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The Great Re-Reading: Aiken and Alcott

Posted by on December 7, 2012

Joan Aiken

The woman has written something like seventy books. I read The Wolves of Willoughby Chase so often growing up that my copy is loved to bits. So why do I only own one other book by her? (It’s The Shadow Guests, also pretty great.) And why do I never see her stuff at library sales? (I think the second question answers the first.) Resolution: more Aiken in my life.

Louisa May Alcott

You know who is great to read when you have a lot of housework to do is Louisa May Alcott. Her characters elevate housework to practically a spiritual calling. It keeps you physically fit! It helps those around you! It makes you a model of womanhood or some such thing! I mean, when I think about this critically obviously I don’t want to pin my own sense of womanhood on whether I’ve emptied the dishwasher, but when you HAVE to do the work it’s nice to feel that it’s important. Also, if you have a bunch of housework you really should be doing, nothing is nicer than neglecting it to read about other women doing housework.

In seriousness though, Louisa May Alcott, while preachy, does feel like a clean little wind in your brain. She exhorts people of both genders to be honest, reliable, responsible, grateful, charitable and industrious. These are important qualities at any time, and the reminder is especially valuable at this often-materialistic time of year.

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