But I'm changing the rules Ben set for himself. I couldn't limit myself to fiction because that leaves off my beloved Emily Dickinson, and where would I be without her? So here we go (in no particular order--we'll go with them as they come to me).
|"This poetry stuff is tough, Mom."|
3. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. This is a book I discovered within the last three years. It was banned at my high school, and despite the fact that honors/AP classes were exempt from the bans, I was never exposed to this book in high school. Then one day, I was at a Pirates game with my family and they were doing "get to know the Pirates" stuff on the screen between innings. My brother and I noticed that Andrew McCutchen (one of our favorite Pirates) was the only player with a favorite book listed. His favorite book? Of Mice and Men. Since Mom and Dad had the book on our shelf, we rushed to read it. We loved it. We took it on our tour of PNC Park for a little photo shoot. Of all the banned books out there, this is the one that really made me realize just how sad it is for books to be banned. I remember seeing a class set of this book on Ms. Powers' shelves in 10th or 11th grade. We were so close to such an interesting book, but because of the possible repercussions of teaching it in our school I went almost 10 years not knowing how much I'd enjoy this book. So for that reason, I will be rocking this awesome shirt next week for my campus' Banned Books Week Read Out.
this shirt next week.
5. The American Girl Felicity Collection by Valerie Tripp. In second grade, my teacher, Mrs. Gash, introduced me to the American Girl Catalog. I started reading the collections in chronological order, which meant starting with Felicity. While I loved all of the American girls (we're talking originals here: Felicity, Kirsten, Addy, Samantha, and Molly), Felicity was my favorite. She's actually a lot like Alcott's Jo. She's free-spirited and independent. She's fiercely loyal to her friend Elizabeth. She rescues the abused horse Penny. I connected with her the way I connected with Jo. So, in second grade, I decided to save all of my money from chores and my birthday to buy my own Felicity doll. This was the first time I had ever saved for something I wanted (and it's probably something I could benefit from practicing again in my life if I ever want to be financially stable). When I earned the full $82 I needed for the doll, Mom agreed to pay the tax and shipping and handling for me and I got my beloved doll.
6. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. In high school, my friend Jamie recommended this book to me, but I didn't read it immediately. After all, the thought of blood makes me queasy, so a book with blood in the title didn't really seem like my kind of thing. Then I started reading this one summer during college while I was babysitting in an old farm house. Big mistake. I was horrified. I had to take a break until the gig was up a couple weeks later. Once I got past my initial horror, I loved this book. I loved the way the town itself became a character in the story. I loved the way that Capote made you feel sympathy for people that murdered an entire family. I loved this book so much that when the movie Capote came out and was playing at the artsy movie theater near my college and none of my friends showed interest in seeing it, I went to the movie by myself. I loved the experience of going to a movie by myself so much that it's become one of my absolute favorite ways to unwind and I don't think twice about going to a theater by myself now. If I hadn't fallen in love with In Cold Blood, I might have missed out on a lot of enjoyable afternoons with popcorn lunches. I'm teaching this book in about a month, so I'm pretty excited to see what sort of responses my students have and to have a chance to reread it and find new things to fall in love with.
8. Hate Mail from Cheerleaders by Rick Reilly. Once upon a time, I had dreams of being a sportswriter. My dad had this book by Rick Reilly and I started reading it in 10th or 11th grade (I remember reading my favorite essay, "Sis! Boom! Bah! Humbug!", while sitting behind a couple cheerleaders in Ms. Powers class and trying ridiculously hard not to laugh out loud and call their attention to what I was reading. This book made me want to be Rick Reilly. I started stealing Dad's Sports Illustrated each week before he got home and went through the mail so that I could read "The Life of Reilly." I loved his hatred of the Redwings even though, as a southern girl, hockey was something I had no knowledge of. Even though I abandoned my journalism major, I still planned to use my double major to go into sportswriting and spent two glorious summers interning at The Charlotte Observer with the wonderful people in their sports departments. I had the time of my life writing about the now-defunct Charlotte Sting and local high school sports. I loved editing articles, even ones about NASCAR, and I fell in love with Barbaro the horse as I searched the AP wires for updates on his condition (and cried when his battle was over). Even though I ultimately went a different direction with my life, I loved every minute of my internship and learned so much about myself and other people during those two summers. Without Hate Mail from Cheerleaders, I probably would have never even considered a career in sportswriting.
9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. While I always get emotionally attached to stories, this is the first book I remember bringing me to tears. In the middle of Mrs. Kirkland's 8th grade class, I bawled when I found out Leslie died. There was nothing I could do to stop the tears. It was probably the most embarrassing moment of my middle school life, but I shamelessly sobbed again in the middle of the theater years later when my mom and I went to see the movie.
11. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. I have a confession. I bought this book solely because of its cover. This time, that strategy worked for me. I had no idea what I would be getting when I bought this book, but I knew I had to have it. It's been a long time since I've read the book, but I remember being thoroughly intrigued by the story being told through the voice of an autistic teenager. This book also inspired me to pick up Haddon's A Spot of Bother, which I later passed on to my dad who still hasn't stopped talking about it. I always love it when I find authors that I can share with the people I love--because let's face it, as an English major, not everything I read is popular with the rest of the world.
13. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Even though I ended up majoring in English, I can count the number of required books that I read in high school on one hand. In fact, I used to pride myself on the fact that every year I had the highest grade in all of the English classes in my year without having read any of the books. (Now, I'm kind of kicking myself for that attitude since I haven't read so many of the classics and I assign myself a couple summer reading books every summer.) This is one of the few books that I finished in high school. I had very clear images of what each character looked like and when Ms. Powers tried to show us the movie, I was highly upset because Dill looked nothing like what I had pictured him as. So, I paid no attention to the movie after the first scene where Dill appeared and haven't ever attempted to watch it again.
14. Bad Dog: A Love Story by Martin Kihn. This is another book I bought because of the cover. The cover has a dog face that looks similar to Barley's. When I bought the book, we were struggling with separation anxiety and I was beginning to realize that Barley was a reactive dog (even though I didn't have a word for it yet). I don't actually think I like this book. I don't think it's particularly well written or engaging. The reason it makes the list is because it's what inspired me to start working with our wonderful trainer. This was how I learned about the Canine Good Citizen test. This book taught me that sometimes you have to ask for help. If I wouldn't have researched the CGC to get more info, I might not have started researching trainers in our area. I can't even imagine our life without our weekly trips to the dog gym, so while I'll most likely never open this book again, I am grateful for what I got out of this book.
15. A Dog Year by Jon Katz. How many times have I mentioned this book and Katz's other dog books? I saw the movie version of this first and laughed/cried as I realized I wasn't alone in the struggles I have with my Barley girl. When I realized that the movie was based on a book, I told my sister it would be an awesome Christmas present. I locked myself in my room on Christmas and read the whole book--and again, I laughed and I cried. Katz's struggles with Orson made me realize how vital it is to be consistent with my training with Barley because I do not want to have to make the kinds of choices he had to make about his dog's quality of life as Orson became more and more reactive. Plus, misery loves company so knowing that I wasn't the only one who had no idea what I was getting into by bringing home a border collie was comforting. I've also read almost all of Katz's books since then because for a long time I felt like he was the one person who "got me."
Coming up with this list might be hardest thing I've done in a while. 15 seemed like such a daunting number when I started typing this, but now I'm sitting here staring at my bookshelf and realizing that I left off at least two more books that have influenced my life in significant ways, but I can't think of what I would take off of my current list to add them in. So thank you, Ben, for presenting a challenge (especially on an evening I had no plans other than lounging on the couch and finishing Songs of Willow Frost).