Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Books That Shaped My Life

I love listening to NPR when I'm driving around town. I like Talk of the Nation (if it's not too politically oriented) and Fresh Air during the week. And really like whatever the show is on Saturday afternoons where people read their stories. There is an inherent problem with listening while running errands because I often only get the beginning or end of a story. If I'm really hooked I've been known to sit in a parking lot or the garage until it's finished. Another problem is wanting to take notes while driving - not advisable. I have to rely on my memory until I get to a stopping place and dig a pen from the bottom of my purse and a receipt or old napkin to write on. Relying on my memory is not the best way to get key pieces of information down on paper.

So yesterday  on Talk of the Nation there was a discussion about an exhibit currently at the Library of Congress called the Books That Shaped America. The goal of the exhibit is to "spark a national conversation on books and their importance in Americans' lives, and indeed, in shaping our nation." When I got home I printed out the list to see what was it and how many I'd read.  Out of 91 books, I've read a grand total of 15. Personally I think I should get credit for watching the movie, if I watched it more than once, like Gone With the Wind, for example, or To Kill a Mockingbird. (Should I be embarrassed to admit I've never read To Kill A Mockingbird?"  I was kind of surprised to see books like The Cat in the Hat, or Goodnight Moon, or The Joy of Cooking on the list.  But I think I can agree that each of them must have played a role in the lives of people who read them over and over again.  There are several on the list I should order from the library and make up my mind to read before my eyes give out. At three sentences or paragraphs a night, I won't ever have to buy another book in my life.  I can't think of a worse scenario. Half the fun of reading is buying the book. Here's where I admit that I don't have an e-reader.

At dinner tonight Sweetie and I discussed (or tried to over some really bad karaoke singing) the books that may have shaped our own lives.  I guess I'd have to start with Nancy Drew mysteries, and those orange fabric bound biographies. To this day I love reading both mysteries and history. A history mystery is the creme de la creme.  Even though I wasn't a Girl Scout for very long, I worked my way through a good part of the Girl Scout Handbook, earning badges and sewing them on my sash.

The first classic I read was Jane Eyre. The only reason I read it is because I made the mistake of telling Miss Bates, my 8th grade English teacher/mentor that I'd done a book report on it but only read the first few chapters. What about the fire she asked? What fire? Well, even though she was no longer my teacher she made me come to her classroom at lunchtime and read the book.

I guess if a book really helped shape my life, I'd have to remember the title. I've been reading for as long as I can remember but recalling all the titles would be an exercise in futility. A good part of my list is made up of self-help books I read in the 1980's as I tried to pull myself out of depression. And I added quite a few of the books I read over and over to my children.

In no particular order, here's as much of my list as I got to tonight.

  1. The Road Less Traveled
  2. The Dance of Anger
  3. Codependent No More
  4. Mr. Tickle (Weneki told me recently she hated this book because her father was too much of a tickler)
  5. No Fighting and No Biting
  6. Are You My Mother?
  7. Green Eggs and Ham
  8. Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes
  9. Sweet Pickles Series
  10. This Blessed Mess (It's good to know that chaos breeds creativity)
  11. Plain and Simple (Discovered by a series of coincidences from a poster in my therapist's office)
  12. Three Cups of Tea (Moved me to the core)
  13. Kitchen Table Wisdom 
  14. Running to the Mountain (Began my membership in the Jon Katz fan club)
  15. The Diary of Anne Frank (I read this after seeing the Amsterdam house where the Franks hid out.)
  16. Faithful Travelers (A father/daughter tale that made me yearn for closeness)
  17. The Secret Life of Eva Hathaway (Makes me laugh and cry every time I read it.)
  18. Making Loss Matter (Perhaps the first book on loss I read after my mother died)
  19. If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What am I Doing in the Pits (Someone told me once I write like Erma Bombeck. No greater compliment)
  20. Soul Food (A church cookbook I collected and edited)
  21. Where the Sidewalk Ends
  22. Mothering Mother (Led me to a great writer, mentor, friend and champion of writer's everywhere)
  23. Saying Goodbye to the people, places and things in our lives (an anthology which contains my first published story)
  24. Crossing the Creek (A hospice handbook I've probably read 20 times)
  25. The Slippery Year  (A book I just happened upon but soon fell for the style of writing)
  26. The Pig of Happiness (This book makes me laugh every time I read it)
  27. Passages in Caregiving (Made a big impact on me a few months before my father passed away)
  28. The Homecoming (Helped me to seriously look at inner child issues)
  29. The Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions (Got me through some hard times)
  30. Stone Soup (From Capt. Kangaroo to today, this is one of my favorite stories)
  31. Old Turtle (Beautiful watercolors)
  32. The Last Straw (A Christmas story I turned into a short play)
  33. Christmas in the Trenches (Love the idea that for a few hours WWI stopped and Christmas was shared in No Man's Land)
  34. Bird by Bird (I've started this book several times. Maybe one day I'll finish it and be a better writer for having done so.)
  35. Nine Spoons (A true story of Hanukkah that took place in a concentration camp - powerful reading)
  36. Badger's Parting Gifts (A kid's book. A beautiful way to honor one's passing)
  37. Simple Abundance (A year full of abundance)
  38. A Year by the Sea (Led me to my own retreat by the sea, which led me to Bella, which led me to Terri St. Cloud)
  39. Undaunted Courage (Still not sure how Lewis and Clarke ever managed that trip)
  40. Traveling Mercies
  41. Thirst (The first book of poetry I ever read)
  42. The Book of Common Prayer
  43. Lou Boldt, Alex Delaware and Elvis Cole mysteries
I thought it was weird that the LOC list has 91 books - not an even number like 90 or 100. But you could probably say that about 43. I suspect I'll be thinking of books as I try to go to sleep tonight.
What about you? What books helped to shape your life?

Wishing for you a good book and a comfortable place to read it.
Merry ME

P.S. Sorry for this longish post.

P.S.S. * If you're interested in the complete LOC list here's the web site:


Anonymous said...

Books are fabulous companions and teachers, Merry. You are right, they have such an impact and an influence on us, all to the good.

The Nancy Drew sereis was my favorite when I was a kid, and Simple Abundance was very powerful when I read it. Interetsing list you have !


Molly said...

so much to respond to...go Nancy Drew and I thought I was the only one who remembered those orange bios. I still remember reading about Thomas Alva Edison.

do I understand that you participated in a retreat by the sea with the author of the books? i loved those books - she wrote 2, possibly 3 of them.

love this post!

Young Werther said...

Miss receiving letters and cards..especially handwritten ones. Matters not if the writing is illegible!