Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday-- Favorite Characters

When I fell off the blogging wagon, one of the things I missed most was the excitement of logging on Tuesday mornings and discovering the Top Ten theme of the week. Top Ten Tuesdays (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) has always been a favorite meme of mine because you can learn so very much about fellow bloggers in such a short period of time. I really do believe that 'you are what you read,' so the Top Ten lists are basically a series of snapshots or windows into other people's reading lives. It's so voyeuristic, I love it :)

This week's theme is:
Top Ten All Time Favorite Literary Characters (whoa....)

Talk about an open-ended prompt! I'll probably spend the rest of the day going "oh WAIT! I forgot so-and-so!" and "How could I have possibly left who-si-whatsit out of my list?!" but for the time being, here's the list I've come up with. 

In no particular order:

1. Ada(h) Price from The Poisonwood Bible: Poisonwood was probably the first book that I ever fell head over heels in love with, and a large part of that appeal was the quirky, sarcastic, and illuminating voice of Adah. I'd never come across a character like her before, and I'm not sure that I've met another one yet. The child-Adah of the first couple of sections is so dark and fraught with insecurity and resentment over her role in the family, and yet at the same time she is the one character who consistently finds beauty in her surroundings and seeks out new perspectives and interpretations for "obvious" facts. Obsessed with rhythm and parallelism, the chapters in her voice manage to be incredibly poetic and playful while dwelling on the darker side of love and family.

2. Ida Scott from Another Country: James Baldwin is one of my literary ( /political/social/just-about-everything) heroes. I'm haunted by a number of his books and characters (Hall Montana from Just Above My Head could easily have made this list as well), but Another Country was my first Baldwin and will probably always have a special place in my heart. As the sister of talented but tragically troubled jazz musician Rufus, Ida carries a lot of emotional baggage relating to her race, gender and class and the role those "identities" play in relation to others living and working in Harlem. It's a heavy and highly introspective book, but Ida carries more than her share of the tension with grace, passion, and unwavering determination. Despite her very human failings, Ida is probably one of the strongest female characters I've come across.

3. Jo March from Little Women: This is kind of self-explanatory. I don't know many American girls (much less bookish, somewhat tomboy-ish ones) who read Little Women without identifying with the harum-skarum Josephine. Years later, I'm still mad that she didn't end up with Laurie...

4. Oy from The Dark Tower Series: To be fair, I love just about all of the characters from the first four books of the series (it gets a bit too Stephen King-y for me after Wolves of Calla). Roland, Susannah, Eddie, Jake, even the Man in Black, fabulous characters! And don't even get me started on the wonderfullness of Cuthbert Allgood, Alain Johnson, Susan Delgado and the rest of the crew in Wizard and Glass! But I have a soft-spot for the "billy-bumbler" (dog/raccoon/thing) and his loyal, self-less dedication to Jake and the ka-tet community. I thought about naming my dog after him, but she's a girl dog and Oy sounds a bit too much like 'Boy' 

5. Radcliffe Emerson from the Amelia Peabody Series (particularly Crocodile on the Sandbank and Curse of the Pharaohs): This is a blast-from-the-past favorite whom I haven't come across since Middle School (gasp!) but whose adventures have stuck with me. Emerson is one part Byronic hero, one part Indiana Jones, and about 9 parts hysterical. He's an opinionated, cranky archeologist with a well-hidden romantic side. I seriously need to find copies of this series for a re-read-apolooza.

6. Speaking of Byronic heroes... M. Paul Emmanuel from Villette: I guess I have a thing for fiery-tempered, unpredictable male romantic leads with tortured pasts. M. Paul can be a real jerk, but every once in a while you have a break in the clouds and his deeply sweet and emotional side peeks out. I think I'd fall in love with him myself once I got over hating him for the damage he'd do to my pride.

7. Bean from the Ender's Game Series: I wasn't actually wild about little Bean in the original Ender's Game, but when I finally came across the companion book Ender's Shadow I was a goner. Bean has snark and ego to spare, but at the same time he's a hugely vulnerable character. I alternate between rolling my eyes at his hubris, and wanting to hug him for his pain.

8. Katniss Everdeen from Hunger Games:  I was reluctant to add Katniss because the Hunger Games really don't rank in my list of favorite books ever, but at the same time I love what Katniss has done to the image of the female protagonist in contemporary YA lit. She's no shirking violet who screams and faints and hides between her big bad male companion and I love that. She's one of the first main-stream female superheroes who isn't dressed in skin-tight leather so she gets major props for that.

9. Kambili from Purple Hibiscus: Kambili is a great young protagonist wrestling with issues of post-colonialism, gender, and modernity in contemporary Nigeria, but I'm adding her here mostly because she's the embodiment of one of my favorite author-philosophies ever-- Chimamanda Adichie's "Dangers of a Single Story." If you've never seen Adichie's TED talk on the subject, GO! Watch It NOW!!

10. Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice: Cause it wouldn't be a favorites list without her.

Ok. that's Ten. Now let the second guessing begin!


  1. I also loved Jo March and Katniss Everdeen. I've read some of the Ender's Games books, but I don't remember it enough to know if Bean was loved or not. And, finally, Pride and Predjudice is definitely a good "favorites" addition. :)

  2. I like your list and I like what you wrote about Katniss.

  3. Excellent choices! I love Jo March.
    Angela @ AJ Arndt Books Blog

  4. Few lines bounce around my head as often as Adah's palindrome: "Live was I ere I saw evil."