Saturday, May 30, 2009

15 Books that Stick with Me

I've noticed that the memes that appeal to me the most are the ones that are book related.  I had lunch this week with a new friend, and talk turned to work histories.  My friend was not remotely surprised to learn that I'd spent twelve years managing a bookstore.  He saw my passion for books and reading in our interactions (and we've got a great novel swap happening at the moment!)  

The challenge: choose fifteen books that continue to stick with you.  Feel free to say why they've stuck or not.  Stick with you, of course, is totally open to personal interpretation.  For me, these are the books I come back to again and again.  Something about the book captured me.  These are in no particular order, by the way.  

1. Zami: A New Spelling of My Name ~ A Biomythography by Audre Lorde. I read this shortly after I came out and shortly after Lorde's death.  I felt like I was learning some of my history. I re-read it periodically.  I love Lorde's voice.

2. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott.  This was the first book by Lamott that I read.  I fond myself laughing out loud.  And, her advice on writing and life is spot on.

3. The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan.  Pollan's book about food, what we eat, and how we eat has changed how I look at food (and sometimes) how I eat.

4. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.  Barbara Kingsolver is my favorite novelist.  This is certainly my favorite novel.  I'm a sucker for multiple voices, and this is so well done.

5. Gone to Soldiers by Marge Piercy.  I'm also a huge Piercy fan.  This is another multiple voice novel, set in and around World War II.  Piercy's characterization is amazing.

6. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.  Atwood is yet another favorite writer.  This classic fable shows what could happen when theocracy is brought to an extreme.

7. Watership Down by Richard Adams.  I first read this one in junior high.  I've re-read it several times since.  Adams makes a world where animals think, talk, and order society seem possible.

8. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling.  I'm a huge fan of the series, but I think this one is my favorite.  (Mind you, this could change at any given moment!) Dumbledore's mentoring of Harry is wonderful to watch (and the ending, completely unexpected, at least by me).  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows would be my other choice for favorite in the series.  I love it when good triumphs.

9. The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis.  The first time I read this novel (set in the future, time travel is possible, historians use it to study events in history) I was on a business trip.  The novel was so gripping I resented every time I had to leave my hotel room and stop reading.

10. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson.  This is the newest book on my Top 15 list.  It taught me so much about what is happening in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and it gives me hope for the future.  I give it away as often as I can.  I also donate to the Central Asia Institute.

11. The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien.  I tried to read The Hobbit several times as a kid.  I hated it.  I gave up.  When the movies came out, I tried again, and started with The Fellowship of the Ring and I was totally drawn in.  Now I've read the repeatedly.

12. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich.  Ehrenreich, an investigative jounralist, goes under cover in three minimum-wage jobs: a housecleaner, a waitress, and a worker at Wal-Mart.

13. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. This is a hard novel to read.  But it also gives a glimpse into women's lives in Afghanistan.  I was haunted (and continue to be) by it.

14. On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I read this series over and over again as a kid.  In the 4th grade, I had gingham dresses and a sunbonnet.  As young adults, Marie and I took the Laura Ingalls Wilder tour in South Dakota.  I still have a soft spot in my heart for these books.  

15. Roots by Alex Haley.  I read it first on an educational challenge in 6th grade.  My social studies teacher was looking for a project that might challenge me, so she suggested it.  She had to get my parents' permission for me to read it for her class.  I was a sheltered little white girl living in a monochromatic town.  This novel opened my eyes to other realities.


Brian Thom said...

Hi Fran,

While you were posting on Saturday, I was leading a retreat entitled The Books We Read, The Stories We Tell. The featured event was everyone bringing their five most important books. They loved this. Did it first as a change of pace in my parish Bible study a few years ago. Could also be a cool dinner party theme. Hearing folks describe why a certain book meant so much to them was a wonderful way to build understanding and community.

My choices this time where:

Wounded Healer, Nouwen
Baby, MacLachlan
Crossing To Safety, Stegner
The CLoister Walk, Norris
The House of Belonging, Whyte

Book Blessings! +Brian

Fran said...

Thanks, Brian. What a great idea. I will totally use it some time! I could really see it as a party theme or a way of telling a biography in a group. I would imagine that what people choose tells alot about them - that's certainly true in my choices.

Amy Paulin said...

I was (pleasantly) surprised by the Harry Potter entry . . . A short time ago, I was chastised for enjoying the Harry Potter series because "God hates witch- craft, sorcery, etc". I tried (unsuccessfully) to explain myself feelings concerning the series and that I do understand that God tells us to stay away from witch-craft, but what I take from the series has to do with Good winning over evil, the power of friendship & the strength in our love for each other.

The woman said it was brain-washing our children to think that witch-craft was cool and okay to be part of.

I was just wondering what your thoughts/defense was on this subject?

Fran said...

I agree with you 100%. First of all, the books are novels. Fiction. And, I think that they are not so much about witchcraft as they are about the power of good over evil. Harry consistently chooses to follow the high road. And, I think that there are Christian overtones in the book (Dumbledore's death is very Christ-like, in my opinion). I think we do our kids a disservice when we fail to take their own intelligence into account. Reading Harry Potter will not make kids witches and more than learning about homosexuality will make them gay. And we deny them access to a great story about the power of love and friendship, faithfulness and courage, good over evil.