When my book club came together, our first assignment was to share our 10 favorite books with the group. It was an impossible assignment. Most of us listed far more than 10 books. I chose 10 favorite authors because I couldn’t limit my selection to merely 10 titles. My list of favorites evolves with each passing year. I can’t imagine life without reading and hope that my eyesight lasts as long as I do.
My earliest memory of a book that mattered is when my first grade teacher read us “Horton Hatches The Egg” by Dr. Seuss. Horton taught me to be faithful to the promises I make. I soon learned to read for myself and devoured almost every book in the school library. Fortunately, the bookmobile made regular stops at our elementary school. I think that’s when I became inspired to become a librarian. At home, I read folk tales and fairy tales from a set of books my parents bought for us and one of my prized possessions was a copy of “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott. I still own that well-worn volume.
As an adult, I gained insight into my family’s experiences through books. When I read “The Dollmaker” by Harriette Arnow, I realized what my grandparents, aunts and uncles had endured during the Depression. I have a copy of a letter that my aunt wrote home to my grandmother when she and her husband moved to Detroit in the late 1920’s so that he could find work in a factory. That letter could have served as the prologue for “The Dollmaker”. My mother was just a toddler at the time. I also learned to be a little more tolerant of my brother and nephew, both ex-Marines, after reading “Keeping Faith” by Frank and John Schaeffer. Anybody who survives boot camp on Parris Island deserves our respect.
My view of the world and my personal principles have been influenced by what I’ve read. My views on feminism were solidified when I read “From Housewife to Heretic” by Sonia Johnson. I gained insight into Islamic culture by reading “Honor Lost” by Norma Khouri. “Heart in the Right Place” by Carolyn Jourdan revealed how choices we make change our lives. Even the books that I don’t particularly enjoy help me clarify my feelings on issues when I try to articulate why I don’t care for the book. Just ask me how I feel about “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch. It’s a popular children’s book but I detest it.
Along the way, I raised a daughter and the cycle of reading continues. I remember the first book my daughter read by herself. It was “My Shadow and I” by Patty Wolcott, not a real page turner but it represents a milestone in her life that I will always remember. As my daughter grew up, I rediscovered books like “Anne of Green Gables” by Lucy Maude Montgomery and read great books from her generation like “Sarah, Plain and Tall” by Patricia MacLachlan and “Jacob Have I Loved” by Katherine Paterson.
Sharing books with children is a joy. During my tenure as a children’s librarian, I developed a list of picture books that I love to share with children. “No Peas for Nellie” by Chris Demarest, “Go Away Big Green Monster” by Ed Emberley, “Froggy Gets Dressed” by Jonathan London, “Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore” by David McPhail “Owl Babies” by Martin Waddell and “The Napping House” by Audrey Wood are just a few of my favorites.
My idea of heaven is a room full of books, a comfortable well-lit space to sit, and all the time I want to read.
“A person reads books in order to gain the privilege of living more than one life.”
– Garrison Keillor