Of books there are too many….

…but never can there be enough

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

This week I received from a librarian friend of mine a list of books to read; and then I was given the loan of a book called The Books that Changed my Life.

These are gifts of great value to the book addict. It means we get to add to our by now very long, possibly moving in on endless, list of books we need to read.

So, without fooling around, here is a list of possibilities of escape through your winter:

    • Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance — memoir of a poor white family from Appalachia written by a member of the family who graduated from Yale
    • My Southern Journey by Rick Bragg — collection of short stories amusing and profound by a Pulitzer-winning writer who can turn a phrase
    • Mother of My Mother by Hope Edelman — non-fiction collection of family tales about the three-generational triangle of grandmother, mother, daughter
    • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates — by an Atlantic Magazine writer, a letter to his son about how to behave when you’re a black kid
    • The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan — a novel about a librarian who loses her job and starts her own books on wheels, continuing her passion to get the right book to the right person
    • When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi — a memoir of a sort, a true story by a dying man who believes Becket’s belief: “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”

The Books that Changed my Life, edited by Bethanne Patrick, introduces a collection of essays by the well-known and obscure about a time and a book that altered who they thought they were. I remember when that happened to me; the book set me free, as the saying goes. It was The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir, a French philosopher and feminist. What changed for me from reading this book was that I learned my dad was wrong, I could become a truck driver if I wanted to, even though I was a girl.

Bethanne Patrick’s readers are a fun bunch of dedicated readers; and then you get to add to your list a few more books you never had time for. Below is a partial list of their chosen books I will mention because they influenced me:

Margaret Atwood on Grimm’s Fairy Tales: Who would not have guessed that the sometimes weird and scary Atwood, author of the fabulous The Handmaid’s Tale, did not grow up on the unexpurgated Grimm? My sisters and I grew up on Grimm, our dad reading the tales to us before bed. Unlike Atwood, we did not hear the originals, the really grim Grimm.

Roseanne Cash on Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder: Cash’s life was so wild and crazy because of her parents’ (Johnny Cash and first wife Vivian) wild life that the ordinary lives of the pioneers soothed her and settled her. As a girl, I read Wilder and decided this was my life, too; I was prairie girl.

Liev Schreiber on Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy: Liev Schreiber is an actor, screenwriter and director. Anna Karenina kept me in anguished suspense and eventually had me awash in tears — quite the drama. I’ve read it three times, the last two to study the writing of a suspenseful tale . . . or so I thought. Each time I was caught again in the trap of the story.

Amy Bloom on The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies: Amy Bloom is a novelist (Lucky Us, and Away). Robertson Davies was a brilliant writer, wry, caustic, philosophical. I read this trilogy in my thirties and have dipped into it many times when I needed something to tide me over to the next book — which was always my reading this book of his in my hand,

Amanda Foreman on Animal Farm by George Orwell:

Deborah Blum on The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: Blum won a Pulitzer for Best Reporting when she worked at the Sacramento Bee. My intro to the Rubaiyat is in the mists of my memory. It sat in a bookshelf at home and starting sometime in grade school — I don’t remember the first time — I would take it out, lie down behind the couch and read the lovely words. Often through my life I’ve thought of Verse 60 — not so much for its intended meaning, which was of our fate already written, but of things I’ve written and regretted!

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line

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