By Nikita as dictated to Betsy DeJesu, Publicity Manager
My name is Nikita, and I’m an 8 year old domestic shorthair cat with – as I’ve been told more than once – gorgeous green eyes. I live with my mom in a teeny apartment in Astoria where I routinely nap, stare daggers at birds outside the window, and read tons of books. I’m also the unofficial feline mascot for Oxford’s illustrious publicity department. I don’t know if that is a real position or just something my mom made up when she was begging her boss to please stop hating four-legged creatures. Regardless, I’m here to share my love of the written word with everyone, people and furry creatures alike.
I thought long and hard, between naps and inexplicable staring sessions at the ceiling, about what I wanted to chat about for this post. I found myself getting super-sleepy and a little ho-hum, and then I realized what was going on – it’s the doldrums of winter! And they are back with a vengeance. Once the last holiday leftovers have been eaten and right before everyone’s New Year’s resolutions are broken, the long, dark, and boring days of winter set in. With the exception of a few fun days, there isn’t much to look forward to until summer hours kick in around May. So what can you do to help make those cold, snowy months skip by, just like the way that feather attached to a string skips around and drives me nuts? Well, you can read a book! Here are a few good ones that I recommend:
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
Katniss is a 16 year old girl living in a post-apocalyptic America that is ruled by an all-powerful, all evil, totalitarian regime. Once a year the government throws the Hunger Games, an elaborately televised game of survival in which 24 children from the country’s 12 districts are chosen at random to fight against each other to the death. When Katniss takes her little sister’s place in the games, she quickly finds herself in a world where “Survivor” meets Lord of the Flies (with a smidge of a love triangle thrown in for good measure!) Though considered a Young Adult title, Hunger Games should in no way be relegated to just the tween shelf. There is already a sequel, Catching Fire, and the final book in the trilogy will be out this summer. Go Team Peeta!
The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox
I dare you not to be compelled to devour this book after this first sentence – “After killing the red-haired man, I took myself off to Quinn’s for an oyster supper…” Seriously, that is a great first sentence. Cox’s The Meaning of Night is a Victorian mystery with all the trappings: murder, romance, dark alleys, big mansions, secrets, and lies. Also check out Cox’s follow-up (and sadly, his last book; he passed away in April 2009) The Glass of Time.
Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld
Even if you didn’t go to a prestigious boarding school like the one in Prep, high school was still probably the same for everyone – dramatic, awkward, fun, stressful, and most likely filled with a few all-consuming crushes. Prep is the fictional memoir of Lee Fiora, a scholarship student from Indiana trying – and at times failing miserably – to navigate the exclusive world of her New England boarding school. Lee’s four years of high school are equal parts funny and heartbreaking, and her intense introspection makes her voice ring all too true. Get ready to remember exactly what it felt like to be 16 and then be thankful that you actually did finally grow up.
Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Tender is the Night is Fitzgerald’s acclaimed novel about the “lost generation” – those disillusioned American ex-pats who traipsed through Europe between the world wars. The story revolves around the fabulous Divers, Dick and Nicole, whose marriage is silently crumbling under the weight of several secrets. Interesting fact to impress people with at dinner parties: Tender is the Night is largely autobiographical of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald’s doomed marriage (and of a supposed affair Zelda may have had while the couple was living on the French Riviera)
Beneath the Lion’s Gaze by Maaza Mengiste
Mengiste was named “New Literary Idol” by New York Magazine in 2007, but as a child she fled war-torn Ethiopia during the communist revolution in the 1970s. In Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, she draws upon these experiences and recreates a rarely explored time and place in fiction. Mengiste tells the story of one family’s struggles to survive as the once-proud Ethiopia of the famed Emperor Selassie buckles under revolution and eventually cracks once the idealistic revolutionaries quickly morph into a totalitarian Communist state.
The Daily Coyote by Shreve Stockton
Okay, I’m not a huge fan of dogs (for obvious reasons), but I’ll make an exception this one time. Shreve Stockton took a wild leap and decided to move from New York City to a town of 300 people (named Ten Sleep) in Wyoming. She ended up living in a one-room cabin – and raising an orphaned baby coyote who she named Charlie. The Daily Coyote is Stockton’s year-long memoir of raising Charlie, living in small town, and embarking on a relationship with a nearby cowboy. Stockton is also an accomplished photographer, and the book is filled with adorable baby pictures of Charlie and breathtaking landscapes of Wyoming. Even after you are done reading, you can still get your Charlie fix – Stockton writes The Daily Coyote blog.
MASH by Richard Hooker
It’s the novel that inspired the movie that inspired the long-running classic television show. All your favorite characters are there – Hawkeye, Trapper, Hot Lips – along with some who never made it to the small screen. Attention all personnel: there are incoming choppers…
So make a cup of hot cocoa, get into your snuggie, and crack open a good book – it will definitely help combat the doldrums of winter. A book costs much, much less than a flight to the Caribbean for President’s Day weekend. And you don’t even have to get into your carrier and be stuffed under the seat!