I read voraciously. With a speed and appetite that has kept me up far too late on far too many evenings. To the amusement of my friends and family when I drop out of the room, the conversation, the space I seem to be inhabiting, with nothing more than the turn of the page…
So WordPress challenges me to list the five most important books I’ve ever read. And then tell you why. It is a challenge I cannot resist. Here goes:
- The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
One of my freshman-year roommates lent me this; told me I had to read it. She was right. Ostensibly a parable about an Andalusian shepherd, it’s actually a love story to the challenge we all face to live our dreams. It’s kept me going when I’ve felt lost. It’s reassured me, showing up again and again – when I’ve traveled, when I’ve killed time in a train station – reminding me to keep living the way I should. And I think, maybe, it broke my heart. It started on a cool September evening when I lent it to a boy who saw what I saw in its words, and I didn’t even notice my heart slide away from me.
- I’m a Stranger Here Myself – Bill Bryson
The book that made moving home from Scotland bearable. Ever read something or had someone say something, that makes you realize that those words are EXACTLY the shape and sound of the indescribable feelings just out of reach, buzzing around your brain? The relief of naming those feelings is palpable.
- Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut
Proof that “importance” doesn’t guarantee “enjoyment.” Read it for my high school AP English class. Had to try to draw a plot diagram, amongst other projects … Painful. I thought I hated this book. Because at 16, I still believed lives and minds were linear. The truth of adulthood is something else. So it goes…
- Truck: A Love Story – Michael Perry
Perry makes me think. And helps reconcile the intellectual and the “simpler” pieces of myself. He made me feel better about love, when I didn’t really think I liked it anymore. And, explained in a mere paragraph exactly why I work on my car with my brother.
- A Ring of Endless Light – Madeleine L’Engle
Can I explain this book? Vicky is me. There. That comes close.
Five books that have been utterly important to me. Some for the time in which I read them. Some for the timelessness of the story, the message to be imparted. And, some for helping me learn about myself by holding up a character to be my mirror. Yet this list doesn’t touch some of my favorite books: things by Neil Gaiman, or Robin McKinley, or Jane Austen, or Margaret Atwood.
The lesson to be learned from that contradiction is a thought I’m still trying to find the right words to wrap around…