Jamie and I, as we chatted on Friday, decided to joint post a Top 25 list of our most therapeutic book choices. These aren’t necessarily the literary greats. These are the ones that get you through.
1. A Walk in the Woods/ The Lost Continent – Bill Bryson
A Walk in the Woods is a book I read nearly annually. It is hilarious. I myself did some Appalachian Trail hiking in my day, and this book is such a great reminder of what an intense and important experience it can be. This book reminds me to walk. And to laugh. I often read it when I’ve just said a hard goodbye. I’m not quite sure what that is about.
Even if you haven’t donned some cotton-free moisture wicking sock liners and an inner frame pack full of 50 lbs of noodles, peanut butter and bisquick, this book is still a delightful and thoughtful book.
The Lost Continent is an earlier Bill Bryson book about the search for Amalgam, the perfect small town in America. It is so funny. And so touching and even a little frustrating in parts. At some point, this man travels to your neck of the woods.
2. Peyton Place
For some who grew up in a close-knit community…several, actually, this book is perspective in spades. And also lots of dirty laundry. It’s home and it’s schadenfreude and it’s relief.
3. Prodigal Summer
I talk about Prodigal Summer all the time. It’s my favorite book. It’s sexy and full of nature and wonder and women and men and life like I’ve experienced it on some level. When I need a reality check, this is the book for me.
4. The Princess Bride by S. Morgenstern (William Goldman)- I think the Princess Bride exemplifies what books have the potential to be. There are no rules, and when the old ones are broken properly, you have a hell of a story on your hands. So much so, that we chose a passage from this book to be read at our wedding. “I love you, I know this must come as something of a surprise, since all I’ve ever done is scorn you and degrade you and taunt you, but I have loved you for several hours now, and every second, more. I thought an hour ago that I loved you more than any woman has ever loved a man, but a half hour after that I knew that what I felt before was nothing compared to what I felt then. But ten minutes after that, I understood that my previous love was a puddle compared to the high seas before a storm. Your eyes are like that, did you know? Well they are. How many minutes ago was I? Twenty? Had I brought my feelings up to then? It doesn’t matter. I love you so much more now than twenty minutes ago that there cannot be comparison. I love you so much more now than when you opened your hovel door, there cannot be comparison. There is no room in my body for anything but you. My arms love you, my ears adore you, my knees shake with blind affection. My mind begs you to ask it something so it can obey. Do you want me to follow you for the rest of your days? I will do that. Do you want me to crawl? I will crawl. I will be quiet for you or sing for you, or if you are hungry, let me bring you food, or if you have thirst and nothing will quench it but Arabian wine, I will go to Araby, even though it is across the world, and bring a bottle back for your lunch. Anything there is that I can do for you, I will do for you; anything there is that I cannot do, I will learn to do. I know I cannot compete with the Countess in skills or wisdom or appeal, and I saw the way she looked at you. And I saw the way you looked at her. But remember, please, that she is old and has other interests, while I am seventeen and for me there is only you. Dearest Westley–I’ve never called you that before, have I?–Westley, Westley, Westley, Westley, Westley,–darling Westley, adored Westley, sweet perfect Westley, whisper that I have a chance to win your love.”
PLUS William Goldman wrote the screenplay to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
5. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame –
Obviously, I can be escapist. But sometimes I just need to mentally curl up in the cozy home of a river rat and have some tea.
6. On the Road by Jack Kerouac –
This is my cure for being uptight. “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!” That quote says it all. I’m thinking I should read Peyton Place for the small town catharsis, and then read On the Road for the escape.
7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee- This book is about love. There is a Scout Finch inside me. As a kid, I had an Atticus, and still do. My Dad. I longed for a Jem. I found Jem in some of my very close male friends. This book is about what real justice is. I love it. I absolutely love it to my very core. It is funny. It is heartbreaking. It is fabulous.
8. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell- Gone with the wind was my first introduction to a heroine who you don’t like….but you still cheer for. She’s the friend that does all the shit you can’t believe.
9. Under the Roofs of Paris by Henry Miller- Sometimes a girl needs a turn-on, and wow…this one provides it. It’s dirty. It’s un-pc. It’s mildy nauseating. It’s hot as hell.
10. Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling – Hands down the most fun I’ve ever had reading a series.
11. There’s A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein – “There are too many kids in this tub. There are too many elbows to scrub. I just washed a behind that I’m sure wasn’t mine. There are too many kids in this tub.” Belly laughs every time.
12. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien – Similar to the Wind in the Willows, except that The Hobbit was a fairly recent discovery for me. I read it for the first time in 2005. I’ve read it twice since then. It’s one of those books you can tumble into and go along for the ride.
13. Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder – I want to tell you that the book that scared me the most was The Shining or The Amityville Horror, but the first time I remembered slapping a book shut and then creaking it back open and voraciously devouring it with my big cow eyes was the part of Little House in the Big Woods with the panther. These books are beloved by not just me, but my Mom and my late Grandma Kohart. She left me her own set when she passed away. It’s connection on a very special level, and also…they are really really wonderful books.
14. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – One of my biggest literary regrets is not reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn sooner. There were times as a middle schooler and high schooler that I could have used Francie Nolan’s companionship. This may sound stuck up and annoying, but when you are looking for knowledge in a world of mediocrity, you need to know you aren’t alone.
15. The Grapes of Wrath – My personal Come to Jesus meetin’. We really do have all that we need.
16. David Copperfield/Great Expectations/any Dickens – Dickens is a treat for me. It’s funny and tragic and dramatic and spooky at times. It’s atmospheric. The characters nearly jump off the page. I adore adore adore Dickens. And I read Dickens when I need to really sink myself into something for awhile. Will is reading Great Expectations now and I am thrilled vicariously.
17. Steve Berry, Dan Brown, DOuglas Preston/Lincoln Child/MIchael Crichton – sometimes I require brain junk food. I need page-turnin’ thrillers with rough and questionable history behind the plot lines.
18. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot – they don’t understand you. You don’t fit in. Your hair is a mess. But you are who you are.
19. Shakti Woman – It’s weird. I mean WEIRD. I don’t buy all of it. But if you need to reclaim some serious down and dirty female power. this just might be it. You have to kind of put away your day to day self, and dig really deep into something earthy and tribal.
20. Dita Von Teese The art of the Teese – If you combine this with Under the Roofs of Paris..well, we’ll see on Monday. You’re going to be busy this weekend.
21. Kevin Aucoin – Kevin Aucoin is why I love makeup so much. He makes it an art, not an obligation. Face as canvas for character.
22. The Lucky Book (shopping) – I like books of lists and suggestions.
23. The Bombshell Manual of Style – I’ll be honest, occasionally I require a jacket thrown over a puddle. And a tube of Cherries in the snow. And a bubble bath and champagne.
24. Matilda – Minus the evil parents, I thought I was Matilda as a child. If you saw me creepily staring at something…yes, I was trying to move it with my mind. This sounds really obnoxious, but when I was in elementary school, I was an incredibly fast reader. When we did “read out louds” I would suffer through the “slow readers” . It’s awful but true. I was reading at a high school level in elementary. Math…math we won’t talk about. So matilda was my alter ego in Reading class.
25. The Paris Apartment – Satin, old antique junk and luxury
And 1 to grow on: Ferdinand the Bull. I grew up in a very sports minded set of communities, but all I ever wanted to do was sit under the tree and smell the flowers…and read all the books I just mentioned. But Ferdinand the Bull…I feel you man.