Tag Archives: jane eyre

What Are the 10 Most Influential Books in Your Life?

If you’re like me, it’s difficult to narrow down all the books you’ve read to just ten that have influenced you. However, I think I’ve come up with a pretty good list. Take a peak and let’s see if we have any of the same!

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  1. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
    This was my first real introduction to vampires, and it has stayed with me ever since. I’ve consciously and subconsciously compared all other versions of vampires to Anne Rice’s creations.

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    2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
    I was in high school when I first read this; the gothic atmosphere, the loneliness, and Jane standing up for herself really spoke to me. I related to her character so much as an adolescent.

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3. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
I’ve always loved running, and when I discovered this book, it was like magic. I was so engrossed by the novel that I wanted to go live with the Tarahumara Indians.

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4. Sabriel (trilogy) by Garth Nix
I rarely reread books. For me to do so, I have to (1) love the novel and (2) have forgotten how the book ended. Not so for this trilogy. First reading this in middle school, none of my classmates had heard of this series. But the worlds, magic, and characters in this dark fantasy series struck a cord with me. I wanted to be part of this story, and, even now, as an adult, I am always drawn back into the tale because of the fantastic writing and the maturity seen throughout the characters.

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5. Daughter of Smoke and Bone (trilogy) by Laini Taylor
This trilogy arrived at the perfect time for me. I was an undergraduate, and I was about to give up on young adult books forever. It seemed that each YA book I read was worse than the one before. The last YA book I read before this trilogy I nearly chucked across the room because of the ridiculousness of the characters. However, this trilogy saved YA books for me. I was immersed from page one. The creativity, the writing, and the pacing were spot on. When the story ended, I felt I’d lost a fantastic world and some phenomenal friends.

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6. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
I grew up on this series. Starting with my mom reading book one to my brother and I and ending with us fighting over who got to read book seven first (I won), this series holds a special place in my heart.

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7. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
I was interested in psychology before this novel, but after reading this I couldn’t learn enough about psychology. This book embodies the nature of humanity’s suffering and insecurities, and how, despite being able to take away a person’s life, you can’t take away his freedom.

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8. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
This novel was like a punch in the gut. It showed how unforgiving nature could be, how easily human life could be extinguished, how human error could turn to tragedy, and how one misstep meant death. It showed what the cost of accomplishing your dream meant, what it took to survive, and what it meant to be a survivor, knowing teammates and friends lost their lives, and wondering if there was anything more you could have done to prevent that.

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9. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
This book goes back to elementary school, but I still own the copy my mom bought me all those years ago; and every time I think of the book or see the cover, I smile. It’s a story about an unusually selfless and caring girl, who transcends the bounds of conformity, while the boy who realizes that the girl’s “in touch with something that the rest of us are missing” and loves her, eventually shuns her, like the rest of the school, because he needs to be accepted by his peers.

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10. The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
Another book from elementary school, my fourth grade teacher gave me this novel as a Christmas gift—she left a personalized note in it and everything—because she knew of my love for ancient Egypt, and I think I was her favorite student… But I still have the copy she gave me, and it increased my adoration for ancient Egypt to an almost obsessive level.

What are the 10 books that most influenced you? List in the comments below!

(Photos courtesy of Brittany E. Krueger’s personal book collection.)

Let’s Get Gothic: The Gothic Novel

345741308_e8d991925a_zWhat do you think of when you hear the word “gothic?” Multiple terms probably come to mind: architecture, the gothic subculture, vampires (i.e. – Dracula), medieval life, darkness, graveyards, Edgar Allan Poe, haunted houses, the class system, etc.

Over the years, Gothic has come to mean a variety of things. However, the Gothic novel began in England (Horace Walpole’s 1764 The Castle of Ortanto is considered the first Gothic novel). When the Gothic novel emerged, authors used the genre to demand some social, cultural, or political change in the status quo.

What makes a Gothic novel gothic?

Setting plays a huge role. Feelings of gloom, dread, mystery, and suspense, as well as some dramatic or sensational elements (think incest and necrophilia) are vital to the Gothic. Taboos, fear, and anxiety are also fundamentals of the genre.

Look at Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. In Wuthering Heights, there’s a love that crosses life and death, there’s family and social class transgressions, fear of imprisonment and escape, ghosts, necrophilia, revenge, and more. (Not to mention the traditional Gothic landscape the novel is set in.) In Jane Eyre, women’s psychological, moral, and social predicaments are explored, the Gothic nightmare is investigated, as are the elements of persecution, hauntings, prophetic images, solitude, and death.

The protagonist is usually isolated in some way from the rest of society, while the antagonist represents some sort of evil. The antagonist has fallen from grace and the protagonist is somehow tempted by the antagonist.

What are some features of the Gothic novel?

  • Haunted castles
  • Secret passageways/rooms
  • Repressed fears and desires
  • Death/decay
  • Supernatural
  • Incest
  • Labyrinths/mazes
  • Weather
  • Imprisonment
  • Lunatic asylums
  • Play on light/dark
  • Isolation
  • Grotesque figures (i.e. – Frankenstein’s monster)
  • Past sins
  • Ruin

Something to be aware of when reading or writing the Gothic is that many elements of the Gothic have been overused. (See Mallory Ortberg’s Every Southern Gothic Novel Ever.) It’s important to find innovative ways of creating a gothic atmosphere, while still keeping in mind the traditional tenants of the genre.

What are your favorite elements of the Gothic?

(Photo courtesy of guldfisken.)