I have two daughters, and when my eldest moved out of town, following in her sister’s footsteps, the feeling of loneliness hit me hard. They were both out of town at the same time during college. Why, now, did I feel so lost? After much soul-searching, I realized that their absence seemed final this time. Luckily phone calls, emails, texts, Skype and air travel have eased the initial sadness. But that sorrow stirred up memories of my own mother and I talk about her a lot when I call my daughters. They didn’t know my mom, but we all share a part of her, besides bits and pieces of her appearance and personality. She passed her favorite books on to me and I passed them on to my daughters, and we all agree that they’re books worth reading and revisiting.
The Thorn Birds, by Colleen McCullough, 1979
The book starts with the enchanting legend of how the thorn bird got its name and the premonition that “the best is only bought at the cost of great pain.” This was my favorite of all the books on this list. McCullough’s writing is beautiful and I’ve always been a sucker for Australia and forbidden love. I’m going to watch the miniseries again too!
Marjorie Morningstar, by Herman Wouk, 1955
I think my mother related to this book quite a bit because she was Jewish and had big dreams like Marjorie. I, of course, always dreamed of being a “famous” author one day, so I loved to read about dreamers. And Marjorie’s “bad-boy” obsession with Noel intrigued me. I crushed on older boys all the time in middle school and high school, one of them was old enough to be my dad.
Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott, 1868
My unfortunate habit of analyzing writing technique tripped me up right away when I started to re-read this book as an adult author. Can you believe it was published in 1868? But, the charm of the March sisters took over within a few pages and made me feel like part of the family. I never had sisters and always wanted them. Little Women gives me my wish every time I pick it up.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith, 1943
My mom wanted me to read Tree because she grew up in Brooklyn and it would give me an idea of what the city was like then and how much harder life was. We often visited my grandparents who still lived there in the 1960’s and 70’s, and even then it was a different planet compared to Indiana. Tree won’t give you the same warm, cozy feeling of Little Women, but it will make you think, and hopefully appreciate your life. Francie will whisper to you like a girlfriend from younger days.
Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell, 1936
Most of us have seen the movie, which is wonderful, but the book is even better, more detailed, and the characters come alive through Mitchell’s amazing way with dialogue. Pat Conroy’s preface at the beginning of the book will excite and prepare you for the 1,472-page read. If you’re a Downton Abbey fan, reading this book is a wonderful way to help you survive until January, when Season 6 will finally start. Mary reminds me a lot of Scarlett!