Monday, June 25, 2007

the books that inspire

I can't imagine a life without books. Without reading. Without the inspiration that comes from those stories that grabbed me and just wouldn't let go.

I'm lucky, I suppose. I was raised on a diet of poetry and fairy tales and the classics. Both my parents came from poor families. Both raised by immigrant parents from Poland and Russia. Reading was education and education was the road to success.

And so we read.

My mother read me all the great fairy tales. And her favorites from a book called 101 Famous Poems. And Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little. And she filled my room with other books to read alone - the ones she'd loved as a girl and figured I would love too. No YA fiction then. Not really. Just Little Women and Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and many, many more. And then I found the series like Nancy Drew. (Who I see has been recreated in a new film starring Julia Robers niece Emma)

And then I found more and more. A Wrinkle in Time and Edgar Eager's Half Magic. And biographies by the cartload. And stuff like Up a Road Slowly and Light a Single Candle about a blind girl's struggles. And the Oz books. And children's books like The Velveteen Rabbit and The Little Princess. And later I discovered so many others - the grand dame of modern YA, Judy Blume. I mean, seriously, who didn't read Forever - and then re-read like a million times?

And the heavier hitters - Great Gatsby and Grapes of Wrath and the Fountainhead and Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina....

The world beyond mine. But the world that was mine nonetheless. The pain and joy and love and laughter of living.

How could I not read? How could I not want to try my hand at writing? How could I not, when I had a kid, read him bucketsful of great stories? One of his favorites is still Tacky the Penguin. The non-conformist little penguin who does splashy cannonballs when everyone else is doing synchronized dives. But he still saves the day. And my personal mantra story, Leo the Late Bloomer. "And one day, in his own good time, Leo bloomed!"

Still, let us not forget. Tonight the twentysomethings appear on episode two of Age of Love. Baby, it sure ain't Faulkner. It isn't even good television.

But I'll probably be tuning in anyway.

So what are your favorite childhood books?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller??

Til next time.


Anonymous said...

I am sooooo mad at you! I watched that age of love cause of you! Now I am hooked! What a sick show...but I gotta root for the 40s.
My favorite books I think were both by Raoul Dahl...Fantastic Mr. Fox and James and the Giant Peach. I guess my treehugging started then.I dreamed of being like Mr. Fox and living in a tree trunk. I also LOVED Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books..was sure my folks would place radish seeds on me when i did not bathe for days.

Anonymous said...

I love your comment that reading books opens a unique world that exists simultaneously inside and outside of the reader. Be-yootiful.

The love of books is the best gift parents can give their children. A home without books always seems a little empty.

My list of favorite childhood books reads a lot like yours. I dreamed about life as a pioneer girl after reading the real-life adventures of Laura Ingalls Wilder. And the fantastic adventurers of Narnia held my undivided attention for several months.

I also had an amazing teacher in 6th grade who gave me a copy of Animal Farm followed quickly by a copy of All Quiet on the Western Front. Not exactly light reading, but they left an indelible mark on my way of thinking about the world.

--Beth :)

Anonymous said...

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, the "Little House" books, Narnia, Little Women...then Watership Down, the YaYa's. Once I started using public transportation I went through at least a book a week. When "the kid" was little, the mantra was "if you can read it, you can read it". Nothing was off limits. As soon as he could write his name he got a library card. We could say no to toys but never to books. He still has boxes full of all his childhood books that he wants to pass on to his own children (gulp).

Anonymous said...

i would have to say that my most inspiring book would be either Leo the late bloomer, of Tacky the penguin.