Wednesday, September 24, 2014

10 Memorable Books

It was supposed to be a quick Facebook scan: who did what, who ate what and who went where. But instead, I was tagged with a challenge that has weighed heavy on my mind: list 10 books that made a difference in my life.

Books and I go way back.

Almost all of my childhood memories include me reading. Me, with my white pleather bible full of colorful photos, crying because people were mean to Jesus; Me, in my cardboard fort with a flashlight, glued to Ten Little Indians; Me, carrying home huge stacks of books from the Salem Public Library with just my pixie haircut and Ked’s sneakers sticking out from behind the pile; Me, convinced flying saucers really were spotted over the Salem Power Plant after being brainwashed by Chariots of the Gods; Me, writing a suspense novel in high school as a way to make friends, an effort that ended up in a bonfire after a particularly hurtful bullying incident.

So choosing the top 10 books in my life is a big task. It is not a list that anyone is going to want to run out and read, but it is my life through books.

1) The Bible
Would it surprise anyone that I wanted to be a nun when I grew up? Up until the time my father was killed in a car accident, I was deeply religious in a home where that really wasn’t. I’m not sure if it was faith or fear that guided me in those early years, but I would hit my knees faithfully every night, and keep a growing list of things I needed to repent for in preparation for my weekly confession. If you’ve read my blogs, you’ve heard mention of my infamous white pleather Bible, origin unknown, which was so well worn and read that I had to wrap it up with my rosary beads to hold it together. I won’t go into details of the changes in my life that challenged my faith, but let’s just say I’m back, and I wish I still had that Bible.

2) Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Seuss
What’s not to love about Dr. Seuss? I would read this book out loud to no one in particular so I could preserve it to memory like a beautiful poem (I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them Sam-I-Am). The rhythm of the words were melodic and soothing in a life that was anything but that, and it still makes me smile to think of the oasis his words offered to my younger self.

3) Our Bodies, Ourselves
Don’t go rushing out to buy this at the same time please! Growing up in a home that didn't talk much about anything deep or particularly important, this book gave me some much needed information and education about stuff young girls need to know. If you grew up in the same era as me, and you were a girl, I know you read it too.

4) Ten Little Indians (And then there were None), Agatha Christie
This was my first grown-up type of book, and it introduced me to the all night, flashlight under the bed, page turning experience that would become an almost nightly occurrence throughout much of my young adulthood.

5) Chariots of the Gods, Erich von Daniken
Come on, you know you read this too. Didn’t you? This was a cult books that was all the buzz when it first came out. I was obsessed with the thought of aliens visiting earth and sucked into the whole conspiracy theory thingee.  I am almost tempted to read it again, but I’m afraid it would be like watching the frightening episode from Lost in Space with the big white alien gorilla when I was a kid, only to discover when I re-watched it as an adult that it had an obvious zipper on it and you could almost see the guy’s real shoes sticking out.

6) The Shining, Stephen King
Wow… LOVE Stephen King. This daunting book was very fat and had very tiny type, but it scared the heck out of me in a very big way. I know the movie got a lot of buzz, but some of the scariest stuff in the book could only exist in your head, so if you liked the movie, and like being scared, invest some time and read the book!

7) The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle
I can hear you now, yawn. I think if I re-read it again I may yawn too. But it gave me a lot of peace in a time of sadness after my brother Stephen was killed. It helped me clear out a space in my head that wasn’t full of grief, if only for a moment. I spent many solo hours in the Starbucks cafĂ© in Swampscott nursing a Gingerbread Latte in a comfortable chair, trying to stay part of the world at the same time I was trying to stay in my right mind. Every book has its moment of importance that can’t always be replicated, and this was the right book at a bad time.

8) 26 Miles to Boston, Michael Connolly
When I decided to start running in memory of Stephen, I decided to start big. My first goal was the Boston Marathon and I worked backwards to figure out how I would get to that finish line. Part of that experience included pouring over this awesome book that details the entire course, offering memories from each mile. I recommend it highly to anyone running Boston that hasn’t read it yet.

9) Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
This voracious reader went through a very long dry spell when life obligations consumed every last molecule of space like the old science experiment when you fill a glass with rocks (is it full?), then sand (is it full now?) then water (now is it full?), leaving years devoid of reading anything more than a newspaper or magazine. This book reminded me of the page turner mysteries I used to love, and the days I would keep the book and flashlight next to my bed so I could cram in a page or two each time I woke up in the middle of the night. It was another ‘right book at the right time’ that reminded me of the deep comfort I get from a really great read. It brought me back to reading regularly, which I am grateful for.

10) The Book I Will Write One Day, by Me
Less reading and more action is required to make this happen, but I believe that someday it will happen. And who knows, maybe long after I’m gone it will be on someone’s top 10 books list.

You never know.

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