In honor of National Book Lovers Day, which went largely unnoticed again this past week, I thought I'd put together some thoughts about some of the books I truly love. It goes without saying that as a writer and avid reader, books mean a lot to me. I know how hard they can be to compose, to arrange, to get out there, to publish, to market. That there are still so many people out there who have thought to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and gone through the whole endeavor just to make their words available for people like you and me is something I am grateful for every day. The escape, the adventure, the creativity, the honesty, and the wisdom we absorb through the written words of others, well, it's what I consider one of the great blessings of our time.
*These are in no particular order, except the order in which they came to my mind. Make of that what you will.
1. Peace Like a River. This one gets me every time, and I've read it plenty. Combining the innocence and humor of a young narrator with the unbreakable bond of family, you'll find yourself torn between justice and mercy...although justice never really has a chance when love and family are in the mix, now, does it? You'll be rooting for Davy and the RV-towing family who's trying to track him down.
2. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Honestly one of the greatest regrets of my life is that it took me until THIS SUMMER to finally read this book. How much time I wasted not being acquainted with the Nolan family. Young Francie and her mother Katie are some of the most memorable characters I've ever known, and something about the degree to which you become immersed in this world of old-school Brooklyn is simply captivating. A true treasure.
3. The Year of Magical Thinking. My favorite of Joan Didion's books, it explores grief in a way that feels both practical and sentimental.
4. The End of Your Life Book Club. I'm such a sucker for memoirs anyway, and this one was both literary (you'll get lots of great ideas for reading material!) and heartbreaking (from the very beginning, you know how it has to end). For anyone who has ever loved their mother.
5. Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.. I'd never really thought of the film Breakfast at Tiffany's ushering in a whole new era of female sexuality (and not really sure that I entirely buy it), but as a huge fan of the novella, of the jewelry store, and of Audrey Hepburn, this book has plenty of all three. From the writing to the casting to the filming, this is a fascinating look at a movie that, if not quite sexually redefining, was undoubtedly iconic. An absolute treat.
6. The Secret Life of Cowboys. An honest and messily beautiful account of a writer turned cowboy who takes his chances on ranch life. And Tom Groneberg actually reached out to thank me when I complimented his books in a previous post. We've corresponded a bit, and you've got to love authors who aren't above reaching out to their fans.
7. Tis. Out of Frank McCourt's trilogy of memoirs, Angela's Ashes gets the most press. But I find Tis to be the best of the bunch. His childhood years behind him, Tis tells of McCourt's first years in America.
8. The Alchemist. A beautiful story packed to the brim with symbolism and parallels that will have you thinking lost past the last page. A book ultimately about following your dreams and finding out what exactly it is that the universe has in store for you, it's what ultimately inspired me to go get my gemologist diploma.
9. Quiet. Fascinating (and, oh, so true) nonfiction read about the power of introverts in a society that lopsidedly praises (and goes to great lengths to matriculate) extroverts. Every introvert will rejoice...and for every boss, manager, dean, and CEO, it should be required reading.
10. Frankenstein. This one made such an impression on me when I first read it because it's not at all the book you think it's going to be. We hear so much about the story of Frankenstein, but, believe me, you should read the real thing. Not unlike characters such as Elphaba and the Phantom, you'll be left musing over these tragic characters who, initially so full of goodness, were ultimately changed and cracked by the way others treated them.