I thought since I've been talking about books lately, I'd give you the lowdown on my top 10.
Some of these are obviously books which have great critical acclaim and some aren't. All of them have changed my in some way - forever shifted my perception of both myself and the world. They are listed in kind of my order of personal preference although (especially with the first 3) it's hard for me to make the distinction.
Number 1: The Sound and the Fury
I was just blown away. As I've said before, when I picked up this book I was only hoping to make it through it. I didn't expect to understand it. Or to love it. Or to be changed by it. But I was. I didn't know that anyone could write like this. I didn't know I could be carried along on such a whirlwind of words. Love.....
Number 2: The Great Gatsby
I think this is the first 'grown up' book that I fell in love with. And all these years later, I continue to love it. I read it again earlier this year and I'm still amazed that this story that I know so well can still surprise me in ways I couldn't anticipate when I read it as a teenager. My own age and experience have deepened my understanding.
Number 3: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Another book I read for the first time as a young adult. It made me understand (in a concrete way) the larger world, the possibilities of the universe and the absolute necessity of good liquor and good towels. It's still a guiding book for me. It helped me grow up and still shows the way.
Number 4: The Shipping News
I just love the story. I love the language. The first time I read it I hated it with a passion. I was 100 pages in and just said "Fuck it. I hate this. I'm done." But I was at the gym and had nothing else to read so I turned the page to 101 and she hooked me. And I finally got into the rhythm of this language and I fell in. I started out hating Quoyle (our semi-hero). I wanted to thump him. Golly Pete! But he was such a schmuck! But he kept going. He found his way. In the end he was beautiful.
Number 5: To Kill a Mockingbird
There may be a lawyer (man or woman), somewhere in the South, who isn't in love with Atticus Finch - but I've never met 'em. I re-read this last month. Happily. Joyously. I feel like Scout gets all the attention and in many ways this story is about her and her growing up. But it is Jem that kills me. I suppose because he's already grown up enough to understand what's really going on. I feel like he can truly see Atticus for what he is and understand what they're all going through - and he's losing his childhood innocenc in a different way than Scout. The story about a son coming to understand his father's true greatness kills me. Just kills me.
Number 6: The Bluest Eye
I read The Bluest Eye for the first time in college - because it was assigned to me. I remember, at the age of 22, being astounded that my thinking could be so radically shifted by such a slim book. I was then, as I am now, in awe of Toni Morrison. I suppose before this, I thought there were really only 2 paths when one was dealing with unending, helpless misery: Escape or Death. Toni Morrison has shown us a third path here (as well as later) and that is madness. Picola Breedlove stepped off to madness. And she still breaks my heart.
Number 7: Death Comes for the Archbishop
I think I've read most everything Willa Cather has written. She has made me sob in grief on more than one occasion. This story of the quiet and profound life of one man toiling away in the desert did just that.
Number 8: The Sun Also Rises
You know, I'm not a Hemingway fan. I hope one day to develop more of an appreciation for his work but for now, I'm just going to say that I love this book enough to keep trying to at least appreciate his other work. Maybe it's Paris. Maybe it's the French countryside. Maybe it's the 20's. Maybe I identified with these lost characters while I was a disenfranchised and persecuted high school junior (!) - but I've never gotten over my love for this book. The title alone causes me to swoon.
Number 9: The Awakening
This was the first book I read that dared to come right out and say that marriage and motherhood might not be the path to happiness and fulfillment for every woman on the planet. That was most likely a startling concept when this book was published in 1899. What I liked most about it - if 'like' is the right word - is that Edna wasn't unhappy or unfulfilled because her husband was an ogre or because her life was financially or materially difficult. I liked that Chopin didn't make it that simple. Edna was a person who was looking for her own fulfillment - even when she didn't quite know why.
Number 10: I Was Amelia Earhart
I'm putting this one in because I loved the words of this book - poetic and sparse. I also love the story of the book which meditates on the difference between your true self and the face you put on for the world. And I love the idea that you can find happiness and contentment even when at first it seems you've lost everything you ever had.
And then I need one more:
There is nothing deep or profound or difficult about Hotel Pastis. It is fluffy and French and romantic. I just love it, is all. I just love it.
*NOTE* I am MORTIFIED that this post was so fraught with typos! I went back and fixed them. My deepest apologies.