“These Are a Few of My Favorite [Books]”

I had a whole list of things I was going to write about and nothing of those related to books.  But then, yesterday, I was talking with one of my husband’s cousins, Chrissy, and she talked about how she enjoyed reading my blog related to my January book-reading.  And that got me thinking about books that I have read and loved, books that touched me or changed my life or changed how I saw things.  This list is not going to be complete, by any means.  But when people ask me for my absolute, all-time favorite book, maybe this list will show you why I can’t answer that.  Note, some of these will not just be books but entire series because…yes…they are that wonderful.

And do me a favor, if I missed anything or if you have a recommendation, please put it down.  I am always on the hunt for the next wonderful thing.

And dearest authors, if I have misspelled your name, please, please, please forgive me.

So, in no particular order:

1.  From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg:  Dear Mrs. Fox read this to my class.  She pulled me into the halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and left me there.

2.  The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett:  Another of Mrs. Fox’s books…which tied me to my mother who made me my own secret garden.

3.  A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett:  I always understood the main character.  Like her, I had an imagination bigger and more persuasive than reality.

4.  Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson:  My first rounds of philosophy…and I always thought the tiger was real.

5.  Up A Road Slowly by Irene Hunt:  The first novel to bring me to tears and cause me, truly, to feel regret for my actions.

6.  The Austen Family Series, specifically A Ring of Endless Light by Madeline L’Engle:  I bought A Ring of Endless Light when I was in fifth grade.  It had a dolphin on it, but I was far too young to understand the complexity. And then I grew up a little and I read the novel and realized that the dolphin was far less important in comparison to the characters.  Because of this novel, I wanted to name my son Adam.  The Boy’s name isn’t Adam.  But I still love that name because of the character from this novel.

7.  The Wrinkle in Time Series also by Madeline L’Engle: Religion, philosophy, science, spirituality….

8.  Little House on the Prairie Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder:  I think this is a series that every child of the 21st Century should read.   Maybe in seeing how far we have come, children will stop feeling so entitled.

9.  To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee:  Scout.  Boo Radley.  Dill.  Jem.  A tree with a hole in it which held the secrets of a shut-in and two children.  A shut-in who saves children.  Children who saves a shut-in.  I loved mockingbirds before I read this novel.  Now, they are almost a favorite of mine.

10.  God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy:  Poetic, haunting, beautiful.  A novel that taught me about the Dalit.  A novel that made me value what I have and whom I love.

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Me meeting Ishmael Beah…so friggin’ cool

11.  A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah:  A memoir of a child soldier….I do have my students to read this to show them that life is far different outside their zip codes.

12.  The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini:  “For you, a thousand times over.”  That is love.  Even typing this, my eyes are becoming bleary with tears.  Love this novel.

13.  A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini:  The true nature of sacrifice.  I teach this novel because I became tired of The Kite Runner (come on…I had been teaching it for nearly a decade).  This novel is about sacrifice and grief and hope…the incredible sustaining power of hope.

14.  Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant:  Art and the Italian Renaissance and a woman who lives by her own definition.

15.  Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks:  Life during the Black Plague but written with poetic intensity and the constant surging power of survival and the will to live.

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John Irving at National Book Festival…I wasn’t allowed to take this picture. I am a bad person.

16.  Cider House Rules by John Irving:  Just love.  Just love this book.

17.  102 Minutes by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn:  This book helped me to understand 9/11 in a way that I can reconcile with the pain I still carry from this day.  It is a book of tragedy and goodness, a book of evil actions over which compassion has triumphed.

18.  The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien:  This novel enabled me to start building a relationship with my father.  I love the writing.  I love O’Brien…he is such a great man.

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Tim O’Brien being incredibly patient with me!

19.  The Lake of the Woods by Tim O’Brien:  A re-telling of the massacre of My Lai done through poetically horrific writing which caused me to think and ponder the actions of those deemed heroic.

20. The Oz Books by L. Frank Baum and, eventually, Ruth Plumly Thompson:  My childhood wrapped up between fabric covered cardboard.

21.  Anne of Green Gables Series by Lucy Maude Montgomery:  I first saw the PBS specials.  And then I devoured the novels and fell in love with Gilbert.  This was romance with practicality and a woman who made just as many mistakes as me and she was still a hero.

22.  Emily of New Moon Series by Lucy Maude Montgomery:  A novel about a girl who wanted to be a writer.  Really..do I have to go any further?

23.  The Moonstone by Wilke Collins:  Victorian romance that is not the traditional Victorian novel.  Just fun.  Just pure fun…at least for me.

24.  The collected short stories/books of James Herriot:  I was born in Harrogate, England, not far from where Herriot was practicing. Although I lived in England for only six weeks, I always felt like I belonged there (at least I used to..now I just feel like I belong in my recliner…or on my mountain in West Virginia…or in Germany).  His stories about dogs either had me howling with laughter or sobbing for hours.

25.  All Over But the Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg:  Metaphorical, poetic….Bethany once said that this book was a “thank you letter to his mother.”  I hope that when the Boy and the Girl grow up and look back on their childhoods that I will have been half as good as this mother.

26.  Harry Potter Series by J K Rowling:  I fought reading this series for four books.  I refused to be part of a fan group.  And then Pat’s cousin Virginia put the first novel in my hands and I was hooked.  And I have never regretted joining the fan-crowds .

27. The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins:  In my defense, I fell in love with this series before it became a fad. When the names are allegorical and everything has multiple meanings…what is not to love?

28.  Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen:  One of the first real classics that I read and understood, even before I was an English major.  And, no, I have never wanted to marry Mr. Darcy.

29.  The Sword of Shanarra Series by Terry Brooks:  I just loved this series, can’t even tell you why.  Don’t care.  It was just wonderful.

30.  Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko:  A Native American voice filled with symbolism and imagery and metaphors and poetry and writing that makes me want to stop breathing because breathing is distracting from the intense loveliness of Silko’s writing.

31.  Night by Elie Wiesel:  I grew up learning about the Holocaust.  But Wiesel gave me tragically new insight.  Because of this book and Beah’s A Long Way Gone, I can never say that my life is bad.

32.  Maus by Art Spiegelman:  Spiegelman’s parents’ years in Auschwitz, told through a graphic novel that is saturated with symbolism, existentialism, and the question of identity.

33.  I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak:  Hope and the sustaining power of choosing to do what is good even when it has no benefit for yourself.  This is a philosophy of living that I want to have but am too weak to live full-heartedly.

34.  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak:  Death as the narrator and it is not horrible or depressing.  A writer who gives voice to the voiceless.

35.  Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy:  When Lenin finds God it is like watching the world awaken to the Garden of Eden and I am humbled by words.

36.  East of Eden by John Steinbeck:  I want the word Timshel tattooed upon me.  Thank you Lauren.  Thank you for giving me this book.

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Dave Eggers who is incredibly nice!

37.  What is the What by Dave Eggers:  First of all, this guy is amazing.  He was really nice to the Girl when we met him at the National Book Festival.  On top of that, this book is about the Lost Boys of Sudan…another book that made me pause and reflect and be grateful for what I have.

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Justin Cronin of the Passage

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Margaret Atwood greeting my daughter!

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