I know a lot of readers enjoy reading the books they love over and over again. But, while I have shelves of books I cannot bear to part with, intending to re-read them someday, there are too many books I have yet to discover to spend time re-reading all of those favorites. Sometimes, though, I give into that urge to reconnect with an old friend. After reading The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman, which, while good and thought-provoking, was not the book I wanted to be reading at the time. I needed a laugh and a comfortable story. I picked up Ramona the Pest my favorite of Beverly Cleary’s books about Ramona Quimby and quite possibly my favorite book for most of my childhood.
As soon as I began reading, I was back in my childhood bedroom, laughing at Ramona’s antics and recalling how I had identified with Ramona, the baby of her family and not really a pest at all, and how I had wanted to be as bold as her. I found myself picturing the scenes as they’d been illustrated in the edition I first read nearly 30 years ago rather than the updated illustrations of my current copy. It was like taking a time machine back to my childhood. And I probably laughed even more now than I did the first few times I read it thanks to my now-adult perspective of Ramona’s adventures.
Re-reading, even more than first readings is about how a book makes you feel. Ramona the Pest put a smile on my face when I needed one and brought to mind the carefree days of childhood when I could spend an entire Saturday in my room reading my favorite book. What books do you turn to when you need to visit and old friend?
What makes an unforgettable character? A hero you want to root for? A villain you love to hate? If I knew those answers, I’d probably be a better writer than I am. All I know is that there are some characters that have, for one reason or another, stayed with me since I met them. Some are like friends I visit often for some comfort and a good laugh, some just seem like they’d be fun to hang out with, some become book boyfriendsJ, and some are so wonderfully bad that I love to hate them. Now that I’ve added Soulless’sAlexia Tarabotti to my list of favorite characters – yes, I have a list, doesn’t everyone? – I thought I would introduce you to a few of my other favorites:
Yes, he’s brilliant and solves impossible cases but what I like most about Sherlock is his snark. In the books, he is excellent at insulting people without them realizing it. And, most of the time, he only insults the characters that deserve it. He’s actually pretty nice (by his standards) to the good people in the stories. He just has an awesome bulls**t detector.
Augustus McCrae – Lonesome Dove could be unbearably heavy and dreary without someone to lighten the mood (just read Streets of Laredo and tell me it’s not a bit depressing). But Gus isn’t just a funny guy who likes to enjoy his life. His quips and anecdotes are often full of wisdom and he really is a great leader of men. Unfortunately, he’s also stubborn as hell in the end. I’m still mad at him.
Ramona Quimby – In my younger days, I considered the star of Beverly Cleary’s delightful series one of my best friends. Like me, she is a little sister but she has the spunk I wish I had and the courage to get into all the trouble I wish I had been brave enough to get into.
My favorite Ramona book is Ramona the Pest when she’s in kindergarten. She chases a boy, pulls a classmate’s bouncy curls, draws her Qs into little cats, and gets into all sorts of scrapes at school and home. As a shy quiet child, I wanted to be Ramona.
Atticus Finch – I hope it isn’t a crime these days to say Atticus Finch is one my favorite characters. I haven’t read Go Set a Watchmanyet, so as far as I’m concerned, To Kill a Mockingbird is the only source for the character of Atticus or any of the Finches. He is probably the noblest character in American literature, living by and standing by his values even when it is difficult and potentially dangerous. Most importantly, though, he is the kind of father I would want for my children.
Sydney Carton – The main protagonist of Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Citiesmay seem like the polar opposite of Atticus Finch what with his drinking, laziness, and gloomy view of the world but he is every bit as noble. He finally finds a cause or purpose, whatever you want to call it, and then sacrifices himself (literally!) for it. He dies so that the woman he loves can be happy with the man she loves. And right before he loses his head, he says one of the most beautiful lines in all of literature: “It is a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”
I would’ve loved you, Sydney!
Elizabeth Bennett– If I can’t actually be Pride and Prejudice’senviable heroine, Elizabeth Bennett, I would love to just hang out with her (and Jane, and Charlotte). Elizabeth is feisty, opinionated, intelligent, and has a wicked sense of humor. And she got the dreamy Mr. Darcy just by being her feisty, opinionated, intelligent self. And by learning to see beyond certain prejudices of course.
The mention of Mr. Darcy brings me to the subject of book boyfriends. Mr. Darcy is definitely on that list as are a few other Austen heroes. Mr. Tilney from Northanger Abbey runs a close second to Mr. Darcy thanks to his delightful sense of humor and Persuasion’sCaptain Wentworth is a favorite because of the incredibly romantic declaration of his love for Anne (swoon!). There are some fantastic fictional men not penned by Miss Austen. If you’re looking for a good man, try Levi from Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Colin Byrne from Ain’t She Sweet by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (he has kind of a Sherlock Holmes meets Mr. Darcy thing going on), Hugh of Harrowfield (also known as Red) from Daughter of the Forestby Juliet Marillier, Matthew Clairmont from Deborah Harkness’s All Souls trilogy (or Gallowglass if you prefer your vampires a little rougher around the edges, or everyone’s current favorite Scotsman, Jamie Fraser from the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. There have been so many more literary men in my life; these are just a few of my favorites.
There are so many unforgettable characters out there, whether they are noble heroes, wicked villains, or scene-stealing secondary characters, that I can’t possibly go into detail about them all. Here are a few of my Honorable Mentions:
Scarlett O’Hara from Gone With the Wind(I’m not sure whether she falls under the category of chicks I’d like to hang out with or baddies I love to hate)
Bridget Jones from Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary (I would definitely have fun hanging out with her)
As you’ve probably guessed, I could go on and on but for now, I’ve gone on and on long enough. These are just a few of the memorable characters I’ve encountered in my lifetime of reading. Who are your favorite characters?