Books Saved My Life

I don’t know where I’d be without books.


I moved a lot as a kid, and books quite literally were my best friends when I didn’t have any others. I cried myself to sleep many, many nights, comforted only by my friends Ginnie, Trixie, and Nancy.


If I hadn’t read that other people feel lonely too, are disenfranchised, geeky, and sad, I don’t know what I’d have done. I may have turned to drugs, beating people up, recreational murder (but given that my family eventually settled in a Chicago town named “Buffalo Grove,” with a crime rate of below O (kids actually gave back the Cadbury Cream Eggs they stole from the White Hen), this theory is thankfully, unproven.


Anyhow, I credit any imagination I might have to the books I read as a child. I created whole worlds to entertain myself, born from the pages of the books I’d read. I often still live in those worlds, and believe in the magic conjured from the pages of a good novel. When I’m done with a particularly absorbing read, I stay awhile in its glow, loathe to let its music escape me, hate the moment its melody fades and I return to a world a little less lyrical.


To me, there’s absolutely nothing like the comfort of a good book, a bed/couch/back of car and a blanket. To prove my love, I sacrificed my eyesight to the book gods, since in the fourth grade, my eye doctor told me I had to get glasses most probably due to my habit of reading in bed well past the lights had been turned out. (Another fond memory: walking home from the Foster City Public Library with 15-16 wobbly books lovingly cradled under my chin.)


And finally, I decided to become a children’s book writer because I longed to create for myself a story like the ones I loved as a kid. When I was 8, I wrote a letter to Catherine Wooley, the author of the aforementioned Ginnie books, and she WROTE BACK and encouraged me and inspired me and made me feel like children’s book writers were the coolest people in the world.


And I wanted to be one.


Anyway, this was a meme. And I mucked it all up with the blithering and the blathering. I’m sorry MP.


So to recap: Mommy Pie tagged me, and asked that I honor the below rules:
With that, here are the rules:


1. List three books you’ve always meant to read, but haven’t gotten around to reading.


2. Share the two books that changed your life.


3. Recommend the one book you’ve been talking about since the very first day you’ve read it.


But first, some photos of our family book case (i.e. more blithering):


Red Coral Sea of Books


He Want to Read Them Too


I Want To See Clearly


Dim Sum Books


Now, my answers:


1. My husband’s favorite book is Pillars of the Earth, and he has tried in vain to get me to read it since the day we met (June 27, 1997) and for some reason, I just haven’t. I opened it a few times, but the type is so small and my eyes suck and that’s the only reason I can conjure.


I know, I know, I should read Water for Elephants. And it was great, and what’s wrong with me? I call myself a reader and I haven’t read it and blar de blar blar. It’s on the list, OK?


This one has intrigued me since it came out last year. It’s called A Good and Happy Child and its premise is provocative (young child haunted by demon others can’t see — and is the demon literal or metaphorical?). My kind of novel.


2. Yes, I’m one of those people who read Ayn Rand and quite non-poseurly, I can tell you that The Fountainhead changed my life perspective. I read it in 1991 (I’d just moved to Los Angeles, had no friends, no family close by and loads of time) and I loved it. I became enamored with independent thinking at this time, with staying true to yourself, with flying in the face of convention. And yes, I get it, Ayn Rand, you believe in objectivism and rationalism and individualism and sometimes you shoved it down my throat in The Fountainhead, but overall, thanks for writing this book.


The other life-changing book? Ismael by Daniel Quinn. Here’s what I wrote about it in 2002, when I’d first read it:


If you’ve ever wondered why our culture associates success with material growth, why we all seem to need someone to tell us how to live, or why we so often treat the planet as our possession, when we know that treatment creates consequences we can’t control (i.e. that our planet can’t in the longterm sustain what we take from it (and do to it)), then I suggest you read “Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn.


This book is fiction, but it can change your world view (or even your life, dare I say), if you let it. It completely reframes our reasons for existing and our origins. It explains where we’re headed if we don’t start living more responsibly and respectfully.


I really don’t think everyone will respond to it or are ready to read it. Maybe you have to be older, more disillusioned, or more sensitive than you are now, though I don’t think that’s it. I think you have to strongly feel as though something needs changing in your life or in the world. I think you have to feel that politicians and those who run the world don’t really get it. Or, feel as those there is a larger “something” at play in our culture that we’re all not getting…


Either way, read a chapter or two and see if it’s for you.


Oh, and it helps if you like gorillas….


3. Maybe you’ve seen this in my Kitchen Sink section, but I’ve been recommending The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield since I first read it two years ago. I first heard about it from a New York Times book review, and meant to get it, but then my friend, Michelle, took it to a writer’s conference we attended together, and I absconded with it. From there, I kept it for almost a year, because my husband wanted to know what I was all adither about and he kiped it and took a long time to read it. Michelle finally got it back about a month ago. The Thirteenth Tale is gothic, epic (kinda like this post), ghosty (but not…or is it???) and poetic (kinda NOT like this post). Please get it.


And bonus track: Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning. I’ll assume you read this already.


But if not, please do. For me?


And now, I tag a few people because I really, really want to know what they’re reading. Jenn at Juggling Life (if you haven’t done this already) — I’d like to remember some of the great books you recommended at our last Bloggy Bonanza, so I’m tagging you. Same with Jamie (you said you were reading again!) and Cheri. This is my shout-out to San Diego book meme. Holla!


8 Responses to “Books Saved My Life”

  1. Deborah says:

    I wasn’t invited into this tag, but I can’t resist. Also, I know I haven’t followed the rules exactly, by naming the number you asked for, but here goes – because when you’re a voracious reader (I’m sure you can all relate) and you come across gems, you can’t help but share them:

    1. Anything by Ayn Rand. Yes, I’m ashamed, incredibly ashamed. And will run out and buy something by her immediately.

    2. Only one: Many Lives, Many Masters. Literally changed my life. And still does.

    3.Just one? Are you kidding me. I can’t! I didn’t have to think about this one:
    Ahab’s Wife
    Into Thin Air (blew me away)
    The Voyage of the Narwhal
    Memoirs of a Geisha

    The common theme is even when they are fiction (all except Into Thin Air) they read like the most incredibly well-researched factual accounts, but so fascinating and not at all dry. Common theme of the fictional ones? The central character of each book is a strong woman. And always the carbon test – I didn’t want them to end.

    And yes, I loved The Thirteenth Tale and Like Water for Elephants and highly recommend them. And could easily recommend about twenty others, but the ones I did name set them apart for me.

    Tag, you’re it….

  2. Ooooh. Something to really think about. Thanks for tagging me. I liked your intro as much as I liked your answers.

    Books were my everything when I was a kid. I was lucky enough to have a library on the route home from school.

    I loved Ismael also. I’m seeing lots of familiar reads on your shelves!

  3. Steph says:

    Books, glorious boooooks!

    Also? Why is my Google Reader not showing me that you’ve updated? DOES GOOGLE NOT KNOW I RELY ON IT TO TELL ME TO GO COMMENT? CURSE YOU, GOOGLE, FOR MAKING YOURSELF SO EASY TO RELY ON!!

  4. mommypie says:

    Sounds like we had veeeery similar childhoods, as far as books go. I loved your post!
    Re your bookshelf — LOVED ‘Underworld’ — one of my faves from the past few years.
    The Thirteenth Tale — isn’t that the one about Dracula? I’ve been wanting to read it for awhile now … you convinced me!

  5. Kristen M. says:

    Hi, I just found your blog because I googled “san diego blogs”. My book club is reading The Thirteenth Tale for our May meeting. I haven’t started it yet but I’m looking forward to it. I started reading Like Water For Elephants last summer but I could never get into it and quit. The book I recommend to everyone is A Thousand Splendid Suns. I loved it even more than The Kite Runner.

  6. Cheri says:

    Book meme is coming. And I love yours. I have Pillars and Water sitting in a mile-high stack on my nightstand waiting to be read. And now I want to read the two that changed you, so my stack is about to grow.

    I think books (and Lucy Ricardo) totally saved me.

  7. Jamie says:

    So honored to be included. Let me do some thinking…cruise my shelves, and get back to you. Love this.

  8. Cocktail Maven says:

    I have been LURKING for MONTHS on end, and feeling guilty for never posting to let you know how much I enjoy your Blog. So, today, I couldn’t resist throwing my hat in the ring on this.

    1) Three books I’ve always meant to read: Slaughterhouse 5 (attempted at too young an age, I didn’t “get it”), Don Quixote (UNABRIDGED – really hard to find) and the Dictionary of the Khazars (which the man I would ultimately marry loaned to me before we had even met face-to-face. The return of this book (still unread) to him was the excuse for our first lunch date).

    2)Not two books, but two essays changed my life: “How I Learned to Think”, by William Golding, and “Is Nothing Sacred?” by Salman Rushdie.

    3)I concur with you about The Thirteenth Tale. Magnificent, perfect novel. To that, I have to add two more: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel by Susanna Clarke, and The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell

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