When I read something I love, I read with a pen, with a fervor, with an impatience. I prefer paperback books so I can crease the binding. When I love a book, it looks battered and abused. In my lifetime, I have gone through four copies of Macbeth that have, quite literally, fallen apart on me. This year it was time for a replacement – the last one was about 9 years ago. I tried to save it with packing tape, glue, rubber-bands, but it was beyond repair. I love my books to their death.
One of the saddest moments of my life was moving from my parents’ house to my first apartment. My Dad had built shelves for every inch of my room so I was always surrounded by the books I read, blanketed by their hopes and dreams. When I had to move, there was no room for the books and my parents wanted to convert the room. I tried to sell them, give them away, donate them, but to no avail. I remember I placed an ad on Craiglist saying “free books” and I just left them out on a table on my front lawn. It was August. A whole day passed and it began to rain. I stood out there in the rain with my books as their words dripped from their pages, disappearing to only live in my mind. Homeless, lost; I was abandoning the pages that comforted me for my entire life.
I slumped into the grass and just cried. All around me, I watched the end of the wild things, of Desdemona, of Portia; I said goodbye to Heathcliff, Red Horse, and Sebastian. It was the dawn of a new era and the death of another.
Moving into that apartment without my books, I have never truly recovered. People have bought me books since then, but I quickly try to get rid of them or bring them with me to school because I will not make another home library again. I have this deep fear that I will have to abandon my books again someday and I just don’t think I could live through that kind of loss again.
As an English teacher by day, this is one of the hardest questions I receive. I usually throw my hands up and say that I don’t know, but this time, I am not allowing myself any excuses. What I simply cannot do is choose one of these books over the other because I love each of them for different reasons. What I guarantee is that each of these books has somehow cut me to the core, whether it was breaking my heart, relating to me at the time I needed it to, making me aware, or inciting other inspiration.
Here is “the list,” in no particular order:
- Macbeth by William Shakespeare
- Hamlet by William Shakespeare
- The Tempest by William Shakespeare
- The Giver by Lois Lowry
- 1984 by George Orwell
- The Road by Cormac McCarthy
- Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
- Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
- The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
- Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
- The entire Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
- Grendel by John Gardner
- As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
- From Good to Great by James C. Collins