Sunday, November 21, 2010

30 for 30

Austin's beloved local independent book store, Book People, recently celebrated 40 years in business. As part of the lead-up to this anniversary, their marketing director published a list of the 40 books that made the biggest impression on her life. She chose 15 from her childhood, and 25 from her adult life. I found her list really fascinating and it made me recall some books I hadn't thought of in years. In honor of my own recent 30th birthday, here is my list of 30 books that have made an impression on my life so far. The books on the list aren't necessarily the greatest works ever, but they are ones that made an impression on me.

1. The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

This is the book I remember most vividly from my elementary school years. As a child, I was obsessed with all things Ancient Egypt. The main character in this book creates a game based on Ancient Egypt, and I absolutely loved reading about a girl just as nerdy as me.
2. The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
3. The Nancy Drew Mystery Stories by Carolyn Keene
4. The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
5. The Baby-Sitters Club series by Ann M. Martin
6. The Sweet Valley High series by Francine Pascal
7. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
8. Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
9. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
10. Dances with Wolves by Michael Blake

I actually read this in fifth grade. We had to read a work of historical fiction for a book report. I chose Dances with Wolves. I still can't imagine what possessed me to choose this at 12 years old - probably that it felt very grown-up. This was apparently a theme in my childhood.
11. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie 
12. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

My absolute favorite novel of all time.
13. The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
14. Kings of Infinite Space by James Hynes

The story is outlandish and there's a little too much deus ex machina in the last act, but the author's spot-on depiction of the working life of Texas state employees cannot be beat. Also, I don't think I'm spoiling too much when I tell you that it has zombies. Zombies!! 'Nuff said.
15. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
16. The Half-Jewish Book by Daniel Klein and Freke Vuijst

I remember stumbling across this book on the shelves at Barnes & Noble as a teenager. It was another one that made me think, "Hey! There are lots of people like me out there!"
17. Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl
18. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
19. Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers by Robert M. Sapolsky

After hearing the author on an episode of Radiolab (my favorite radio show/podcast *ever*), I checked out this book. It totally changed the way I think about the mind-body connection and how harmful stress can be to my physical health.
20. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
21. Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
22. The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell
23. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
24. Zorro by Isabel Allende
25. The Herbal Kitchen by Jerry Traunfeld

My favorite cookbook ever. The halibut in a carrot-cilantro broth is to. die. for.
26. Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
27. Living to Tell the Tale by Gabriel García Márquez
28. Different Seasons by Stephen King (especially the "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" novella)
29. The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
30. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

At the end of third grade, my teacher ordered dozens of books, let each student choose one as a gift, and then signed it for us. Mixed in that pile was Wuthering Heights. Being the thickest book with the fewest pictures, I chose it because it seemed the most adult. It was. I started it ten different times over the ensuing years and never got past the first page. I decided I hated Wuthering Heights. I didn't actually read it until senior year of high school, when it was required for my English class. I got through it that time. And you know what? I still didn't like it much.


shueytexas said...

Hey, I've read one of these!

ilovebabyquilts said...

Numbers 4 and 6 also figured very prominently in my childhood. Leo Buscaglia's book, Living, Loving and Learning was huge for me in my teenage years. Nice list!

Ms. Press said...

Ew, I didn't like Wuthering Heights either. And as someone who chose books largely, as a kid, based on whether the main characters had cool "old-fashioned dresses" or not, I definitely should have liked it. Good call on And Then There Were None--best mystery I've ever read, Encyclopedia Brown notwithstanding. :)

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