A little less than a year ago, at a friend’s suggestion and my push, a book club was formed. It contains 75% of everyone I know in Wilmington. The other 25% of people I know are probably all coworkers. I’m pretty enamored with our book club which we call The Bookplates. We are dorky enough to have a name and a Twitter account, albeit a rarely used one. This is the sort of book club where wine actually comes second to discussing the book (it’s a close second) and so far every member has read the entire book each time (with rare exceptions).
In the eight months we’ve been meeting we’ve read:
*My favorites thus far.
For January’s book club we were asked to bring a list of five books to share with one another. We could give the list any theme we wanted. Some were based on books of their youth, some were books they thought about a lot- it varied. I pondered my list for several days and asked the advice of multiple friends. Slowly my list became “The Most Memorable and Influential Books in the Life of Kat B.” I excel at titles.
These are somewhat in chronological order.
Growing up I owned a hardback version with a soft, blue, faux leather cover. Throughout the book were illustrations of important scenes in the March family’s life. Each picture was preceded by a fine piece of tissue paper. It was most likely some sort of Barnes and Noble edition but I treated like a first edition. It was sacred. Sometimes I would trace the drawings onto a piece of paper and pretend I was Amy March. Other times I would write stories and pretend I was Jo March. These girls were in a world that didn’t encourage them to be creative but they would not be stifled.
If you need a writer to get obsessed with, pick Joyce Carol Oates. She’s written so many novels/novellas/short stories/plays/essays in her life that you will never run out of material. It is impossible. For six+ years I rarely read anything but Oates and it all started with Foxfire. I was sixteen working at the performing arts theater in Winston-Salem and a coworker, much cooler and older than I, gave me her copy. She let me keep it and I’ve probably read it ten or more times. It was a book about passion, anger, belonging and the fierceness of young women. I think I’m done reading and collecting Joyce Carol Oates books, but Foxfire will always be at the top of my book list.
Stop what you’re doing. Read this book. If you live in the South or are interested in the South, you must read it. This book is as laugh out loud funny as it is totally disturbing. Tony Horwitz travels around to different states in the Confederacy trying to determine why the Civil War is still so important to Southerners. I was concerned when I first started this book that it would leave me feeling ashamed to be a Southerner. Not a chance. Southerners are complicated and generous with their crazy flags flying high. Also, as the book shows Southerners are not all alike, contrary to popular belief.
I can’t explain exactly why this book made my list. It’s just the kind of compelling story that never leaves you. It’s the story of Peekay, a white boy in South Africa, whose life shows us the Apartheid, South African culture, boxing and his coming of age. It’s a book I would recommend to anyone, especially someone who hasn’t been reading much and needs a compelling story to motivate them to read more. This will do the trick.
I’ve met a lot of people who hated Wild but when I read it, quickly and without stopping, I felt like the book had become a permanent part of me. It’s words and story stand out clearly in my mind and when I reflect on it, I first feel the story somewhere within me behind my sternum, near my heart. It is not a tale I have experienced but it’s something I read and thought, “Oh yes, I could see this happening to me or someone like me.” It also pulls me outside. No, I don’t want to lose all my toenails nor venture into the woods with an improperly packed bag and not nearly enough camping knowledge. I do; however, want to experience the meditation of a solo hike in the woods.
And so this is me, if I were a list of books.