Grandma’s Favorite Books

Lately, I’ve had some interesting conversations about reading. It’s hard for me to imagine, but some people just don’t read. Some only read magazines and others only read for information. They get zero pleasure from books — electronic or otherwise. I come from a family of readers. I always knew that my father’s mother enjoyed books, but it wasn’t until the other day that I learned the extent and depth of interest in literature.

She was born in 1898 and read many of the books I studied in school, and think of as classics, as they came out. My dad said that she was a big fan of Theodore Dreiser and that Edith Wharton was her all-time favorite author. Her favorite book was “Ethan Frome.” (I remember that one as torture, but I was a teenager and wanted to read mysteries, fantasy, gothic horror and romance at that time.) She enjoyed F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sinclair Lewis, but she did not care for Hemmingway.

I am deep into the MONSTROUS peeks and valleys of Edgar Allan Poe and contemplating a little H.P. Lovecraft next. It’s too late to ask grandma what she thought of Poe and Lovecraft, but the idea of reading classic horror novels as they came out — the way we read Stephen King, Peter Straub and other contemporary writers — is something worth contemplating.

Imagine being one of the first Poe readers, cracking open the pages of “The Pit and the Pendulum.” It must have been overwhelming, outrageous, amazing and completely monstrous!

Poe was not terribly successful in his lifetime. His prose and his subject matter were controversial and provocative. His work still makes readers feel edgy and we live in a time when we are overexposed to violence — both real and fictional — through media only dreamt of when Poe was writing.

The characters in POE stories are monstrous human beings fueled by revenge, greed and other uncontrolled passions (plus a generous helping of booze and drugs). They are not so far off from today’s MONSTERS.

Is Poe still relevant? Yes, I believe so. Pondering a midnight dreary is something we all do — but not necessarily in rhyme.


  1. Metan

    I can’t imagine not loving books and reading. It just makes me sad for those who weren’t touched by the wand of the bookworm fairy as children.

    I love a bit of Lovecraft 🙂

    • Candy

      The bookworm fairy! Gotta tell that one to my friends with little kids! I really haven’t read Lovecraft since I was 13 or so. It’ll be a shock, I’m sure.

  2. I think I would have liked your grandmother. 🙂 My Dad encouraged me to read but he was always so busy with other things I can’t remember ever seeing him with a book in his hands. Perhaps I just had more time in which to indulge my passion for books. Perhaps I need to revisit Poe before your Poed comes out 🙂

    • Candy

      I still thank my dad for reading to us every night. It really made a difference. He even did voices for the characters when were were little! I worry about kids who ONLY have bedtime stories from electronic media. Watching a movie is not the same as listening to a story read aloud or reading one to yourself.

      As for POE… my Poe uses some of the familiar stories in an obvious ways and less familiar too. I hope it’ll stand alone — even without Poe homework.

  3. Children who aren’t encouraged to read rarely develop a real imagination. Words can conjure up wonderful pictures in a mind (young or old) and should be treasured. Books have been my lifeblood throughout years of childhood illness and my great pleasure during my adult life.

    • Candy

      I can’t imagine a life without books. And I’m astonished at some of the conversations I’ve had with intelligent people who simply don’t read at all. I’ll guess that they didn’t read as children and were not lucky enough to have a bedtime story parent.

  4. yes, a world without books in unthinkable. My grandmother too was a potent influence on my reading life – including the wonderful American childrens’ book The Wide Wide World, over which I wept buckets. I still have it, and if I re-read it, it brings back those times in my childhood when I had no parents either!

    • Candy

      What a heartbreaking, and heartwarming, memory. Weeping buckets is an excellent response to a children’s classic reread. I’m sort of afraid to pick up The Secret Garden. It meant so much to me for so many years.

  5. My mother read to my sister and me every night after tucking us in. The one story I remember is Little Orphan Annie and The Gila Monster Gang. She read just enough to make us want to go to bed the next night so we could hear more. How clever she was!

    • Candy

      My dad had the same philosophy. Chapter by chapter each night — except for The Secret Garden. We were so afraid of snakes, that each time he read that book we had two chapters the first night because the first one ends with a snake and we wanted her to be safely away from it before we went to sleep. LOL…

      Now I know that my dad really loved those nightly visits to children’s literature. He enjoyed it as much as we did!