My friend, Alyssa, tagged me in a Facebook post claiming that she was interested in learning what sort of books I have loved. And since brevity is not my strong suit, I just went ahead and decided to write a blog post about it.
List 10 books that have made a lasting impression – they don’t have to be “great” works or “right,” just ones that have stayed long in the mind. In no particular order. And we’re off!
1. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Obvious? Maybe. Sylvia came to meet me, for the first time, during a particularly dark semester in college. I passed through The Bell Jar, confused about how she knew so much about me before she’d met me. At the risk of sounding dramatic or getting too dark (because, it was a long time ago but it was real, too), Sylvia kept me alive.
2. She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb
I couldn’t have chosen a better Lamb book to be my very first. This book is long. Really long. But it is thorough and it is completely on-point in exploring the depth and complexity of a whole life. I remember reading this, wondering how on earth this man could write so spot-on from the perspective of an obese, teenage girl. How did he know? But, he knew. I have a sneaking suspicion that it is probably because, really, we’re all the same.
3. A Good Man is Hard to Find (and Other Short Stories) by Flannery O’Connor
Growing up in a religious culture, things can turn black and white–good or bad–really easily. This book was one of the very first sources to adequately point me to the truth that good and evil live inside of everyone. Love and hate. And that God lives inside of everything, too. Holiness is everywhere.
4. Paper Towns by John Green
I have studied this book from a writers perspective simply because I am enamored by the way that John Green moves a story along. He foreshadows in ways that aren’t obvious but are still memorable. And he captures feeling perfectly. John Green is getting a lot of attention for his latest book, The Fault in Our Stars, and it’s wonderful! But my first choice is still Paper Towns. Not to mention, after the introduction in that book, it’s impossible to not keep reading.
5. The Maytrees by Annie Dillard
My friend Emily sent me this book because she is a genius. The Maytrees can be a challenge to follow at times but this was one of the first books to send me through the wringer–emotionally. Well, as an adult anyway. It isn’t easy to create something so stylized and shocking all at once. I’m just going to use this phrase and hate myself for it later: a must-read!!
6. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
This was the first book to ever give me The Feels. The illustrations are perfect and haunting and hopeful. As young adults, my dear, dear friend Tamra Sue Miller used to pile us all around the bed and read it to us during sleepovers. It didn’t matter if we were all young cynics, we were enraptured and sleepy and together.
7. The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner
It is brilliant the way that he uses the stream-of-consciousness technique to move this story along. I’m not going to say that this was an easy read. Not at all. By the time I was finished, I felt like I’d run a marathon with my mind. But it was incredible. He moves the story along using the first-person perspective of several different characters–including someone who is mentally handicapped. I don’t care if William Faulkner later admitted to just writing it for the money, it made a lasting impression on me.
8. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Probably one of the first books to ever push me towards feminism. I know, I know, any normal, thinking, intelligent person is a feminist by default but for some reason we are taught to think that feminism bad (for inexplicable reasons but still, you know, reasons). So I should say that this was one of the first works of fiction to help me to realize that I was a feminist. This is a story about a woman, my friend. A woman just trying to live a life. Pretty much a woman who is just like you but who has a few different life experiences. That’s what I’ll say about that. And, yes, if you think you’re not a feminist a little part of me sees you a little dumber than I did before. So just don’t tell me, please.
9. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky
I love this book so much that I taught a class on it in college. I love this book so much that the very first time that I read it, I finished it, immediately missed Charlie, and then opened it up to read again from the beginning. Charlie does, in this book, what a lot of the internet does. He gives you an opportunity to say, “Oh my god, I thought I was the only one who felt things like that.” Perks goes into your secret mind.
10. Hard Laughter by Anne Lamott
This was Annie’s very first novel–and it was basically a novelization of her father’s death. Having experienced the death of a parent as a very young adult, I was happy to have found this. She does such a good job, in everything she writes, of relating to me (I’m sure she does is specifically for me on purpose). The main character in this book is so different from me but that doesn’t even matter because, in true Lamott fashion, this book has me constantly putting down the book to have a private moment to say, “Gah! Me, too!”
Obviously, there’s a theme amongst most of these books. That is the idea that, essentially, we’re all the same. We’re all in this together and we’re not all so different. I think that’s powerful and important and it’s what I look for, every day, in life in general.
So how about you? What are some books that have made a lasting impression on you, in no particular order?
Full disclosure, I posted this whole post without even double checking it for spelling or formatting errors. It’s pretty unlike me but, hey, it happened.