Books That Linger

images“Janet,” a friend said, “I just finished a great book, and I think you’d like it.” Few words rivet my attention like those; though recently “You won’t need another colonoscopy for ten years” came close.

I smiled when she told me the book’s title and author: A Tangled Web written in 1931 by L.M. Montgomery, the author who brightened my childhood with Anne of Green Gables. I devoured
Anne
and its sequels, but soon abandoned the plucky orphan for Jo of Little Women. Still, I remember Anne: a talkative youngster with hair accidentally dyed green who lived on a wooded island surrounded by the sea.

Some books I enjoy in the moment; some I remember; some I treasure.

I once took a class where I had to list a book that lingered in my mind for each decade of my life. Wonderfully, I wasn’t required to justify my selections; but I was expected to discuss them with the class. We were told to credit the authors, even if we had to look them up because we’d forgotten. No mention was made of genre or favorites or impact, only linger-ability.

We had to be reminded more than once that the list was based on our age when we read the book, as best we could recall, not its date of publication.

Here’s my list. I was 40 at the time, so I’ve added to it since.

Age           Title and Author

0-9             Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

10-19          The Sound and the Fury by William                              Faulkner

20-29          One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by                            Ken Kesey

30-39          The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward                         Abbey

40-49           The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

50-60           Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Unknown-1Studying the list, I see that my choices reflect where I was in my life when I read them: a child handed a book by her mother at exactly the right age, a college student assigned to read a classic, the wife of a man changed by Viet Nam, a backpacker alive to the splendors of wilderness areas.

I continue to read avidly, knowing no joy greater than that of recognizing a book that will linger.

I’d enjoy seeing a book or two that you, my readers, would choose for any or all of the decades of your lives, books of any genre that have stayed with you for any reason. And if you’d like to explain a selection to two, I’d be interested.

By leaving a book, or books, and your approximate age in a comment, you’ll be allowing me a glimpse into your life.

I’d like that.

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48 thoughts on “Books That Linger

  1. Oh I love this post! I didn’t start reading with any enjoyment until I was in my late teens. I LOVED the Poisonwood Bible.

    0-9 The BFG by Rohl Dahl (I had terrible nightmares growing up, still do if I am not true to myself, this was a great escape for me)
    35-40 The Color of the Wild by Gin Getz (this inspiring author’s memoir has shifted so much, the strength to write from the heart, the courage to follow my heart to the trees and the will to keep learning)

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    • Carrie, thanks for your response. I was so hoping to get some insight into the lives of my readers, which you allowed, and to learn about new authors I haven’t read. I’m unfamiliar with Gin Getz, but will find her. I used to read the books of the marvelous Mr. Dahl to my students; they howled with laughter along with me.

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      • Gin is such a gem!! she blogs and has just come out with a second book “The Last of the Living Blue”. http://www.gingetz.com She is an incredible writer, storyteller, poet and photographer. I am grateful to call her a friend since getting an opportunity to review both of her books. I think you will appreciate her 🙂 And she will in turn appreciate you!

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      • Again, thanks for this great lead, Carrie. I just visited Gin’s blog, was delighted to find she’s from Colorado also,and will become a reader of her blog and book as well.

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  2. This is a challenge, but a good one.

    0-9 years: A series of books by Marie-Louise Fischer about a girl named Delia. She is a 19th-century tomboy and runs away from home to find her father who left the family hoping to make a fortune in America. Highly improbable, very adventurous, really funny.

    For the following decades I can only name authors, because once I discover an author I like, I try to read everything he or she wrote:

    10-19: Ehm Welk, Colette, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Wolfgang Borchert
    20-29: Ernst Wiechert, Luigi Pirandello, Giovanni Verga, Albertine Sarrazin,Vikram Seth, Stefan Zweig, Heinrich Mann
    30-39: Federico García Lorca, Zora Neale Hurston, Jamaica Kincaid, Barbara Kingsolver (I loved The Poisonwood Bible)
    40-… struggling with Chaucer and Cervantes, recently discovered the poets Rafael Alberti and Alfonsina Storni

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    • I appreciate the way you adapted my task to better fit your needs, Paulina. I’m also appreciative of your language skills. How many languages do you speak? There are authors on your list I haven’t read, but know of. I’ll check them out. And finally, I, too, struggled with Chaucer, but worked my way through to enjoyment. So good to hear from you.

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  3. “The Hardy Boys”, when I was a lad. “Catcher in the Rye” as a young adult. “Where Did You Go? Out. What Did You Do? Nothing.” also as a young adult. “The Zealot”, just recently. Today I prefer historical novels and fiction about Appalachia.

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  4. Hello again-Ah books- my life long companions.. The Things They Carried is a great book, my first non children’s book was The Odyessy of Homer, at 8. The Grapes of Wrath, Narnia, Dove,( the Lad who sailed around the world) Dr Suess, whom I still list as my Dr on forms and no one has ever asked. The Outlander series and not ashamed to say it. The stories of The Smeeton’s who sailed around the world. Little House on The prairie. All Barbara Kingsover..I could rabbit on..Great Post Thanks, mt Tuesday treat.

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    • Of course you read those books and many more. Dorothy Parker once wrote that to be a good writer, as you are, a person needs to read and read and read then write and write and write. I wish I had thought of your Dr. Seuss trick. Janet

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  5. Hi Janet- never too late to do the Seuss Trick. Mrs Cox took all year in third grade to read us Lion, Witch and The Wardrobe. I lived for arithmetic to be over when she would read..on the last day someone annoyed her and she refused to complete the book. I still feel the injustice. Funny you mention Dorothy Parker, she is a favorite..remember Big Glad? And William Saroyan’s “The Parsley Garden” All read in school. More recent influences are Brautigan and the Australian Bush Balladeers, I love Henry Lawson. Long love the word! Sheila.

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  6. Reblogged this on The Zombies Ate My Brains and commented:
    My first thought when I read this post by Janet on Aunt Beulah’s blog was, “What a great idea! I will reblog!” Then I thought, “How in the world will I be able to remember the books I’ve read from way back then?” Instead, when specific titles elude me, I’ve included the authors.

    You might want to join in and contribute a list of your own.

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  7. 0 – 9 Audubon’s Birds of America. That, and Nancy Drew
    10 – 19 Catcher in the Rye, what else?
    20 – 29 Any author whose first name started with John: Irving, Barth, Fowles. Particualry Barth’s Tidewater Tales.
    30 – 39 Every book by Vladimir Nabokov in chronological order
    40 – 49 Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws of Success and Elaine Aron’s The Highly Sensitive Person
    50 – 59 Bozo Sapiens by Michael Kaplan

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  8. 1-9 Hans Christian Anderson
    10-19 The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkein
    20-29 The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
    30-39 The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene
    40-49 The River Runs Through It by Norman Mclean
    50-59 The Old Capital by Yasunari Kawabata
    60-6? The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

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    • Don, I feel like the same forces created our reading tastes. I carefully considered five of the books you mention for my decades, with the Hemingway and Graham Greene books barely being edged out. I read everything they wrote. I’ve added The Old Capital to my list of books to investigate. Thanks for responding.

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  9. Wonderful examples you chose, oh how I loved Louisa Mc Alcott, such a long forgotten treasure, I will look for in my shelves, in the moment ( 26 ) and with great delight I read Henri Fournier’s Grand Meaulnes, and his story about one last summer and the memoirs of Siegfrid Sassoon, one of the many biographies of the “old Europe”

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    • I still have my childhood copy of Little Women and when I pick it up, it falls open to the passages I returned to again and again as a child. I will take a look at Grand Meaulnes and Sassoon’s memoir. I envy you all the years of reading you have ahead.
      Janet

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  10. I’m 76 yrs old and have read so many books that my brain hurts. Where would I be without books, probably locked away somewhere . I had a troubled childhood but , with the help of tales to whisk me away to different places, I could conquer the world. Love the sentence , “You won’t need another colonoscopy for ten years” , know the feeling.

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  11. Fun. Interesting to read others’. Thanks.
    0-9–The Revolving Boy, E=MC2, Mon Amour (in translation), D’Aulaires’ Greek Myths
    10-19–Robert Heinlein, C.S.Lewis (incl. The Screwtape Letters), Alan Garner, Catcher In the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, Ross MacDonald, Kemelman’s Rabbi Small books
    20-29—Heller’s Something Happened, Gardner’s October Light, Updike’s Rabbit books, Nabokov’s Lolita, Chaucer’s Tales, Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, IBM manuals
    30-39—Goodnight Moon, System specs, Goodnight Moon, Squirrel Nutkin, Stephen King, Goodnight Moon, Dean Koontz
    40-49—Carol O’Connell, Michael Connelly, John Sandford, Harlen Coben, Lee Child
    50-59—Neal Stephenson, David Brin, A Heartbreaking Work…, Bill Bryson, children’s books, non-fiction,

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    • I can tell you love books and read voraciously with wide-ranging interests. I’m glad you included and mentioned children’s books; I loved teaching children because of the fine literature written for them. Thanks for your response. I’ll be visiting your blog soon.

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  12. What a great thing to think about… You have started me thinking of so many books. Shall write a blog soon on this theme, so thank you for initiating these precious memories.

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  13. Lately I’ve only read books written by members of Gather. Too bad that site’s failing. Tried my hand at editing and proofing—found I stunk at it, but am presently helping a friend publish her book of poetry. Guess all of my favorite books are ones you might never of heard of.

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  14. I was so excited to share books and authors I enjoy that I started typing away. Two single-space Microsoft Word pages later I thought “this isn’t working”. So, I’ve narrowed my list to your request for a memorable book (books) per decade.

    1-9 Aesop’s Fables, The Secret Garden, The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Warner. Years later I read the Boxcar Children to my grandson and saw in his face the realization that books are amazing.

    10-19 Call of the Wild/White Fang by Jack London, The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. The Good Earth by Pearl Buck, which burned my 13 yr. old heart with the knowledge that people of all cultures are similar in their human condition and love for their families.

    20-29 Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindberg. Wise words about self and motherhood when I needed them most.

    30-39 Games People Play, To Kill a Mockingbird

    40-49 Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, most of the Kurt Vonnegut books

    50-59 The Poisonwood Bible, The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav

    60-69 A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

    70+ Americanah by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie

    There are so many wonderful suggestions from others that I’ll probably owe my soul to Amazon.com.

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    • Welcome back, Mary. I’ve missed your comments. What a wonderful list of books you compiled; I especially enjoyed your explanatory comments. I didn’t list a book for my 7th decade, but Americanah may be my choice as well. Thank you for that. Janet

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  15. Oh my, so many books to count as the best.
    Little Women, Grapes of Wrath, most all of Ernest Hemingway, then Catcher in the Rye was scandalous, but the best! Anne Morrow Lindbergh captivated me as a young wife along with reading Marilyn French with my ‘Women’s Group’. Corrie TenBoom and Elie Wiesel ‘Night’ remain powerful. Babies and toddlers helped me discover Dr Seuss, Silverstein and so many delightful, youthful writers. ‘Alexander and the Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day’ was an all time favorite.
    The dog eared books I have include Gretel Ehrlich, ‘The Solace of Open Spaces’ which makes my heart sing with happiness of being in the out of doors. Often I recommend Anne Lamott, Don Ruiz and Thomas Merton. And so many more favorites. Aren’t we lucky to have such choices?

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  16. Hi Janet,

    I’ve returned from a vacation without internet access so I’m catching up on reading your blogs!

    I love the idea of listing a favorite/lingering book for each decade of life. That must have been a great class you took!

    There have been so many books, but one which stands out in my mind from the age of 0-9 is “A Lantern in Her Hand” by Bess Streeter Aldrich. The main character is a pioneer girl (Abby) in Nebraska, born in the 1840s, and the story follows her as she ages. At the end of the book Abby Deal is an old woman, reflecting on all the changes and challenges of her life. For some reason I was enthralled with the character, imagining my 9 year-old self as an old woman some day. Now, I fear that day is much, much closer than it used to be!

    A book I loved and read a few times while in my 40s was “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson. I laughed out loud while reading this account of the author’s attempt at completing a hike of The Appalachian Trail. And I wondered if it was something I could attempt as well.

    This post has given me food for thought, as I reminisce about all the books which have entertained me throughout the years. Thanks for sharing!

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  17. A vacation without the Internet. How wonderful! I hope you had a great time. I’m going to have to read “A Walk in the Woods.” several people have mentioned it to me. It’s good to hear from you as always.

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