It’s almost one year since the launch of THE GLASS WIVES and one question I’ve been asked many times at readings, signings, and events is: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BOOK?
This is a question I not only hesitate to answer, it’s a question I can’t answer. I don’t have a favorite book, yet this answer seems uncomely for an author. So I say: “Whatever I’m reading at the moment.” And that’s true. I only read books I like and I only finish books I really like, the ones where I can crawl inside the pages and make a momentary nest away from everything else. I knew books that were meaningful to me—but I didn’t have a list of favorites. Nor would my favorites necessarily be ones with scribble-worthy titles and trips to the book store. It was never important to me to have a list of favorite books. Not for myself or anyone else. There were just too many.
Then, for my fiftieth birthday I received a gift that changed that. The gift was that I could choose ten books and have a custom painting made of these books on my ideal bookshelf. Here’s a link to the artist’s website: http://www.idealbookshelf.com/. I had never heard of or seen anything like this before. And amidst a bevy of amazing birthday celebrations and gifts, this one was unique. And it was going to be hard work! I had to choose TEN books.
Perhaps someone else could ramble off ten, but I could not. I wanted these ten books to be meaningful to me in some IT’S-MY-FREAKING-FIFTIETH-BIRTHDAY-AND-PAINTINGS-LAST-FOREVER kind of way. I wanted these books to not impress anyone but me. Books that didn’t inspire anyone but me.
It took me about a month, maybe more, to decide. It was a serious charge, choosing these ten books. Not only did I want to do right by myself, I wanted to do right by the person who gifted this to me. This was not some willy-nilly point and pick. I wanted to have no regrets. Not to ever look at the painting and wish I’d chosen different titles. I made lists. I thought thoughts. (If you know me, neither of these surprise you!)
Now, a few months later, I can you, it was worth the effort, the lists, the pondering, the waiting. The photo doesn’t do it justice (plus it’s sorta sideways and complete with reflections). It’s 8″x10″ and I can see every brush stroke. I look at each book and know why it’s there, for me. The books might not be on anyone else’s ideal book shelf, but that’s what’s awesome. They don’t have to be! They don’t have to make sense to anyone else either, because to me, they make perfect sense!
Here are the ten books on my ideal bookshelf:
On Writing by Stephen King: This is the book that showed me my writing isn’t about me, it’s about the story. Huge lesson. Moved my desk into the corner, let the story come find me there. I can still picture the exact moment I realized this.
A Walk On The Beach by Joan Anderson: I mention this book in the back of THE GLASS WIVES. It’s my non-self-help, self-help book. It’s the only book I’ve ever read, cover-to-cover, more than once.
Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood: I read this book in the 80s and it reminded me of myself. I never forgot what it felt like to see myself inside a book.
Good In Bed by Jennifer Weiner: Though published to much acclaim in 2001, I didn’t read this until 2007 when I started writing fiction. There is a plot twist mid-book that grabbed me by the throat and spun me around in my writer pants. I hadn’t seen it coming yet everything made perfect sense. That’s what I want to do, I thought. It changed the way I saw fiction. It was my ah-ha moment.
The American Heritage Dictionary 1976: In 1977 as I graduated 7th grade from my elementary school (K-7) I was given the English Award. The principal said something like “There was no doubt among the teachers who should receive this award.” Then they called my name. And I received this dictionary.
The Glass Wives by me: Duh.
One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss: I read this book to my brother (6 1/2 years younger than me) and then to my kids. It was the book I used to hook my daughter into being a Seuss-lover like me!
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: I always wanted to be Beth. Yes, Beth. Plus, there is a character named Amy. I have read the whole book once, but portions of this book dozens of times.
The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton: Like the Weiner book, Clayton’s book had a direct impact on my fiction writing. I read the Wednesday Sisters when it was published and just wanted to be one of their friends. The characters stayed with me for a long time after each time I read a few chapters, then again when I finished the whole book. I knew that I wanted to try to write a book that evoked exactly that feeling in others. I was not only inspired, but challenged. No book since has had the same level of impact.
Little House In The Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder: What is there not to love about this entrance into the world of the Ingalls family? It was and remains my favorite of all the Little House books. I wasn’t able to pass on my love of Little House to my kids, but I can still see those illustrations in my head.
Which titles would make it onto your ideal book shelf?