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An Introduction, Five Books with Wendy

Wherein we posit a book list can act as a personal introduction.


Krabat

by Otfried Preuβler

This gorgeous, dark (allegedly) children’s novel about a magician’s school set in 17th century Germany was the first book to really rock my world. A miller’s apprentice learns black magic and how to turn into a raven, falls in love with a village girl, and oh yeah, must break a devilish pact involving human sacrifice. A teacher at my German elementary school read it to my class of ten-year-olds, and I still treasure the copy he gave me as a farewell gift.


The Highwayman

by Alfred Noyes, illustrated by Charles Keeping

I doubt this book finds its way into elementary school libraries nowadays, but I stumbled upon this one in all its black-ink-gore glory at my school when I was eight—cue utter morbid fascination. Every last illustrated page is still etched in my memory, in detail. I have always wished I could write the way that man draws.


Les Misérables

by Victor Hugo

I hate to admit this but yes, I was that weird kid who lugged an unabridged copy of this to school every day and read the entire Les Mis in a semester, not because I had anything to prove (well, maybe a little), but because the story—when it’s not snagged on a tangent about Parisian sewers—is insanely emotionally gripping. My main man Javert, so serious in the musical, has a certain dry humor in the novel. He knows when the gun you are training on him will misfire, and will helpfully point it out—and when you pull the trigger anyway, he’ll troll you with an “I told you so!” Even guns are afraid of Javert.


Perdido Street Station

by China Miéville

My favorite kind of fantasy novel not only promises something utterly different from what you’ve read before…but then also delivers it. However, I can only stand so much weird in a book if there isn’t a compelling story with an emotional core. While I expected Perdido Street Station to gross me out at every turn (and it did), I didn’t expect to fall so hard for a female main character with a beetle’s head or to fly through such a dense book in just a few days. Just keep those butterflies away from me, kaythanksbye.


Possession: A Romance

by A.S. Byatt

I don’t claim to be a poetry person *at all*, but I fell into this book and resurfaced days later, unsure where I was or how much time had elapsed. The Victorian world with its fictional poet felt as rich and imagined to me as good fantasy worldbuilding, and it tickled all my pretentious fancies. I especially liked the mirroring of the two plots. Almost every character has a counterpart in both the modern and Victorian parallel stories, but their relationships are utterly different due to the cultural/societal changes.

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