I recently played a game on Instagram showing pictures of my favorite books for a week. Only one book per day, how could I limit my favorite books to only seven? I choose books that held a memory, a turning point or something that touched my life. I could only use pictures, no words to tell you how these books affected me. As a writer, I felt compelled to share why I chose these seven books. I could list so many books that have changed my life, given me hope or perspective, or simply opened my eyes. Perhaps I’ll do another article and tell you about more books and what they have meant to me.
Day one: Sabrina Jeffries’ “The Truth about Lord Stoneville.”
I have been a fan of Sabrina Jeffries for many years but in truth, the love I have for this book is more about my husband, than about Ms. Jeffries. This is the book David bought for me after our house burned down. Now, many of you will question, why a book when we needed underwear and socks and so much more. I am a book-aholic. Books are the escape that helps me deal with the realities of life. Reading relaxes me and renews my spirit. I needed a book like a drunkard needs a drink.
I’d had tubs of books in our old house, many of which can never be replaced. David understood my need for a book and he took care of that need. He took me, weary and half-crazed, to Books-a-Million and told me I could have any book I wanted. The display of Sabrina Jeffries’ newest book caught my eye. I’d read her School for Heiresses series and they always made me smile. I needed that levity in my life right then.
Disappearing into a book for a few minutes each day allowed me to regain my composure and prepared me to take on the next phase of our life. The pages of “The Truth about Lord Stoneville” entertained me and allowed me to travel to a time where someone else’s woes were more important than anything happening in real life, for a brief respite anyway. I loved this series, The Hellions of Halstead Hall, and appreciate all the hours of reprieve I was able to enjoy thanks to the talents of Ms. Sabrina Jeffries.
Day two: “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith
I read this book as a young teen and discovered the strength of women. I was still under the illusion that my mother wasn’t very strong and wanted to rebel against her gentleness and humility. This book gave me a better understanding of women, my mother and even myself. I saw through Francie’s eyes the hardships women often go through and the things they will do or put up with in order to secure a better future for their children.
There are many correlations between Francie’s life and my own, though thankfully my dad wasn’t a drunkard, nor a singing waiter. My dad was an electrician who owned his own business and later began working construction. Anyone who has dealt with construction knows it is an insecure lifestyle. Dad once told me, when he still had his own business that, either everybody wanted you or nobody did. I also saw my parents, especially my mother work hard on a job then come home and work some more. I didn’t appreciate all they did to make a life for me until I too began making a home for my own family.
“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” also opened my eyes to a different place, a different time and the sameness of life. It is the book that made me look at people and wonder at their stories. How was their life different from mine, how was it the same? There are still parts of this story that come to mind forty years later. It is a classic, for it still has wisdom to impart.
Day three: “Shanna” by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss
I chose this book because it was the first historical romance I’d ever read. It began my love for the genre and it was the first book I ever read that I was able to discuss with friends.
My friend’s step-mom, Jean, had just finished the book and I saw it. It looked interesting and I asked to read it. I devoured the book. I stayed up late at night with my lamp under the covers reading this book. My firefighter friends are freaking out about the lamp under the covers. I melted the back of the lamp. It was never the same afterwards, but then, neither was I.
I’ve heard a lot of people talk about the “bodice rippers” of the seventies and eighties. How romance gave us unreal expectations for life. The truth is, these books showed us what brave women might go through to gain their freedom. That a woman in history must learn to fight for what she wants and be willing to go against societies’ expectations. One of my favorite slogans is: “Women who behave, rarely make history.” I believe that is also true of historical fiction, but it is definitely true of change.
Gloria Steinem and the women’s movement were not the first women to fight conformity. All through history women have sought their independence, their right to an education, to own property, to become doctors, scientists, etc. Romance novels encourage women to be who they are. It’s okay to be a wife and mother and take care of the home, but it is also fine to do something different. Here, amid the pages of these books, we learn to believe there are other options. Romance novels are a feminist movement.
Day four: Corrie Ten Boom’s “The Hiding Place”
This book may surprise some of you who have read my novel “Chrome Pink.” Believe it or not, I attended three years of Christian private school and went to a Free Will Baptist college. These were both good and bad experiences. Attending a Christian school opened my eyes to religion in many ways. Unfortunately, it also created more questions and obstacles to my own faith.
Still, I consider myself a Christian, though I know I don’t always live up to that title. Thankfully, it is by grace and not my works that I am saved. Like all religions, it is about belief, faith and seeking understanding.
“The Hiding Place,” takes place during world war two. It is about the war and its atrocities, but it is mostly about a woman’s faith, strength and courage. Corrie Ten Boom and her family were Dutch. They rescued many Jews, believing it was their duty as Christians. They risked their own lives and their freedom to help others.
To do the right thing often comes with a high price tag. To risk it all for people who didn’t even believe the same as they did is mindboggling. The Ten Boom family were caught and incarcerated, most of the family died in prison. Corrie tells of the life before the concentration camps and after they were imprisoned. It is a moving story of love for her family, especially her sister, and a story that will inspire you no matter your religion. As a Christian, it was a measuring stick of faith, as a woman, it was a measure of courage.
Day five: “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett
My class read this book when I was in the third grade (just a few years ago). My teacher, Ms. Krigger had us do a craft project about the story. This was my first solo craft project and my first to explain a story. Crafting, reading and writing have been my loves ever since.
I’d always loved to have mama read me a story or listen when stories were read in class. I was finally developing the ability to read and understand big chapter books on my own and the world was opening up to me. Having a teacher that encouraged us to experience books in different ways: book reports, craft projects, discussion, etc. made reading even more fun. It is a love that has lasted a lifetime.
Day six: Jayne Ann Krentz’ “Eclipse Bay”
I’m not positive “Eclipse Bay” is the first book I read by Jayne Ann Krentz. I started reading Amanda Quick’s historical romances and loved them. I’d read through everything the library could get for me and wanted more. My friend, Robina suggest I read Jayne Ann Krentz, but she wrote contemporary romances. I didn’t read contemporary romances. The only books I wanted to read were historicals or histories. Then Robina told me Jayne was Amanda and urged me to give it a try. From there I was hooked. I also read her futuristic science fiction romance novels penned under Jayne Castle.
Not only did this open up my reading to more genres but it also opened my writing to more. I’d been trying to write a great historical romance, doing years of research and writing and then hiding it all under the bed, except for the one that disappeared inside the computer to never been seen again. This was before the cloud and before I’d learned to back everything up on disc and later thumb drives. It was because of Jayne Ann Krentz that I started trying to write contemporary romance, she is also the one who influenced my suspense/thriller side.
Day seven: “The Blue Virgin” by M K Graff
I debated adding “The Blue Virgin” to the list. There are so many books to name but the truth is, without “The Blue Virgin” there would be no “Chrome Pink.”
I have said it a few times, how Marni Graff is my mentor and without her I would not be published. I met Marni shortly before she published “The Blue Virgin.” She had started a group called “The Writers’ Read.” We met in a bakery on Main Street in Washington until the bakery closed. Marni, then moved the group to Belhaven. I and a group of friends started traveling to Belhaven every couple of months because we loved the format Marni used to help writers. Her critiquing and discussions allowed us to learn in a free flow of information and questions. Her encouragement, passion for writing and her willingness to proof read and critique were invaluable but the greatest gift she gave me, was her belief in me and my talent. She even pitched my story to an agent she met at a conference.
Marni, my librarian little sister Robina, my big sis Denise, my sons, my husband and our parents, friends and neighbors have all pushed, encouraged, listened and celebrated my first book. Each of them has had a part in seeing my dream come true. Each of these books I have chosen has been an influence on me as a person and as a writer. There are more books, more authors, more stories but that is for another today. I hope when you read a book, you will find solace, excitement, enlightenment and perhaps a little inspiration. If some day, that book is one I wrote, then I will have fulfilled a dream. Happy reading!