Ten of My Favorite Books
I love a good book. I love how fiction can take me away to another time and place and introduce me to people I will never meet. I also love nonfiction as a way of learning about people's lives, real places I've never been and certain times in history.
For me, a really good book does the following:
- I have a hard time putting it down and I end up carrying it with me wherever I go in case I get the chance to sneak in a couple of pages.
- I think about it for days afterwards.
- I get emotional. Throughout the book, I laugh, cry, get mad, feel sad and/or jump for joy.
- If it's fiction, I become friends with the characters.
- It it's nonfiction, I try to find out more about the person, place or events in the book.
- I look up information about the author.
- I look on Amazon to see what other people say about it.
- I don't want it to end and when it does, I give the book a little hug, sort of as a way for thanking it for being so worth my time to read.
The Grapes of Wrath
By: John Steinbeck
I found it interesting when I read online somewhere that people are likening the people flocking to the state of North Dakota desperate for jobs in the oilfield to that of the Great Depression when thousands of families flocked to California in the hopes of getting work.These events that took place during the Great Depression are the subject of John Steinbeck's classic: The Grapes of Wrath.
I read this book for the first time a couple of years ago and was blown away. I found it heartbreaking what the Joads and so many other families went through during the Great Depression. They were so hopeful in going to California. They were so certain their lives were going to be better. Then they got there and it was almost worse than where they had come from.
I just cannot imagine what it would be like to watch your family, especially your children starving to death. The ending of the book haunted me for days afterwards. I really wanted the story to go on because I wanted to know that eventually, everything worked out for the Joad family.
"How can you frighten a man whose hunger is not only in his own cramped stomach but in the wretched bellies of his children? You can't scare him--he has known a fear beyond every other."
- John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
By: Jack London
I remember reading this book as a child. The book was entertaining to me then but as an adult I got much more out of it. White Fang is one of those books that is easy to read again and again. I recently listened to this book on audio and as I listened, I couldn't get over how well Jack London portrayed the life of this wolf-dog. As he wrote about White Fang's thoughts and feelings, it was like he was able to get inside the head of a real-life canine struggling to survive in the wilderness of the Yukon Territory.
I found this book to be very exciting taking me on one adventure after another. I also love the wilderness aspect of this book that takes place during the Klondike Gold Rush at the end of the 19th century. I can see why this book was an instant success when it was published. The book has since been translated into 89 different languages.
"But it did not all happen in a day, this giving over of himself, body and soul, to the man-animals. He could not immediately forego his wild heritage and his memories of the Wild. There were days when he crept to the edge of the forest and stood and listened to something calling him far and away."
- Jack London, White Fang
Seabiscuit: An American Legend
By: Laura Hillenbrand
I have always loved horses and read all of the Black Stallion and Black Beauty books when I was growing up.
Seabiscuit is another book about a horse and so much more. This real-life story takes place in the 30's when cars were first being driven and the Great Depression had just begun. Seabiscuit was a racehorse that no one thought would amount to much. He was an underdog that proved everyone wrong.
Even after being injured, it was thought he would never race again. But once again, Seabiscuit proved everyone wrong. During such dismal times, this horse gave people hope. Even if you don't like horses, I highly recommend this book!
“In 1938... the year's #1 newsmaker was not FDR, Hitler, or Mussolini. Nor was it Lou Gehrig or Clark Gable. The subject of the most newspaper column inches in 1938 wasn't even a person. It was an undersized, crooked-legged racehorse named Seabiscuit.”
― Laura Hillenbrand, Seabiscuit: An American Legend
By: Nicholas Sparks
I think one of the reasons I like the book, Dear John so much is because it is a love story told from the male's perspective. This book rocked all of my emotions as I read about John and Savannah's love for one another and the tough choices they had to make.
Dear John was totally unpredictable and even though it was sad, I loved how the story ended. Nicholas Sparks made the book real and honest not some fairy tale where everything turns out for the best. Like many books written by Nicholas Sparks, Dear John was made into a movie but I was disappointed by the ending of the movie version.
“Our story has three parts: a beginning, a middle, and an end. And although this is the way all stories unfold, I still can't believe that ours didn't go on forever.”
-Nicholas Sparks, Dear John
The Secret Life of Bees
By: Sue Monk Kidd
One of the reasons I love this book is because I truly believe that there are no coincidences in life. It's as if our lives are put together by a Master Planner who has a purpose for us even before we are born.
The Secret Life of Bees is a fiction book with all-too real details as it is set during a time when blacks were first able to register to vote. It's so hard for me to fathom how white people could have treated blacks the way that they did. I just love how in this book a little white girl is totally accepted and taken in by three African American women during such a volatile time in the South.
The Secret Life of Boys also hit the big screen starring Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys and Sophie Okenedo.
“In a weird way I must have loved my little collection of hurts and wounds. They provided me with some real nice sympathy, with the feeling I was exceptional...What a special case I was.”
-Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees
The Invisible Wall
By: Harry Bernstein
The author was 93 years old when he wrote The Invisible Wall, a depiction of his childhood while growing up in pre-Great War England. The book discusses the town of Lancashire where Christians lived on one side of the street and Jews on the other.
The Jews and the Christians kept their distance as best they could until Harry's sister, a young Jewish girl fell in love with a young Christian boy. This book was very profound and had many sad parts as both the Christians and the Jews were effected by extreme poverty and all of the social issues during that time. But it is also a book of hope too as it shows how love can help people overcome their differences.
"You've got to be taught to hate. You've got to be taught from the time you're six or seven or eight. It's put in your mind. It's handed down, almost like an heirloom, among Christians. They didn't know why they hated us."
-Harry Bernstein, The Invisible Wall
The Worst Hard Time
By: Timothy Egan
This is another book set during the Great Depression, a time in history that I find very interesting knowing my great-grandparents who settled in North Dakota were greatly affected. This book is a true account of what some suffered during the Great Depression.
Most of the book, The Worst Hard Time, takes place in Cimarron County, Oklahoma, one of the hardest hit areas of the Dust Bowl. While reading this book, it forced me to compare what is going on now in the economy and what happened then. They dealt with so much more than what most are dealing with today.
There are soup kitchens, food pantries and homeless shelters today but during that time they were forced to make soup out of tumbleweeds and live in dire conditions.Some of those in the Great Depression watched their livestock die of starvation and their babies die of dust pneumonia. It is unreal how these people suffered and if they didn't end up committing suicide, it is amazing that they even survived.
"Dust clouds boiled up, ten thousand feet or more in the sky, and rolled like moving mountains."
-Timothy Egan, The Worst Hard Time
The Hiding Place
By: John L. Sherrill, Elizabeth Sherrill and Corrie ten Boom
Another true story (I love books that are based on true stories). The Hiding Place is about Corrie ten Boom who lived during World War II in Holland. Her Christian family had deep compassion for others. At a time when Jews were beginning to disappear from their homes, Corrie's family hid their Jewish friends in their home. Eventually they became the major contact for getting Jews safely hidden in other Christian homes.
Corrie's family was found out and they were sent to a concentration camp where both her dad and her sister died. The most amazing part of this book is the forgiveness that Corrie ten Boom has for the Nazi guards that caused her so much pain and suffering. She is one who truly does as the Lord commands - love your enemies.
“If you look at the world, you'll be distressed. If you look within, you'll be depressed. If you look at God you'll be at rest.”
-Corrie ten Boom
To Kill a Mockingbird
By: Harper Lee
What can I possible say about this book that hasn't already been said? It's a classic that won a Pulitzer Prize. It is amazing to me that this is Harper Lee's only book.
This book is a story of courage that pits black against white in the deep south. It really makes me wonder if I were alive back then, would I have gone with the flow or against the grain? Whose side would I have taken? I guess we would all like to think we would have done the right thing but until you're placed in that exact situation, you will never really know.
“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”
-Harper Lee; To Kill a Mockingbird
By: Roxanne Henke
Roxanne Henke might not be a well-known author but she is one of my favorites. She writes Christian fiction but certainly doesn't sugarcoat any of her stories. Her books are about Christians who are dealing with real situations. With Becoming Olivia, a book in her Coming Home to Brewster series, Roxanne Henke deals with the subject of clinical depression - a taboo subject in some Christian circles.
Olivia Marsden seems like the kind of person that everyone likes and who has everything going for her. No one sees though the conflict and struggles she carries inside. After trying to hold it in for so long, she begins to break and is eventually diagnosed with clinical depression. Even if you haven't suffered with depression, I think Olivia is someone people can identify with and by going through her struggles with her you will find that there is hope and a light at the end of the tunnel.
"My life had been a card trick. Sleight of hand had held me together for more than forty years. Smiling when I felt like crying. Attempting to be the perfect wife, the perfect mother, when perfection wasn't attainable to anyone...especially me. The game was over. Either that, or I no longer had the will to play."
-Roxanne Henke, Becoming Olivia