Have y’all seen the latest Facebook chain status update – the one asking for your top ten books? One of my friends tagged me in hers, which meant I had to come up with the ten books that have affected me or stayed with me through the years. This was so tough! I finally narrowed my list down to ten, but I wanted to share with you the reasons I chose them along with the other finalists that made the short list.
1. Eat, Pray, Love
It’s been a few years since I read Eat, Pray, Love, but I still vividly remember sitting in the front passenger seat in my jeep, probably on the way to the lake, reading as fast as I could. I gobbled this book up! There was something so intensely personal about this memoir. While I couldn’t relate to the marital strife that precipitated her journey to eat, pray, and love her way around the world, I did feel a certain empathy with her identity crisis. Sometimes we all get stuck in a rut and wish we could venture outside of our shells and the little bubbles of life we create for ourselves. Hubby and I do love to travel, and it would be amazing to just hit pause on reality for an extended time to experience another life of sorts. I can’t bear the thought of leaving behind our little fur baby for that long of a time, though, and a world tour would certainly be an adventure with our little munchkin in tow! I think I’ll wait until I have that private jet fueled up. Do I have any friends with a hook up? 😀
2. Pride and Prejudice
This has to be my favorite of the classics. I re-read it all the time! I have the eBook on my Kindle, and I always pick up in a different spot. (The Kindle version is FREE on amazon!) Often, I’ll just read a chapter or two in between reading other books. It’s nice to have that one familiar book that has a way of taking you home. I always enjoy strong female characters, especially ones who speak their minds freely and eloquently. (Maybe because I always wish I could say just what I mean in an instant. I constantly replay situations and can always come up with 10 things I wish I had said!) I absolutely LOVE the film version featuring Keira Knightley, including the music. I honestly have never seen the miniseries featuring Colin Firth, but I have it on my Amazon Instant Video Watchlist!
3. Jane Eyre
Another classic featuring a strong female protagonist. I love the unusual storyline, with just a hint of mystery. I’m a sucker for descriptive narratives. I love to be able to envision the complete scene – what it looks and feels like, and how the particular situation came to be. (If you know me, you know that’s exactly how I tell a story. Some may call it long-winded; I call it setting the scene! 😉 )
4. Le Temps d’un Ouragan (Nights in Rodanthe)
This one has a special place in my heart. I read this while on foreign study in Versailles. I remember perusing the local bookstore for a “fun” read compared to the classical French literature we had been reading for class. This was a shorter read, which was perfect since most of my free time was spent exploring. But, we did spend a lot of time on trains and buses, so a book was a great way to pass the time. And, a book en français, no less! At this point in time, I was really missing Hubby. This was by far the longest we had been apart since we started dating 6 years prior. What better time to read a Nicholas Sparks novel in the City of Lights?! (Afterthought: Hubby knew I had read this book on foreign study and that it was special to me, although I’m sure he didn’t exactly understand why. He surprised me with a movie night on Valentine’s Day just after it was released on DVD. Yes, he’s a keeper!)
5. The Art of Racing in the Rain
I. Love. This. Book. It’s an unexpected gem of a novel. Written from the viewpoint of a dog, it just pulls at your heartstrings! (My mom and I both started leaving the TV on for our dogs after reading it.) Any dog lover will tell you that each dog has its own personality, but to consider that a dog has such complicated thoughts and emotions epitomizes the idea that a dog is man’s best friend. It also reminded me that life is short, especially for our canine family members, so make the most of it!
6. The Boxcar Children
I was a late reader. I remember my mom hired a tutor for me before kindergarten (I think it was kindergarten?) We sat out on the screened-in porch with workbook pages, and I flat out refused to read. The next thing I remember is going to the library the summer after kindergarten. I believe we were in the children’s section looking at picture books, and somehow I stumbled upon The Boxcar Children. I think my mom looked at me with a little concern; “But, there are no pictures in this one.” (There may be a couple of sketch drawings, but it is definitely NOT a picture book.) Sure enough, I read it on my own and was instantly hooked! It also became a fast-favorite with many of my friends, and we would definitely “play” Boxcar Children on the playground. Is there any better compliment for a children’s writer than for your readers to imagine they are your characters?
7. A Cry in the Night
This was my first “real” book, as in adult fiction. If I remember correctly, I was having trouble sleeping and asked my mom for a “real book.” I remember her browsing through our built-in bookcases, trying to find something age-appropriate. (We were still living in Mountain Brook, so I hadn’t yet turned 10. Am I remembering this correctly? Those are definitely the bookcases I am picturing.)
Irrelevant details aside, this novel started a love affair with anything Mary Higgins Clark! (While A Cry In The Night is my most memorable MHC novel, All Around The Town is probably my favorite.) It also marked the beginning of sharing books with my mom.
8. The Happiness Project
I actually read this book around the same time as Eat, Pray, Love. I said before that I could empathize with Elizabeth Gilbert’s identity crisis. In truth, I was going through somewhat of an identity crisis myself. (I still have on my list to read Quarterlife Crisis; maybe I’ll get to it before I enter my own midlife crisis!) I believe Gretchen Rubin said it best in this book: “I had everything I could possibly want – yet I was failing to appreciate it.” That’s exactly what I was feeling. Just like Rubin, I wasn’t depressed, but I was failing to notice all the everyday highs that make up a happy life. I didn’t have to be falling apart to want to make myself better. She inspired me to stop going through the motions per sé, and the book inspired me to do something I had always thought about: start a blog!
9. In Defense of Food
I read this “manifesto” by accident. I had ordered it for my boss at the time by his instruction. I remember opening the package when it arrived at the office and being intrigued by the cover. I had really just recently become interested in health and nutrition. I had always been interested in food and eating well, but I was oblivious to the industry of food. I knew that vegetables were healthy and cokes (yes, I’m from Atlanta; all sodas are cokes) were bad, but I didn’t know exactly why. This book opened up a whole new world of eating to me. I was fascinated to learn the history of how our food is marketed in this country; I was even more fascinated to learn how to see through these marketing ploys. I spent one night devouring this book, and it literally changed the way I look at food. For me, this is a definite must-read for anyone interested in controlling what goes into our bodies.
10. Number the Stars
This book is another nostalgic pick. I can’t remember what grade I was in (shocking, I know! I’m actually now guessing 4th grade. . .), but I read it for a book report. We had to present symbolic items, and I remember practicing in our family room (the same one that housed the built-in bookshelves I mentioned above). I was still dressed in my short-sleeved black leotard, having just gotten home from dance class, and I was wearing a gold necklace. (Maybe the Samantha locket? Seriously – do not ask me HOW I remember such trivial details.) In this memory, I am pulling out objects from a brown grocery bag, and one of these objects is the Star of David. I believe this is THE BOOK that started my obsession with the Holocaust. Do not let the fact that this is juvenile fiction undermine its importance as an historical account. Lois Lowry is an amazing writer!
And, now, the short list. These are the titles that ALMOST made the cut 🙂
1. The Giver
As I said above, Lois Lowry is an amazing writer! We read The Giver in my 8th grade English class. This novel was so controversial at the time. It is definitely a great read for any age!
This is purely a sentimental read. I remember buying (rather, my parents buying) this book at a used bookstore we used to frequent when I was younger. I can still picture this cover. (I actually scrolled down on Amazon until I found the exact cover I remembered!) I think it captures every young girl’s ideal of first love, as stereotypical as it may be.
3. Little Women
This was a hard one to cut from my final list. I have always loved this story, and I loved reading Jo’s Boys and Little Men as well. (I love a story that doesn’t seem to end!) I received it as a Christmas gift, and I remember having it read to me before bed. It continued to be a favorite of mine as I got older. I was also
a tiny bit obsessed with the movie version featuring Wynona Ryder and (gasp!) Christian Bale! I feel this story evokes the young, optimistic girl in all of us.
4. A Wrinkle In Time
I’m really not into science fiction. At all. But, I was obsessed with A Wrinkle In Time! There was something so realistic about this story that I could really picture myself in it. Honestly, if I don’t feel like I’ve been a part of a story, it’s a waste of my time! This also reminds me of Middle School English, and, for some reason, I always picture the school library when I think of it.
5. Crime and Punishment
I honestly don’t know why I like this book so much, but I always think of it when I think of favorite books. There is a sadness to the writing of this novel, I think, that for some reason spoke to me. I really should read it again as an adult. (I really should read all of these again!)
6. A Tale of Two Cities
This has to be my favorite Dickens novel. I think it’s the fact that it’s set in France. Once again, I love the descriptions in Dickens’ writing. I’m aware he’s not for everyone, but he is one of my favorites. Great Expectations is a close second.
7. As Nature Made Him
I read this on summer break from Furman. I want to say it was after my Freshman year. I was pretty sure Sociology would be my major, and I wanted to read everything I could related to the idea of nature vs. nurture. I found this book on the shelf at my local bookstore and decided to give it a try. On a societal level, I very much believe in the role popular culture plays upon individuals. However, the idea that a person could be trapped inside the wrong body is still very intriguing. While I can’t say how I would handle such a situation with a child of my own, I’m still reminded of this book when I think of approaching gender stereotypes with children.
If you haven’t read this account by Elie Wiesel, you must. No question. The small size of the book physically disguises the intensity of its message. I gave face to Number the Stars because I believe it was the impetus behind my interest in World War II, but this book will change you. (I’m suddenly remembering another book I read in Middle School related to World War II and the Holocaust. If I can come up with the title, I’ll have to share that one as well.)
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