Currently Reading: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
Whew... long week, happy night. Autumn is almost upon us, friends. A season that, like spring, is full of anticipation and a celebration of change. One of my favorite words is "potential", which I think is a word that epitomizes fall. I love the implications of that word... that no matter who you are or at what stage of life you're in, you always have the potential to be who you want to be or do what you long to do. It may take a whole lifetime or it may never happen at all, but the potential is always there. It's inspiring, isn't it? It gives us something to work toward, something to dream about, something to motivate us and push us on. I have the potential to be a world-famous writer, a gourmet chef, an astronaut. It's all about the choice I make... do I want to realize this potential or not? Do I want to work toward this goal or should I choose a different potential? We are not automatons; God created us with the ability to have desires and to make choices. Every fall, I reflect on these things. The year is winding down, the land is ready to be harvested, and I can look at what I have accomplished, what I am still working on, and what "potential" lies ahead. The potential to make someone laugh.... the potential to make homemade apple pie.... the potential to inspire... the potential to be inspired. This life is a glorious thing.
See? There will be days when I just have to carve this blank space with the thoughts in my head, even if they're not specifically about books. However, isn't that ultimately why we read books? To foster our imagination, think for ourselves, and recognize the intricate layers of life and living?
Back to Part Two of the top ten book list:
1) Shannon by Frank Delaney
I love Frank Delaney. He seems like the kind of man who would give the best bear hugs, and if I ever meet that man, I hope I get one. What a talented writer and what an expressive voice. I often listen to audiobooks in the car as I drive and I actually first read Shannon as an audiobook. Frank Delaney narrates his own books, which is just marvelous. (Think about it... what is better than listening to an author read their entire book? Answer: Not much.) He has a voice that is completely mesmerizing. Sometimes I'd have to rewind just because I got lost in his nuances and accent, and forgot what in the world just happened. Listening to this book was a wonderful experience, and because I listened to it in the fall, every time I read it I picture orange leaves falling and the crisp fall air through the car window, or being parked in the cemetery, listening to the last chapter as the sun falls through the bright leaves and illuminates my car. A holy experience, that was. This book is about Ireland, a man struggling with the effects of war, and how Ireland heals him. And it is glorious. Read it... or listen to it. :)
Another book about Ireland (who is catching on to a theme here?) that takes place during the Great Potato Famine of the 1840s. It is absolutely heartwrenching... even more so because it is based on a true story. In a delightful "family history/genealogy" story that give genealogy nerds like me a thrill, the main character is actually the author's real great-great-grandmother, trying to raise a family and survive during one of the worst tragedies that ever hit Irish soil. Keep the Kleenex's handy, but also prepare yourself for a lot of smiles and inspiration and cheering. This book helped me remember, when I was going through a difficult time, the blessings that I do have. To make this book even better, I have recently learned that the author is working on a sequel! (Also, check out Kelly's website after you finish reading the book. You won't be disappointed.)
How could I not include this series on my favorites list? Little House is so famous, I don't need to give you a synopsis. Instead, I will give you an idea of how much these books are a part of my life. Little House in the Big Woods was the first "big kid" book I read when I was in first grade. The rest is history. My family and I once went on a Little House tour, stopping in Pepin, Walnut Grove, and DeSmet, visiting the sites and even staying in a cabin beside one of the lakes Laura and Almanzo used to drive by when they were courting. Growing up, my sister had a book of crafts and games that were mentioned in the Little House books. When we stayed at my Dad's farm for weekends, we would make corncob dolls, make "thimble pictures" on the windows, and molasses candy on pans of snow (with my parent's help, of course). As such a big part of our childhood, I believe the books helped foster mine and my sister's love for history as well as literature. To this day, every Christmas Eve, my sister and I (Nathan has been added to this tradition now) sit in the darkened kitchen; my sister makes cookies while I read all of the Christmas stories from each of the Little House books aloud. That half-hour is one of the most sacred parts of Christmas for me, a beautiful memory between two sisters that will be passed on to our own families someday.
Oh, goodness. This book. I love this book for many reasons: the relationship between Clare and Henry, the way it makes me continually stop and contemplate time and fate and inevitability and loss, the marvelous way in which Audrey Niffenegger constructed and wrote the book. But mostly I love it because it is a love story without the obvious ending, the dramatics, the ostentatious displays of affection, or Fabio on the cover. Two people who love each other... it could be a story about anybody.
I will most likely do a post within the next week about this series, since Nathan and I are in the midst of re-reading it. For now, I will state that this series is another that was a huge part of my childhood and has never really lost its charm. As I get older, I read the books for the characters and the fascinating character developments, as well the broader moral and ethical questions that are raised as the series continues. There are those who would denounce these books as "evil" or "anti-Christian" but they've obviously never read them. I cannot think of a series that better examines the struggle between right and wrong, and what a fine line that can be. The books examine the power of our choices (there's that "potential" thing cropping up again) and what it means to truly live for a cause. It explores just what our souls are capable of: both the good and the bad. Not only that, but they're a heck of a lot of fun to read out loud. (Especially for someone like me, who's been reading out loud and making up voices since before I actually knew how to read.) For those who are wary, it is worth a shot. It will definitely surprise you.