Thursday, July 9, 2009

Summer Reading

Summertime is traditionally the season when many folks pick up a book (or two) for their vacation or day at the beach. Looking for a good book?

Maybe you'd like to try one of my five fave books of all time:

First up is "Gift From the Sea," by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I first discovered this slender book in my parents' library when I was about fourteen. I was attracted to the lovely printing and beautifully rendered shell illustrations that begin each chapter:

The first time I read it, a lot of it went over my head. But I re-read the book every five years or so. Somewhere along the line I realized that Lindbergh totally captures the female experience. Using seashell metaphors, she explores what it is to be a daughter, a woman, a mother, a writer, and ultimately a complete human being.

The book was first published in 1955 and continues to be a complete gem.

Next up is "She's Come Undone," by Wally Lamb:

It's a coming-of-age story and a Cinderella story as well. The protagonist is an obese, unattractive "outsider" teen who suffers abuse from a man early in her life. Through her biting wit and sheer determination, she surmounts her difficulties and finds self-acceptance, happiness, and true love. It's written with such sensitivity and understanding of the female mind that on the first reading, I found myself repeatedly checking the notes on the author to assure myself that he was, indeed, a man. Sometimes a dark story, this novel is frequently hilarious.

Here's another coming-of-age/Cinderella novel--"The Shipping News," by Annie Proulx:

This time, the protagonist is a large, lumbering man who thinks of himself as a clumsy oaf. There is so much about the human condition to be plumbed in this book. It's about finding true love, finding home, and understanding what makes a real family. It's a love letter to coastal Newfoundland, to the word business, and to the goodness in the human heart.

Speaking of words, the next book on my "Love It!" list is by Annie Lamott, a writing professor at U.C. Berkeley:
"Bird by Bird" gives practical, humorous, sympathetic advice on writing and life while at the same time telling Lamott's life story and her struggles to write. (Her bit about no more nude Demi Moore photos makes me laugh until I almost hyperventilate. Every time.) She writes as if she's giving a pep talk just to you. She seems like the kind of person you'd love to have at your dinner table; with Lamott as your guest, everyone else would seem funnier, wittier, and the conversation would never lag.

The last book on my All-Time Five is the one I've owned the longest, by far. It was assigned reading in my 9th-grade English class:

Edith Hamilton's "Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes" is a classic. My copy is so worn, the covers are held on with a rubber band and the edges of the pages are as soft as an old tee shirt. More than any other book, this battered paperback (which sold for 75 cents back then) influenced me to become an English major and a lifelong lover of a good story. It helped me realize that the best tales are essentially human ones--timeless hand-me-downs told over and over, throughout cultures, throughout the world. It helped me recognize the literary shorthand embedded in so many novels that writers use to alert readers that Something Important is being said. You can't understand Western literature without a thorough grounding in ancient mythology, and this is the granddaddy (grandmammy?) of all mythology collections.

Plus, it has these adorable, antiquated illustrations. I mean, look at Europa (above)! The girl looks like she's heading to a picnic!

And lastly, I love it because on the back inside cover is my rather childish-looking printing, as I made notes to try to keep the cast of characters straight on the story of the Illiad and the Odyssey.

Tomorrow I'll let you in on what's in my "to read" pile for the summer. Happy reading!

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...