You can see a stack of books at the top of my blog but I don’t talk about them that often. Please, don’t think I don’t love & cherish my books! In the past year, I’ve had to do two massive book cleanouts because my apartment just wasn’t big enough for all that I’d collected. I figured it was okay to throw out the Christian self-help book about being single that I got when I was 19.
I held on to the cherished few. And, by few, I mean like a hundred. Still, it has hard. I LOVE to read. I can’t remember at time when I wasn’t pouring over books — starting way back with the Berenstein Bears and then on to the Babysitters Club, the Boxcar Children and Sweet Valley High.
Oh — and my all time favorite — Lurlene McDaniel books all about girls dying of cancer. I’m not really sure about this morbid fascination but my friend Katie & I were obsessed and decided to open a joint pediatric oncology practice together when we grew up. Thankfully, I grew out of this strange obsession with dying teens!
Below, I’ve photographed the three stacks of books that adorn my room. Oh these shelves used to be MANY more but I’ve stuck with the cherished “few.” You’ll see everything from biographies to self-help books to classic novels and writing style books.
Every month at school, we would get order forms for books. I’d pick out a massive amount each month and my Mom would buy them for me. I could tell she thought I was smart for all my reading and I was proud of that. I was always in advanced reading classes and could finish a book in a day. I remember reading “Death Be Not Proud” when I was like 9 and not understanding it much at all — but I had heard my Mom telling a friend how impressive it was that I was reading it so…I pressed on.
Of course I loved the old classics, Catcher in the Rye, The Giver, Little Women. I gave in to the Oprah’s Book Club phenomenon and happened to love almost every single book chosen, specifically White Oleander, The Poisonwood Bible (which turned me on to Barbara Kingsolver who I continue to love!), She’s Come Undone, and The Rapture of Canaan. Those were books I read toward the end of high school and so I remember them as frozen in time, the child me becoming the adult me and in some ways, they shaped me.
I discovered a book that remains a favorite today, Summer Sisters by Judy Blume, around this time as well. It reflects the great importance I put on friendship and nostalgia, in the bittersweet memory of a summer smell or a subtle but affirmatively life changing moment as an adolescent. In books, I have lost myself and become myself, recognizing a feeling, a hope, a dream, a sadness in characters that I didn’t know existed anywhere but my heart.
When an author you’ve never met almost takes your own thoughts and writes them verbatim, that’s when you are taken. I remember that feeling when I read all three books by Curtis Sittenfeld — Prep, American Wife and The Man of My Dreams. My own complicated anxieties and fears and reactions played out in her characters. How did she know?
Similarly, when I read “Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven” Susan Jane Gilman, who captured my ideas and feelings about traveling to third world countries perfectly. How did she know?
And I’ve learned through novels what I could never remember reading plain, old history books. Reading recently, “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter & Sweet,” I realized just exactly what happened to Japanese Americans in the 40s — and it was horrible.
When I read “Unbroken,” my eyes were open to the reality of certain death for many WWII pilots and the horrors of POW camps in the South Pacific.
“The Heavenly Man” unveiled the truth about religious persecution in China — and what true faith and love for God looked like in the life of a man named Brother Yun.
In “Appetites” by one of the my favorite authors of all time, Caroline Knapp (whose life ended much too soon), I recognized myself in the ugly struggle for satisfaction and goodness. In fact, I’ve read the book four times.
“Where Men Win Glory” showed me the life of a honorable man named Pat Tillman — who literally gave his country his all. It showed me how deceptive our government can be to keep themselves looking good and offered an ugly truth.
“On the Road” taught me to dream, the “Prince of Darkness” painted the fascinating world of vintage Washington journalism and “Three Cups of Tea” urged my heart more in the direction of good work, world travel and sacrifice for others.
And so, now you know about my love affair with books. It’s one that will last a lifetime! Questions about any of these books? Please let me know! What are YOUR favorite books? Of course, I’m always looking for the next great thing!