When I moved back to Australia and into my current apartment about a year ago, I had to undergo a considerable downsize. For one person I had managed to accumulate an incredible amount of ‘stuff’. It took three garage sales, two runs to Saint Vincent De Paul and multiple council pick-ups before I reached a state of ‘order’ and ‘harmony’. Trust me, I’m not a hoarder. This was merely the combination of having lived across three countries for six years and work-imposed restrictions about what can be taken on a posting, which inevitably results in half your life going into storage. But I admit, I do have one weakness – books.
In fictional Fluffy land (pun intended) I always imagined that I would one day own a stately home with endless gardens and a library. All those sweet, clever words, thumbed through pages, pieces of people’s hearts and souls, shored up and shared. And me, sitting in a quaint window seat, lost in another world. It was all so romantic… until I had to pack those books into boxes, lots and lots of boxes, and heave them out to the car to be moved half way across the country or across an ocean.
So this time, when I unpacked all those boxes I put the books into two piles – read and unread. I knew it would be the pile of books I had read and loved that would cause me most heartache. In letting them go I honestly felt as though I was saying goodbye to a dear friend. So I made a decision, I could only keep books I had read if I truly did love them like a friend – if just looking at their cracked bindings and titles reminded me of journeys we took together, lessons we shared, truths we spoke. The rest went to the library, including the unread books… once I had read them. I also banned myself from buying anymore books, until I had read what I had… that was probably a bridge too far…
In an attempt to improve my mind through extensive reading, however, for my staycation this year I downloaded one of those ‘must read’ lists… but then I started to really look at the list and I wasn’t entirely convinced. And I wondered what my own list would look like, what the books were that had truly stretched and expanded my mind, challenged the way I think, opened my heart or simply told a good story.
And this is what I came up with – in no particular order and without wanting to do a complete book review
“And I began to see things in a way that let me hold the world without me in it.”
I have a soft spot for Jewel – I love her honesty about where she has come from, the experiences that have shaped her and her insights into love. My favourite poem in A Night Without Armor is ‘Bleary eyed’.
“I saw my heart, with quiet eyes, to your side, its self was gently sewing”
I first read Midnight’s Children when I was at university. It has stayed with me since. My copy of the book (image to left) is riddled with hand-written notes, underlined and highlighted with exclamation marks.
“But the future cannot be preserved in a jar; one jar must remain empty…”
The Red Tent is another one of my dear friends. Dinah’s experiences both inside and outside the tent are rich in detail and emotion. I’m glad I didn’t live through those times, but I do envy the bonds and sense of belonging.
“If you want to understand any woman you must first ask about her mother and then listen carefully.”
This delight is about an ending becoming a beginning. It’s full of personalities and truth and The Sewing Circus (that’s all I’m saying – you’ll just have to read it).
“And we danced too wild, and we sang too long, and we hugged too hard, and kissed too sweet…”
Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss looks at the energy system encoded in your body that links you directly to the world’s great spiritual traditions – it’s about the connection of all life. This is one of the books I was talking about that challenges the way you think.
“We have converted our wounds into a type of ‘relationship currency’ that we use in order to control situations and people.”
I read this book after spending a year in Iraq – I had my own tales, which is perhaps why A Hundred and One Days touched me so deeply. This is Asne Seierstad’s (of ‘The Bookseller of Kabul’) account of her time in Baghdad as a reporter and of the people she met.
“In Iraq we are ready for war, like you are ready for winter.”
My first exposure to Night Letters was on ABC Radio during one of my many long drives across Western NSW visiting school (back in my old life). It got such that I would time my long drives for a chance to listen to these letters. Afterwards, I just had to go and see Venice.
“‘love’… well, we never stop thinking about it in one form or another do we.”
I have more than one favourite Paulo Coelho book, but The Alchemist is very clever in capturing so much truth in such a simply story.
“One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving.”
“It may be unfair, but what happens in a few days, sometimes even a single day, can change the course of a whole lifetime…”
“There was nothing dishonourable in not being blown about by every little modern wind. Better to have worth, to entrench, to be an oak of one’s own generation.”
This is my well worn copy of Jane Eyre that I like to dip in to on quiet evenings.
“Happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness; it has no taste.”
“I am old enough to know only too well my good and bad qualities, which were often one in the same.”
Of course, there are more… Pride and Prejudice, The Diary of Anne Frank, Hatchet, Schindler’s Ark, The Book Thief, My Name Is David, and of course, Murakami’s ‘What I talk About When I talk About Running’.
What’s on your list?