MY TEN FAVORITE BOOKS by Sandy Schuster-Hubbard
Choosing ten favorite books is akin to choosing among one’s children. These are my ten choices at this moment in time and are ranked in no specific order.
1. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The plot skillfully interweaves the lives of a blind French girl, Marie-Laure and a German boy, Werner of the Hitler Youth. The story illuminates the ways, against all odds, that people try to be good to one another.
I love the humanity that is shown among people during a time of monumental inhumanity.
2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This story is about honor and injustice in the deep South during the Jim Crow era. Atticus Finch is the moral hero and father of Jem and Scout who imparts uncommon wisdom to them. He is a model of integrity.
Atticus is an inspiration to me in how he clearly and humanely saw both sides of social and cultural issues of the time and offered rational insight to adults as well as to his children.
3. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
A group of British schoolboys are marooned on a tropical island. Devoid of adult supervision or intervention, the boys build a society complete with rules and rituals. Exposed are the differences between order and chaos and how quickly savagery enters.
I am taken with the insights into human nature and frightened by how easily the worst of our natures can arise and seek power.
4. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
A family drama addressing domesticity, work, and true love— all independent and each necessary to the achievement of the heroine’s identity. The story validates virtues over wealth and demonstrates the means of escaping gender restraints.
Reading this as a young child, I wanted to be in a family like the Marches and create a family like them when I grew up.
5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
In a tale narrated by Death, young Liesel Meminger discovers the power of reading books and how books can feed the soul. As Liesel and other characters grow and change in courage, they resist unjust laws and practices.
As someone who found and still finds entertainment, learning, and solace in reading, I relate strongly to Liesel and the power books offer.
6. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Huck runs away from his abusive alcoholic father and connects with Jim, an escaped slave. Together they raft to Illinois where slavery has been abolished. Huck is able to discover the right thing to do despite the prevailing theology and prejudiced mentality of the South of that era.
In childhood, I imagined being as free as Huck and seeking adventures, and I rejoiced in how Huck came to make moral choices that didn’t square with what he’d been taught at home or by society.
7. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
The story is set in South Carolina in 1964. Lily Owens’ mother was killed, and Lily goes to Tiburon, a town that holds the secret to her mother’s past. Taken in by three black beekeeping sisters, she learns the transforming power of love via bees, honey, and the Black Madonna.
Having grown up without a mother myself, I resonated with the advice offered Lily “to find the mother in herself.”
8. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
The book opens with 93-year-old Jacob Jankowski sharing his memories with nursing home residents. He tells them his experiences of working with a failing circus during the depression, falling in love, and escaping some harrowing experiences. He loves all animals but became attached to Rosie, a new elephant at the circus.
I liked the inside information about the circus and how Gruen humanized the various unusual characters that gravitated to the circus life when typical society shunned them.
9. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
This is the first of seven memoirs Angelou wrote. Each written lyrically like the poet she was. Caged Bird deals with childhood rape, identity, and racism. In 1969, it was one of the first books to depict honestly a black woman growing up in the South.
I love the poetry of her prose and how she demonstrates that words and actions have social and personal consequences.
10.Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s memoir describes five years of his life in Nazi death camps and offers lessons for spiritual survival. Suffering is an inevitable part of life, but we can choose how we will cope with it. If we can find meaning, we can move forward with renewed purpose.
This book influenced me more than any other. My greatest take away: we always have a choice even when that choice may only be our attitude concerning the suffering or circumstances we find ourselves in.