Monday, January 26, 2009

Day 4 of (let's just go with) this Year - The Literary Grace

By the way, have you noticed there was no grace around these parts the past two days?  Let's just forget the math and assume that I am grateful but non-posty on weekends.

Today I bring you the literary grace, which, wow, go ahead and try and narrow down your book love into 5 measly bullet points.... not easy.  However, I decided to try and focus on those books which brought more to my life than just a good story... books which pointed me in new directions, changed my perspective or, in some cases, saved my sanity... there is nothing impressive here... you won't read this list and think, "She's so erudite!", but, these are the books I reach for again and again.  And again and again.

1.  Nancy Drew.  It's a well documented fact that I wanted to grow up to be Nancy Drew.  What with her sleek blue convertibles, smart shoes and enviable ability to excel at everything from trick riding (The Scarlet Slipper Mystery) to golf (The Whispering Statue) to archaeology (The Secret of the Forgotten City) all while solving mysteries.  She was my first hero, giving to  me to me the gift of reading.  Of being excited to get the next book in a series.  Of bugging my mom to take me the book store or the library... of having a world to lose myself in... I started reading Nancy Drew in the second grade and I still, to this day, have been known to curl up her, my old friend, when I need an escape.

2.  David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty One Day/Santaland Diaries -  Feeling blue?  Need a laugh?  Want to know the French word for "slaughterhouse"?  Sedaris is one of the few writers who makes me laugh out loud... not a chuckle or a smirk, I am talking full on cracking up.  In fact, a few years ago, I made an extreme ass out of myself on the F train, cackling like a mental patient.  Oh David Sedaris, I love you.

3.  Edna St. Vincent Millay - a lifetime of hiding my supreme ignorance on the genre of poetry, I was finally saved from myself by the works of Edna St. Vincent Millay.  My copy of her biography is so battered and dog-eared and notated that it's criminal.  Have you read, Savage Beauty?  You should.

4.  Sarah Vowell, Assassination Vacation - History at it's most personal and relatable.  My son had a report due on Abraham Lincoln and, while all the other (good) parents dutifully took their children to the library for (dry) biographies, I handed him my (again battered... sign of a well loved book) copy.  The Assassination of Lincoln is the only first 1/3 of the book, but he came away from that assignment with a better understanding of the that time in history than the majority of kids in his class... he had a grasp on the very real feelings and emotions and reactions of the major players... he saw them as people, not just "the past".  She is a genius.  I wonder if she has a Facebook page?  I think I need to become a fan.

5.  Sarah Caudwell - author of 4 of the wittiest British mysteries you could ever hope to read... funny, clever, circular logic and with the most convoluted plots... the writing is formal with great attention paid to the little details of everyday life... rather a modern P.G. Wodehouse with homage (via extensive letter writing as integral to the plot) to Jane Austen.

So, there you go. 5 of my most beloved books (or series).  This list could be much longer, but these were the immediate 5 which came to mind which is, I think, the point of this exercise... to look around and see what gives you grace.


Jill said...

I love Sedaris and Vowell! I have everything either one of them has ever writtne (in book form, I mean. I don't have their term papers or anything.) Brilliance!!

Stephanie said...

Yeah, Sedaris is not an author you want to read in public, since he is just so damn funny!

Jen on the Edge said...

Since you love Nancy Drew, you have to read "Confessions of a Teen Sleuth," which is a killer satire of the teen sleuth genre.

I love David Sedaris! I've also recently become a fan of Augusten Burroughs, who is edgier and cusses a lot more.

Kristin said...

Jill - Oh, college essays! We need those!

Steph - Yes, awkward!

Jen - I've read it... unfortunately, I'm too possessive of my own idea of Nancy's "everyday" life to enjoy someone else's... I was all, 'Frank Hardy? NO WAY!"

dgm said...

Yay for David Sedaris! He's totally wet-my-pants funny, as is his sister Amy's book "I Like You."

I have a copy of Edna St. Vincent Millay poems I got from my mom. I should crack it open.

Los said...

I'm not much into books ... I used to be, but just haven't made the time for them.

Crouching Mother Hidden Diva said...

1. Pride & Prejudice
2. Sense & Sensibility
3. Emma
4. The Red Tent
5. Harry Potter series

REALLY hard to narrow it to 5!

Pollyanna said...

I am a avid reader and I have read NONE of those books. How shocking is that?!??! Here's my fav 5:

1) PoisonWood Bible
2) Wild Swans (you should read this one, it's a true story about three generations of women in's soooooo good!)
3) She's Come Undone
4) Size 14 isn't fat either
5) Strange Fits of Passion

priscilla peppercorn said...

Looking forward to checking out Sedaris...since I made a commitment to myself to read ONLY books that will make me laugh. Just say no to books about raping and pillaging. That's all readily available mindlessly on the evening news.

Anonymous said...

I also like the cozy mysteries. Miss Marple is my all time favorite.

Do you read Bill Bryson? He's terrific!

Joe said...

Sedaris is amazing. Very few things make me laugh out loud but he never fails.

Anonymous said...

Heard the little one had her first cooking lesson. Is Jones safe?

carrie said...

Good list - I'm always in the mood for David Sedaris. I gave my mom the Holidays on Ice for Xmas and when I called her last weekend to check in when they had the kids she told me "oh they're fine, we've locked them outside and we're inside drinking and smoking." Apparently there's something in the book about that . . .

She's a joker, that mom of mine. But anyway - thanks for pointing out some interesting reads.

Kristin said...

Jones is learning to duck and weave at a faster pace.

Anonymous said...

Isn't the project 365 days? Where are you (again!)????

Jason, as himself said...

Another Sedaris fan here. My favorite is Naked.

Mocha said...

Sedaris, Vowell andmy girl Edna?

When we separated at birth you got all the good hair. I want it back now.

Anonymous said...

Heard the little one spends a lot of time with Jones. If you notice that she has him on a short leash or in a cage and is feeding him more, watch out