Friday, October 12, 2007

Books, Glorious Books

Rebecca at Rebecca James has tagged me with a Book Meme.

I love books. I am a veritable bookaholic with absolutely no plans to change anytime soon. In many ways, books raised me, for I spent much of my childhood buried in them, learning about people and the world and imagining myself in other cultures.

I wanted to be Pocahontas, Maggie in "Mill on the Floss", and Joan of Arc. I yearned to come of age in Samoa, thanks to Margaret Mead. In my imagination, I was a delicate geisha in training when I wasn't Atalanta or Athena. I was a pirate lass, and Becky in"Tom Sawyer." I was Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen, and Anne Frank of the beautiful soul.

Books furnished me with many lives besides my own small one, and I treasure the chair side travels they provided.

1. How many books do I own?

Dunno. Many. Hundreds of them. I can't count that high.

2. What was the last book read?

"The Penelopiad" by Margaret Atwood. Very short, quite charming. It took only a few hours to read, which is quite a lot of bang for ones buck.

3. What was the last book I bought?

Several. The annual Friends of the San Francisco Library Book Sale was a few weeks ago. Some of the newbies are: "Salt Dancers," Ursula Hegi; "Do the Windows Open?" Julie Hecht; "The Memoirs of Helen of Troy," Amanda Elyot; "The Law of Love," Laura Esquivel; "The God of Animals," Aryn Kyle; "The Strangeness of Beauty," Lydia Minatoya; "The Professor's Daughter," Emily Raboteau; "Voodoo Dreams," Jewell Parker Rhodes; "Deception," Philip Roth; "Tell Me Everything," Sarah Salway; "The Snow Fox," Susan Fromberg Shaeffer; "The Writing on the Wall," Lynne Sharon Schwartz; "Peony in Love," Lisa See; "Gardens in the Dunes," Leslie Marmon Silko; "The Notebook," Nicholas Sparks; "Frangipani," Celestine Vaite; "One Hundred and One Ways," Mako Yoshikawa; "Driving with Dead People," Monica Holloway; "The Joy of Living," Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, "Waiting for Snow in Havana," Carlos Eire; "The End of the World as We Know It," Robert Goolrick; "Little Edens," Barbara Klein Moss; "The Ten Bamboo Studio;" and extra copies of "Their Eyes Were Watching God," Zora Neal Hurston and "Tatterhood," (feminist fairy tales) for gifts.

4. Five meaningful books that I've read:

1. "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" by Julia Child, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle. I had never had any interest in cooking, or even eating, as a child, but when I was first married and expected to provide meals, I bought this book and taught myself to cook.

I have been a vegetarian for many years now and am also health conscious enough not to use huge amounts of butter and cream, but learning to cook French recipes gave me confidence that I was a fairly competent adult who could take care of my family.

2. The poetry collections of Paul Engle, no longer in print. He later founded the Iowa Writer's Workshop, which is my idea of Mecca, Due North, and the Holy Grail.

"Verse is not written, it is bled;
Out of the poet's abstract head.
Words drip the poem on the page;
Out of his grief, delight and rage.”

3. "The Pearl" by John Steinbeck. A small masterpiece. I have loved it forever.

4. "The Smile at the Foot of the Ladder" by Henry Miller. Yes, that Henry Miller. "Tropic of Cancer," etc. This is a tiny but gemlike book about an august clown.

5. "Mama Day" by Gloria Naylor. A little old lady with supernatural powers fights the forces of evil on a tiny island off the Georgia coast. Beautiful.

I am supposed to choose others to do this exercise, but I'm not going to tag anyone. If you feel inclined, please do it and let me know so I can read your selections. Thank you.


Wanderlust Scarlett said...


That is a wonderful list. Love Steinbeck and Nicholas Sparks.

You've made me hungry to find Engle and examine it closely. Wonder if I could find anything online....

Thank you!

I did this meme too, a couple of weeks back. Very interesting what everyone came up with!

Scarlett & Viaggiatore

thailandchani said...

Aha! Another one who loved "Mama Day". One of my favorites, too!



Craze said...

I love books too! They can take us anywhere. Even though I don't read as much as I'd like to, I love collecting books.

*~*Cece*~* said...

I gotta check out some of the books you listed.

Ian Lidster said...

I would very much like to do this, Susan. Loved some of your choices, too. When I was a kid and first read Tom Sawyer I wanted to be Huck Finn because there were no parents interfering in his life, and he could smoke. I thought that was pretty cool. So, me-me, definitely, and I'll get to it ASAP

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I can't remember if I read your list, so I'll come over and find it.

I could as easily have listed five other meaningful books. So many books, so little time.


Wow. Hardly anyone knows "Mama Day." It totally stole my heart, but it's been awhile so I think I'll read it again.


I have long since run out of room for more bookcases, but that doesn't deter me. It's so exciting that I have some I haven't yet read.


Let me know what you think of them when you do.


I hoped you would do it, and look forward to reading your offerings.

I actually preferred Huck to Tom because he was a free spirit, even though I was unsuccessful in my attempts to smoke. I also liked "Alice Through the Looking Glass" better than "Alice in Wonderland." And we all know what Lewis Carroll was smoking.

I also adored "Gulliver's Travels" as a child, "The Red Pony," and "Mistress Masham's Repose."

Ian Lidster said...

Through the Looking Glass -- by far the superior of the two. I knew you were a person after my own heart.

meno said...

I wouldn't even begin to know how many books i own. The number is in constant flux, because i buy, sell, give away and trade them all the time.

I like this meme, it's like taking out and polishing my memories of these books to think of them again.

Angela said...

I love Huck, too. And as much as I wanted to *be* him, I always found myself mostly in Jo from Little Women. I love her still.

The CEO said...

This is one of those topics I'm not going to be really good at. After Julia Childs, our tastes diverged. No math or computer science or statistics. Sorry.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Of course I am. Thank you for noticing.


I regularly thin the herds, too, by donating some back to the Book Bay.

I have never attempted to count them, or the grains of sand at the beach either.


I related to Jo March, too. Of course, that's not surprising as she was really Louisa May Alcott. And I cried over the death of Beth every time I read it, which was many.


It doesn't have to be fiction. I just happen to love it.

I also found The Theory of Relativity fascinating. I can't recall who wrote it, but it made E=MCsquared accessible.

I read a lot of Buddhist books, too, and memoirs.

Open Grove Claudia said...

How exciting! There are books on your list that I haven't read! I will pick them up soon.

MsLittlePea said...

Oh books! Don't you just love those library book sales? I printed out this post because I was looking for some new books to read.

CS said...

I love reading, feel like I've been too busy and overwhelmed to read as much as I'd like, and plan to make a serious effort to carve out more reading time after I've settled in to the new house. Number 5 on your influential book list especially intrigues me. I love little islands off the Georgia coast.

jali said...

I LOVE this post. I'll be reading quite a few from your list since I haven't done a shopaholic trip to the bookstore in quite some time.

I need some titles to try - thanks!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Some of the new ones I mentioned I haven't yet read, but they looked interesting.

I am always open to recommendations, too.

Sweet Pea,

The big sale is only once a year, but the book bay is open every day, and I go in several times a week.

I think I may have an addiction problem.


I do, too. I met a beautiful woman in Charleston who was weaving Lowlands baskets in a technique that was handed down in her family from slavery. As she worked, she told me the story of her family, and I felt that she had woven it into the lovely pie basket I bought.

Rebecca said...

Thanks for doing it Susan. It's fascinating to see what others have read and enjoyed.

I've bought several of the books that people have recommended through this meme and am off, now, to google some of the books you've listed.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Thank you for tagging me. It was a thoroughly delightful exercise which I couldn't have enjoyed more.

I also consider this meme a kind of recommended reading list from all who do it.

Josie said...

Hearts, I am so impressed to see "The Pearl" by John Steinbeck on your list. He is my favorite author. No one could write characters the way he did - Doc, in "Cannery Row", for instance.

And, when I was a child, I wanted to be Maggie Muggins, and visit Mr. McGarrity. To this day, my favorite name for a little girl is "Maggie". It's amazing what influences books can have on us, isn't it?

Now I'm going to check out some of the other books on your list.

the walking man said...

what is a book?


Sienna said...

This is fantastic...I love that people love books (and all the different kinds).

I so love libraries, they are mystical office is full of books, my house is full of books, all kinds...thanks for the leg up on some new ones I haven't read...

I was cruising as a kid...reading, virtually everything; and then I found CS Lewis's *Lion Witch and Wardrobe*...that just all blew my feet haven't touched the ground since I was 8. That's fair dinkum.


heartinsanfrancisco said...


A few years ago, we went to Salinas, where John Steinbeck grew up. The entire town is a shrine to him, which is bizarre because he was reviled there until he died for being "different" and for writing about the exploitation of migrant workers.

He is someone I would have loved to know.



Can I get back to you on this?


I also love C.S. Lewis, and "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" has never lost its charm.

Books are portals to new worlds which we would never see without them.

Josie said...

Hearts, I once wrote a fan letter to Steinbeck, after I read "Travels With Charley", but unfortunately he passed away about two weeks later, so I never did receive a reply. He was definitely someone I would have wanted to know as well.

I like this meme. I think I'm going to do it, if that's okay.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I would love to read your selections/suggestions. Please send me a message when you've posted it.

Your letter to Steinbeck was probably the last fan mail he ever got, as he was hardly a current NY Times Book List writer when he died. How very lovely to have given a bit of comfort to someone who gave so much wonderful writing to all of us.

Josie said...

Hearts, I have done my post. :-)

Anonymous said...

after Dr. Seuss, it was the hobbit and the narnia series for me. I was not an avid reader by any stretch of the imagination. I was a dreamer though and always admired literary sorts such as yourself. I couldn't understand a word you all said back then, but the appreciation for books was certainly there.

Jocelyn said...


If you've never read any Wallace Stegner, he could be a pleasure for you. His prose was the first to make me weep, out of the sheer beauty of it--not anything plot related. Just the use of language.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I was a dreamer too, but my dreams were fueled by books.

I couldn't get into The Hobbit, but the Narnia books were delightful.


I don't think I have read any Stegner, but I definitely will on your recommendation.

Language to weep over is such a great rarity.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I'm sorry I skipped you in my haste to get over there and read your post, which was great!

alphawoman said...

Best book I have read in a long time is The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks. I have been having a hard time getting into Love in the year of Cholera ...but I'll prevail. Loved your ode to reading!

the walking man said...

But I live in a room with a thousand doors (portals) and every time I leave I have the hardest time just making my way back to my room.

Why would I want to go to a place called Middle Earth or Aslan or have a lion representing the One who created all things only allow one who didn't believe the way he wanted the people of Narnia to believe enter into his kingdom?

No my paths have always seemed richer than that.
Funny when I had no time I read books incessantly now I have more time than I ever wanted to idle about and have no desire to read others fantasy.

Such it is and such it will be I suppose.



Pendullum said...

Great great list...

heartinsanfrancisco said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
heartinsanfrancisco said...


I've heard great things about that book and I will hunt down a copy.

I own but have not yet read "Love in the Year of Cholera" but I think it's a wonderful title.


It IS funny that you read less now that you have more time. We are such a strange and illogical species.

I don't generally read books in the fantasy genre, but C.S. Lewis is a must for children. I found his adult books fascinating and beautifully written, too.


So great to see you again. I'm glad you're back.

Franki said...

Oh now I'm off to find my tattered copy of The Pearl for a reread. Thanks for the reminder!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Enjoy it! When I first read it at about 12, I tried and tried to write a novel as if Spanish were my first language. I was crazy about the rhythms of the prose.

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