp fantasy genres. (Along with simple Victorian as well of course) so when I picked up Graceling it was very much on a whim. It stuck with me like no other book really has, I still cannot name which particular aspect kept me thinking about it outside, I suppose, of your writing style being exactly what I like :)

I was delighted to see Fire (which I recognized as yours right away due to the cover art :P) and of course it did not disappoint. In fact it was wonderful to have a companion story instead of a strict continuation. I think that's a very underused idea.

This is already too long and I'm at the bottom of the list so no one is reading anymore, but I wanted to add my voice.

Anyone who enjoyed Cassandra Clare would, I think, enjoy Libba Bray, particularly the Gemma Doyle trilogy (A Sweet Far Thing)

For typical fantasy I very much enjoyed the Eragon series (it's quite detail oriented) and right now for my victorian fill I've just read the Luxe series by Anna Godbersen.

Lastly if you like Jane Austen there is a nifty little company (Quirk Classics) putting out doctored (maybe basterdized) versions. So far I've read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, next I'll be picking up Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. If you love to laugh and you can laugh at what you love and what you love happens to be Austen I strongly suggest checking these out.

Sorry for having the longest post yet :P
Tessa said…
I like Rumer Godden aswell and I don't know wether this has been posted before but you should try Thursday's children by him :-)
Just finished reading a Rumer Godden short story that brought me to tears--The Little Fishes.
I loved A Candle for St. Jude also. I Capture the Castle is one of my all time favorites. I kept the Chekov play Uncle Vanya next to my bed for years. The short stories of Jhumpa Lahiri. The Red Tent. If I'm up for something intense I'll read Iris Murdock or Dostoyevsky, but they're not the type of novels I could cherish like an old friend. My online name is one of my favorites too.

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