Thursday, April 30, 2009

Top Ten


Quick name your top ten fav books. What, can’t limit yourself to just 10? I so understand.

But what about a list of 10 books that reveal something about you. That’s right, ten books above all others that have shaped or even defined you. Ah, now we’re getting a little too up close and personal, eh? But since we’re fam I’ll divulge that Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is on my list along with a collection of Essays by Eugene England (most notably Why the Church is as True as the Gospel) and the children’s classic The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by Du Bose Heyward (can you say Girl Power?) There are others, but really that’s exposing myself too much☺

Each book came at a crucial time for me and I can remember where I was on the first reading and what I was feeling. After reading, I moved forward. I suddenly became unstuck, in the sense that some new concept, character, example or idea altered my thinking in a way that uniquely applied to me.

Last week I finished The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery and know I’m laying myself wide open when I divulge that I love, love this book. It has now squeezed and edged out number 10 on my list of revelatory books. And before you balk, yes, I am aware of it’s criticisms: it’s not really an adult novel, it’s pretentious, too philosophic, slow going, it’s kind of a fable (you know, like The Little Prince), blah blah. I know, I know.

But… there are at least 10-12 wonderful passages in the book that resonate. Just a couple:
From page 53. Renee Michel, on reading without guidance:
"I have read so many books...And yet, like most autodidacts, I am never quite sure of what I have gained from them. There are days when I feel I have been able to grasp all there is to know in one single gaze, as if invisible branches suddenly spring out of nowhere, weaving together all the disparate strands of my reading--and then suddenly the meaning escapes, the essence evaporates, and no matter how often I reread the same lines, they seem to flee ever further with each subsequent reading, and I see myself as some mad old fool who thinks her stomach is full because she's been attentively reading the menu. Apparently this combination of ability and blindness is a symptom exclusive to the autodidact. Deprived of the steady guiding hand that any good education provides, the autodidact possesses nonetheless the gift of freedom and conciseness of thought, where official discourse would put up barriers and prohibit adventure."

From page 145. Paloma, after meeting Kakuro Ozu for the first time:
"So here is my profound thought for the day: this is the first time I have met someone who seeks out people and who sees beyond. That may seem trivial but I think it is profound all the same. We never look beyond our assumptions and, what's worse, we have given up trying to meet others; we just meet ourselves. We don't recognize each other because other people have become our permanent mirrors. If we actually realized this, if we were to become aware of the fact that we are only ever looking at ourselves in the other person, that we are alone in the wilderness, we would go crazy."

Hmm.

So, what about you? What fav 10 books reveal you? No, again, not your favorite books to recommend but the 10 books that say something about you. Sharesies, please.

1 comment:

Lacy E. (as in Eloise, formerly Lee) said...

I think I'm going to go with five. Just for the sake of comment length. First up: Richard Scarry's Best Mother Goose Ever. According to my mother, I walked around quoting this at an early age. I like to think it gave me a sense of poetic rhythm. I've obviously given Penelope her own copy.

2. Moonraker's Bride by Madeline Brent. This is basically an old school romance novel that my mom urged me to read in the years before I liked to read. And when I was finished, I suddenly felt an insatiable hunger for books. This is why I don't begrudge the Twilighters. You never know what path a compelling romance novel will send you on.

3. Franny & Zooey by J.D. Salinger. All his hermit hype aside, this guy SPOKE to my psychosis.

4. Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery. No explanation needed. Doesn't every girl relate on some level to Anne spelled with an E?

5. The Living by Annie Dillard changed the way I write because her writing takes my breath away. Is absolutely lovely and original and honest. Makes me happy to be alive. This is really the only book I can say that I have read multiple times. It's that good. I know you said this wasn't a call for recommendations, but I can't help it.