A while ago, I did a Facebook meme, which required me to list ten books that affected me... stayed with me... changed me in some way. It was a difficult list to compile, as I think every book I've ever read has affected me in some way.
But, of course, there are some that stay with you longer than others, aren't there?
After I wrote my list (which was actually comprised of twelve books... I'm an overachiever... sue me), I thought of another ten (or thirty) that could have been on it.
So, tonight, I'm going to list five... and then, maybe, five another night... and then, maybe, five another night... and then, maybe...
You get the picture.
Here are the first five in my list... in no particular order:
The Color of Water by James McBride
This is beautifully-written -- a black man's account of his mother's life; his mother -- a woman who raised her twelve black children while denying her own white, Jewish skin. I read this book about 16 years ago, in one sitting, on a plane from Mississippi to New York. I'd been visiting my new baby niece, whose skin was chocolate brown. Mrs. McBride's story is remarkable, and the love with which her son tells it is palpable. It is never far from my nightstand, even today.
A Time to Kill by John Grisham
It took me several years to get through this book. Every time I would start it, the first chapter would nearly do me in and I'd have to put it down for another several months. The book begins with the rape of a black child by white men and moves on to the trial of her father, who kills them. I struggled with the story because I understood her father's actions, but I also believe that taking the law into one's own hands is wrong. There is a part of the book, though, which sums up that conflict and makes it OK... an old (disbarred) lawyer tells the young, idealistic attorney handling the case that it's a highly unusual one, in that if the father is found guilty, justice will be served; and if he is acquitted, justice will be served. It summed up an amazingly well-told story for me.
Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
Finding myself somewhat obsessed with the food industry in this country and coming to believe that it, via agri-business, is poisoning us, with support from the government, I was lead by a friend to this book. Michael Pollan writes clearly and compellingly, explaining exactly where our food comes from and exactly how our economy and our health are affected by the processes. It made me angry and interested in learning more about how to support healthy, sustainable farming.
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
David Sedaris is brilliant... and brilliantly funny. This book made me realize the essayist I would like to become. Sedaris' work makes me howl with laughter, tears streaming down my cheeks, and, at times, makes me tear up because of the honest, poignant manner in which he relays a thought or memory.
Open My Eyes, Open My Soul compiled by Yolanda King and Elodia Tate
I have a very personal connection to this book, which is a compilation of essays on diversity, put together by Martin Luther King's daughter, to honor his birthday. The essays in it are by people like Maya Angelou, Robert Kennedy, and Stevie Wonder... and by 'ordinary' people, too. About ten years ago, I submitted an essay - late - for consideration for submission to this project. Because it was late, I knew I had little chance of being selected but, to my surprise, I received an email from Yolanda King. She said that she'd been so touched by my story, she was going to find a place in the book for it. And she did. I remember the first time I saw it in a bookstore... I was in the airport and there was a display at the front of the store, full of brand new copies. It was all I could do not to open it to my essay and run around the airport squealing, "Look! This is me!"
So, what books have stayed with you?