Top 5 Books of Ever

These are the books that lingered. That became part of my DNA. That when I hear them mentioned, I feel a soft longing. In other words, forever books. What books are like that for you?

1) "Tree Grows in Brooklyn" by Betty Smith: I love this book so much I call my eldest Neeley, after the main character's brother. I feel a glow when I remember that I share my birthday with the main character, and the author (and Siena shares a birthday with the main character's sister, I swear I didn't do anything to make that happen). I've read the book so much, I feel like I've lived in Brooklyn. This book crossed with me during all of my milestones—I started re-reading it before Keith and I got married, and finished it afterwards. And I did the same thing when I had each of my children (I've given them their own copy on their 11th birthdays). I recuse myself when Tree is the subject of conversation, I just can't handle the thought of having to hear it criticized. And I buy it whenever I see it at a used book shop. I have my original copy, the first edition Keith got me, a paperback traveling copy, a first edition paperback, plus a few more. 

So I guess that doesn't tell you anything about the book. Tree is a coming of age story of a girl growing up in Brooklyn. This book is all heart—when I read it, I feel like I'm there, experiencing the high and low moments, which is made easier thanks to Betty Smith's deft hand at description, characterization, and storytelling. It's a masterpiece. If you love it, tell me. If you don't, I don't want to know.

2) "The Kitchen God's Wife" by Amy Tan: This is also a sort of coming-of-age book, about a woman discovering herself in China, a mother and daughter discovering their relationship, and that daughter discovering her connection to her Chinese ancestry. The story is riveting, one of those I can't put down. 

3) "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen: The manners of people in Jane Austen's day fascinate me—all the rules around who should initiate introductions, who can issue invitations, and so forth. There's a real sense of comfort and safety in such an ordered society, and a real sense of zeal when that order is disrupted. Plus Jane Austen can spin a character you love to hate like nobody's business. How I'd like to pop Caroline Bingley in the nose.

4) "Howard's End" by EM Forster: This is one I love, not just for the story, but also for the philosophy. "Only connect!" is a running them in my mind, and I use many of the ideas I gleaned from this book in therapy, particularly the notion of "rent". In that sometimes when we lose or mess up, it's just rent for being the kind of person we want to be (trusting, trying, aspirational).

5) "The Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingsolver: I once read that a great author can be judged by flipping to quotes in a book and being able to tell who said the quote just by the "voice". Barbara Kingsolver nails this. I learned so much about the Congo reading this book, but I also just enjoyed the storytelling—the slipping and twisting of the growth of each sister and their relationships.