What I'm Reading (No. 45): ten books I'm thankful for
This week I'm giving thanks for the written word, especially the books that have stayed with me the most or marked a particularly important era in my life. Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving!
1. Holes by Louis Sachar. Published in 1998, this middle grade novel is the first I remember that truly and fully gripped my attention. The storyline is unique: the boys at a juvenile detention camp in Texas are forced to dig holes all day, secretly in search of a long-lost treasure. Mysterious, funny, and sometimes serious, Holes was also the first book that I re-read (more than once, even). I still have the copy I started with as a reminder of the pure fun that books can bring me when I encounter the right story.
2. Harry Potter series. The Harry Potter novels were the defining books of the childhoods and even later school years of a generation of readers. Myself included. I actually re-read the entire series every time a new book came out, and a couple times again in my 20s. And I can't imagine I'm done with them yet. The wizarding world that JK Rowling created is really only rivaled by JRR Tolkien's Middle-earth, in my opinion.
3. The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne. Perhaps no other book better encapsulated my college years than this one. Claiborne is a Christian hippie who lives in a commune in Philadelphia. Seems perfect for a college student right? Other Christian books that impacted me during college: Sex God by Rob Bell. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. I can't vouch for how those read as adults, but as a student they were exactly what I needed.
4. Raise the Titanic by Clive Cussler. I discovered Cussler in college, and haven't looked back (even though I haven't read anything of his in years). His books remind me of the value of the cheap thrill. Sometimes books just need to entertain.
5. The Indifferent Stars Above by Daniel James Brown. Yet another college discovery. This book fueled my love for the history genre. Brown constructed a narrative that reads like a novel, and proved to me that non-fiction could be as interesting as fiction. And nowadays, non-fic is definitely what I read more of, and it's not all that close. All of his books are amazing. Read them.
6. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. When it came time to read the classics in high school, I skipped out on basically all the assignments. So when I read The Great Gatsby for the first time as a twentysomething, I realized I could encounter classic lit with fresh eyes, completely outside of a high school or college assignment. It led me to Hemingway, Dickens, Melville, and many others. I've read Gatsby a few times, and it's another novel I'm sure I'm not done with yet.
7. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. If I had to pick one productivity book of the dozens I've read, it would be The War of Art. Though it's mostly geared towards creatives, the tips can apply to everyone, and are mostly about giving you mental models to beat Resistance (that inexplicable force that keeps you from doing things). All of his books are great, both fiction and non-fiction.
8. In Search of the Perfect Loaf by Samual Fromartz. The book that kickstarted a hobby that has become a regular part of my life. I bake fresh bread from scratch every week, which is what Fromartz did in his search for the perfect loaf. It's an inspiring book for home bakers, and really anyone who has passionately pursued a hobby. I have quite a collection of bready cookbooks and memoirs, and this was the first.
9. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. I've read this book twice, both in the days following my kids' births. It's a beautiful gut punch of a memoir. Paul was a neurosurgeon before he succumbed to his cancer and in fact didn't even completely finish the writing of the book. But his meditations on medicine, death, the meaning of life, and being a parent are utterly breathtaking. If I had one book to recommend to people — just one — it would be this. (Read my full thoughts here.)
10. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. One of my 2018 work assignments was to go through the canon of Western literature and come up with a list of the best. Lonesome Dove was far and away #1, and cemented a love for Westerns that I know won't go away anytime soon. It's actually a series of 4 books, and they're all great, though Lonesome Dove is definitely the best. The whole series of huge books will definitely be re-read. In fact if I had to pick just one book (or series) to read over and over for the rest of my life, it might be this one. Or Harry Potter. It would be a tough choice.
What books are you thankful for? I'd love to hear!