What you see in the picture above are the very, very few works of fiction that made it through The Move of June 2017. I should clarify that these are MY books - my daughter has a five-shelf book case crammed with beloved old friends, books yet-to-be-read and quite a few dragon eggs, and on another shelf in my office are fictional favorites from my childhood as well as my kids' - the Little House series, the Harry Potter series, the Hunger Games series and several other essential odds and ends.
These twelve, though, are special. They are books my bookshelf just wouldn't be complete without.
I have to say, posting this picture is a little uncomfortable. It's a little too revealing, like posting a picture of oneself in a bikini before you're sure you're truly bikini-worthy. I'm a little worried about judgement, and I am certain many of my fellow readers will understand. The books we choose to read and keep say a lot about us, sometimes more than we want said.
Until our recent move, my space for bookshelves was extremely limited, and over the years I've gotten into the habit of letting the books I read for pleasure come and go. I am a regular patron of the library and the used bookstore, and if I don't have a good reason to keep a book, I send it on its way when I'm finished. Given the abundance of research books on my other shelves (everything from palmistry to warrior culture to alternative spirituality - a topic for another newsletter), I will probably continue my catch-and-release ways with fiction.
But about these twelve...
Since I'm a futurist, the presence of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 and George Orwell's 1984 shouldn't be surprises. I don't keep a copy of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley because it depressed the life out of me, and teaching it to 10th graders for several years running was enough exposure for me, thanks.
I have had this copy of Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell since college. I have probably read it all the way through five times, and parts of it uncountable dozens. Scarlett O'Hara is, in my opinion, a consummate survivor. From her, I learned that you could really, really not like a character and still admire her tenacity, her determination, her will to survive. And seriously, any woman who could come up with a fashionable dining-room-curtain ensemble and nearly pull it off - you've just got to give her the nod for that.
The Nora Roberts trilogy is my all-time favorite in the "my life is a wasteland of regret and woe and I need chocolate NOW" category - when I have got to leave the real world behind for a few hours, these books comfort me like no others. Similarly, Linda Howard's Son of the Morning is my forever-favorite romance novel, in part because the main character survives a horrible tragedy, transforms herself, and goes on to survive and thrive. Something familiar about that...
The Proud Breed by Celeste De Blasis is a favorite from my teen years, a family saga that never fails to make me cry when I need to cry. And Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel was an absolute ground-breaker in its time - I always said I would grab it for reference if I had to bug out in a hurry - though I have no use for the rest of the series.
Enders Game by Orson Scott Card and The Hobbit should probably both be on the kid book shelves, but here they are. I keep the former handy because it is the only book that has ever made me shout with surprise and shock - I never saw that twist coming - and the latter's language is worth studying repeatedly. Finally, Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman will always be in my top five. I love her voice, I love her characters, I love the moody magical realism of all her books, but this one especially.
Looking over this eclectic group, the only thing I can say these books have in common (other than excellent writing) is their ability to transport me to other worlds, other times, other personas. Folks, I wish I could claim I read to improve my mind or to learn new things, but no. Those just aren't the real, first, top reasons. I read to be somewhere and someone else, and I write for the very same purpose.
P.S. No psychoanalysis of that last sentence allowed.