My favorite books:
OWL by William Service
“The ancients,” writes William Service, “attributed to the owl great wisdom. I, more careful, attribute to him the keenest appetite to find things out.” The same might be said of Service himself. His Owl is less the result of wisdom than of a keen if bemused curiosity. No man can know all about a bird, especially a screech owl who possesses, as the book jacket puts it, the proportions of a beer can and the personality of a bank president. But a year of open-minded daily contact with such a creature is bound to lead to something, and in this case it has led to one of the most elegant and perceptive pieces of nature writing since T. H. White fell in with a goshawk.
High Tide in Tucson by Barbara Kingsolver
Admirers of Kingsolver’s novels, such as Pigs in Heaven (1993) and Animal Dreams (1990), will relish the vibrant self-portrait these frank, bright, funny, and generous essays present. An ecologist as well as a writer, Kingsolver is deeply enamored of the world. Her empathy extends to plants and animals of all kinds, including a hermit crab who stowed away in her luggage when she returned from a trip to the Bahamas. The curious behavior of her unusual houseguest inspires Kingsolver to ponder the mystery of internal rhythms, just as her accommodation of the rapacious appetite of the javelinas (wild, woolly pigs) who devour her desert garden leads her to consider the concept of personal property and the hoarding of “more stuff than we need.”
Ordinary Wolves by Seth Kantner
In the small but growing genre of ecological fiction, the great challenge is to balance political and environmental agendas with engrossing storytelling. This riveting first novel sets a new standard, offering a profound and beautiful account of a boy’s attempt to reconcile his Alaskan wilderness experience with modern society.
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
This book transcends genres to be a memoir, travel guide, self help, and philosophy book. Elizabeth Gilbert was a 30-year-old successful journalist with a perfect life (husband, fancy New York City apartment, fabulous weekend home) when she realized she was absolutely miserable. After surviving an acrimonious divorce, Gilbert sells her remaining possessions to spend a year abroad–four months each in three countries with nothing in common except starting with the letter “I”: Italy, India and Indonesia. A fabulous romp and introspective spiritual journey.
The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger
Meteorologists called the storm that hit North America’s eastern seaboard in October 1991 a “perfect storm” because of the rare combination of factors that created it. For everyone else, it was perfect hell. In The Perfect Storm, author Sebastian Junger conjures for the reader the meteorological conditions that created the “storm of the century” and the impact the storm had on the people caught in it. Chief among these are the six crew members of the swordfish boat the Andrea Gail, all of whom were lost 500 miles from home beneath roiling seas and high waves.
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Leather by David Sedaris
Critics agree that Corduroy and Denim marks Sedaris’s transition from a humorist and essayist into a full-fledged memoirist. The volume returns to the dysfunctional childhood and adulthood tribulations that made Naked and Me Talk Pretty One Day bestsellers, and contains the same snarky wit, heartbreaking humor, and touch of malice. But this time, melancholy, introspection, and even a bit of sadness create more emotionally wrought stories.
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
In The Glass Castle, Walls chronicles her upbringing at the hands of eccentric, nomadic parents–Rose Mary, her frustrated-artist mother, and Rex, her brilliant, alcoholic father. To call the elder Walls’s childrearing style laissez faire would be putting it mildly. As Rose Mary and Rex, motivated by whims and paranoia, uprooted their kids time and again, the youngsters were left largely to their own devices. But while Rex and Rose Mary firmly believed children learned best from their own mistakes, they themselves never seemed to do so, repeating the same disastrous patterns that eventually landed them on the streets. Walls describes in fascinating detail, what it was like to be a child in this family.
Sex and Sunsets by Tim Sandlin
Kelly Palamino is not – I repeat, NOT – crazy. Yes, water does talk to him: his toilet tells him to eat fish; his Water Pik quotes Ezra Pound. His ex-wife denies they were ever married and is actively seeking to have him committed. But Kelly Palamino is not crazy. Lost? Yes… but not crazy.
The Pine Island Paradox by Kathleen Dean Moore
Award-winning author Kathleen Dean Moore believes we live in a world of islands- both literal and figurative- mapped out by generations of Western philosphers whose mission was, it seems to steadfastly remove humans from nature. The result is a loneliness that isolates us from ourselves, our families, and our natural world. Through essays about vacations, wilderness adventures, and family, Moore maps out a different philosophy about what it means to connect, to love, and to live in a culture where islands are linked intimately below the surface.
Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
Ishmael, a gorilla rescued from a traveling show who has learned to reason and communicate, uses these skills to educate himself in human history and culture. Through a series of philosophical conversations with the unnamed narrator, a disillusioned Sixties idealist, Ishmael lays out a theory of what has gone wrong with human civilization and how to correct it, a theory based on the tenet that humanity belongs to the planet rather than vice versa.
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
Goldberg brings a touch of both Zen and well… *eroticism* to her writing practice, the latter in exercises and anecdotes designed to ease you into your body, your whole spirit, while you create, the former in being where you are, working with what you have, and writing from the moment.
Emporium by Adam Johnson
A disturbing sense of unsettlement drifts through the nine stories in Emporium, Adam Johnson’s stunning debut. But beneath the uneasy surface of the memorable, futuristic landscapes depicted in this original collection lies the familiar trappings of adolescence: strip malls and cul-de-sacs, stifling suburbs, teenage crushes and rebellions, absent parents, and a frightening, unpromising future. In moments, transcendantly beautiful.
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
The God of Small Things is nominally the story of young twins Rahel and Estha and the rest of their family, but the book feels like a million stories spinning out indefinitely; it is the product of a genius child-mind that takes everything in and transforms it in an alchemy of poetry.
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe is the second book in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy comedy science fiction series by Douglas Adams. It was originally published by Pan Books as a paperback. It takes its name from Milliways, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, one of the settings of the book.
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Opera and terrorism make strange bedfellows, yet in this novel they complement each other nicely. At a birthday party for Japanese industrialist Mr. Hosokawa somewhere in South America, famous American soprano Roxanne Coss is just finishing her recital in the Vice President’s home when armed terrorists appear, intending to take the President hostage. Joined by no common language except music, the 58 international hostages and their captors forge unexpected bonds. Time stands still, priorities rearrange themselves. Ultimately, of course, something has to give, even in a novel so imbued with the rich imaginative potential of magic realism.
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
Persuasion by Jane Austen
The Cat Who Came for Christmas by Cleveland Armory
Her Name, Titanic by Charles Pellegrino
Timeline by Michael Crichton
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean
A Ring of Endless Light by Madeline L’Engle
Vicky Austin is filled with strong feelings as she stands near Commander Rodney’s grave while her grandfather, who himself is dying of cancer, recites the funeral service. Watching his condition deteriorate as the summer passes on beautiful Seven Bay Island is almost more than Vicky can bear. To complicate things, she finds herself the center of attention for three very different boys: Leo is an old friend wanting comfort and longing for romance; Zachary, whose attempted suicide inadvertently caused the Commander’s death, is attractive and sophisticated but desperately troubled; and Adam, her older brother’s friend, offers her a wonderful chance to assist in his work with dophins but treats her as a young girl just when she’s ready to feel most grown-up.
Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine
Young Addie admires her older sister Meryl, who aspires to rid the kingdom of Bamarre of gryphons, specters, and ogres. Addie, on the other hand, is fearful even of spiders and depends on Meryl for courage and protection. But when Meryl falls ill with the dreaded Gray Death, Addie must gather her courage and set off alone on a quest to find the cure and save her beloved sister.
Anne of Green Gables Series by L.M. Montgomery
When Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert of Green Gables, Prince Edward Island, send for a boy orphan to help them out at the farm, they are in no way prepared for the error that will change their lives. The mistake takes the shape of Anne Shirley, a redheaded 11-year-old girl who can talk anyone under the table. Fortunately, her sunny nature and quirky imagination quickly win over her reluctant foster parents. Lucy Maud Montgomery’s series of books about Anne have remained classics since the early 20th century. Her portrayal of this feminine yet independent spirit has given generations of girls a strong female role model, while offering a taste of another, milder time in history.
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Seventeen-year-old Cassandra Mortmain wants to become a writer. Trouble is, she’s the daughter of a once-famous author with a severe case of writer’s block. Her family–beautiful sister Rose, brooding father James, ethereal stepmother Topaz–is barely scraping by in a crumbling English castle they leased when times were good. Now there’s very little furniture, hardly any food, and just a few pages of notebook paper left to write on. Bravely making the best of things, Cassandra gets hold of a journal and begins her literary apprenticeship by refusing to face the facts. She writes, “I have just remarked to Rose that our situation is really rather romantic, two girls in this strange and lonely house. She replied that she saw nothing romantic about being shut up in a crumbling ruin surrounded by a sea of mud.”
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
The Great Brain Series by J.D. Fitzgerald
Harry Cat’s Pet Puppy by George Selden
Gnomes by Wil Huygen and Rien Poortvliet
Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
Danny, Champion of the World by Roald Dahl
The Princess Tales by Gail Carson Levine
The Celery Stalks at Midnight by James Howe
The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
Verdi by Janell Cannon
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendack
Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andraea