I grew up in the middle of nowhere, more or less literally. It was an old, pre-Civil War farmhouse in the Appalachian mountains with a tin roof and a woodstove for heat that my parents brought me home to on a beautiful October day, and where we lived for the next nine and a half years of my life.
We didn’t have a television (or at least, not one that got any sort of reception), so I grew up with my mother reading to me daily. She read all kinds of wonderful stories, and I have so many memories of books growing up. The Runaway Bunny when I was a small child. The Little House series, and the pioneer girl outfit my mother sewed me for my birthday that I ran wild with all over the mountain side, pretending that I was Laura Ingalls. Crying at the end of Stone Fox. Wondering if Bilbo would ever make it back to his comfortable hobbit-hole in The Hobbit.
When I got older, certainly old enough to read just about anything on my own, my mother read me books she thought might upset me if I read them on my own, such as The Giver. I suspect if I was still a young teen, we would have read The Hunger Games together. Now, we mostly trade our books back and forth and talk about them after we’ve both read them.
It instilled in me a life-long love of reading and books, so much so that I acquired a bachelor’s degree in English. I read a huge number of books, plays, and poems during that time. I have a great affinity for the Russian authors, as both Dostoevsky and Tolstoy are favorites of mine. I found that once I got used to them, I really enjoyed Chaucer and Milton.
At the same time, I’ve discovered that there are days that Tolstoy’s prose, sublime as it is, is just too much for my brain to plow through. Hugo’s political points may have bearing even through the ages, but I’m too exhausted to parse them out. So after awhile, I discovered that while I do love plenty of these books, and would happily list them at the top of my favorites list, there was a group of books I kept gravitating towards.
These are the books I can literally pick up, turn to any page, and immediately know where I am in the story. These are the books I read when I just can’t seem to focus. They’re literary security blankets. They’re the ones I usually have in my purse when I go to the doctor’s office and am so anxious I can barely think. Most of them I read initially at a difficult point in my life where they brought me some sort of comfort, or one of the characters reminds me of someone I know and like, or they remind me of a place I love.
There’s no rhyme or reason to the list, and they’re not listed in any particular order.
1. The Robber Bride (Margaret Atwood)
2. A Severed Wasp (Madeleine L’Engle)
3. The Lord of the Rings (trilogy) (J.R.R. Tolkien)
4. Harry Potter (series of seven novels) (J.K. Rowling)
5. Auntie Mame (An Irreverent Escapade) (Patrick Dennis)
6. One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
7. The Samurai (Shusaku Endo)
8. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
9. The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson (Emily Dickinson)
10. The Historian (Elizabeth Kostova)
Do you have any books like this?