I found yet another great meme. It’s called the Thursday Thirteen…and you just make a list of 13 things. Any thirteen things. I like this better than the 10 on Tuesday because sometimes I will have nothing to add to that. Like this week’s theme was 10 things to do before you get married. I suppose I could have offered 10 pieces of advice – or 10 things I wish I knew before I married…but that is not exactly what they asked. That wedding day was so long ago, and so many softball games ago…and there were waaaayyy more than 10 things to do! Thursday thirteen it is. So, for my inaugural list I thought I would stick to what I know well – books. This is a list of thirteen books that impacted me in some way. They are not necessarily favorites…but just ones that have stuck with me for one reason or another.
1. "The Well Trained Mind" by Susan Wise Bauer
I never wanted to homeschool. I liked taking my kids to pre-school and letting them do crafts there rather than at home. I enjoyed having time to myself. But…the public school where we used to live was NOT an option. I spent a lot of time trying to find a plan…any plan that was not homeschooling. And then someone told me to read this book. And wow…reading this book convinced me that not only could I homeschool…but that I could homeschool well…and it made me embrace the idea. We are now in our fourth year and plan to continue all the way through.
2. "Wicked" by Gregory Maguire
I first read this book when it was published in 1996. I didn’t know what to think of it. I loved it. I thought it was horrible. I would change my opinion on a daily basis. And then a few years ago, right after “Son of a Witch” was published, one of my book clubs picked it as our monthly selection. It had been 10 years…so I decided to re-read it. Ten years really made a difference as I think this is my favorite novel. It is exquisitely written. Maguire uses one of my favorite techniques – which is to take a well known story and turn it on its head. The book is just rich – there are so many layers, so much symbolism, a LITERAL scapegoat…and an amazing story.
3. "Kindred" by Octavia Butler
In this novel, Butler provides a unique conflict: if you could go back and save one of your ancestors from the brutality of slavery, would you do it, even if it meant you would never be born? Octavia Butler is a unique voice in science fiction – in a field dominated by white men…her voice of a black woman gives a whole new vision to this genre. I have read all her books (even though I would not categorize my self as a fan of science fiction) and each one of them is unforgettable.
4. "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" by John Berendt
I think that this was the first non-fiction book that I read. I had no idea that non-fiction could be anything other than dry and text-booky. It was written like a story – with laugh out loud parts – I just had no idea! This book opened up a whole new genre for me to try.
5. "The Other Boleyn Girl" by Philippa Gregory This is historical fiction at its best. It’s a great story…and a smutty read…my favorites! But…this book makes you think as well. After reading it, I had to get online to get the genealogy correct – to see that Queen Elizabeth I was the daughter of Anne Boleyn. I was so surprised to learn that affairs were such open matters. That Anne and Mary Boleyn were encouraged by their families to have affairs with Henry so that the family’s position at court would be elevated.
6. "Life of Pi" by Yann Martel
Besides being absolutely captivating and mesmerizing, this book has some of the most thought provoking questions provided in the back of the book (a favorite being: “what color is your religion?”). In light of “A Million Little Pieces” or even Hillary Clinton’s “attack” by snipers…this book asks which is better – the plain story or the embellished one? And who is to say which one is the truth?
7. "Lamb: The gospel according to Biff, Jesus’ childhood pal" by Christopher Moore
Lamb was my first Christopher Moore novel. I had no idea that a book could make me laugh so hard I could pee in my pants. I actually got my book club at church to read this. I gave them the warning that it was quite irreverent. My pastor said, “no, it’s sacrilege.” He told me that he was reading…would laugh out loud…and say to himself that he was going to hell. Read some more…laugh out loud…and know for sure that he was going to hell. Christopher Moore has some of the best titles out there: “Island of the Sequined Love Nun;” “The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove;” or “Practical Demonkeeping.”
8. "A Prayer for Owen Meany" by John Irving
I read this book when I was a freshman in college. It was a time when I was rather anti-religious and spiritually apathetic. This book gave me a whole new perspective on faith. It also made me really think about purpose – that life is what you CHOOSE – rather than being driven by fate or destiny, which just seem to happen.
9. "My Name is Asher Lev" by Chiam Potok
My first exposure to Chiam Potok was through the movie “The Chosen” with Robby Benson. After seeing the movie…I had to read the book…and then the natural follow-up is to read all the rest of his novels. I did not read “Asher Lev” until a few years ago…and it just resonates strongly with me. The central theme to the book is conflicting traditions. How does a Hasidic Brooklyn boy deal with the conflict of his religion with his gift for art; with the conflict between father and son; with religion and the secular world; with being Jewish and painting about Jesus. Okay…so none of those themes have anything to do with me…but the resonance comes from daily conflicts and issues. How do I deal with being a Christian and a homeschooler – but that I don’t want to be called a Christian homeschooler? Or how do I balance my secular needs with my faith?
10. "The Sparrow" by Mary Doria Russell
This is an incredibly thought provoking and intellectually challenging novel. How can one believe in a God that allows horrible things to happen? How can you not believe in a deity when examining the complexities of the universe? Can you use your own morality to judge a culture radically different from your own?
11. "Pet Semetary" by Stephen King
So are you asking yourself, “what is this book doing in this list?” It is not the best book I have read…not even in a top 100…it’s not one of King’s best…but it was my first! I read it in the 9th grade – and I remember sitting in my Latin class, ignoring the lesson and reading this book…and then practically shouting “OMG…the cat came back!” This book sent me down the Stephen King path. (My favorite’s: “The Shining” – the scene where the little boy is being hunted by the topiary is frightening! And “The Stand” which gave me a passion for doomsday/futuristic novels – “The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood being another favorite of this type.)
12. "Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe In this deceptively simple story, Achebe shows the culture clash…and then the destruction of that culture – between a traditional Nigerian village and the influx of colonialism via missionaries. But the book is more than that. Achebe does not romanticize the savage, cruel or sexist practices of the Ibo before the missionaries. This book does raise questions in a larger world view. Do we not intervene in regional/tribal politics to bring an end to mass genocide, starvation or enslavement – or do we respect a country’s autonomy? Why does the west have a moral imperative to free the people of Iraq or Kosovo but not the people of Rwanda or Darfur?