I’ve always loved reading. This summer (will help from my lovely Aunts) I painted an ideal bookshelf. Choosing ten books wasn’t easy. Some of them are my favorites. Others I really admire. And some of them have influenced my identity as a reader/writer/book enthusiast.
The Bible is the center book on my shelf, because I want it to be the center book in my life. I hope this doesn’t sound cliche or trite, but the words in these other nine books don’t matter if I’m not trusting in the words of the Bible. There are lessons and truths and themes in Hemingway, Bradbury and even Dahl, but these are the imperfect words of men. The things I write aren’t perfect either. That’s the difference. God’s word is a level of perfection that even the most esteemed literary classic can’t reach.
Fantastic Mr. Fox isn’t the absolute best Roald Dahl ever wrote, but I do love it. I love all of his children’s books and most of his short stories. Dahl’s sense of humor and sometimes macabre wit are so much fun.
I read Dandelion Wine years ago, but I remember thinking as a 12 year old dweeb, “woahh check out those descriptions!!” The more Bradbury I read, the more often I find myself gushing over the level of detail in his prose and the ease of his descriptions. Even in his science-fiction/fantasy writing, I really admire his abilities.
Some people call The Magicians “Harry Potter for grown ups.” I wonder if this comparison is starting to get on Lev Grossman’s nerves…but I can’t help linking the two series together. When I read about Quentin and Fillory for the first time two years ago, I fell in love. The story is less altruistic than Harry Potter’s, and the characters can’t be boxed up so easily. The characters have really dark moments- they’re messy and blurry and confused and selfish and strained. They grow up and fall in love and their dreams are realized. And sometimes they aren’t realized and instead they’re blinded by disappointment. I’m so ready to dig into the sequelllll….
I painted “The Sun Also Rises” because I hate Brett and I admire Hemingway. I’m not sure if it’s my favorite of his books, but it’s definitely the one I’ve read the most- and it’s taught me a lot about Hemingway’s style. His swag if you will. For example, I am fairly confident Hemingway would never use the word swag. See how learned I am?
I STINKING LOVE HARRY POTTER. And #3 is my favorite because I love Sirius Black so much. Sirius is witty and clever. He’s blunt and passionate. He’s been through the hell of Azkaban and is still able to love intensely. Partly, I am so attracted to Sirius because he is Harry’s first real family member. Everyone deserves a loving familial experience- I love watching Harry meet his godfather.
I read The Giver with my favorite English teacher. Since then I’ve read tons of utopian/distopian stories and enjoyed most of them- but Lowry’s story has stuck with me. I reread it three summers ago and it touched me just as much after all those years. I am not a visual artist by any stretch of the imagination, but I did really like the way The Giver‘s book spine turned out in the painting. It is simple- but the black and white of the cover takes me right back to the colorless world Lowry spins in her book.
Jonathan Safran Foer is one of my favorite authors. Hearing him speak at the National Book Festival last fall actually inspired me. Everything is Illuminated is an awesome representation of him as an author because he’s written himself into the story. Also, I am really encouraged by the real story behind the book. Foer wrote this book when he was so young. I’m pretty young too. Maybe I can write something cool before I’m 50? Foer did it before he turned 30.
I like Krakauer simply because of his journalistic approaches. He writes the feature stories that I love so much in longform. And people read them! I want to do that! Into the Wild really really stirred something in me. Chris McCandless’ story impacted me in a big way. In the heart-wrenching sort of way.
To Kill a Mockingbird is the first real book that I felt proud to complete. I remember being excited to finish Take Me to the Zoo because it had the word “hippopotamus” in it. And I read The Hobbit in the fifth grade which is probably an accomplishment, but I’m not sure if I totally understood it all. But reading about Scout, Atticus, Jem, Boo and the rest of Harper Lee’s characters felt good. When I put the book down I was pretty sure I’d experienced something great. Something that old lady librarians and college professors and high school hipsters and civil rights activists all valued.