Good morning! Like most Sundays I’m sitting in front of my computer with a cup of coffee, a stack of books, trying to figure out what to write for today’s Sunday Salon post. Then it hit me: why not talk about some of the things that inspire me? You know books or people, writers or blogs that make me think, re-read or go back to when I need something to push me in the right directions.
So here’s five books and five writers that inspire me:
1. Life is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful, and Live Intentionally by Patti Digh. I bought this book about two years agoand since then I’m returned to it over and over again. The book is self-help and it’s filled with so many great poems and stories about having a life filled with meaning.
2. The Woman at the Washington Zoo: Writings on Politics, Family, and Fate by Marjorie Williams. This book is a collection of essays written by Williams that were published in 2006 after her death. Williams was a writer who wrote various publications like Slate, The Washington Post, and Vanity Fair. Edited by her widower, Timothy Noah, the collection also includes her cancer memoir, Hit by Lighting. Though her essays are great reading material, it’s William’s memoir that I go back to over and over again to read. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the memoir about being diagnosed with liver cancer and her outlook on life:
All this knowledge brought a certain calm. I knew, intuitively, that I would have felt more panicked, more frantic, in the years when I was still growing into my adulthood. For I had had the chance to become the person it was in me to be. Nor did I waste any time wondering why. Why me? It was obvious that this was no more or less than a piece of horrible bad luck. Until then my life had been, in the big ways, one long run of good luck. Only a moral idiot could feel entitled, in the midst of such a life, to a complete exemption from bad fortune.
3. Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and For Those Who Want to Write Them by Francine Prose. Ireally think this book is probably tied with Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird for my favorite book about writing. While Lamott’s book is mostly about encouraging people to write, Prose talks about the technical aspects of writing like sentences, characters, and gesture in a way that is so friendly, you want to read about every book or short story she writes about.
4. East of Eden by John Steinbeck. If I had to be stuck on a deserted island with only one author’s complete literary collection, it’ll probably be Steinbeck’s. I first read East of Eden more than ten years ago and it’s still up there as my favorite book of all time. The book traces the history of Steinbeck’s family in an epic retelling of the stories of Adam and Eve plus Cain and Abel with its themes of good versus evil and freewill. This is the only book I own that I have two copies of.
5. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. I read this book for the first time this year and wasblown away. The book’s protagonist isn’t a memorable character but the things he do along with his family life and Diaz’s depiction of life in the Dominican Republic, is. It’s an excellent read.
1. Anne Lamott. I love her non-fiction. Bird by Bird, Traveling Mercies, Operation Instructions are some of my favorite books ever.
2. Junot Diaz
3. Dorothy Allison. I love Dorothy Allison’s writing and books for the same reason why I love Melanie Rae Thon’s: they both write about people who we wouldn’t know about otherwise. In Bastard Out of Carolina, readers are introduced to Ruth Anne, a child who comes from a family living in poverty and a mother who wants love any way she can get it, even if that means staying with her husband Glen, a man who has no problem molesting and beating his stepdaughter. In the devastating essay, “River of Names”, from her essay collection Trash, readers learn about the many ways that Allison’s relatives have died from beating to suicides, rapes to murders. In the essay Allison writes, “. . .I set my teeth at what I do not want to remember and cannot forget”.
4. Sherman Alexie. I read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian for the first time this year. It’s one of those books that I love so much, that if you don’t like it that I prefer you don’t tell me! After reading the book, I had to find more information on the author.
So that’s ten of the many things that inspire me. What’s your ten?
5. Melanie Rae Thon. Thon is probably the only author who I have every book she’s published. Thon writes about life and race relations in First, Body: Stories and characters who are determined to change their lives like Iona in Iona Moon. Most of her books are out of print but they’re still easy to find.