I have wanted to write for the last two months and have started and stopped. I, like many, have found my passions come and go over the last numerous weeks while we endure the global pandemic. It is something I want to write about separately, but perhaps with time. Perhaps when it has passed and there’s some distance between us and it, whenever that may be. But this, this is about books.
I have had a long-standing relationship with books, it’s much the reason I have two degrees in English and published work. Years ago, I had a book review blog that had a decent following and even worked on reviews for ARCs from publishers. Becoming a parent, however, has certainly sapped much of my energy for reading and changed up my reading interests. More parent-related books have entered my shelves as well as board books.
And this year has certainly been an odd reading year for me. I had a goal of reading 25 books. Last year, I wanted only to read twelve books as I felt with a newborn it would be too hard to read. And it was, but I still surpassed the number. So this year I shot for double the goal and in January I flew through book after book until February when deep winter struck my desire to do anything…and then March arrived and a pandemic with it.
In the last two months, I have been interested in books one moment, and unable to focus on one the next. I have rushed through a cluster of books over a few weeks only to not pick one up for just as long. Currently, I am in a reading cluster, so the idea of books is something easy to come by, something that appeals to my interest.
And if you happen to be on social media, you’ll notice various games in which people are playing as a possible way to pass the time. A friend tagged me in one of these games with the declaration to share seven books in seven days. I’m not on social media enough to share something every day, so a blog entry will suffice as it allows me to chat about books a bit.
I have always found declaring favorite authors or books to be something of an impossible task. I read so much, by so many people, and I love so many books but for such a wide range of reasons. Some books I love for a deeply personal reason while others I love because I find the writing to be outstanding. What I loved as a teen I may despise now, what I hated then I may enjoy. If anything, I have learned in the past thirty plus years of my life that my love for reading isn’t a constant thing, it is something ever changing, and that’s perfectly fine.
So here, allow me to share with you a few books that I have absolutely loved in my life for various reasons. May this inspire you to check out new books or perhaps pick up one of your own favorites, or perhaps, may this blog give you some temporary escape from the world.
Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
I feel I cannot begin a list of beloved books without quickly sharing this novel. I read IWTV when I was in 7th grade, likely far too young for its contents, but it was the book that made me fall in love with writing and a few years later, the catalyst to meeting many of my closest friends. These girls, all near my age, loved The Vampire Chronicles as much as I did and we grew close quickly and still talk to each other to this day. They certainly know much more about my personal life than many others and I cannot read this book without being swept up by how life changing it was for my young self and how much it has influenced my life, even today.
The Lord of the Rings (trilogy) by JRR Tolkien
When I was in middle school, prior to the release of the theatrical Fellowship of the Ring, I read the trilogy. At that age, it was the longest book I had ever read in my life (and my copy was one book with all three novels within). I was so proud of that page count, but I was also fully submerged into a so-far life-long love for Tolkien and Middle Earth. I find the author utterly fascinating, going out of our way while on our honeymoon for a jaunt to Oxford and visiting the display of his artwork and supplies. But I also absolutely loved his writing and still do. His fantasy has helped create so many more fantasies and it’s helped me so much as a writer.
The Raven Cycle (all four novels) by Maggie Stiefvater
While I can vouch that Maggie is a fantastic human being through my various opportunities to see her, she’s also a fantastic writer. I love the lyrical style of her writing and how she enforces strong female characters throughout her novels. She also doesn’t shy away from queer characters which I deeply appreciate.
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
In college, I was assigned this novel more times than I can count. I had also been assigned it in high school. I utterly despised this book in high school. The language was too hard for me, I couldn’t follow it, and I didn’t get what was so great in the book. I felt frustrated and stupid because so many of my peers were reading Austen and bragging about their adoration about her and yet… I couldn’t follow. Then something changed in college and it all finally clicked. Maybe it was the multiple reads, I don’t know, but I suddenly… enjoyed…the novel. And I continue to through this day. I love watching the film adaptations of it, too. The light, the wardrobes, the music. It’s comforting…like a cup of tea…and it was proof to me that sometimes I can be assigned a book that I’ll actually enjoy.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Shortly after college when I began working in a bookstore, I was given an employee discount. That began the massive book hoarding that still continues today. I bought so many books that I am sure I could have paid off a couple bills if I had all the money I spent on them. Suddenly, with a paycheck and a bookstore literally surrounding me, I was able to pick up any book I had previously had interest in. That’s where Animal, Vegetable, Miracle comes into play. Freshly stepping into adulthood, I felt the world was at my feet. I felt that finally I had control. I was in for a lesson when I realized that true control wouldn’t appear for some time and even now, I’m still working towards making my dreams come true, but this book made me realize I deeply wanted to change a number of my habits. I wanted to have a better understanding where the food I ate came from. I wanted to support local farms. I wanted to eat, preferably, organic material. As years passed and finances became more secure, the lessons I learned from this book continued with me and influenced my choices. I bought a Prius as my first car, I began purchasing pasture raised chicken eggs and if possible–eggs from local farms. We joined a community supported agriculture (CSA) this year and will be eating seasonally: all vegetables coming from a local organic farm, picked the morning that I arrive to pick up my share of the harvest. But my dreams continue, I hope to have a full veggie garden at a home one day as well as chickens, and I hope to join a CSA for local meat as well. I am bringing in more natural products for cleaning and making more food from scratch. Much of this is stemmed by research and discussions with doctors, but that desire to pursue this information was influenced by this book. In fact, I feel like I should give it a read again.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Unlike Pride and Prejudice, this was the first assigned reading in high school that I actually, genuinely, enjoyed. I eagerly read the chapters assigned and adored the movie. It was interesting, fascinating, and as an adult became all the more meaningful when my grandmother gave me her hardcover copy from shortly after its release. It sits on my bookshelf, next to a photo of her and my grandpa.
A Little Princess/The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
I couldn’t choose one book over another. A Little Princess was my favorite Burnett book but The Secret Garden stuck with me the most through life, cropping up in wedding speeches and being a movie I turn to on cold, damp winter days. As an adult, I can’t overlook the racism in the novels, but I also cannot deny the importance of these books to me. They were the first books I remember reading. My mother read them to me first, page by page each night, and with time I began to pick it up and be the one reading. I read many books as a child but these two books were the firsts and I can’t erase that. Now if only I could take the stories and just delete the racism…