This post is about the authors whose books accompanied me through turning points, pulled me out of down times, and waltzed with me when things went well.
A post that promises to be long and winding deserves a soundtrack, don't you think? I give you the people of Open Books, a non-profit that promotes literacy and runs a bookstore in
. They want to encourage those of us who've grown overfond of our e-readers to get out, browse the shelves, and pick up a print book. Chicago
(Feel free to bust a move as you read on.) Earlier this month, Patricia Rickrode, who writes as Jansen Schmidt, gave me the Booker Award (not to be confused with the Man Booker Prize, ha!). Patricia also threw down a challenge: name my five favorite books and nominate three other bloggers for the award.
No way could I narrow down my favorite books to five, so I'm doing what Patricia did: naming influential authors. Each of my five taught me something/gave me something I needed at a particular point in my life. Just as a certain scarf, scent, or piece of jewelry evokes a particular time and place for me, so do these writers.
Mary Stewart – I must have been fourteen or fifteen when I discovered Mary Stewart and THE MOON SPINNERS. The windmill on the cover and exotic setting of
Crete hooked me. Most of all, I remember a scene in which the hero and heroine drag themselves from the water. The heroine was wearing a bathing suit, but when she and the hero embraced, she thinks, "We might as well have been naked." That sentence switched on my sexuality. One minute I was a kid, and the next, I wasn't. While I loved THIS ROUGH MAGIC and AIRS ABOVE THE GROUND, and MY BROTHER MICHAEL, THE MOON SPINNERS was my first Stewart and is unforgettable because it opened me to possibility. An ordinary (although lovely and plucky) woman could stumble into and get herself out of danger--while falling in love. Stewart's settings also gave me a permanent hunger for travel.
Maeve Binchy – I'd been an English major in college, which meant I read so much literary fiction, I forgot why I liked to read. My mother passed along Maeve Binchy's first book, LIGHT A PENNY CANDLE, published thirty-two years ago. Binchy pulled me out of my mired-in-first-job funk and reminded me why I enjoy slipping into the lives of others and experiencing their problems, adventures, and triumphs. Binchy's books would accompany me through motherhood, two careers, and inspire me to write fiction.
Nora Roberts – I was a mom, working at a job that valued repartee, cynicism, and zeal for working long hours. Alas, I'm lousy at repartee, passed skepticism but failed at cynicism, and was wracked with guilt over the hours spent away from my family. Enter Nora Roberts. The first novel I read might have been SA
CRED SINS in 1987. Her stories offered escape, a fast pace, and lean prose—all appreciated by a working mom with little free time.
Susan Elizabeth Phillips – HEAVEN,
wasn't Susan Elizabeth Phillips' first book but was the first of hers I read. It was released in paperback in April, 1995, the month and year my then-employer, The Houston Post, printed its last newspaper. If one finds herself in unemployment hell, a feel-good story is as necessary as food and water. SEP came through for me again eleven years ago this week. After the TEXAS fell, I turned to THIS HEART OF MINE. The story's heroine is a children's book author, and I clung to Daphne the Bunny and Benny the Badger as much as I leaned on the church-camp-turned-B&B setting with its pastel cottages and water views. This book was an emotional refuge for me, and I'm not exaggerating when I say I'd finish it one evening and re-start it the next. Twin Towers
My choice for writer number five is many writers. During Houston's hot, humid summers, I count on British and Irish writers for relief. Why? Cool, rainy settings refresh me when my front lawn is so dry it crackles. When the temps are in the nineties, I want books from Marian Keyes, Lucy Dillon, Maggie O'Farrell, Jojo Moyes, Marcia Willett, and the list goes on and on.
I haven't singled out favorite Houston-based writers, favorite writers I know personally, or favorite writers I've taken classes from because it's so hard to pick and choose from those groups, I didn't try.
The Booker Award goes to the following bloggers: Lark Haward of THIS blog, Kay Hudson, and Karen McFarland. It never expires, so there's no pressure to post about it anytime soon.
Readers, your turn. What writer or book provided inpiration, comfort, or a kick in the pants at a particular point in your life?