Monday, December 2, 2013

Ten Books

My friend, Laurie, tagged me on Facebook asking me to post a list of 10 books that touched me or stayed with me in some way. The rules said to not think too hard...they don't have to be the right books or great works, just ones that have touched you. So I posted my list on Facebook. It wasn't as easy as it sounds. I read about 50 chapter books a year (and hundreds of picture books). Many of these are books that touch me in some way or make me think. But here are the 10 I listed. They are in no particular order, but unlike on Facebook I am going to explain why I listed them.
1. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky...
I read this first in high school (and at least once or twice since and I don't reread most books...although many on this list of 10 I have reread). I appreciated the fact that Dostoevsky is able to help you see inside a criminal's mind and feel compassion for him and understand his actions. It (and other books like it) have helped me to recognize that we can't judge people just by their actions...to really understand that while we do abhor the sin, we don't condemn the sinner.
2. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
My parents read this to me when I was very young. It puzzled and intrigued me. Then I reread it when I got a little older. I read it again in college and loved that I recognized so many of the quotes that one of the characters uses from my readings of the classics. It deals with light/dark, love/hate, and other important themes. I have now read it with my oldest children. I love it!
3. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
This is a children's book that is set in China. It is about a little girl, Minli, whose family is very poor. But her father always tells her stories. Minli decides to set out to try to change her family's fortune, having a number of adventures as she goes, and she learns that the greatest fortunes do not come from having wealth but from having gratitude in our hearts. I love that all of the stories are interconnected. I love the lessons Minli and her family learn. I read this last November and this year my children and I listened to it on CD during November. I may make that a new tradition...to read it each year during November. It helps me remember what is really important.
4. Love Anthony by Lisa Genova
This is a beautiful book about a woman whose son was severely autistic. After his death, she is trying to come to terms with his life, his autism and his death. It was beautifully written, somewhat heart-wrenching, but with a peaceful conclusion. When I am faced with things I don't understand, I often read multiple books about them. So I have read a number of novels that have characters that fall on the autism spectrum. This is perhaps my favorite, although there have been others that also touched me.
5. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
I am so impressed by Corrie Ten Boom. I've read two or three books by her, and I am impressed by her compassion, love, and forgiveness, particularly for those who mistreated her and her family. Despite being sent to the concentration camps and suffering terribly, she gave thanks for all she had...even the fleas and lice. I want to be more like her.
6. To the Rescue
I love President Monson. He is a wonderful example, and he truly has spent his life going to the rescue of the lonely, the sick, the lost, the sad. I learned so much from reading his biography and reflect regularly on ways that I can improve and better serve others around me. I especially reflect on the chapters about the saints in East Germany and their faithfulness. I am so very blessed, and my life is really fairly easy...it shouldn't be hard to make time to do visiting teaching when all of those I visit teach live within a few blocks of me. It shouldn't be hard to make it to the temple when I have 4 within a 20 minute drive and many more within an hour or two's drive. I am so blessed. Yet despite living in a communist country in abject poverty, the East German Saints had a remarkable activity rate (over 90% if I remember correctly) and they did their home/visiting teaching even when it meant traveling for hours. They sacrificed much. I can do better.
7. Expecting Adam by Martha Beck
This book is about Beck's pregnancy with a child (Adam) who they learned would have Down Syndrome. Many people thought she should abort the baby, but they chose to keep Adam and this tells of the experiences she had as she was expecting Adam and the miracles she experienced. The part I love the most and that I reread often
was about her going jogging one day and seeing what she thought was quartz. She was excited as she reached down to pick it up, thinking she had found this beautiful mineral,glistening in the sun. But when she picked it up, it was actually styrofoam and she dropped it disgusted. But then she began thinking about this... her reaction had totally changed when she found out what it was, not because the object had changed (it was always styrofoam, and it had still looked pretty), but because her label for the object had changed...one label was precious mineral, the other garbage. She began to think about how our labels for people changed how we saw them, and for the rest of the day she tried to see people without labels. She didn't last long, she began to cry beause the people around her were so beautiful. She writes, "This was enough to make me wonder if many of the things I reviled as ugly might not in fact be beautiful, if I might be robbing myself of beauty with my own cognitive prejudice." Martha Beck also writes, "If we saw people as they really are, the beauty would overwhelm us. (pages 307-308)"
8. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
I tried to read this in college and couldn't get into it. In fact, I started it at least twice before finally reading it all the way through. But I ended up loving it. Sometimes we have to give things a second (or third) chance before we decide whether it is worth doing.
9. Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer adn Annie Barrows
I am fascinated by WWII. I have read so many books about WWII, and particularly about the Holocaust. (See what I mean, when I don't understand something, I read and read and read about it.) I don't just read about the holocaust, though. I've read books about the Japanese internment camps and about the war in general. So I knew that I wanted to choose a book about WWII, and I loved this book. So partly I chose it because I really loved it, and I do reflect back on it. But partly I chose it to represent all of the books I've read about this historical period.
10. Outliers by Malcom Gladwell
I don't read as much nonfiction as I do fiction. But I have found Gladwell's books interesting. And this one in particular. I found his discussion about why Asian students perform better (in general) in math than US students very interesting. I also reflect often on the concept that achieving the American dream isn't about luck, but it is about being in the right place at the right time and then putting in the hours to get the experience needed to be successful. I reflect back on this book a lot.