Ten Things Tuesday – October 12

12 Oct

Ten books that changed my life:

1. Love is a Mix Tape, by Rob Sheffield. I just finished this book two days ago. It’s been a long time since I’ve read such a good book, one that really spoke to me out loud. I grew up in the late 90s, so I can relate a little to the social culture Sheffield refers to. But his power to inject humor and allusion into the saddest of tales – that of losing his beloved wife – is just magical. His ability to categorize his life by the mix tape that provided the soundtrack, and his relationship to music, is exactly how I feel. I can’t imagine my life without my favorite music. And I can’t imagine love without it, either. I have a feeling I will be reading this book over and over, forever.

2. The Wainscott Weasel, Sid Seidler. A beautiful story about impossible love between two unlikely friends. A weasel and a fish share a mutual love and respect for each other, even though they can never be together. Ultimately it’s all about what’s on the inside that counts, rather than appearances or conventions of society. Of course, there are more adventures along the way, fun and introspective at the same time.

3. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith. A book about the power of reading and education to transport you to a life beyond your own. It’s true that, if you work hard enough and you want something badly enough, you can accomplish anything. We’re all looking to make our lives better for ourselves and our families – there’s nothing wrong with having ambition. It’s the food that drives us to accomplishment. Francie Nolan knows this better than anyone.

4. What the Parrot Told Alice, by Dale Smith. I must have read this book 15 times, at least. It’s a short book with a big message. It’s about a parrot, who belongs to Alice, a 12-year-old girl. Through the magic of books, the parrot transforms into different parrot species from around the world, telling heartbreaking tales about the black market parrot trade and the horrific results of cutting down rainforests. It has a wonderful environmental message, encouraging a young girl to look at the world around her and see something bigger than herself. I’m tempted to go pull it off the shelf again – it’s been a few years since its last read. It’s about time I opened it up.

5. Harry Potter, by JK Rowling. I’m listing the entire series and considering it one book. I’m not really ranking these, but if I did, this would probably be at the top. No reading experience in my entire life has ever affected me quite as profoundly. I could read it over and over, and pick up new things every time. The care and detail given to every sentence makes more than Hogwarts magical. I’m sad that my children will never experience what it’s like to stand in line at Barnes and Noble at midnight, waiting for your copy of the newest addition, and then staying up for the next 24+ hours devouring every word. I don’t expect any book – series or otherwise – to become so much a part of me as this.

6. Water for Elephants, by Sarah Gruen. A young almost-veterinarian leaves school and joins the circus, where he cares for the animals. Really, how many of us have fantasized about running off with the circus at one point or another? It’s thrilling and exciting to think of the adventures to be had in the wanderer’s life. Not safe nowadays, of course, but charming in thought. It’s also a reminder that you should show kindness to everyone, including animals. Nothing in life matters so much as how you treat those around you – meaning all living things. Elephants truly are faithful, 100%.

7. Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson. I have never read a book that made me want to sell off my possessions, donate all of the proceeds to charity, and run off to some foreign country to work serving the poor and uneducated. It’s amazing what one person can accomplish when they truly know what life is about, and stop at nothing to make the dreams of others come true. I would love to meet Greg Mortenson. He’s the most inspirational person I can think of. I’ve never considered myself having heroes, but I have come to think of him as one. I can’t ever remember being so inspired while reading.

8. Love in the Driest Season, by Neely Tucker. Families come in all shapes and sizes. The thing that holds them together is love – no matter where they come from, or what they endure. Like The Beatles said – all you need is love. It’s the true story of how a journalist and his wife, after much conflict and waiting, become the parents of an orphaned Zimbabwean girl. Such a beautiful and chilling story, to think this actually happens every day. We get so used to our comfortable lives that we forget there are people around the world living in squalor, suffering from malnutrition and disease, who have no education and no hope for anything better. It’s just heartbreaking to think of these injustices, and how powerless – and how apathetic – we are to change it.

9. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini. This book taught me about the power of humanity to overcome the greatest prejudices and forgive the biggest mistakes. I have never cried so much while reading. Even though it is heartbreaking and even gruesome, it gives me hope that there is the greater good out there.

10. A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving. Owen Meany is one of my favorite characters ever. He’s so memorable – that squeaky loud voice you can hear in your head, because all of his dialogue is written in capitals. He’s so sure of his purpose in life, so sure of his belief in God, never questioning the mysteries of the universe. It’s such a wonderful book, from beginning to end. I have to pull it out again soon. It’s been too long since Owen has been in my life.

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