Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My Top 10 Books

Well ladies & gentlemen, this is it. The last of my top 10 lists. I've taken you all on a months-long personal journey, shows you all my top 10 games, anime, movies & tv shows, and more recently, my top 10 singers & bands. Today's top 10 list was perhaps the toughest of the lists that I made, simply due to the fact that I've read hordes upon hordes of books, some of which I've unfortunately forgotten overtime. Luckily, the choices I picked for this list can't, and probably won't, be forgotten. So, as a final glimpse into my mind, here are my top 10 books of all time. Enjoy!

Oh, and I'll put the first of my 40 anime reviews up later. I just wanted to get this out of the way.

10) Harry Potter franchise

It's a safe bet to say that anybody from my generation has read this book series, and to any religious fanatic that still complains about this book series will burn in the fiery death pits of Hell. In fact, this was one of the book series that further increased my desire for reading & books!

What makes the Harry Potter series so good are two things. First off if J.K. Rowling. Her writing skill is very unique, as she puts down some mature things, yet she manages to not make young readers (And even older readers to a degree) feel stupid or talk down to them. Not only that, but she's created a unique world, where elements that are familiar yet different come together to form almost a living, breathing universe that almost seems real, and you want to go to Harry's world.

The second component is the story itself. To not spoil it for those very few people who haven't read the books (Or watched the movies), here's a quick summary: The story revolves around a boy named Harry Potter. At a very young age, his parents were slain by a dark wizard, and was sent to live with his aunt & uncle by wizards who knew his mother & father. When he reaches his early teens, he gets a note (Delivered to him by an Owl) from a place called Hogwarts. The letter tells him that he's been accepted as a student, and they'll teach him the ways of magic. After getting away from his aunt & uncle, he arrives at the school, and beings a 7-year journey of making friends & enemies, learning the ways of magic & mysticism, and uncovering secrets that were perhaps best left in the shadows. Each of the books in the series has everything you'd expect in a story like this: love, betrayal, death, etc. What makes the story good is that it's done in a way that's not hard for young people to understand, but it doesn't make them feel stupid in the slightest. Any book series that can do this deserves to be praised for all time, or at the very least respected.

9) A Million Little Bricks

I only discovered this book late last year (I believe it was October when I saw it), and I got it for Christmas a little later. Part history guide, part picture gallery, and part resource material are all within this book. But what exactly is this manuscript, you might ask?

Well, this book is an unofficial history of the Lego Group. From it's humble origins as a small collection of wooden toy makers, to the titans of plastic know around the work, A Million Little Bricks talks about the history of Legos, from beginning to end (2011, to be specific), and along the way they show pictures of the original wooden toys they made, to Lego sets both old & new. There's also segments where they talk about the many individuals of the Lego Group that have worked within the company, and the contributions that they brought to the table.

I can only smile when I read this. When I look at the picture, I always try to see which sets I have, and which sets I've only seen. Even when there weren't any pictures, I always looked through the book to find sets (Or various builds of sets) that I own. It is for the reasons of pure nostalgia that A Million Little Bricks takes a spot on this list.

8) Chobits

I don't have much in the way of manga. All I have is this series, the number 6 & number 5 spot, two volumes of the original Tenchi Muyo manga, a small handful of free manga from Genericon 2013, and the first volume of With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child, which is a unique series in it's own right. What gets Chobits onto this list A: that I got all of it in one fell swoop at Genericon 2012 (It was kinda expensive, but worth it at the same time) and B: the theme of the manga.

Without delving heavily into the thick of it (Click on "***" to read my review on the Chobits series, where you'll also find a description of the story), the theme of Chobits is man's desire (Some would say obsession) for technology, and just how much closer we are to becoming machines ourselves. It's surprisingly deep & philosophical, and it's an issue that's becoming more & more relevant in this age. To supplement this serious theme, there's also plenty of moments for comedy, drama, and romance. The two sides never overwhelm each other, but they actually meld at numerous points throughout the manga, making for an enjoyable read.

7) Venus Illustrations: Satoshi Urushihara Illustrations

I have to laugh at this choice. When I first looked at the front cover, it appeared as though it was printed in the United States. English on the front, and English on the back. To my surprise, when I was flipping through the book, I noticed that all the wording, with a few exceptions, was entirely in German. It turns out that this collection of artwork was printed by a German comic company, and not in the United States. "Facepalm."

In all seriousness, I'm not really complaining, because it's the art that takes the center stage. If you remember from my Plastic Little review in late 2011, the first positive I said was that Satoshi Urushihara did the artwork in the show, and he does the artwork here. He really has a godlike grasp on drawing women: their faces look real, and their bodies are absolutely stunning. The man really knows how to draw breasts (You'd swear to god that the nipples were real), vaginas (Again, you'd swear that they're real), and in a odd twist, pubic hair around the vagina (Yet again, the pubic hair practically looks real). The artwork is just stunning, and I seriously liked everything that was within the book.

Speaking of Satoshi Urushihara.....

6) Plastic Little: Captain's Log

This manga is another example of Satoshi Urushihara's godlike powers of drawing. The world looks great, the women look great, and even the men manage to look rather handsome. The story of Captain's Log: Essentially, it's an extension of the original Plastic Little OVA, but it's not really connected with that movie's story, save for a pinch of references. Instead, we're given a series of stories, each of which focus on one of the main characters (Except for the black guy.....racism anyone?). In these little stories, we're given more background on these characters, enough to the point that the reader understands them more than they did in the OVA. This isn't a deep manga, but it's a lot of fun to read.

5) Rosario + Vampire: Seasons 1 & 2

This manga series has been taking me quite a white to assemble. I started about mid-summer of 2009, and I got volume 10 in late 2012/early 2013. I'm pleasantly surprised by this series, especially considering that I wanted the anime first. Whereas the anime was portrayed more as a love comedy, filled with hordes of fanservice (In the first moments of the first episode, we get our first panty shot.....HOLY SHIT!!!), and characters that were shadows of those within the manga, the manga is more of a balance between romance, comedy, drama, action, and horror, it had fanservice that was more tame, and the characters had more to them than how they were portrayed in the anime.

If I had one complaint about the manga, it would be that it could get over the top at times (Not in a good way, mind you), and the romance aspect can get a little wishy-washy. Other than those two things, Rosario + Vampire the manga is loads of fun to read!

4) Dante's Inferno

Much like the Satoshi Urushihara art collection, my acquisition of Dante's Inferno was kinda funny.

Back in I think 2005, me and a (At the time) friend we watching a special on the History Channel about the interpretation of Hell throughout the cultures of the world. At one point, the special talks about Dante Alighieri, and his writing of the first part of the Divine Comedy. It went into some of his background, what he was thinking during the writing, and even goes into some of the circles of Hell. I was really interested in what I saw, so I asked my Mom if she could get me a copy, and a couple weeks later, she got me one.

Dante's Inferno was a very intriguing read. It was written in a very poetic manner, enough to the point that it could get confusing if you don't pay enough attention. Despite this, Dante's Inferno creates a vivid, almost realistic description of the darkness below us. From the top to the bottom, we're shows what's in store for souls who've gone against the way of god. From windstorms that batter the lustful, to a river of boiling blood for those who've slaughtered the innocent, to a dark cavern where the traitors of the world are frozen for all eternity, Dante's creates an unholy world, through which he travels to gain an understanding of evil, and to bear witness to famous souls who are being tortured for all eternity for their crimes on Earth. Vivid, evocative, and creative, Dante's Inferno is a book for those who want to be entertained & enthralled.

3) Doctor Faustus

Like Dante's Inferno, Faust was a book that I discovered during that History Channel special about Hell, only for some reason I'm not quite as sure about it. Regardless, Faust was one of those things that took me by surprise. For one thing, the copy I got (Also given to me by my Mom) was part play, and part historical analysis. The history side of the book went into the actual Faust that inspired the story, the playwright that created the theater show (Christopher Marlowe), and pieces of information that fell off the wayside. It was really interesting to read it all, because I only heard & saw snipbits of the history from the special.

The play is a different story (Pun not intentional). In the original stories, Faust was commonly portrayed as bored & power hungry, and when he gets what he wants from the Devil, he believes that the sins he indulges in can't be redeemed, and thus is dragged to hell. In Marlowe's play, Faust is still taken to the depths, but he's portrayed more as a somewhat tragic figure when he gains his powers, almost to the point where you can actually sympathize with him. It's interesting in how Marlowe keeps the core tenants of the original Faust story, yet at the same time puts enough of a twist to make things feel fresh.

2) The Polar Express

This is one of the oldest books on the list that I remember. For the longest time, I would read this every Christmas Eve with my parents. We would hunker down in bed, put the accompanying tape into the cassette player, and just read along with the tape. To top it all off, when time came to ring the silver bell that also came with the book, the little bell would be wrung. Although my family and I haven't read the book since I think 2004, the innocent ringing of that bell still echoes in my head.

For anyone that didn't read the book (Or didn't watch the 3d movie), The Polar Express is about a young boy on Christmas Eve, who awakens to the sounds of a train outside his house. Curiosity causes him to rise from his bed, and hop onto the train. The boy meets many other kids about his age, who tell him that the train is headed to the North Pole, and that they'll get the chance to see Santa Claus. I can't reveal the rest of the story, but if you noticed anything in the above paragraph, you might get a clue or two.

My advice: get this book, and read it with your family!

1) Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

It's really funny that I'm concluding this list with children's books, but I'm being sincerely honest about what's on this list. In fact, this was one of the first books I ever read when I was a kid. Ironically, my parents didn't help me read much. I was almost always reading by myself, and they would only come in if I was having difficulty with saying a word.

So what about the story? Basically, the story was about the experiences of one of the author's sons. To sum things up, the kid goes through the kind of Hell that kids around his age: getting picked on by his brothers, getting in trouble at school and at one of his parents's jobs, and all other sorts of bad things. It gets so bad, the son wants to move to Australia to get away from all of his trouble. But right at the end, the mother comes to him, and basically says that "Everybody has bad days, even for people who live in Australia." Just that one sentence makes me remember the entire book, and somehow, someway, I still hold onto the simple lessons it taught me when I was that age.

If you're a parent, and you're looking for a book to read with your children, then I sincerely recommend Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. You're nuts if you don't get this for your kids!

See you all next week. Until then, stay Otaku!

* If you would like to look at my past top 10 lists, click on the links below:

Top 10 Games: ""

Top 10 Anime: ""

Top 10 Movies & TV Shows: ""

Top 10 Singers & Bands: ""
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