Eight books.

Mama’s Losin’ It

When I saw the prompts for this week, I knew immediately which one I would choose.  Except as I'm prone to do, I changed it up just a bit to suit my purposes. The prompt reads:

List 8 books you've read that you think everyone should read in their lifetime.

See, the thing is,  I'm not entirely convinced that my eight books would be your eight books. Everybody has a different journey, and while these books have shaped mine in amazing ways, maybe you need something else entirely.  The best part of my job for nearly two decades revolved around matching readers with books, and I never met two people who needed exactly the same thing.  

Anyway, my list is the list for ME, but it might not be your list. Or maybe you can agree with and relate to some but not all of the books on my list. These books all came to me at just the right time and left me with just the right message.  Anyway, I love to share books and book recommendations with people, and narrowing it down to just eight was super hard (I could pretty easily list hundreds) but here it is, my list of the eight most important books I've ever read, in absolutely no order whatsoever. 

Little House on the Prairie series

I read the entire series for the first time when I was seven or so, borrowing them from my elementary school library.  I re-read them dozens and dozens of times over my childhood, memorizing entire pages and in some cases, chapters.  However, somewhere around my third grade year, our school's copy of By the Shores of Silver Lakewent missing, so when I re-read the series this year, I remembered very little of that one, even though I could still quote passages from all the others.  That seems terribly tragic somehow, doesn't it?  Anyway, this was the first book series I read entirely by myself, the first characters I fell in love with, and I credit Half-Pint and her family for being just what I needed to start me on my journey to become a lifelong reader. 

The Grapes of Wrath

This book probably falls into the category of "too much information for an 11 year old" but that's the age I was the first time I read it.  Until then, my reading had been very limited to age appropriate children's books, and around the time my friends began sneaking a beat up copy of Flowers in the Atticback and forth to read after their parents had gone to sleep at night (SO scandalous!) I discovered the Joads.  I'm not sure I understood half of what I was reading, but I remember that the language was so beautiful and stark and I could - really for the first time - see the people and the scenes like they were right in front of me, and I knew right then that I wanted to write books like that some day.  I still do.

The Holy Bible

I grew up in a church that encouraged memorization of bible verses and studying the scriptures, and I had read the Bible from one end to the other by the time I was a teenager.  I read it again (cover to cover) as an adult, and I believe that it really shouldn't matter if you're religious or not, this is a really valuable book that everyone should read.   The Bible is arguably the most influential book in western culture, and no matter what your religious affiliation, it's an important piece of literature and one of the most thorough accounts of some eras of history that is still available.  I would highly recommend reading The Bible as Historyto get some background as well.  

The Sound and the Fury

The first Faulkner book I read was Light in Augustand I thought it was beautiful.  I still remember some of the symbolism and all the characters and the story like I read it yesterday.  Then in college I read The Sound and the Fury and from the very opening line I found it stunning.  Breathtaking.  So good it was painful almost.  Sure, it was dense in spots and difficult to follow occasionally, but I read and re-read and re-read until I was sure I understood every single word.  

To Kill a Mockingbird

This book speaks to me in a dozen different ways.  In once sense it's just a coming of age story about Scout, a little girl growing up during the Great Depression, but there are so many other layers to it that it really defies categorization.  For me though, the real star always has been Atticus.  He is wise and fair and good and real, and some of the things he says in the book have always stayed with me.  I even made a full-out campaign to name our first born son Atticus, but I lost that battle.  I'm still bitter about it.

A Time to Kill

 The truth is, when I started working in a bookstore for the first time at the tender age of 20,  I was a HUGE book snob.  I read good literary works, as did my coworkers, and we secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) and snidely made fun of our customers' reading tastes behind their backs, because clearly my stack of obscure Russian literature made me superior to the romance series reading set.  Then one day I picked up a free to me copy of A Time to Kill, and for the first time I realized just how good current popular fiction could be.  From there I read all of Grisham, and Michael Crichton, and Sidney Sheldon, and James Patterson and dozens more popular authors, and while not all of them hit it out of the park every time, I realized there is worthwhile reading to be done off the bestseller list.  It changed my whole attitude toward reading.

Traveling Mercies

I came across Anne Lamott for the first time when I read Rosiewhich is a sweet and funny work of fiction, then I followed it up a few years later with Bird by Birdwhich remains - nearly 15 years later - the best book I have ever read on the craft of writing.  Then I picked up a copy of Traveling Mercies based solely on the fact that I loved the author, even though I wasn't sure I was all that interested in the subject matter, and it changed my entire outlook on life, on God, and on religion.  It was powerful and it was EXACTLY what I needed to read at that point in my life.

Pillars of the Earth

Historical fiction from this era isn't usually my thing, but this book is so stunningly beautiful that I don't even know how to describe it properly.  It revolves around the building of a great cathedral, but the people and their oh so compelling stories are what really set it apart from anything else I have ever read.

Lonesome Dove 

This book portrays relationships better than anything I had read before, or have since.  It's not "just a western."  It's a book about creating your own family under the harshest of circumstances, and the characters are the most authentic I have ever read. McMurtry is the absolute best at dialogue, and it makes you feel like you're a fly on the wall, listening to Gus and Call bicker and argue.  

So there you have my eight books.  I have a short list of about a dozen more that ALMOST made the cut, but I did manage to narrow it down.  It was pretty painful though.   Now it's your turn - 

What are some of your eight books?  Do any of mine make your list? 

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