If you ask anyone who knows me, they will tell you that I have a very strong connection to place. I live in Wichita, Kansas, about four blocks from where I grew up, in an old neighborhood called College Hill. From my house I can walk to my parents’ house, my sister’s house, the school I went to, the pool, the sledding hill, and two bookstores!
I grew up reading many wonderful books in a lot of strange places. Books like Harold and the Purple Crayon, Anne of Green Gables, and Island of the Blue Dolphins in places like dressing rooms, the bathroom, and church. (Like you never read a book in church.)
While I do have a college degree in English and Elementary Education, my best education has come from reading, listening to family stories, looking out the car window on road trips, pretending to be pirates with my brother, and just plain imagining.
Besides writing I like to go to the pool with my kids, browse at the bookstore, have a neighbor over for tea, watch re-runs of Monk, take the dogs for a walk, and go out for dinner with my husband. Life is good.
A while back one of our local bookstores, Watermark Books, was having a Jane Austen Summer Challenge. I had been wanting to read the six Austen books for some time and figured this was my chance. They were going to have a talk and discussion every two weeks throughout the summer.
We started with Sense and Sensibility, then went on to Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion.
Favorite: Pride and Prejudice
Least Favorite: Mansfield Park
Favorite Character: Emma – she’d be a fun next-door neighbor
Least Favorite Character: Fanny Price – she’s a bit stuffy
It was a great summer endeavor and I especially enjoyed going to the book talks and being surrounded by people who know a lot more about Jane Austen and her books than I do.
I highly recommend all six books and you will probably be amazed after reading them at how many movies are take-offs of her books and how many spin-off books line the bookshelves. Everyone wants to know what happened to Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. Or what would happen if Emma and Fanny Price were neighbors. Or even what would Pride and Prejudice be like if there were zombies in Regency England. Go figure.
The only regret I have is that I didn’t read these books when I was younger and before I had seen some of the movie versions. I would have much preferred to read Pride and Prejudice and not known whether or not Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy ever fell in love. Do they? Maybe. Maybe not. Read the book!
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maude Montgomery
Half Magic by Edward Eager
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
A Long Way from Chicago and A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck
Treasure Island and Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Scarlett Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
Little House Books (especially On the Banks of Plum Creek) by Laura Ingalls Wilder
One of Ours by Willa Cather
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry
The Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas
Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger
Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
I Am One of You Forever by Fred Chappell