Sunday, June 26, 2011

Guest Post: Author Shelley Workinger's All-Time Favorite Book

Today I would like to welcome author Shelley Workinger back to My Reading Room. I introduced her to you last year when I read the first book in her series, Solid.  I loved Solid so when Shelley contacted me about hosting her and reviewing the second book in the series, Settling, I could not wait.  So help me welcome Shelley today to My Reading Room where she discusses her All-Time Favorite Book (which I have not read, but really need to).  Welcome Shelley!

My All-Time Favorite Book by Shelley Workinger

My absolute, hands-down favorite book of all time is The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak. When someone asks me for my Top 10 reads things get tricky, but I never waver on that #1 pick. If you’ve read it, you know what I’m talking about; if you haven’t, bookmark this page to read later and go get your hands on a copy!
The Book Thief
I do read a lot of YA (and, of course, I write YA), so you probably think it makes sense that my top choice is also a YA novel. Well, The Book Thief is technically YA for some publishing-related reason that I’ve forgotten, but it really should be classified as AA for All Ages. Or, better yet, RR for Required Reading. Are you starting to get a sense of how much I adore this book?

To even try to give a synopsis of this book is an injustice, because so many people will say, “Another Holocaust book?” and not give it a fair shot. Yes, The Book Thief is about a 9-year-old girl sent to live with a foster family in Molching, Germany in the 1930s, as Hitler comes to power. But it’s also a story of courage, friendship, love, death, and so much more. This is Liesl’s story, as told by Death himself. In Zusak’s words : "It’s a small story really, about, among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, and quite a lot of thievery.” In my words:  Best Book Ever.

Oh, and stock up on tissues, because you’ll need them. It’s WWII, so you know the story isn’t going to be pretty. And yet the beauty of this book is beyond words. Beyond my words, anyway, but Zusak has no trouble finding the perfect word for every scene, every image, every thought. So not only do I cry every time I read this book, I cry just reading some of the quotes from it.

Even each chapter heading is like a small poem, saying everything and nothing all at one, for example:
Part One – The Gravedigger’s Handbook, featuring:
himmel street – the art of saumensching – an ironfisted woman
a kiss attempt – jesse owens –sandpaper – the smell of friendship
a heavyweight champion – and the mother of all watschens
Some of the most memorable quotes concern Liesl, the powerful young heroine:
Not leaving: an act of trust and love, often deciphered by children
Or her equally tough and touching friend Rudy:
The only thing worse than a boy who hates you: a boy that loves you.
Or the Jewish man they’re hiding from the Nazis:
Imagine smiling after a slap in the face. Then think of doing it twenty-four hours a day.
But the most poignant words come from Death himself, who says:
Please, trust me. I most definitely can be cheerful. I can be amiable. Agreeable. Affable. And that's only the A's. Just don't ask me to be nice. Nice has nothing to do with me.
Marcus Zusak has made this other-worldly character as human as any other person in the book; you
look at things from an entirely new perspective when Death says:
They say that war is death’s best friend, but…To me, war is like the new boss
who expects the impossible. He stands over your shoulder repeating…, ‘Get it done,
get it done.’ So you work harder, You get the job done. The boss, however does not
thank you. He asks for more…[1942] was a year for the ages, like 79, like 1346, to just name a few. Forget the scythe, God damn it, I needed a broom or a mop. And I needed a holiday.
He’s neither nostalgic, nor indifferent, but just real in his commentary on human behavior:
I’ve seen so many young men over the years who think they’re running at other young men. 
They’re not. They’re running at me.
And despite his sometimes seemingly objectivity, he has greater compassion than much of humankind,
as when he says:
Five hundred souls. I carried them in my fingers, like suitcases. Or I’d throw them over
my shoulder. It was only the children I carried in my arms.
I hope I haven’t gone on and on (okay, I know I have!), but I also hope that I’ve shown you how this book has it all – life, death, love, friendship, coming-of-age, history, philosophy – and on a level accessible to
all ages. Get copies for everyone you know, because you’re going to want to hold onto yours.


Thank you Shelley for sharing your favorite book - I have heard wonderful things about this book, have even checked it out from the library, but somehow never made time to read it.  I will have to now!

To see my interview with Shelley last year, click here.
To see my review of Solid, click here.

Shelley's website
My review of Settling will come later today.