I read lots of books in school that I loved and re-read, but none so much as this one by Annie Dillard (except maybe Pilgrim at Tinker Creek). The only thing I can say to describe why I love it so much is that maybe we are kindred spirits. She is FAR more eloquent and well-read than I will ever be, but her thought processes--the way she connects bits of information, observations, memories, etc., are familiar to me. The first piece I ever read by her was an essay called "Seeing,"--part of Pilgrim now--and I was blown away about how she connected her observations in nature with her childhood memories, art training, faith, etc. I was amazed to read about some one who thinks like I think. Or thought like I thought as a child. So this memoir of her childhood--a pretty happy childhood-- was so much fun to read. I love the things she remembers and the way they affected her adult life. Here is a review of the book from amazon:
Annie Dillard remembers. She remembers the exhilaration of whipping a snowball at a car and having it hit straight on. She remembers playing with the skin on her mother's knuckles, which "didn't snap back; it lay dead across her knuckle in a yellowish ridge." She remembers the compulsion to spend a whole afternoon (or many whole afternoons) endlessly pitching a ball at a target. In this intoxicating account of her childhood, Dillard climbs back inside her 5-, 10-, and 15-year-old selves with apparent effortlessness. The voracious young Dillard embraces headlong one fascination after another--from drawing to rocks and bugs to the French symbolists. "Everywhere, things snagged me," she writes. "The visible world turned me curious to books; the books propelled me reeling back to the world." From her parents she inherited a love of language--her mother's speech was "an endlessly interesting, swerving path"--and the understanding that "you do what you do out of your private passion for the thing itself," not for anyone else's approval or desire. And one would be mistaken to call the energy Dillard exhibits in An American Childhood merely youthful; "still I break up through the skin of awareness a thousand times a day," she writes, "as dolphins burst through seas, and dive again, and rise, and dive."
I am hoping to be able to remember and record some of my life experiences with half her wit and eloquence!
The only book I have read more than An American Childhood is The Book of Mormon. During my collegiate and childless days, I read it 2 or 3 times per year. Lately, it's just been once, but I always learn something new from this book. Last time (over the fall), I noticed how so many stupid little things would lead to the fall of a people or nation. Things like "costly apparel" and abundance. The Book of Mormon applies to us today in so many ways, so clearly--I am so thankful it's a part of my life.
The other part of the question--what books mean to me--well, that;s a weird one. I guess books will always be part of my life because I love to learn things. I read non-fiction almost exclusively--most fiction bores me to tears, and history and biographies have so much to teach us! I love the internet for this same reason--for all the foul content, there is a lot of informative, inspiring, interesting stuff! But reading from this screen will never have the comfort and feel of snuggling up with a good book--whether it be on my couch or bed with my "nappy"(a blanket my Gram gave me whenI left for college in 1989), or in my totally awesome jetted tub (a favorite guilty pleasure of mine--in case you ever wonder why the pages of my favorite books and mags are warped). So I pose the question to you--what are your favorite books and what do they mean to you? Answer in comments or on your own blog...