I have been tagged to list ten books that have influenced me. My knee-jerk reaction was not to do it, because my list would look nothing like others’ lists that are popping up on Facebook. I started to get a complex, reading these erudite lists.
Mine would have no Virginia Woolf or Doris Lessing or Octavia Butler or anything that makes me look or feel wise and smart. In my girlhood, I was touched by the Brontes and Mary Stewart and Daphne duMaurier and Laura Ingalls Wilder…books that had nothing to do with “literaryness” and everything to do with my yearning for a bigger world from my little rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, where there were no prairies, no moors, no snow, no castles, no moody atmosphere, no seasons. Where I didn’t look like anyone else at my school. Where I was privileged but felt something was missing. I was different (what young person doesn’t feel different, I now wonder?).
I could have included Woolf’s Room of One’s Own on my list, because it gave me an early high horse upon which to stand when demanding my own sacred space in which to write, whether it was an IBM Selectric that took up a significant amount of space in the corner of our first bedroom, a closet-sized room in our first house, or this lovely room I now have. But putting Room of One’s Own on a list is kind of cheating, isn’t it?
So my list is largely made up of books that became important to me in my 30s and 40s, or books from my youth that I continue to think about as I creep up on spitting distance of 50.
The Motorcyle Diaries, Che Guevara. Because when I finished reading this library book, which I can’t begin to fathom why I picked up in the first place, I said to MIM, “Let’s buy a motorcycle.” And we did. And we rode it. Which probably saved my marriage. And because it showed me how much difference one person in the world can make. What a guy. A young, good-looking, well-to-do guy travelled to visit lepers when few would go near them, and he gained empathy for the native people of his continent as he journeyed. He could have spent his summer going to the beach, frolicking with his fiancée. Whatever your views about what he did later and who he became, it’s a stunning thing to witness a young person’s consciousness expanding on the page.Read More »