There was a time after my son was born that I didn’t read a book. For like a year.
I don’t think I slept then either. Or left the house. Or wore anything without a stain.
But it was the invitation to a friend’s book club that gave me a sense of purpose.
Even as I inhaled the pages of that first ho-hum novel, I remembered what it is about books that is so profound.
Books change me.
They rattle my insides; they stretch me. They grow me, if I let ‘em. They make me weep in sadness, in joy, in disbelief. They articulate what I’ve felt and what I haven’t. They teach of what I long to experience and what I’m glad I haven’t. They stir me to action; they move me to think. And…
and I’m never the same as when I started.
These ones did a number on me.
1. Pope Joan by Dianna Woolfolk Cross.
It’s been years now since I’ve picked up the pages to Pope Joan, but neither the inspiration nor the courage of this young woman have ever left me. I cried over the injustice of the cruel world she was born into–one that was not ready for her intelligence nor her independence.
2. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.
I read Atlas Shrugged the first time when I was nineteen. I could hardly walk straight for the next three weeks. I was so moved by this piece.
3. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
I love good writing. Which is what Enger did in this piece. Such powerfully crafted characters. Somewhere on an old hard drive is the letter I wrote to Enger but never mailed.
4. Pay it Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Maybe you saw the movie. I did, too. But I read the book first. And it was one of those summers before we had kids where my husband and I read the book out loud while we were driving. Only we were a mess–one of us leaning over from the steering wheel trying to hear as the other squeaked in an unknown pitch before blubbering, “I can’t read…*wiping nose on sleeve*…it’s too sad.” Golly…some of the best books are the ones that make you sob. Loved that one.
5. Educating Esme’ by Esme’ Raji Codell
I’ve not read a more honest or poignant piece. Ever. Wanna be teacher? Read this first. Already a teacher? Get your hands on this. It’s…it’s just that good.
6. The Color of Water by James McBride
Just finished this one. Fantastic writing. Powerful story.
7. She Calls Me Daddy by Robert Wolgemuth
Such entertaining writing–laugh out loud worthy. And yet such tender writing, too. I think it’s written for men, but I thoroughly enjoyed each page.
8. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
I’ve not read another book like The Grapes of Wrath. And despite teaching it in my high school English classes for a number of years, it’s still up there as one I’ve learned the most from.
9. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Here’s another one my husband and I read aloud in the car. I still remember passing the book off every paragraph or two because… because of that squeaky voice again.
10. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
I read it twice, a decade apart. Enjoyed it both times.
11. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
I have loved this book for myself…but it was after ordering a classroom set for my sophomore English class and knowing as each kid held the novel up to his face and poured over its pages that he was reading an amazing book, that I have felt utter joy, relief, excitement…all that. It’s hard to get better than Ender’s Game.
12. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I enjoyed this book from the beginning…and didn’t appreciate having to wait so long for the next two in the series to come out…heh. All were well-written. And completely engaging.
13. Your Best Life Now by Joel Osteen
Powerful. Realistic. Life-changing. All things I needed.
14. On Writing Well by William Zinsser
Yeah, it’s a book on writing. But it’s one that’s left an impact. I don’t know that anybody can explain writing like Zinsser. And man…after all these years, it sort of feels like Zinsser and I are old friends.
I’m tellin’ ya…there’s something about reading.