Stories are Soul Food

Stories are soul food. I stole that phrase from one of my favorite authors and podcasters (if you follow the link I added he may become your favorite too), and I don’t steal phrases unless I really like what they convey. And “stories are soul food” conveys the feeling you enter when immersed in a well written, well plotted tale. There is just no other way to define that feeling of your soul being nourished by the imagination of your fellow man, written down in the pages of your favorite book.

Stories, if crafted carefully, are timeless; they are for pretenders of all ages, they leave you with the richness of the scenery, the complexity of the characters, the fullness of the adventure and the closure of a happy ending.

These are six book series I have read (most of them more than twice) that are heavy, dripping, hanging with fruit that is for any reader, of any age. I couldn’t fit them all into one post (or you would’ve looked at the length, whispered crikey under your breath, and quietly exited the page), so if you like this post, leave a like and look for the second installment coming later this week or early next week.

Below are three series replete with gripping plots, vivid scenery, and characters that are worth creating “ww(insert name here)d?” wristbands for. To me, these are soul food series.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

This is a tale about four uniquely gifted children. Four children that are faced with unusual circumstances. Four children–okay I’ll stop opening sentences with those two words–are brought together by an advertisement for a test to determine gifted youth. Reynie, Katie, Sticky, and Constance Contraire are asked to save the world from a dark, looming threat that has the capability to whisper into their minds, erase memory and pull you to its side. They are the Mysterious Benedict Society.

You must remember, family is often born of blood, but it doesn’t depend on blood. Nor is it exclusive of friendship. Family members can be your best friends, you know. And best friends, whether or not they are related to you, can be your family.

THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY

The Mysterious Benedict Society characters are delightful to read about, befriend, and are full of surprises in their own ways–especially the pudgy, two-foot tall one who is a genius at rhyming and annoying the rest of the Society. There are three books in this series, as well as a prequel. The prequel and the first book are without a doubt the best of this series, but each one is worth reading in its own right.

100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson

I have recently finished reading this series and cannot praise it enough. I haven’t been so pulled and entwined into a story since Lord of the Rings (which isn’t on this list due to my believing you need to be of a certain, mature mindset in order to fully grasp the intricate, breathtaking glories of Middle Earth, and the story). The 100 Cupboards Series mainly follows the life of a young boy named Henry York, who finds himself being shipped off to live with his uncle Frank, aunt Dotty and his three cousins in Henry, Kansas. Henry discovers a wall in his room that is covered with cupboards–cupboards that lead to other worlds. And if you are a young boy who discovers a way to enter other worlds, are on the scared side of cautious, and have a girl cousin who is on the reckless side of fearless, what else would you do with this information other than use it?

Frank looked at his nephew. ‘Henry, we play baseball tomorrow. Today we sack cities. Dots! Fetch me my tools! Down with the French! Once more into the breach, and fill the wall with our coward dead! Half a league! Half a league! Hey, batter, batter!

Frank brought his fist down onto the table, spilling Anastasia’s milk, and then he struck a pose with both arms above his head and his chin on his chest. The girls cheered and applauded. Aunt Dotty stepped back into the dining room carrying a red metal toolbox.

100 CUPBOARDS

This series is like the Lord of the Rings; each book is better than the last. You feel as if you are being pulled by the dandelion fire or by grey threads (if you read the books you will understand the references) into the book, and the farther in you get, the more impossible it is to put it down. There are three books and a must-read prequel.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

“A dragon has just flown over the tree-tops and lighted on the beach. Yes, I am afraid it is between us and the ship. And arrows are no use against dragons. And they’re not at all afraid of fire.”

“With your Majesty’s leave-” began Reepicheep.

“No, Reepicheep,” said the King very firmly, “you are not to attempt a single combat with it.”

THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER

Of course this series makes it on the list. The Chronicles of Narnia are a collection of stories about inhabitants from our world being called into Narnia by a massive lion to set wrongs right–that is the briefest, most overarching summary you will probably ever read on this series. The Chronicles of Narnia is like an onion you want to peel; every time you reread it, you realize a deeper meaning within the pages than before, another layer that only enriches the stories and your appreciation for good ol’ Clive Staples Lewis.

The most popular characters that come to mind when the average person thinks of Narnia are the Pevensie siblings: Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. But they weren’t the last children Aslan called, and they certainly weren’t the first. There are Polly, Digory, Shasta, Jill Pole, Eustace Scrubb (you almost feel bad for him), and others.

But the children from our world are only one half of the books–the Narnians themselves are the most rounded, delightful, relatable and oh-how-I-wish-Puddleglum-could-be-my-bff characters to exist. From Reepicheep the Mouse to Bree the Horse to Trufflehunter the Badger to Caspian to dear Mr. Tumnus to my all time favorite character, Puddleglum the Marshwiggle, Lewis does a divine job of bringing one’s wildest daydreams of imagined best friends to life.

The plots are different for each book, and are uniquely beautiful in their own rights, and the writing is so witty and spectacular that I sit and cry because it is impossible to imitate–but despite all those recommendations, the books are worth reading for the characters alone. There are 7 books in this series, and I suggest you buy them all, for you will be coming back to them more often than you think possible.

The recommendations will be continued in the next post. In the meanwhile I hope you add these priceless works of literature to your booklist and help me add to mine with your recommendations of soulfood series in the comment section.

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