Try to remember the first time you picked up a book that you’ve grown to love. Chances are you probably didn’t realize then what it would mean to you. But, as you turned the pages, delving deeper into the story, it hit you: the book touched something deep inside you. It resonated and moved you, stirring a passion for the author’s story, the rhythm of the words, the characters, and the setting.
When you find a book like that, all the elements come together, leading you down a path in which you discover something new about yourself. You might be left wondering, how is it that you could love a book this much? But you do, and so it goes, and there you have it.
Months ago, Brenda, a blogger friend who often writes about the art of writing, tagged me in a post about her Fab Five Books. I’ve been remiss in thanking her, and writing a post on the books that I treasure.
What strikes me is that the books on my list are mostly about coming of age and loss of innocence. Evocative of another time, these books can make your eyes widen with a sense of wonder, tug at your heartstrings, make you think, make you sad, give you a chuckle, and fill you with pangs of nostalgia. Exquisitely and flawlessly written, these books have protagonists I’ve come to really care about. In alphabetical order by author, they are as follows:
Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon. This is from an author who specializes in grizzly horror, but this book is unlike his usual genre. Set in the early 1960s, in a town called Zephyr, Alabama, it’s the story of an 11-year-old boy who, while out doing deliveries with his father, witnesses a murder. As the boy tries to unravel the mystery, he uncovers truths about his town, and the people who live in it. He grapples with forces of good and evil, including a serpent-like creature that inhabits the river. I guarantee you will love this book. Part fantasy and semi-biographical, it is 100 percent lyrical and engrossing. Truly, Boy’s Life is a masterpiece. Favorite Quote:
“We all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. Told to act our age. Told to grow up, for God’s sake. And you know why we were told that? Because the people doing the telling were afraid of our wildness and youth, and because the magic we knew made them ashamed and sad of what they’d allowed to wither in themselves.”
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I love stories about time travel and I love a good romance. The Time Traveler’s Wife has both. If you saw the movie version, please get it out of your mind, for it didn’t do the book justice. This story will make you think, and have you rooting for the couple—Henry, who has a disorder that makes him involuntarily time travel, and Clare the woman he marries—whom he first meets when he is 36 and she is, but six. They marry when Clare is 23 and he 31. Sound confusing? Just read it. It’ll have you believing that anything’s possible. Even true love. Favorite Quote:
“Time is priceless, but it’s free. You can’t own it, you can use it. You can spend it. But you can’t keep it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.”
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. If you want to know what perfection in writing sounds like, open The Bell Jar to any page and read it aloud. Plath was a poet and her prose reads like every word came from her heart and soul. She certainly dug deep and is unflinching in her honesty. Drawn from her own life, this is a book for the ages. Favorite Quote:
“There is something demoralizing about watching two people get more and more crazy about each other, especially when you are the only extra person in the room. It’s like watching Paris from an express caboose heading in the opposite direction–every second the city gets smaller and smaller, only you feel it’s really you getting smaller and smaller and lonelier and lonelier, rushing away from all those lights and excitement at about a million miles an hour.”
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I was in sixth grade when I first read this book. I vividly remember sitting in my family’s living room, reading the day away. And sobbing. Yes, it’s a tearful journey through life as a girl who comes of age in turn-of-the-century Brooklyn, New York, with a hard-working mother and an alcoholic father. And, all she wanted was an education. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is heartfelt and inspiring. Favorite Quote:
“From that time on, the world was hers for the reading. She would never be lonely again, never miss the lack of intimate friends. Books became her friends and there was one for every mood. There was poetry for quiet companionship. There was adventure when she tired of quiet hours. There would be love stories when she came into adolescence and when she wanted to feel a closeness to someone she could read a biography. On that day when she first knew she could read, she made a vow to read one book a day as long as she lived.”
Our Town by Thornton Wilder. This is not a novel, it’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning play, but that shouldn’t stop you from reading it. There’s nothing that captures a slice of life in small town America, circa 1900, like Our Town. Bare bones in set and feel, it leaves much to the imagination and yet it has the power to transport you to fictitious Grover’s Corners just like that. Our Town is about love, family, marriage and death, and appreciating the little things in life while we can. What makes Our Town so enduring? Watch the video below and find out! Favorite quote:
“Good-by, Grover’s Corners…Good-by to clocks ticking…and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new ironed dresses and hot baths…and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you.”
If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll read any one of these. And now, I’m pleased to tag my dear friend, Bella, of One Sister’s Rant, so she can share her Fab Five.
How about you? What are some of your favorites?