I have too many books. Well, in a way, you can never have too many books, but I have a lot. I've pared down over the years, especially before we began the renovation. It's a lot easier to do that now, than it used to be.
Here are five books that I've read often and would never want to part with.
Among Schoolchildren Tracy Kidder
I read this book when I was at the bookstore 20 years ago, and it suddenly gave focus to my rather unfocused pursuit of a Bachelor’s degree. All though years when people used to ask me, an English major “What are you going to do with that, teach?” I always said no.
I still haven’t, not in the traditional way that one thinks of a teacher. Instead, everything else I’ve worked on has been centered around education. I am, as it turns out, more of an education policy geek.
That one book led to an entire library of reading about what works and doesn’t in education. What I’ve learned, or at least come to believe, could fill a whole separate blog.
Mornings on Horseback David McCullough
I first read this when I was a teenager. It was the beginning of my lifelong interest in the Roosevelts and my first in-depth introduction to politics. I happened to read it again in 2002, seeking an escape of the real politics of the day and happened upon this:
“…Saltonstall, in particular, harbored bitter enmity toward almost all Republicans as a consequence of the 1876 election. Sent by the National Democratic Committee to witness the tally of disputed votes in Florida, he had seen the presidency being stolen before his eyes and refused to ever forget it.”
Who said Bush didn’t study history?
Gone to Soldiers Marge Piercy
The first fiction on the list; I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read this. This book was heavily promoted when I was in the bookstore, but I didn’t read it until later. Not quite a trashy novel, but not quite serious fiction either. It takes place during WWII and treats the experience of the war and the home front from the perspective of at least half a dozen characters. I think this was the beginning of my interest in that era. It certainly helped that I happened to read it around the time that 50 year commemorations were happening in all sorts of places, so there was lots of other material available. My copy has fallen apart from overuse and will have to be replaced if I ever want to read it again. I wonder if it's still in print.
Crossing to Safety Wallace Stegner
I once read that women’s reading groups were responsible for keeping Stegner in print. I’ve never belonged to one, but I have read a number of Stegner’s books. This one is by far my favorite and one I come back to it often. The story is about a friendship between academic couples, including an unspoken competition between the men. Like a strong cup of tea with the right amount of sugar, the story is comforting and often re-read.
The Lost Continent Bill Bryson
My first, and favorite, Bryson book. My first, and favorite, travel writing. This is a book that I have given away to friends and then gone out and bought a new copy. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was my first inkling that there was a market for my sense of humor. I told these kinds of people-watching stories all the time, but I had no idea that they were worth the pen and paper, or hosting fees. I laughed through the entire book. Given the state of my head these days, maybe it’s time for a re-read.
What are the favorites in your collection?