One of the major reasons we’ve moved up to the Portland area is due to my love of all things literary. This fact also happens to be one of the major things that brought the hubs and I together in the first place.
On Sunday, after a week of dropping money on consignment furniture and microbrew, we made one final splurge at the Powell’s bookstore that’s about a mile from our house (I KNOW…AMAZING!). You know…one more cash-drop until we have recovered a little bit from the last month or so both financially and around the waistline.
On the way to the bookstore, he and I got into a discussion of how some books stay with us emotionally and some fade away right after we finish the last page. This led to a discussion of the books that really “stuck” in one way or another. So I thought I’d share my top five (as of today), which had a major effect on my adult life and viewpoint, in no particular order.
1. East of Eden
I went back and forth on this one, but have ultimately decided that it’s impact in my life has been all too apparent. It was the first one that JT and I ever really bonded over. Its full of characters that I long to know in real life, and some that I’m very glad I’ve never met (well…Kathy in particular). Most of all, it’s a book that really brought home the message that, as they say on Welcome to Nightvale, “Death is only the end if you think the story is about you.”
Much is made of the lush language and the transgressive subject matter in this book. For me, it spurred a profound personal transformation. I read it as a 19 year old, and was dating an older man at the time. The relationship was far from illegal or paedo, but as I read about Humbert Humbert’s manipulation and isolation of teenage Dolores, I broke out in a cold sweat on the backs of my forearms. I recognized these manipulation tactics because they were being used on me. Soon afterward, I ended the relationship. I wish I could say it was my last dysfunctional relationship, but in any case it was a very important realization for a new adult woman.
3. The Handmaid’s Tale
It scared the shit out of me, and still does. Everyone needs to read it, I think, and be scared by it as well.
What I really got was a story that made the cultural and national baggage of slavery’s horrible, disgusting reality more than just an intellectual concept. Like whoa.
5. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
So much in this one besides simply the sheer amazingness of Kingsolver’s language and perspective. Much like East of Eden, it showed me that a story can be satisfactorily finished without being tied in a neat little bow, and that a person can continue to live on after the dissolution of a family bond (or more than one). That’s a lesson that at some point, unfortunately, most of us have to learn.
Naturally, there are more books than these that were striking. And yes, JT, this list is a little different from what I said on Sunday. Today, however, these are the ones I look at and can vividly remember the way they made me feel and how they changed the way I think.