Book Stories: The Meme

No doubt you’ve seen it making the rounds through Facebook:

“List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t think too hard or try to give ‘right’ answers, just write down 10 that have affected you/moved you/caused you to neglect your family, job, and basic hygiene for 36 hours straight/invaded your dreams/ prompted you to abandon dignity in favor of cosplay* or fan fiction/necessitated the author’s taking out a restraining order against you.”

*Not a sex act, sorry. “Cosplay” is short for costume play, which is short for dressing up like something else, which is admittedly delightful and fun but almost certainly not dignified.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve bounced up and down in your computer chair willing someone to tag you so you too can compile your list. Such is the power of the meme that one is not psychologically able to start thinking about her 10 books until she has been granted permission to do so by social media. (Please tell me I’m not the only one with a compulsive respect for pointless or nonexistent boundaries.) To the relief of my list-loving heart, I have now been tagged (thanks, Rachael!), and rather than listing my ten books as a Facebook status, I wanted to introduce them here, Book Stories style.

(Eggplant nails at Erika’s request)

1. Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery

When I first read the Anne of Green Gables series as a girl, I only really liked the first book about Anne’s childhood and then the three final books about her children’s escapades. The middle books about Anne’s career hopes, love interests, and coming-of-age heartaches bored me… until one day, they didn’t. I was in between college semesters and boyfriends of my own when I picked Anne of Avonlea off my dusty bookshelf and cried right through the final page. L.M. Montgomery is magic, folks. (But you already knew that.) 

2. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

I was still a newlywed, pre-babies and only about two inches into my recovery from fundamentalism when a friend recommended Blue Like Jazz. I read it aloud to Dan, a chapter each night before bed, and it was like discovering my right to breathe. It very well may have been the first time that I’d heard God spoken about conversationally, without religious jargon, as if he actually had a place in everyday life. This book is spiritual stress relief.

3. On Writing by Stephen King

I can’t remember exactly when I snagged this off the shelf at Barnes & Noble, but I do know that it’s scarcely left my writing desk since. I only pick it up to read when I’m working on fiction because a page or two is all it takes for story inspiration to rush at me like a telepathic kid out of a haunted hotel. I should point out that my preferred genre is not that of the good Mr. King, but damned if he doesn’t make my mind itch to create something new.

4. The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

I know, I know, everything about this book screams GIMMICKY! It was a crash course in entrepreneurship for Dan and I though. We got it a couple of years ago during our transition into self-employment, and while it did not catapult us into the ranks of “the new rich” or reduce our workweek to four hours, it did give us the gift of perspective. We now use terms like “batching” and “80/20” in everyday life (most often when trying to get out of housework, but still), and whenever I’m feeling discouraged about our rolling job situation, I let the FHWW remind me that we’re normal… ish. Not alone, at any rate.

5. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

I’m not sure what it says about me that the book I read most frequently for the pure joy if it was a high school reading assignment. To be fair to myself, though, it’s not like I go around toting Oedipus Rex on beach vacations or cracking open The Complete Works of Shakespeare on flights. Have you ever watched the darling film Il Postino where Pablo Neruda teaches an uneducated Italian postman about metaphor? This book is what taught me.

6. Hope Beyond Hell by Gerry Beauchemin

Over the year and a half following our move to Italy and Sophie’s birth, depression effectively broke down all my internal religious etiquette. I called up a friend from the States who I knew wouldn’t disown me when she heard that I could no longer believe in a God who made eternal torture the default destiny for humankind. She knew exactly what I was talking about and suggested that I read Hope Beyond Hell. I don’t think I’m putting it too dramatically when I say that this book saved my faith.

7. Field Guide to Now by Christina Rosalie

Christina’s blog is largely responsible for getting me writing again back in 2007. Her way of noticing the undercurrents of art in daily life and making poetry of their prose stirs up answering instincts in me. Hers is a creativity founded on intention and delight, and this book is one of my favorite things to read in the pre-dawn hours with a notepad and pen in hand. It makes me want to live and create and then live some more.

8. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

1130. That’s how many pages of small text my unabridged copy contains. And I loved every one of them. Often after work, the summer I was 18, I’d drive to an uptown Starbucks where I’d order a venti coconut frappuccino and sit in the sunshine to read… and read… and read. Dantès’s revenge is so complicated and satisfying to read that I didn’t know whether to celebrate or to cry when I reached the end. I’ll be reading this one again… next time I have an entire summer of afternoons at my disposal (ha!).

9. The Shack by Wm. Paul Young

I almost don’t even want to talk about this book because it’s meant so much to me. Hope Beyond Hell is what saved my faith, but The Shack is what saved my heart. I first read it on a Sunday morning while Dan and the girls were at church. It was a day when all the weight of my fundamentalist upbringing was suffocating me, and I felt so wounded by Christianity that all I could do was lie on the sofa and reach for this book that a friend had lent me. And I met a God of love in it.

10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7) by J.K. Rowling

Roughly estimating, I’d say… oh, 99.81273% of the 10 Books lists that I’ve seen circulating on Facebook have included the Harry Potter series. It’s amazing, isn’t it, how deeply the story of The Boy Who Lived gets to us? The final book of the series came out right as we were moving to Italy, and I saved it to read in the hospital before and after Sophie’s birth. That was a frightening and larger-than-life time for me—having a baby three months after moving to another country whose language I did not yet speak—and Harry Potter & Gang’s story helped give me both an escape and the courage to stay.

All right, then. I tag YOU to share 10 books that have stayed with you in some way (even just here in the comments if you don’t want to go all Facebook-official on it). No right or wrong answers, remember, and if you have forsaken hygiene or dignity for the sake of those books, then know you’re in good company.

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  1. I totally should have tagged you. I apologize. The people I DID tag (except for ONE) blew it off.

    I LOVE YOUR LIST. It is way better than facebook because of your explanation of each choice. I left off Harry Potter, but I shouldn’t have. I LOVE him. And I am reading that series to my kids right now. (I have read it multiple times.) I also had The Shack on my list. So. Good. I need to check out several on your list, but not any over 1,000 pages. That makes me want to run away. I love your tribute to Christina. I agree with every word. Her book should have been on my list too. And, there is a space for YOUR book too, when will I be able to add it?


    • Hey, my list of runner-up books was much longer than 10. I was itching to add The Poisonwood Bible. And Calvin & Hobbes. And The Book Thief. And the Lord of the Rings trilogy. And Gone Girl (which would have been the only book on the list in which I disliked every single character… but the story!). And An Altar in the World. And Eat, Pray, Love. And The Jesus Storybook Bible. And The Awakening. And and and and…… 😀

      I wonder if we could find The Count of Monte Cristo as an audiobook? That might make it doable (though admittedly, listening is not the same as reading).

      Now you’ve got me wanting to write. 🙂

  2. I love memes like this! But as much as I love reading other people’s answers to these, I have the most difficult time answering them myself. I over think it.

    I love that Anne of Avonlea is on your list. Esme just read Anne of Green Gables recently, which inspired me to revisit the series for the first time since I was younger . . . and I love it as much as I ever did. I was relieved that it was just as good as I remember it – I’ve been disappointed by more than one book that I loved as a kid but wonder where all the magic went as an adult (like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn or the Narnia series).

    Anyway, I had such fun reading your thoughts on these books – added a few that I hadn’t read to my list too. I’ll try to get out of my head a little bit and post my own. I can say for sure that Daddy Long Legs would be on the list.

    • What a fascinating link! I love reading book lists (and seeing most of my runner-up books in the Top 100). Part of it I think is the validation of knowing others share my literary tastes, but the much bigger part is the shared connection we have in these stories that captured us.

      I know what you mean about seeing some of the magic leave books when you come back to them as an adult. I’ve experienced that a little as well with Narnia; we’re trying to read the series aloud, but I’m not very motivated to get through Prince Caspian, and the girls and I collectively gave up on the Little House on the Prairie series about three books in. Sacrilege, I know, but we all felt… bored. We’ll try again in a year or two. The Anne series never loses its glow though.

      I hope you do post your own list! And I’ll check out Daddy Long Legs. I’ve never read it before. (Reason 3 why I love these lists.)

  3. ’bout time someone tagged me! 😀 My post is up, finally! Thanks for the inspiration. I loved your list. Bradbury is a particular favorite 🙂

    • No one had tagged you yet? Impossible! You’re basically the Book Whisperer. 🙂 Time is rapidly slipping away from me today, but I’ll add “read Liz’s book post” to my to-do list for later this week.

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