Friday, April 6, 2018

What is Your Favorite Book?

A question I’ve asked, and been asked, over and over again in my life.

Is it bad that my gut reaction these days is to respond:

“Either my Shaw McLeary Mystery books, starting of course with Reckless Abandon or my most recently released California Dreamin’ book, Makeup Your Mind.”

I guess that’s just the shameless self-promoting writer in me talking though, right?

Because, if I really think about what makes a book a favorite book, the criteria might actually preclude my own. (Well, okay, not all of my own but definitely a few.)

For me to call it a favorite, I want a book that stays with me. For years after I read it. I don’t necessarily want to remember every minute detail of the plot, dialogue, story, but I definitely need to remember the way a book made me feel.

And I don’t care if I feel scared, sad, happy, or any other of the numerous emotions I align to while lost in a fantasy world. I just need that feeling to show up.

Books, and I’m talking fiction here, are written to make you feel. At least, I think they should be written for that reason.

You should be uncomfortable. Afraid to sleep at night. Turned on. Wiping away tears. Laughing and nodding while saying out loud “girl, I’ve so been there!”

Because you’re supposed to become one with the characters. You’re supposed to be inside that fantasy world for all intents and purposes.

Otherwise, what’s the point of reading?

To me, I love books that play in my head like a movie, whether that book has been made into a visual representation or not.

For example, when I heard that Lord of the Rings was being made I immediately went out and bought the book so I could read it first. Especially with an epic novel like that, I want to see the characters, scenes, settings in my imagination before I see what someone else sees (like Peter Jackson).

And I was glad I did because, just like every other book-turned-movie, there was so much more to discover in the crafted words than on the screen. And that’s saying a lot because those are some of my favorite movies of all time.

But, I’ve been thinking a lot about what my favorite books are, because a writing colleague recently posted a quote from one of my childhood favorites, The Velveteen Rabbit.

This isn’t my original copy. The truth is, I was really sad when I realized I think my original copy is gone forever. Lost in one of my many moves or prior learning experiences.

That makes me sad because I read the hell out of this book until I was well into high school. Ask me if I give a shit that’s it’s allegedly written for kids.

Hint: I don’t.

So I got on Amazon and ordered up another copy. I wanted to see for myself if the feeling I carried around for this book remained the same when re-reading as an adult.

Truth? I think I might have enjoyed it even more in my middle age.

I hate to use the word “classic” because I think that puts a certain connotation in people’s minds about the literary hoity-toity-ness and/or age of a book. But, that’s exactly what The Velveteen Rabbit is, a classic piece of literature.

As a kid I struggled with acceptance. With being bullied. With a general sense of being different than everyone else. Because I was. And back then that was considered a bad thing. Kids didn’t know how to own their shit like they do in these times***.

In the 80’s it wasn’t cool to wear hand-me-downs. It wasn’t cool to be poor in my hometown, because poor meant you couldn’t afford the latest and greatest fashions, music, outer symbols of being cool. And everyone was doing it. Everyone was so much cooler than me.

So I read, and re-read, books like The Velveteen Rabbit because it was a book about owning your shit.

Who cares if you’re perfect? Perfection is grossly overrated and, like we discover in the pages of Margery Williams' book, it is only after we’ve been essentially ridden hard and put away wet that we discover the true beauty of who we are on the inside.

Because outsides are just glamour.

What really matters is our soul, spirit, how we treat other people, how we treat ourselves. And even though none of us asked to be here, we all have a reason to be walking this earth. Every single one of us has value, a purpose.

The rabbit fulfilled his purpose and ended up even more alive in the end.

Talk about a book that, still to this day, makes me feel!

What’s your favorite, or some of your favorite books, and why do you love them?

***I totally understand that bullying and the like is still a huge issue today and maybe even more so because of the web and social media. I do not mean to belittle what happens in the circles of today’s youth by trying to say things were worse when I was younger. What I mean is that, in my day, we didn’t have an outlet to find other people who felt different and connect to that sense of community (in an anonymous way) like kids have available today. The web is a place of destruction and community. As a kid incessantly picked on for most of my childhood I would have loved to have the resources available to me that kids have these days. If you are being bullied or are otherwise feeling helpless, hopeless, please reach out to trained professionals that can help you remember how fucking amazing you are. A good place to start: with links to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

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In addition to this drivel I also write books, both fiction and non-fiction.
Learn more on my author page.

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