Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Book Thing, Stave the First

          I exited my pop-culture-proof cave briefly this morning to discover that there's this thing going around on the facebooks and the social network thingies that I don't actually hate immediately upon discovery. It is the Ten-Books-That-Have-Made-A-Difference-In-Your-Life-Pass-It-On thing.

          For this knowledge I am indebted to my charming neighbor, A, whose floor-to-ceiling, entire-wall, built-in bookcase I covet with a distinctly un-neighborly covetousness. She posted her great list on Facebook.*

          Now, I feel compelled to list my own Difference-Making books, five today and six Wednesday** (because I cannot resist commentary on each one, and that would make this a post that you would tire of reading before you reached book number six).

          So, Ten Books That Have Made A Difference In My Life, Plus One:
          1. Dorrie and the Blue Witch, by Patricia Coombs. This is the first book I remember reading. This is also the first time I understood that art is magic. Holden Caulfield talks about being able to call up his favorite authors on the phone. I actually did this. I interviewed Coombs for a report I did for my Illustration 2 class back in my art student days. She was a gracious woman, and it was a huge thrill to get to talk to the person who made reading and art magical to me.

Maybe The Best Book Ever.

          2. The Second World War, by Winston Churchill. A history of that awful time by one of the men who was both living history and making it. I learned much of what I know about the dark art of diplomacy from these books, and they also gave me a better understanding of, and sympathy for, the anti-communist paranoia of cold warriors.

          3. Peasants into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France, 1870-1914, by Eugen Weber. A fascinating account of how improved roads, railroads, universal education, and military service changed France from an uneasy alliance of provinces into a unified country. The accounts of the difficulty and dreariness of peasant life remind me why the mechanization and centralization we sometimes spurn today were A Very Big Deal Indeed to the average citizen of the time.

          4. Beowulf. A moving reminder that, in spite of the glorious mead halls we build and the monsters we slay, we will all grow old and die, and only our stories will remain.

          5. Gone With The Wind, by Margaret Mitchell. Yeah, it's schlocky. But it's a ripping good story, and it taught me about the horrors of the Civil War and the injustices of Reconstruction. It made me recognize the genius of the last paragraph of Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address and to take it as a personal goal: "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

*She met her husband while reading a book! Obviously he is a man of rare discernment.
**We've already established that counting is not one of my reliable skills.

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