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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Soul Food

A room without books is like a
            body without a soul.
                        --Marcus Cicero

I’ve loved books since I was very small. Here’s a professional studio picture of me, in my little sailor outfit, reading a book. I was three. I promise you I remember the photographer getting frustrated because he had given me this book, but didn’t really want me to read it—just hold it. Seriously? He was lucky to get this (could you call it a smile?):

image via ELC's phone

Growing up, we didn’t have much else besides books, three television channels (black and white) and limited toys for entertainment (remember, I’m 57). Oh, yes, we also had the outdoors! “Go outside and play,” our Mom would say. “Stay out there until I call you to come in.” I remember literally begging her to let me stay in and read. I’d even offer to read to my siblings. Sometimes that worked.

I’m fairly certain I instilled the love of reading into TLC whilst she was in my womb (this was long enough ago that although the sex of my baby was pretty much a guess, I felt confident she was a girl!). I’d learned somewhere that I should read to her before she came out into the World. No problem! Once she arrived, there wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t read several books to her. Did this contribute to her love of reading? Hmmm—probably? All I can tell you is she loves to read—maybe even more than me. Books, newspapers, cereal boxes, magazines, People online, Twitter, blogs. There’s almost not enough out there for her insatiable curiosity (or is it nosie-rosie-ness?). As she has shared with y’all, I call her TLC-pedia. Particularly in the “celebrity” area of (useless) knowledge. (Could someone please pay her for this talent?)

TLC and I decided we'd share some of our favorite “reads” and I’m going first. As it should be. Maybe you won’t have heard of these books. Or you’ve heard of them, but weren’t interested. Or haven’t made or had time to read them. Or you read them years ago! I realize I’m often behind on the latest best sellers (like sometimes two or more years)—I don’t fret about it. For the past ten years it’s quite typical for me to fall asleep while reading, no matter if I just woke up. When I was young—teens, 20s, 30s—I could stay up all night reading. Especially Danielle Steele. WOW—loved her! Now it can take up to six months for me to finish my current book. Sigh.

Here, then, are some books I’d recommend (of course I'm not including diet books, for which I'm up-to-the-second-in-the-know-about-always!), with some opinions/caveats:

Eat, Pray, Love. I read this almost two years before the movie came out. I was completely enthralled by the way Elizabeth Gilbert expressed her thoughts and feelings. I’ve wanted to go to Italy for quite a long time, but haven’t been interested in India or Bali. So I wasn’t sure I was going to stick with the book through those adventures/countries. I savored it for the incredible personal “journey” it was. Even enjoyed India and Bali. When I passed it along to TLC, she couldn’t get into it. I thought it might be her youth. She gave up and put it down. When she attempted it again, a year later, she liked it. The Power of Time is always beneficial to our perspective, yes? We saw the movie together. In our un/non-expert opinion, we felt all of the characters were perfect for their roles—especially Julia.

The Shack, by William P. Young. I fought reading this book. When I learned the storyline, I was absolutely terrified to even think about borrowing or buying it. Then four of my dear friends I deeply respect were talking about it—a lot. I learned church groups were studying it. I couldn’t stand not knowing why. Although there are a couple of chapters I simply don’t understand, the book challenged me. Especially spiritually. If I can get through the rough parts, you can, too.

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. Powerful. Beautiful. Deeply touching, charming, funny and tragic. Sometimes very difficult to read, this, too, will soon be a movie. I plan to be first in line to see it. It takes place in the 60s—when I was a teenager. Although I can relate to very few of the characters or their specific situations, this book made me laugh, cry and feel guilty—on so many levels and all at the same time. I read it in two weeks. In the middle of reading it, I was at TLC’s house for a few days while her hubby was out of state. I refused to watch the completely useless Jersey Shore with her, so I, instead, chose to read. Soon I was crying. Pretty hard. TLC paused her TiVo during a particularly loud display of my emotions and swore there was no way she was going to read this book. She’s in the middle of it now (ha!) and glad she decided to give it a go. She’s also learning, more and more each day, to never say “Never.”

First I saw Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides (I don’t even know how long ago) as the captivating movie it was with Barbra Striesand and Nick Nolte. Then I read Beach Music. Oh, my, how I adored Beach Music. A year ago I bought South of Broad and consumed every single word like it was a gigantic red velvet cupcake. His books embrace the power and glory of the South and all of her fascinating history with such passionately beautiful prose, intrigue and humor. South of Broad caught me completely off guard—I didn’t see the end coming. Reading one of his novels is a long-term commitment for me. It took me almost a year to read Beach Music (not proud of that). But the time I spend with Conroy's imagination and talent is always, always, always worth it to me.

I very recently read Laura Bush’s Spoken from the Heart. No matter how you lean politically, she is a woman of unbelievable substance, strength and grace. It’s not only about her fascinating life, it’s our country’s history and it’s very compelling from her perspective. She’s boldly honest. I treasure courage in telling one’s truth.

A month ago I read an amazing, little (by little I only mean you could easily read it in a day) book called Heaven is for Real, by Todd Burpo. CeeCee put me on to this one. It’s a true story and literally beyond inspirational. It will not only entertain you, it will give you such hope—and peace.

Send us any suggestions for books you'd recommend, okay? But no super scary or too-terribly-deep ones that require 100% attention, a good memory and/or a membership in Mensa.

Must scoot . . . could finish Water for Elephants (see TLC’s upcoming “review”) tonight!


Taylor said...

After spending the last year reading every pregnancy and baby book, I am finally getting back to reading books I actually enjoy. I just finished The Help last month and LOVED it, can't wait for the movie to come out. And after stopping in 2008 (yes I know it was that long ago, because I used a paystub as my bookmark) I am once again attempting Eat, Pray, Love. I haven't seen the movie and want to finish the book first, but man, reading through India is rough. Can't wait to hear some more recommendations on what to read next.

The Leightons said...


You crack me up. Especially knowing when you stopped EPL because of the paystub bookmark! LOL. India was definitely the toughest section, but get through it because I think you'll love Bali! And you've got to see the movie and cast--how perfect they were for their characters (James Franco--need I say more?) I hope we get some suggestions, too, for other fun/good books. I've started Breaking Dawn (it'll probably take me months to read). I do better when I know what's going to be next in my reading life. Thanks for sharing, Sweet Friend!


Autumn said...

Ooooooohhhh, books! I remember how I SUFFERED through measles as a child (yes, children actually had to experience all the childhood diseases before vaccinations were available!) because I had to stay in a darkened room for 2 weeks to protect my eyes. No books. That was the worst part. And I, too, just finished Beach Music after 2 months. It was beautiful. And haunting. It's like shopping (maybe even at Nordstrom's) to go into my book stash and decide what to read next.

The Leightons said...

I can't stand the thought of little you, Autumn--in a darkened room--alone and blotchy! For two weeks. Too sad. Bless your sweet heart. I think all of Pat Conroy's books are haunting. That is the PERFECT word. Let us know what you pick from your "book stash," okay?