Yes, this is a facebook meme. No, I haven’t done it on facebook.* I don’t really post on facebook. But I can’t resist talking about books I love (and I don’t do it enough on this blog), so I thought I’d make and share a list here.
If you’ve done this challenge, link me your answers in the comments so I can check them out!
My answers are in no specific order. This is just the order they came to me. You will also notice that there are only eight in my list of 10. And Harry Potter is missing.**
1. The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier
This is my favorite book. For a while I read it every year. It has two interweaving timelines (a plot device I totally love), and Ella is a really flawed main character who I still love and relate to.
There’s something really comforting about this book. It’s been a lot of places with me (literally). I just love having it on hand so I can read it whenever the mood strikes.
2. The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan
I love this book, but it took me a while to figure out why. It has a similar structure to The Virgin Blue (two intertwining timelines), but it means more to me than The Virgin Blue in a lot of ways.
Olivia, the protagonist, is biracial, and she’s one of the first biracial characters I can remember reading. Amy Tan receives a lot of criticism (rightly so), but she really captured what it is to be Asian American/biracial in America. It is probably the first time I ever saw those thoughts and feelings articulated in a book and it meant a lot to me, even if I didn’t fully realize how much it meant at the time.
The Hundred Secret Senses is one of those books that I worry will lose its magic (even though it never does). It’s not a book that I recommend to people anymore (unless you’re also a mixed Asian kid), but it’s really important to me.
3. Bloomability by Sharon Creech
I studied Italian because I read Bloomability. It’s a great coming if age story. Definitely Creech at her best. It’s been ages since I’ve reread it though.
4. Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
When I want to sound intellectual (which isn’t often, but it does happen… mostly when I’m talking to people trying to be elitist about literature), I will sometimes tell people that Mrs Dalloway is my favorite book. More often I tell people Mrs Dalloway is the book that made me an English major which is 50% true.*** The language, the story, the way it demands your attention. Ugh. So great. I’ve only read it once, but it’s definitely stayed with me.
5. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
Have you ever read a book so good you’re afraid to reread it because there’s no way it can be as good as you remember it? That’s HDM for me. If I hadn’t taken Children’s Lit sophomore year of college, these books would probably still be unreread. As it is, I had to reread it for that class, and they were even better the second time around.
6. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
This is the only book on this list that I didn’t read as a child/teenager. I read it after I graduated from college, but it’s seriously fantastic. It’s a book I wish had existed when I was 12. It’s short and seems simple at the start, but holds up to rereading after rereading.
7. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore
This book tricked me into thinking I like Christopher Moore, but what I really like is Lamb. I have never reread this book for fear it can’t be as good as I remember. I may never reread it because there is nothing to make me.
This book was so good (and the Scarlet Letter was so bad) that I took it to the gym and laughed my way through an entire workout because I couldn’t bear the thought of waiting to find out what was going to happen. It’s hilarious, irreverent and surprisingly touching at moments.
8. The Child of the Owl by Laurence Yep
This is another book that I haven’t reread (it’s at theme). I reread parts a lot as a kid, but I’ve never reread it in its entirety. That said, this book is also really important to me. And again, a book where I didn’t realize its importance in my life until long after I’d read it.
The scene that stuck with me the most is when Casey buys dinner for Paw Paw. She ends up with a funny mix of Chinese food (breakfast, lunch and dinner). That just felt so real to me. My perfect metaphor for being Chinese American****
So there’s my list. There are some commonalities I never noticed before. Like, when I really like a book or a book had a big impact on me, my impulses are to either reread several times or never reread it. Every book I thought to include on this list was fiction (despite the fact that I’ve read some really good nonfiction).
I’m also a little surprised at the mix of adult fiction and kid fiction on the list, half and half. I expected more middle grade fiction to slip in there. There are definitely some favorite books that didn’t make the list that could have. And books I’ve read this year that might have made the list if they’d been written a decade ago.
There are more female authors on my list than male authors. And more female protagonists than males by far (I have always loved female characters more than male ones). The list is pretty white, but it’s about as white as I expected it to be. I wish that were different, but maybe in 10 years, after I’ve carried around the books I’m reading now, the list will look different.
The original meme says not to think too long when making your list, but I couldn’t stop thinking about my list after I made it. So there you have it. A list of eight books that mean something to me. Leave me a comment if you want to chat more about any of them. Or if you want to chat about your list!
*This time around. I did it the first time it went around when I was in college. And I can’t find my answers because apparently facebook got rid of notes.
**That’s not to say that Harry Potter hasn’t stayed with me or isn’t important to me. But I have so much to say about Harry Potter that I’m planning a Harry Potter week as soon as I can find time to reread the books.
***The other 50% of that story is that I had to declare a major so I sat down with my course catalog and highlighted every class that sounded interesting to me. Almost all of them were English classes so I became an English major.
****Actually, my metaphor for being Chinese American is sitting in a Chinese restaurant in America and not being able to understand the Chinese or the English “translations” on the menu. I don’t read hanzi, but I don’t understand what bean curd is either.