Good Monday morning, Reader! Today we’re kicking off the 5 Fall Favorites blog party, a week-long celebration that is decidedly bookish and autumnal. It’s kind of the epitome of that “Anne of Avonlea autumn” meme that has been going around recently (pretty sure it came from this Twitter post), only a little more gentle and completely online. Every day this week I and the other participants will recommend and discuss 5 of our favorite books from a particular genre, and you are invited to join in the conversation too! There will be a free ebook available each day and a giveaway to enter which will be drawn at the end of the week. You can find all the details and links to each participant’s posts at the host’s blog, Once Upon an Ordinary.
Our first prompt is “books that make me, me.” This has been such a fun topic to mull over as I have prepared to write this post. Especially for prolific readers, the books that we read often do play a role in shaping who we are. There are so many good books that immediately come to mind! Some are books that I read as a child or that were read to me, which initiated my love of reading. Others are nonfiction books that either challenged me in school or helped bring the lightbulb moment that doesn’t always come in lectures. Still others are stories that feel like walking into an alternate-reality home. Plus all of the books that I simply love and have read so many times I could nearly quote the entire thing! Narrowing it down has taken a fair bit of work and a minor heartbreak over not being able to include some truly wonderful books today, but I think I am ready.
It’s not quite cool enough for a warm drink here in Oklahoma, but it is finally less than unbearably hot, so we’ll [virtually] settle in someplace outdoors with just enough of a breeze to keep things comfortable while we talk books. The leaves that are just starting their brilliant transformation make the perfect backdrop for talking about some of the most beautiful books!
5 Books That Make Me, Me
Let’s start with my favorite children’s book: The World According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney (2005). One of the pet hamsters that I had as a child looked very much like the one on the cover of this book, so I was already in love with the book before I read a single word. Thankfully, the story inside is just as precious as the cover! That cute little hamster turns out to be quite the genius, but more importantly than being book-smart, he quickly becomes attuned to some of the deeper needs of the students in his third grade classroom. This book is a gentle introduction to the fact that everyone’s life is different, and may not be what it appears to be on the surface. Humphrey encourages readers to think before they react and to try to get to know others in their sphere for more than what you see right away.
Next is another book from my childhood: A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter (1909). I loved nature as a child, and this book fueled much of my imagination about what ‘nature’ was like somewhere beyond my own region. I fondly remember my mom reading this book to me and daydreaming about all the different types of butterflies that Elnora catches. I’m pretty sure a lot of the actual storyline went over my head that first time, but the descriptions of the setting were worth it. This book also has a special connection to my grandma, who passed it down to my mom along with a set of Louisa May Alcott books which would also become some of my favorites.
We’ll jump forward several years for my third book: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (2020). This book was introduced to me through the Speaking with Joy podcast. This is a fantastic book that builds on a wealth of literary knowledge and even culture as it incorporates (sometimes subtly and sometimes blatantly) other stories, art, myths, and possibly even philosophy. It’s difficult to talk about this book because it is incredibly unique despite so thoroughly acknowledging its context. Piranesi is a masterpiece of a book and it encouraged me to look a little deeper at other literary works that I enjoy. You can read my full review of this book here.
Book four comes from a somewhat less lighthearted time: Tables in the Wilderness by Preston Yancey (2014) is one man’s reflection on his faith during a difficult season. I came across this book during a time in my own life that I referred to as “a wilderness of edification and faith,” so when I saw someone else using almost the same exact analogy, I had a feeling the subject would be near to my heart. From the very beginning I felt understood in a way that I had not experienced before and did not expect; it was truly one of the best examples of the right book at the right time. It’s hard to talk about this book without rambling about my own churchgoing experiences over the past few years, but this book is about Yancey’s efforts to solidify his theological beliefs, not my own. If biographies or theology are your thing, or if you’re in the process of looking for a congregation to call home, I highly recommend Tables in the Wilderness.
Finally, I couldn’t write a post about books that make me who I am without including the Bible. Regardless of how cliche it may sound, this year I have fallen in love with the Bible more than ever before. The ‘wilderness’ period that I mentioned above led me to dive deeper into personally studying God’s Word. Although I have been familiar with it my whole life, over the past few years it has become so much more important, and in the months since my baptism last spring I’ve seen more beauty, love, and truth on an unprecedented level. In years past I loved the idea of the Bible, but I’m growing to love it in itself. Church and the Bible have been constant features of my life, but maturing and making hard decisions in light of the conviction that it brings have added a depth and nuance to life that don’t compare to anything else. This book has made me who I am more than anything else.
Also, just a quick note that getting a journaling Bible (one with columns for notes on each page) has significantly leveled up my Bible study recently. I’ve long been a fan of sticky notes, but the last Bible I used for an extended period of time reached a point of being overrun with notes, to the point that it was hard to read the actual text! With this Bible, I’m much more comfortable reading with a pencil in hand and making all kinds of notes right by the passages they apply to. This makes it easier to remember when someone says something about a passage that stands out or that I want to look more into, or when I want to reference two passages together, or a myriad of other note-taking reasons! There are many times I come across something and say to myself that I want to look more into it, but later I can’t remember either the passage or what it was I wanted to look into – and now I don’t have to worry about always having sticky notes on hand while reading! I usually do still have sticky notes on hand though; I think it may be a side effect of working in a library.
More Blog Party Fun
As promised, there is an ebook available for free today to celebrate this party!
Emmeline by Sarah Holman (2017) – Historical Fiction; retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma
What if Jane Austen’s Emma lived in America in the year 1930?
The talk of stock market crashes and depression isn’t going to keep Emmeline Wellington down. Born to wealth and privilege, Emmeline wants nothing more than to help her new friend, Catarina, find a husband. Emmeline sets her sights on one of the town’s most eligible bachelors, but nothing seems to go right. Even her friend and neighbor Fredrick Knight seems to question her at every turn.
Will she help Catarina find the man of her dreams? Why is her father acting so strangely? Will the downturn affect her life, despite her best efforts?
I own a copy of this book but I have not yet read it. Emma is my favorite Austen though, so I have high hopes for this book.
And there is a giveaway which you can earn entries for throughout the week:
Full details of the giveaway can be found on the host’s page.
Thanks for dropping by for the start of 5 Fall Favorites! I hope you have enjoyed learning a little about me and some of the books that make me who I am. What’s one (or more!) book that has made you who you are? I would love to chat about it in the comments! And just for fun – if you had to pick one, would you choose pumpkin spice, apple spice, or chai?
Until the next chapter,