I love to read. Sometimes to the detriment of life going on around me. With my nose in a book, there is nothing else. No housework, no yard work, no laundry. Certainly no time. Everything just disappears into the story, the characters, the conflict. Isn’t that why we read? To get lost in the fantasy?
While I love books, once I’ve read the story, I feel it’s time to move on. That’s why I enjoy used book stores so much. You just trade in one story for another. I rarely keep my books. Of course, there are always exceptions. The following books have held a permanent space on my bookshelf for years, some for decades. They are tenured, so to speak. They aren’t going anywhere. They have their own parking spot and everything.
These are the best of the best out of the thousands of books I have read over my lifetime. In fact, I think I might just read them all again this summer, for the third, fourth or fifth time. I savor each page, each relationship, each town. I hope you enjoy them too. Just don’t ask to borrow my copy. I will kindly direct you to the nearest bookstore or amazon.com.
- My Love Affair with The State of Maine by Scotty Mackenzie
Scotty Mackenzie saw enough people in her hometown of New York City succumb to the stresses of living in the city. She quits her job and goes to Maine with a colleague while she decides what to do with the rest of her life. She and Dorothy are northeast bound, where Dorothy has a summer home. Goose Rocks, Maine casts its spell on the two city girls. They buy the town store, having no idea what Goose Rocks or the people who live there will come to mean to them. This true story from the 1940’s will make you nostalgic for the “good ole days.” It will also remind you why the signs just across the border say “Welcome to Maine The Way Life Should Be”
2. The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman
Jane was a student at the Heart Lake School for Girls. In her senior year, her closest friends had all died. Was it truly suicide or was foul play involved? Twenty years later, Jane returns to the school as a Latin teacher. Her new role there is complicated and she struggles to navigate relationships with her students. When a page from her diary from her time there as a student gets left on her desk, she fears the unfinished past is coming back for her. The fact that her students go by Latin names like Athena and Aphrodite only adds to the sensual element of the story. You will be turning pages as fast as you can when deaths of students begin again. Will Jane be able to stop it this time around?
3. If Wishes Were Horses by Loretta Gage, D.V.M.
In her mid-thirties, Loretta Gage became the oldest women in the incoming class of Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Unless you have actually been to veterinary school, you won’t get a better look at the life of a vet student. The isolation, extreme exhaustion and emotional and physical toll will come through clearly, until you feel it yourself. You will go through her ups and downs with her, wonder if she should continue, and ask yourself if you could do it. If you know anyone thinking of become a veterinarian, give them this book. If you have ever loved an animal or wondered how much one person can persevere, buy it for yourself. (Disclaimer: have tissues handy.)
4. Home Waters by Joseph Monninger
When Joseph is forced to face his best friend’s mortality, he thinks about the bond they have shared. Nellie, his 11-year-old Golden Retriever, may not have a lot of time left. So what is Joseph’s solution? Road trip! A fly-fishing enthusiast, he decides to take Nellie on the trip of her life. This trip is as much for Joseph as it is for Nellie. These two will remind you of the incredible love between people and their pets. And why life with furry family members is worth the sadness that comes when they leave us. While you may be wary of this read, I promise you that you will smile more than you are sad. It isn’t the story of Nellie’s death. It is the story of her life.
5. The Cliff Walk by Don J Snyder
English Professor Don Snyder had a large, young family to provide for when he lost his job at Colgate University. Thinking that the luck he had his whole life, along with his accomplishments (football scholarship, fellowship, published author) would land him an even better job, he didn’t worry. A year later, still unemployed, he’s not so sure. He went from being the privileged to working for the privileged, when he finally gets a job…in construction. In Maine. In the winter. I have never been so angry at a person I never met. He was not getting his act together quickly enough for my liking. It wasn’t until the end of the book that I realized that Don lost much more than his job. He lost his identity. And sometimes you truly have to hit rock bottom before you can rebuild your life.
I have never looked at these books together before. When I went through them while writing this post, I realized a couple of things for the first time. Three of the authors are residents of Maine and NH. Go New England! And 4 of my top 5 reads are non-fiction. While I write non-fiction, I always thought of myself as a fiction lover first. Well, I’ll be damned! Quite the epiphany.
What are your all time favorite books? Do you still have a them?