Monday, November 23, 2009

An Incomplete List

Give me one hour of uninterrupted alone time, and I know exactly what I will do with it.

There are abundant things that I should do with that hour. Do the dishes, do the laundry, sweep, sleep, exercise. There are countless things I enjoy that I could also do. Paint, Photoshop, catch up on my DVR recordings, listen to music, blog.

But the one thing I choose above all others?


Since I was little, reading has been my favorite activity. In second grade, I would grab a blanket and sprawl in the sun on our back porch with novels far too advanced for my age. I didn't understand the subtleties of the plot, the emotions were often beyond the range of my own experience. But the adventure, danger, and romance swept me far away from my 8-year-old life. Any given afternoon, I was exploring tropical jungles, settling the West, or attending balls in the courts of France.

AS a teenager, I would walk around the house with my nose in a book. It was propped behind the sink as I washed dishes, it joined me at the dinner table. And often, I would sneak into the bathroom for completely uninterrupted reading, only to emerge, sometimes an hour later, and usually to frustrated siblings. I could disappear for a weekend at a time, curled up in my bed, exploring space, surviving wars, or discovering radioactivity.

I read nearly every book of the reading lists for high school. I made lists of book to read, and methodically crossed them off.

As soon as I had money, I began buying my own books. If anyone draws a blank on what to get me, they get me books.

Now I horde them. Do not ever, ever ask me to throw out a book. It does not matter that our five bookselves are overflowing and stacked every which way with tattered paperbacks from the book exchange or shiny new hardbacks from the chain store. The books are not books any longer. Each one is a character, a personality, well known and well loved.

I even love the smell of books. Open a brand new book and the smell of paper is intoxicating. I used to study on the second floor of the university library, not for the silence, but for the inviting, soothing smell of the rows upon rows of books.

It is hard for me to come up with a list of favorites. I can name my favorite people or favorite songs much easier than I can my favorite books. But I will do my best.

Some are on this list because of the story, some because of the impact they made when I read them, and others, purely from the joy I have every time I turn the first page.

A Tale of Two Cities

In my mind, this is Dickens' best book. The imagery is breathtaking. The strength of the writing and the plot development never disappoint. Not once.

Pride and Prejudice

I love Austen. Her witty, nearly sarcastic view on women's lives at the time appeals to both my feminine and feminist sides. And there is no character that I love more than Elizabeth Bennett. She is both perfect and flawed, and therefore, completely human.

Harry Potter

Yes, I am counting all 7 as one book. I have read these books more than I have any other (although Pride and Prejudice does come close.) Rowlings mastery at weaving a plot that takes twists never expected, her brilliant character development, and the sheer magic (pun both intended and not) of the books make it so they captivate me just as much the seventh time through as they did the first.

To Kill a Mockingbird

Exquisitely painful and beautiful at the same time, the range of emotions of this book nearly overwhelm me each time I read it. There are few literary characters that make you want to stand beside them as Atticus Finch.

Crime and Punishment

Dostoevsky's examination of guilt, conscience, justification, and redemption are both frightening and captivating, without letting you be sure of which emotion is stronger.

The Hobbit

I was sure at one time that I loved science fiction more than I loved fantasy. Now, I'm not so sure. The one thing I am sure of is that I can trace my shift in feelings back to when I first read a story about a hobbit stepping out of his little round door and setting of in search of gold, adventure, and self-identity.

I think I should stop at 6. Otherwise, I will be perusing my library all night, reading through books and deciding if they should be on my list or not.

This is not be any means a complete list. Not even close. Mary Shelley, Ray Bradbury, Leo Tolstoy all belong on this list as well. Nor is it even close to being a list of books I feel are must reads. I'll save that for another day.

What books are on your "favorite" list?

Let me know, so that, given enough uninterrupted alone hours, I can add them to mine.


  1. I am the same way! I always have been- book in the bathroom and all- Cam still catches me sometimes. I agree with many of your choices I would add some of my favorites Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead- Orson Scott Card. The Chosen-Chiam Potak. I love to escape into anything by Shannon Hale
    Enchanted April-Elizabeth Von Armin
    I Capture the Castle-Dodi Smith(?)
    Love Love Love books!

  2. Mrs. Mike when I feel life is hard, and I need an Oh, I take mine, thanks, picture. Cry the Beloved Country, Lord Jim, Mere Chritianity,Hinds Feet In High Places, A Man Called Peter, Ben Hurr,The Twilight series, to start with.Thanks for the fun. I almost always like the books you recommend!

  3. I've been reading since I was three years old and I almost always have some book or other readily available. I've slowed down the pace considerably in recent years, but I do love to read.

    My list of favorites would definitely include the Harry Potter series, Pride & Prejudice, Little Women, A Time to Kill, and The Count of Monte Cristo.

  4. Oh so many to choose from... but some of my very favorites: Travels with Charley (Steinbeck), Their Eyes Were Watching God (Hurston), For Whom the Bell Tolls (Hemingway), Chronicles of Narnia (Lewis, especially The Magician's Nephew), Grapes of Wrath (Steinbeck), Heart of Darkness (Conrad), Jane Eyre (Bronte), Slaughterhouse Five (Vonnegut)... the list seriously could go on for a long time.

    I'm looking forward to your list of must-reads, always looking for something new to read.