My name is Carla and I’m a bookaholic. Yep, I admit it. I have an addiction to books. I’ve always said when I go into a bookstore it’s like I’m wearing a Velcro suit and books just somehow stick to me. I can go in for one book and come out with three. Case in point: yesterday.
There’s a fabulous new independtly women-owned bookstore in town and I finally went to it with my sister who is in from out-of-town. I’d been wanting to by my all-time favorite book (more on that later) for a friend and was thrilled that they had one in stock. One more chance to support a local business and one avoided opportunity to purchase it at a national chain or online amazon-sized business. I should have walked out right then and there but of course I browsed. Browsed right to another book for my ever-growing pile of “to read next” stack as well as an adorable book motif coffee mug. So totally me…coffee and books. And let’s get this straight right here right now: I’m talking real books; covers, pages, and all.
Last week I was listening to one of Susie Davis’ fabulous podcasts during which she visited with Bailey Greenlees as they talked about mentoring. As with anything and everything Davis does, the podcast was both fascinating and inspiring. I was especially struck by Greenlees talking about what someone’s favorite childhood book was and what that book says about them. Hmmmmm I thought, very interesting!
I got to thinking and I got to wondering: what was my favorite childhood book? Two immediately came to mind: “The Little Lame Prince” and Nancy Drew Mysteries series. I particularly remember “Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase,” “The Secret of the Old Clock,” “The Mystery at Lilac Inn,” and “Mystery at the Ski Jump.” But what do these say about me?
I’m pretty sure “The Little Lame Prince was my first favorite “real” book that wasn’t a beloved Golden Book. Closing my eyes I can vividly see the cover and I still own a copy of it. If I glance to my left as I write this, there it sits on my bookshelf, right next to “Charlotte’s Web” and “Heidi,” two of my other favorites.
But it was the prince, a paralyzed young boy who is magically given the ability to travel through a cloak given to him by a Fairy Godmother, who stole my heart and my imagination. Through the cloak, he could see but not touch the world as he went on many adventures all the while developing wisdom and empathy along the way. He ultimately become a wise and compassionate ruler of a land all his own. Originally written in 1875, it is believed that through this book, author Dinah Maria Mulock Craik hoped to stimulate positive feelings in her readers as well as encourage socially correct actions regardless of the circumstances one finds themselves in.
So what does this say about young Carla who loved this book? My guess is young Carla frequently felt out of place and longed to be accepted and she yearned for adventure and unconditional love. She must have found it in a little book about a little prince.
Young Carla’s fascination with Nancy Drew is, on the other hand, a mystery. I don’t remember liking mysteries and I still don’t, but maybe she liked the idea of a strong, independent woman who made her way and her own rules. Maybe she liked the name Nancy. I’m thinking she also liked the idea of an orderly collection of works.
I still love children’s literature and books, and storytime is one of my favorite time of the school day in my preschool class. I adore anything Winnie the Pooh and “Little Bear” along with “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” “The Napping House,” “Good Night Gorilla,” “Is Your Mamma a Llama?” and “The Night Tree.” One of my favorite authors, Gretchen Rubin of “The Happiness Project,” is a sworn lover of children’s and adult literature, which makes me happy. Among our common faves are Judy Blume’s groundbreaking “Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret,” as well as the classics “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Mary Poppins.”
It all makes total sense to me, as books are where one can both learn and escape. Young Carla loved words and she loved to fantasize about what could be.
Discerning this in my adult head fascinates me so I took it all a step further and thought about what book made an impact on teenage Carla. Undoubtedly that would be “Go Ask Alice,” written in 1971. The fictional book was written in diary form by “Anonymous” and took readers through a teenage girl’s drug addiction and self-destruction. I remember being horrified yet fascinated by its powerful message about the dangers of drug abuse and I’m not alone, as it has been in print ever since and still resonates with many.
Being that I read “Go Ask Alice” during the 1970s, perhaps I was acutely aware of the wide-scale drug use, be it marijuana, LSD, or cocaine, of the wild and crazy 1960s and disco-themed 1970s. Whatever the reason, it all hit home with 16-year-old Carla.
My worn but loved paperback copy of “Gift from the Sea” and a recent edition of it.
As for my favorite book of all time mentioned earlier, it is Anne Murrow Lindbergh’s “Gift from the Sea.” A former boss gave it to me some 30 years ago and said I had to read it. I did and I loved it. I love it to this day and give it to friends all the time. Lindberg was Charles’ wife and in between the chaos of her life, she’d go to the sea to find peace. The sea is that of Florida’s Captiva Island, which coincidentally is where we went on our honeymoon.
Written in 1955, the book consists of chapters in which Lindberg details seashells and relates them to her life and the lives of mid-20th century women. I have read it many times since it was given to me and each time the shells mean something different and powerful depending on where I was in my life at the time. I recently pulled it off my bookshelf to read it again. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend doing so. Then read it again, and again.
Other books that have touched me include “Traveling with Pomegranates” by “The Secret Live of Bees” author Sue Monk Kidd, “Nickel and Dimed” by Barbara Ehrenreich,” “The Day the World Came to Town” by Jim Defede, Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises,” The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls, Susie Davis’ “Unafraid,” “10% Happier” by Dan Harris, and “In Order to Live” by Yeonmi Park. Looking at these I see a real non-fiction trend, but I think I already knew that.
Coffee table books are also something I’m obsessed with. You can find them everywhere in my home as I feel they not only make for good reading and inspiration, but great decor as well! I recently sat in on a podcast recording with Susie Davis and author Kennesha Buycks for her fabulous new book “Restoration House.” Thinking I was going to hear all about yet another book telling you how to spend lots of money on the prettiest and most coveted pieces of furniture, art, and decor, I was so pleasantly surprised to learn that Buycks recommends anything but. Instead, she writes about how your home should embrace your story, not the stories others think you should tell and that we should embrace the idea of our home not so much being good-looking but life-bringing. It’s all about walking away from the “perfect” house and instead embracing what “goes beyond merely the aesthetic and focus on creating soulful, restorative aspects of home.” Rediscovering a sense of calm and renewal of purpose, she writes, and creating places where we feel secure and revived not impressed or stressed should be our goal. It is hands down the best home design and decor book I’ve seen and I highly recommend it.
Today while eating lunch with my sister we talked about books and “your favorite spiritual book” came up. For some reason I had a hard time with this. I’ve read so very many but pinpointing a favorite proved challenging. My sister immediately said “Hinds Feet in High Places,” which I too like but I took more time to decide on a favorite. The Bible and “Jesus Calling” of course come to mind and I loved Scott Hahn’s “The Lamb’s Supper” as well as many on Mother Mary, including Beverly Donofrio’s “Looking for Mary” and “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World (I am a total Martha!) by Joanna Weaver. But perhaps those that made a true long-term impact on my life were Stormie Omartian’s “The Power of a Praying Parent” and “The Power of a Praying Wife.” Not Catholic for this cradle Catholic, but inspiring nonetheless.
So there you have it, Carla by the book. What was your favorite childhood book? Do you have an all-time favorite book? What about a spiritual or inspirational book? It’s all fascinating to me and I have every intention of reading up on it even more. I might even buy a book on it.