I love to read in winter. And I know I am not the only one – in just a few short weeks we have seen more people “stocking up” on books and movies at the library than in the first two weeks of December and January combined. The maximum for checkouts is 25 books and up to 5 DVDs, but many people are seeking out those limits as we are hit with storm after storm. Today as I write this in my office at the Library the Judith Mountains are obscured by a wave of white and the wind seems to be picking up. Perfect reading weather. Especially reading of the classics weather.
Many of you know I love a good old fashioned gothic story, and our recent snowstorms have me thinking of “The Woman in White” by Wilkie Collins. First published in 1860 to very poor reviews this novel became an absolute cult classic that can still resonate today in our society of Facebook and Instagram. How, you ask? Because “The Woman in White” is all about identity – from stolen identity to false identity to secret identity. You think that filter on Instagram will create a new you or a perfect life posted on Facebook will make it real? Maybe, it all comes down to how you spin it – and “The Woman in White” has all sorts of spins, and an incredible amount of points of view, so you spend most of the novel wondering what or who is real at all. A marvelous book to read in a whiteout.
Another classic for winter weather is a staff favorite, “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte, published in 1847. This slim volume is packed full of thwartedness – thwarted love, thwarted friendship, thwarted homes, even a thwarted vacation. So why do I love it so much? Probably because there are just some books where you can be like, “better them than me.” Isn’t that why we watch all those crime shows on TV? Or are interested in the macabre of the world like murder and mayhem? Cathy and Heathcliff aren’t exactly super likeable folks, but wow, what they do for love.
The final classic I would like to suggest for this snowy season is “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley. I feel this book is misunderstood (like the monster?) – and therefore not read enough. Published two hundred years ago in 1818, Frankenstein was the brainchild of the lovely Mary Godwin (later Shelley) after she, her lover, and some friends were stranded at a cabin because of bad weather. The novel is a story within a story within a story – but somehow manages to be very straightforward. And, spoiler alert, “Frankenstein” in not the name of the monster – but of the doctor who created the monster. With her book, Mary Shelley asked questions that could be continued today – what is the role of the individual in society? How far does the concept of science go? At what point do we allow nature to take its course? And oh yeah, there is a snowstorm in this one too.
For winter weather I give you three classics to stretch the mind and NOT to dull the senses. In fact, I suggest you have all your senses about you – you won’t want to miss a thing.