I finally narrowed my "life books" down to ten. These are the ten books that I think help define me as a person. Don't judge me too harshly, okay? :)
1. Dune, by Frank Herbert
This was my dad's favorite book; he named me after one of the characters. He died when I was four, so I never really knew him. I read the entire Dune series when I was in high school (and believe me, that was quite a feat!) and it made me feel a little closer to him. It became one of my favorites, too, and introduced me to the wonderful world of sci-fi.
2. Emma, by Jane Austen
My other favorite book is Austen's Pride and Prejudice, but I've always related to Emma Woodhouse more than Elizabeth Bennett. I love playing matchmaker (I've even had a few successes!) but I have no desire to get married. Unlike Emma, however, I enjoy reading and learning new things. I also like to think that I'm not quite as spoiled as she is. :) Emma is available for free here.
3. Like Water For Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel
I love reading, and I love cooking; I also spent eight years studying Spanish. So this book is pretty much the epitome of everything awesome: it includes recipes and the original Spanish en face. I read it for a class in college and loved it. The movie is pretty good, too.
4. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich
If you have ever tried to support yourself (or your family) by working at a dead-end, minimum-wage job, you will not be surprised by what Ehrenreich experiences. After I graduated from college (the first time, with my B.A.) I worked at a retail clothing store for three years before getting fed up, quitting, moving back in with my parents, and going back for my Master's. Reading this book reminded me of what I left behind, and why.
This is the only one of Ehrenreich's books that I've read, but she was on The Colbert Report last week to plug her new one:
She didn't get to talk about it much, but it sounds interesting.
5. The Gospel of Judas
One of my undergrad minors was in Religious Studies. My family has never been "religious," exactly; we mostly lived by the Golden Rule. I started church-hopping in high school - I've been to quite a few Christian churches (Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Charismatic) and Temple Mickve Israel in Savannah a few times. I've read the majority of the Bible, Tanakh, and Qur'an. It's hard finding a book that expresses my interest in religion, but I think this one comes pretty close. I find the character of Judas fascinating, and I love the way he is portrayed in this gospel.
6. How to Get Suspended and Influence People, by Adam Selzer
I'll admit: when it comes to this book, I'm horribly biased. I went to high school with Adam, so of course I'm going to love anything he writes. But the thing is, he pretty much captured what it was like to be a gifted middle school student in a small town. I never had quite as many adventures as the kids in his books, but I remember that feeling of being a smart kid and not having anyone take me seriously, that desire to do something that would make a difference and get people's attention. I still feel that way sometimes. I liked this book so much, I bought an extra copy and sent it to my second cousin in Florida. Her parents were thinking of putting her in a gifted class, and I wanted to her to know that it wouldn't be that bad. In fact, it's pretty fun!
7. America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction, by Jon Stewart
I also really like politics and history (to an extent). This book is great because it's full of interesting, funny, and true information about America. I especially like that it's made to look like a textbook.
8. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
Reading this book in high school did two things: it cemented my stance on vegetarianism (and converted quite a few of my classmates, at least for a little while) and it got me interested in socialism. For years, I was convinced that socialism was the greatest political movement in the world, and that it was going to solve all of our economic problems. And then I realized that pure socialism is just not possible. Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward is good for this, too, but more depressing because it's actually a Utopian novel set in the year 2000.
9. Teacher Man, by Frank McCourt
A friend of mine in my Master's program had this book on CD; I used to listen to it while driving to my education classes. It's a great memoir about being a teacher and making a difference, something I hope I'll be able to do with my students.
10. Grrl Scouts, by Jim Mafood
This one is actually a graphic novel. Grrl Scouts was one of the first comic books I really got into. I picked it up because I was a Girl Scout for 12 years, and I was intrigued by the title. The "Scouts" in the book are actually a group of three urban girls who deal drugs, go clubbing, and graffiti public property...not your typical badge-earning cookie-pushers. But the story is fun and exciting (although probably not appropriate for all ages), and I loved the art.
So, there you have it. My Life Books. Visit SmallWorld Reads to get more information about the challenge and to sign up. Happy reading!