That’s a Great Question!

I spent last week at the International Women’s Success Conference getting information and inspiration on how to grow my business for the rest of this year.  Over the course of 3 days, I met many wonderful like-minded business women.

After the initial pleasantries with a certain young lady, she asked what I was working on.  When I told her I wrote a blog about the books I love to read, she asked something no one has ever asked me before:  “What is your favorite book?”

I was delighted and taken aback at the same time.  I was delighted, because most people don’t ask me that and any time I can talk about what I’m reading, I geek-out.  I was taken aback, because most people don’t ask me that and I wasn’t sure if I could choose a favorite.  For days, the question continued to poke at me…did I have favorites?  Crowning a favorite book is like choosing between my two children. I love them both equally and infinitely, but I like them for specific, individually driven reasons.  So I’ve come up with a list of 5 favorite books, all of which I love, but hold a place in my heart for many different reasons. Think about your list as I share mine.  Enjoy!

The Age of Innocence

The Belle Epoque is one of my favorite time periods.  The idea of Old New York society, straining to keep the civilized traditions of European culture as the world changes around it offers a delicious friction, which Wharton masterfully manipulates. Edith Wharton traditionally pokes fun at the restraining gilded cage of her parents’ generation in favor of more modern ideals, but in this novel,  family obligations override desire as Newland Archer sets aside his passion for the renegade Countess Oleska to marry the socially acceptable May.  Oleska is foreign to the conventions of the time, a woman who’s actions are within her right, but still put her outside polite society.  As the rich retreated into their cocoon of frivolousness, attempting to ignore the realities (war, economic shifts) occurring around them, they developed the most ridiculous code of ethics and manners. Wharton transports you into a world that is unimaginable today, when behavior as simple as a lady taking off her glove has great significance and repercussions.  The Old World that Wharton describes seems just as imaginary as Crichton’s Jurassic Park.  To read her is to be transported.

The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys:  An American Saga

I took this book home from the library and kept it forever.  I could not let it go, so I just paid the library for it.  This book begins with the tale of two immigrant families and ends with the election of that lineage to the highest office in the land. (Insert Drake lyrics here: Started from the bottom…) In between, Doris Kearns Goodwin leads us through the growth of America, the immigrant experience, the upbringing of Rose and Joseph, their social alliance of a marriage and the shrewd accumulation of a massive fortune.  We see Rose as a young mother, struggling to handle 5 children alone as Joseph paves a trail in finance.  We learn the values and practices that built that infamous Kennedy hubris. It’s such a large epic novel, I remember thinking-will I ever finish this book?  I eventually did, and it was such an exhilarating ride, that I became a Doris Kearns Goodwin fan for life.  She fills the page with thorough research, but deftly keeps boredom at bay as you realize that you are learning history and character at the same time.  If this was the only book she ever wrote, she would still be an enviable historian, but the fact that she has also produced equally interesting portraits on Lincoln,  both Roosevelts and Lyndon Johnson, makes her my continual girl crush. (insert booknerd joke here)

The Great Gatsby

I adore this book-to me it is the great American novel.  I read it in 7th grade and have loved it ever since. I consider Gatsby the model of the American male: self-made, brash and confident, with an unsettling melancholy for the unattainable dream- love that feels within his grasp and outside his reach at the same time. It is true, Gatsby was too good for the lot of them.   It’s a Shakespearean (another favorite) tragedy waiting to happen, and as an reader, you know it won’t end well, but you want the happy ending anyway.  I remember being devastated by this book, and I’ve seen the movie (all 3 versions) more times than I can count.  Fitzgerald is a supreme wordsmith and The Great Gatsby has some of the most quotable lines in literature.  My personal favorite is  “Her voice is full of money”. To be able to draw so full a character picture in so few words is one of the reasons this small book has such a large imprint in literary study.

7 Kinds of Smart

If anything will dampen your love of reading, college will. The non-stop required reading and the requisite regurgitation of information can reduce the love of the written word to dust in your brain. I read this book in college and it is one of the few books I remember from that time in my life. This book lays out the premise that everyone has a particular “way” of reasoning, learning and absorbing information.  This “way” is your personal brand of intelligence or smart and once you identify that “smart”, you can unlock the key of how to make learning and life easier.  This idea blew my mind!!!!! It is a revelatory read that can help anyone-students, educators, parents and managers work to bring out the best in any individual.  The information is fundamental, but the publishers are smart enough to continue expanding the book with updated information.  I gave a copy to every friend I had and continue to recommend it as an essential to any library.

Success Secrets of a Reader

I spent most of my life like everyone else, reading for fun.  For me, reading was a hobby that I enjoyed, except for my college career, when reading was used as a torture device.  With this book, I learned that reading is an active tool you can use to grow yourself and your life.  It informed me that reading is a conduit to experiences, ideas and thoughts as a blueprint.  Oh, so this thing I did for fun, is actually a road map that I can use, determining my destination by thoughtfully selecting what I read. Brilliant!!! I have been asked why I feature non-fiction books when fiction book blogs garner more followers.  I love fiction and hold many fictions books dear (see selections above), but in the non-fiction world I can choose stories and heroines that actually exist and with their literary breadcrumbs, I can forge a trail of exciting living as a model for myself.  It is said that the truth is stranger than fiction, and it often is, but in my world truth is also more motivating and instructional.

Photo credit: www.sartoralist.com