Stealing an idea from the excellent Nicole & Maggie, I am going to write about 10 books by which ye shall know me. These are my go-to reads for various moods and times. I was going to say that these books have earned a permanent spot on my shelves, except I don't own several. I have often gone by the "can I get it easily in a library?" test, and some of my favorites are common books.
1. My Antonia: easily my favorite book, I always get swept away by the descriptions of the prairie as ocean. The different story threads carry the characters through their lives. As a young girl, I was enchanted with pioneers and the frontier life, and Willa Cather has captured it so well. This is a book I don't own, but I do have it on my phone in ebook format thanks to Project Gutenberg.
2. Ender's Game: Orson Scott Card's deplorable politics aside*, this book is amazing. Get it from a library. The story of young Ender Wiggin, a six-year old taken to train for battle in space, is fascinating. Card spins complex characters, moral & ethical dilemmas, and a challenging coming-of-age. I love this book and most of the follow-ups, with Speaker for the Dead being my second favorite. Just wish the author could leave other people's lives alone.
* card-carrying homophobe, which is okay, who works heavily at the national level to discriminate against LGBTQ, which is not okay
3. The Moon by Night: this is one of two novels that dovetail nicely, and the next one is #4. These books by Madeleine L'Engle are my favorite coming-of-age guides. They taught me to be thoughtful, intelligent, and open to the world. While I do love A Wrinkle in Time, these two are my favorite of L'Engle's works.
4. A Ring of Endless Light In this one, L'Engle's main character, Vicky Austin, deals with death. The book contains my favorite line ever about prayer:
"Prayer was never meant to be magic," Mother said.
"Then why bother with it?" Suzy scowled.
"Because it's an act of love," Mother said.
I also love the continual reminder from mother that "comparisons are odious, says John Donne."
5. The Outsiders: When I was a kid, my brothers and I didn't always get along. Big shocker, I'm sure. They teased a lot, and I wasn't a fan. When I was 11, we went to have one last dinner with friends before we moved from Nebraska. The wife was an old minister who knew my dad, and we'd spent a lot of time with her and her husband over the years. My brothers got to teasing me during dinner, and I ran out to hide in the back of the station wagon. The husband, a former teacher, came out with a book in his hands to talk to me. This is the book he gave me. I might have been a bit young, but I really loved the book. Sodapop, Ponyboy, and all the rest resonated with me. This is a book I can read in one sitting, but only if I have a box of kleenex nearby.
6. Calvin and Hobbes: I own the complete collection, and it is one of my favorite books. Something about imagination, poetry, shenanigans, and the drawings really pulls me in. I'm always shocked when I meet students that haven't heard of C&H.
7. Harry Potter: oh, how did I leave this for so far down the list? Oh, well. This is a more recent influence on my life. I imagine everyone knows the story, so I'll just say that I love the story, the friendships, and the imagination here too. I'm giving this to my nephew for his birthday. And I won't cheap out and list that for all the rest of my books.
8. Sharing Nature with Children: this is a handbook by Joseph Cornell. My dad gave it to me sometime while I was in college, and I've read through it many times. It's full of games, activities, and interesting ways to interact with nature. I made good use of this during my short-lived time as a naturalist. While I'd like to think I decided independently to become a naturalist, I am pretty sure this book had a big influence. I still try to incorporate some of the games and activities, when possible, in my classroom. It's a wonderful, short, interesting little handbook for those who want to get kids outside.
9. The Stranger: I love children's books, and Chris Van Allsburg is one of my favorite authors. He did such classics as Jumanji and Polar Express. This one is my favorite of his. He illustrates gorgeous fall colors on a farm in New England. Captivating and delightful.
10. The autobiographies of Helen Forrester: while this is technically 4 books and not one, you need to read them in sequence. I love historical fiction, and this is particularly gripping and thoughtful. This is the tale of Helen's family (more-or-less; she uses a pseudonym and changes a few details) through England's Great Depression and World War II in Liverpool. Her family started out upper-middle class, which Helen is old enough to remember, and falls precipitously. Helen lives through the challenges of poverty, war-time deprivation, and even the death of more than once fiance in the war.
Her books are hard to find in the US, but it is possible. I first fell in love with her during a visit to England and slowly collected the books over repeat trips there and up to Canada.
Thanks to those of you who made it through. This is not an exhaustive list of all my favorites, but these are the books I return to time and time again. May you have so many written friends in your life as well.