The task is simple but oh so hard! Pick three books on your bookshelf that summarize you. What three books give us a snapshot of your life?
This was introduced by National Public Radio’s ‘All Things Considered‘ show the other day and I loved it so much I want to use it here at Communicating Across Boundaries. Anyone who responds in the comments will be put into a drawing to receive one of the books that is a snapshot of my life.
So let’s get started! My three are:
1. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo. Katherine Boo takes us into the stories of real people living in the Annawadi slum in Mumbai. The slum shares walls with the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai. This ethnically diverse community lives in close quarters, daily confronting poverty, violence, conflict, illness, and government corruption. Because I love the Indian subcontinent this book resonates at many levels.
Quote: “.. becoming attached to a country involves pressing, uncomfortable questions about justice and opportunity for its least powerful citizens.”
2.The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit: A Jewish Family’s Exodus from Old Cairo to the New World by Lucette Lagnado. This book is my heart book and chronicles the journey of a Jewish family from their home in Cairo through their adjustment to life in New York City. There is so much I love about this book, not least is its descriptions of how much this family misses Cairo and their cry of “Ragaouna Misr” (Take me back to Egypt!) that still echoes through my soul.
Quote: “We had barely drifted out of Alexandria‘s harbor when I heard my father cry ‘Ragaouna Misr!’ – Take us back to Cairo! It became his personal refrain, his anthem aboard the old cargo ship…”
3. Some Far and Distant Place by Jonathan S. Addleton. Jonathan is a childhood friend, best friend to my brother Tom through the years. He writes of growing up in Pakistan but intersperses throughout the book history of what is happening in the region – things I caught only partially while growing up. I love this book and periodically reread it. This book is home.
Quote: “…’Look carefully’ my brother said. ‘It will be a long time before you see stars shining this brightly again….'”
So now you – Three books from your bookshelf (or Kindle) that give us a snapshot of your life!
Photo Credit from http://pixabay.com/
18 thoughts on “What’s On Your Bookshelf? With thanks to National Public Radio”
I’ve got way too many books on my bookshelf to only pick three… but if I had to, these are some of the ones I come back to time and time again:
1. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (one day I hope to actually read it in French!) – a classic story about the redemptive power of grace and mercy. And yes, while I LOVE the broadway musical, the book is better.
One of many favorite quotes: “Let us never fear robbers nor murderers. Those are dangers from without, petty dangers. Let us fear ourselves. Prejudices are the real robbers; vices are the real murderers. The great dangers lie within ourselves. What matters it what threatens our head or our purse! Let us think only of that which threatens our soul.” – M. Myriel
2. The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong – a children’s book and my all time favorite, one that I read every couple of years to my kids – about how a school then a town come together to try and entice storks back to build a nest in their town.
My favorite quote: “”But there’s where things have to start–with a dream. Of course, if you just go on dreaming, then it stays a dream and becomes stale and dead. But first to dream the then to do–isn’t that the way to make a dream come true?” – the teacher
3. Some Wildflower in My Heart, by Jamie Langston Turner – a story about how a gentle, odd, awkward, persistent woman, Birdie, decides to befriend another woman, Margaret, and breaks through the walls she puts up – and how Margaret changes as a result. I want to be like Birdie some day when I grow up…
“It was on the seventeenth day of December, a Saturday, that I ceased looking for Birdie’s faults, knowing that even if, or rather when, they appeared, they would be of no consequence. In short, this is the day that I realized she was truly my friend–not only that she wanted to be my friend but that I likewise wanted to be hers. At the age of fifty, I at last acquired a friend.” – Margaret Tuttle
I feel like I have committed a crime by weaning this list down to three, but I cheat at the end. :)
BOWLING ALONE: THE COLLAPSE AND REVIVAL OF AMERICAN COMMUNITY by Robert Putnam
Did you know that participating in a social club (book clubs, Junior League, bowling leagues) lengthens your life about as much as quitting smoking? Or that walking your dog decreases crime in your neighborhood? After reading the decades of research that went into this compelling book one just might start participating in their library board meetings, invite their neighbors over for dinner, and….join a bowling league.
THE CONSOLATIONS OF PHILOSOPHY by Alain de Botton (I could have just as easily selected two of his other titles, STATUS ANXIETY or HOW PROUST CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE)
Written by my absolute favorite author, in prose that is articulate, logical, and yet conversational, this book helps us understand what the leading thinkers of yesterday wrote about to help people in their societies deal with problems that may be even more central to us today, like:
• Unpopularity (Socrates)
• Not having enough money (Epicurus)
• Frustration (Seneca)
• Inadequacy (Montaigne)
• A broken heart (Schopenhauer)
• Difficulties (Nietzsche)
ALBION’S SEED: FOUR BRITISH FOLKWAYS IN AMER by David Hackett Fisher (or it’s grandson, AMERICAN NATIONS: A HISTORY OF THE ELEVEN RIVAL REGIONAL CULTURES OF NORTH AMERICA by Colin Woodard.
I often find myself wondering how different regions in the U.S. could have such vastly different ideas of community and morality, and how regions place different levels of value on equality, tolerance, and authority. David Hackett Fisher, one of the most talented and ambitious historians in American history, explains that these cultural differences have existed for a looong time, before our English ancestors even made the trip across the Atlantic.
With very honorable mentions to:
• GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL: THE FATES OF HUMAN SOCIETIES by Jared Diamond
• FLOURISH: A VISIONARY NEW UNDERSTANDING OF HAPPINESS AND WELL-BEING by Martin Seligman
• THE SPIRIT LEVEL: WHY GREATER EQUALITY MAKES SOCIETIES STRONGER by Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson
• THE LIFE YOU CAN SAVE: HOW TO DO YOUR PART TO END WORLD POVERTY by Peter Singer
• TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee
• THE IDIOT by Fyodor Dostoevsky
• HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE by J.K. Rowling
You totally cheat! I love the list though. I too love Alain de Botton — discovered him through The Art of Travel but had not heard of the one you describe here. And we have sooo many of the same books – how cool is that? I do agree that to pick 3 negate the complexity of who we are and reduce us somewhat. Plus everytime I think of 3 I come up with a different set!
You should read Seven Storey Mountain. That’s his first one and it set him off on his career of writing.
Three books that helped shape my life are:
SPLENDOR OF GOD, by Honore’ Willsie Morrow, about Adoniram and Anne Judson, a young couple from New England who in 1800 went as missionaries to Burma. I read this when I was a teenager and it was powerful – so powerful that I knew that God wanted me to follow them somewhere in Asia. I landed in Pakistan where Bettie and I spent 34 years.
SEVEN STOREY MOUNTAIN by Thomas Merton, about a man’s search for faith and peace in the post World War after he had immersed himself in the low morals of our culture. While still in his early twenties, Merton found that nothing in his worldly life assuaged a growing restlessness. He entered a Trappist monastery in Kentucky and found what he was searching for. He also found a vocation. He was allowed to write and publish this book which became a best seller. He continued to write until his death in Bangkok. He was electrocuted as he turned on his bedside lamp in his hotel room. Merton wrote this in his late twenties and I read it when I was about his age. It deepened my spiritual life but it didn’t take me into a monastery!
STORY OF CIVILIZATION 11 volumes, by Wil & Ariel Durant. I read these over a period of years and it was one of the most enlightening and enjoyable experiences of my life. The good news is that it’s wonderfully written and enchanting to read.
Hu – these are wonderful reads! I think you cheated a bit with Story of Civilization 11 volumes! Does each volume count for 1?? I love the description you give of Thomas Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain. I’ve read others of his but not this one – sounds like an excellent read.
Yes, each volume may count for one but you might also consider each volume as a part of one book under the title of “Story of Civilization.”
Marilyn, I had hoped that your readers would have jumped right into this blog and responded by telling us what books shaped their life!
Me as well Hu – I’m so disappointed that more readers didn’t share! Maybe I’ll send out another plea!! And yes – I need to read that book.
Marilyn — Many thanks; I appreciate this a lot! I also much enjoy reading your blog!
Thank you Jonathan! Kind words indeed.
Your reading choices are far more substantial than mine. My shelves are heavy with Terry Pratchett and books written for teenagers.
hahaha! Well you should have seen it a few years ago! So which Terry Pratchett gives a snapshot of your life?
Sorrowfully I have to admit that in recent years, I have only read textbooks and books relating to my profession “Education”. It has been far too long since I have read for enjoyment and I am not sure if I still know how to since I acquired the practice of speed reading. One does not speed read when reading for enjoyment since it simply defeats the purpose. Thus I pray that God will give me the gift once more and the time to read for enjoyment.
It’s so true Petra – I pray with you….I know I gave up reading for pleasure for some time. It’s my daughter that has helped reinstill it in me. Summer is a good time for this!
such a hard question!
I know! I keep wanting to change mine up!
Oooh, I like this very much! I’ll have to take a look at my books and get back to you on this! :)
oh please do! I was so excited when I saw NPR tweet it!