the beartooth parkway / july 2014
Recently, a challenge has been going around Facebook to post the top ten books that have influenced or stayed with you most. As the book lover I am, I thought I might as well and post it here. In forming my list, I realized that I had way too many favorite books. Also, I realized many of them are children’s books. It’s amazing what can stay with you at the time it does and the way it does.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith This book. Oh, this book. I read it sometime in the past two years and it’s been one of my favorites since. So much of this book connects to my heart. I miss it right now, as I haven’t read it in a while. It’s absolutely beautiful. Not does this book only hold my heart in its thoughts, but also in its love for books: “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.”
The Giver, Lois Lowry One of the first books as I read as a child and was left in absolute awe of the world. I owe a lot of my love for both literature and hard thoughts to this book. Anyone can read this book and be affected, but I think it’s crucial that children read it. Lowry’s writing style has always made me want to write.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh/The House at Pooh Corner, A. A. Milne Childhood fantasy and emotion come from these stories. They mean so much to me.
The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis As a child who listened to these stories before she could read herself, they are some of my fondest memories. Books like these show me that stories are more than mere words on a page. They can mold us throughout our lives.
Catcher In The Rye, J. D. Salinger I read this book when I ran away, otherwise known as vacationed, to New York this March. Holden Caulfield shared his cynical thoughts to me in airplanes, airports, and NYC itself. Holden’s phobia of growing up and desires matched what was swimming in my mind at the time. Where the ducks go when the pond freezes over in the winter? I don’t know, Holden, I don’t know.
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald One of the only books I’ve read several times and its felt like the first every single sentence. Gatsby’s portrait of the crumbling American dream that we could never reach is important. This spring, I finished re-reading it in a playground at sunset and remember thinking to myself “How can words mean so much when they speak of something so meaningless?”. I suppose it is because we know there is more.
Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone, J. K. Rowling I need not say anything else.
Little House On The Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder Growing up, I was obsessed with pioneers and the west. Laura’s stories were the ones I re-read til they fell apart and imagined them farther way into the night. When I think about what has inspired me to be a writer and the life I desire, I owe so much to Laura.
A Chance to Die, Elisabeth Elliot One of the first missionary biographies I read. The one that made me feel every emotion, good and bad, about the mission field. Amy Carmichael’s story is one I want to reflect with my own life.
The Diary of A Young Girl, Anne Frank. I’m quite convinced this book is possibly one of the best things ever written. Anne Frank’s diary isn’t a book someone worked at years and edited over and over. It’s true and real words from a girl in a real world. It still affects me as it did when I read it two years ago.
Honorable mentions: Safely Home (Randy Alcorn), Surprised by Joy (C. S. Lewis), The Book Thief (Markus Zusak), Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte), Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell), Walk Two Moons (Sharon Creech), Les Miserables (Victor Hugo), The Lord of The Rings (J. R. R. Tolkien), Miss Rumphius (Barbara Cooney), and (If short stories count) The Birthmark (Nathaniel Hawthorne). There’s too many to count. How glad I am the world is mine for reading.
New York part iii.
“Don’t be ashamed to weep; ’tis right to grieve. Tears are only water, and flowers, trees, and fruit cannot grow without water. But there must be sunlight also. A wounded heart will heal in time, and when it does, the memory and love of our lost ones is sealed inside to comfort us.”
― Brian Jacques, Taggerung
I’ve just returned from one of my life’s adventures. It was a ‘more than ten states in twelve days, get lost and explore, and see the world’ kind of road trip. Every second, in its different patterns, is playing in my head like a mixtape. If I didn’t believe the stories about these lands, I do now. I understand why people flee and return to the west and, through time, have given up everything to run away there. The west holds the child’s laughter and the old man’s contentment in its rolling hills, it has the stories of the greatest war hero and the quietest farmer flowing in its rivers, it connects beauty and truth in its giant skies. Roadtripping to a seemingly abyss of nowhere makes you feel like you’ve found somewhere.
“For West is where we all plan to go some day. It is where you go when the land gives out and the old-field pines encroach. It is where you go when you get the letter saying: Flee, all is discovered. It is where you go when you look down at the blade in your hand and the blood on it. It is where you go when you are told that you are a bubble on the tide of empire. It is where you go when you hear that thar’s gold in them-thar hills. It is where you go to grow up with the country. It is where you go to spend your old age. Or it is just where you go.” – Robert Penn Warren
It’s been a year. We hold tight unto coffee mugs in our rooms, thinking of drinking the same bitter taste in coffee shops that felt like home while we laughed with songs from the day in our head. The songs still ring in my ears tonight and I remember all the words. It seems like yesterday, you say, but it’s hard to look at old photos and think of it as anything but a distant dream. I think of our conversations then late at night – tucked now back into our past like the flowers we tucked into our hair. I don’t think we would’ve been so fast to tuck them away if we knew what was to come. But then again, I don’t know. We’d lie, now with a year past, if we said everything turned out the way we expected or that it was greater than we dreamed. Such a true statement was said when Scarlett said in Gone With The Wind, “Nothing has turned out as we expected” and Ashley replied “It never does.” It never ever does. However, it has been something. A something we didn’t expect – blurred with disappointments, goodbyes, jealously, illness, and unwanted answers – but it’s been a beautiful something despite all of that. Isn’t that life? A beautiful something despite the trials? Despite we’ve what we’ve been through, what we are bound to, and what people in our world go through, I still believe in a good and right and lovely and worthy world. As we sip this coffee, wishing we had year old coffee instead – we know what a precious world it is and how privileged we are have our memories of one trip a year ago and every day since. In these dimmed lights, we remember faces and conversations and the city that stole us. It still has us, and even in our dreams we see it still. Those city lights illuminate us tonight as they did three hundred and sixty-four days ago.