Sometimes friends tag you in things on Facebook and you’re busy with teaching and the rest of life, and then one day you look up and notice that weeks have gone by and you now look like an incurable jerk, because you couldn’t find the three minutes to tell these nice people what books you love and what small things you’re thankful for. So this post is to rectify that, (and also to let me be more long-winded than the Facebook world might be prepared for.)
Here are ten books that have stayed with me or shaped my life in some way. Please be aware that this list is almost hilariously non-exhaustive, and also that I’ve recommended every single one of them on here before, so if you’re looking to be surprised, you’re going to be sorely disappointed.
- One Morning in Maine, Robert McCloskey: When my parents read this to me as a child, I could taste the whole thing: the blood in her mouth when she loses her tooth, the mud on her fingers when she sticks her dirty fingers in to search for it, the chocolate ice cream at the auto-shop, the promise of clam chowder for lunch.
- The Penderwicks, Jeanne Birdsall: I got this one for Christmas when I was about twelve. As per usual, my family was driving around the Midwest and after I finished it, I insisted on reading it aloud to them, and beginning to make notes for a future film adaptation.
- The Mennyms, Sylvia Waugh: I read all five of these as an older kid and adored them. Then I re-read them last summer, while beginning work on my novel. I stayed up till two in the morning finishing the third one and crying messy, slobbery tears about the existential fate of a family of rag dolls. It was worth it.
- I Like You, Sandol Stoddard Warburg: This is a book for sharing, and sharing, and giving away. Order it now, sight unseen. You won’t regret it.
- Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies, Marilyn Chandler McEntyre: This was a high school graduation present from my fifth grade teacher. I carried it around all summer, and even dropped it in a slimy spillway while on a walk at my grandparent’s. It got as close a book can to becoming my best friend.
- The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom: This is such a book for re-reading. Every time I do I take a deep breath and say to myself, “Oh, so that’s want it means to follow Jesus, yes, of course, of course…”
- Bleak House, Charles Dickens: This book contains some of the most heart-rending examples of how not to love those around you, how not to be charitable, how not to show pity. I’ve seen this book make both my parents cry. (But it’s worth it all when Miss Flite sets her birds free.)
- Wit, Margaret Edson: This play, which I saw Emma Thompson do on screen long before I read it, is so much about grace: grace in words, grace in action, grace in suffering, death, and life. Also, it’s wonderfully simple and morbidly funny.
- True Grit, Charles Portis: This book makes fourteen-year-old girls seems so cool. And it reminded me, when I needed it very much, of what good writing really is: making sure every word has been put in each sentence for a purpose, to do a specific job. It’s really one of the most sublime pieces of first person narration I know.
- The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway: There are times when being an English major can slowly sap the joy out of reading. But this was assigned for a twentieth century novel course I took senior year, and I remember finishing it up (eating lunch just before class time in the overcrowded cafeteria at a table full of strangers,) and feeling like my heart was about to burst and turn inside out like a kernel of popcorn. It was that good.
Here are five days’ worth of three things I was, and am, thankful for. (I promise I kept track throughout the week.)
- Monday: students who talk too much, a mother to take walks with, and Skype and speakerphone (especially at the same time)
- Tuesday: a sister who will call me from a concert so I can hear a favorite song live, pot roast and this poem about it, and the fact that on some days my job consists of me telling students about the patience of God over and over again
- Wednesday: texting…because now that I have it it’s actually not so bad, Krispy Kreme for breakfast, and the way old friends can become new friends
- Thursday: students who write too much, Edwards tests and their continuing legacy in my life, and peanut butter M&Ms
- Friday: teacher workdays, the fact that we have been promised grace for grace in Jesus, and homecomings, of all sorts
So there you have it.
(Who am I kidding? This didn’t take three minutes….)