BBAW: Introduction Time!

BBAWThis week marks the return of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, a celebration of book blogging, originally started by Amy and brought back this year by Andi, Heather, Jenny, and Ana. You can read all about it over at The Estella Society.

Today’s task is to introduce yourself by selecting five books that represent you.  Only five? That’s a challenge! But here goes!

Teresa’s Five Books

  1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. I suspect this won’t be an unusual choice, but Jane represents the sort of person I most want to be—and on my best days, I think I am a little bit like her. She’s easily overlooked and sometimes taunted, but she has a strong core of moral strength, great intelligence, and intense feeling that I can’t help but admire. Whenever I read this book, I relate to Jane’s struggles and am inspired by her courage.
  2. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. A list like this wouldn’t be complete without a fantasy or science fiction novel, so I’m choosing the novel that cemented my love of fantastic fiction and that helped me envision the kind of person I’d like to be in the face of challenges. Frodo, Merry, Eowyn, and Faramir in particular represent the qualities I’d want to have.
  3. Stet: An Editor’s Life by Diana Athill. Like Athill, I make my living as a editor, although, unlike her, I don’t get to work with leading lights of the literary world. However, some of her descriptions of what it’s like to help shape a writer’s work behind the scenes are spot on.
  4. Excellent Women by Barbara Pym. As an unmarried woman of a certain age, I often get exasperated at pictures of what the single life is like. The reality is that it’s neither all loneliness and misery nor all freedom and exhilaration. Pym captures the mix of joy and pain perfectly.
  5. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. I’m not a seventy-year-old preacher, and I don’t have much at all in common with John Ames, the narrator of this masterpiece. But his compassionate yet strong-minded approach to theology and life is one that I deeply respect and aspire to.

Jenny’s Five Books

  1. Any list representing who I am (and who I am as a reader) wouldn’t be complete without Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. This book has humor, sadness, ambition, courage, a love of literature, and a deep understanding of sisterhood (genetic or chosen) that has appealed to me since I first read it decades ago.
  2. Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers helped me see early on the sort of person I’d like to be in an academic context: a strong woman, full of intelligence and integrity. (Its  many intertexts, its setting, and its detective who loved Harriet for herself, sharp temper and all, were also extremely beguiling.)
  3. The Translator by John Crowley. My professional life is spent teaching people how important it is to be at home in another language: to have that shift of perspective that another culture and vocabulary and idiom and literature and poetry can give you. Crowley arches the wings of his prose over all these questions that are so important to me, in a slow, beautiful novel.
  4. The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. Lewis’s theology has shaped me in many ways, even though (or perhaps because) neither he nor I are perfect. But it’s this short book I come back to again and again: a bus trip to heaven that reveals how much our unhappiness is due to our disinclination to let go of it.
  5. Lila by Marilynne Robinson. Anyone who has ever had trouble believing her own worth — anyone who has ever created defensive barriers because of it — will read this book with deep understanding and compassion. Lila’s slow journey from exile to love is a masterpiece that touches me deeply.

And you? What books represent you? Let’s hear it!


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29 Responses to BBAW: Introduction Time!

  1. Simon T says:

    Great choices – and how nice to see Robinson on both lists! I’m just compiling my list myself, and trying to avoid the books I always put on these lists….

    • Teresa says:

      I almost left off Jane Eyre because I use it a lot on these lists, but there’s a reason for that! And that reason made it impossible to leave it off!

  2. Maggie says:

    This is a fabulous way to celebrate blogging. I’m really looking forward to reading the upcoming posts! Here’s my (quick) list of 5 books that represent me: 1) “A Confederacy of Dunces” — a book I read for the first time when I was 17 and have read 3 other times since, the last when I was 45. Uniformly wry, clever, astute, and laugh-out-loud funny on every single reading. 2) “Their Eyes Were Watching God” — this book left me speechless, most of all because it so beautifully captured a world I will never really know, with all of its vibrant language and so much heart and soul. 3) “Nora Webster” — a book I will keep to help me through my own widowhood, when it comes. I fell in love with Nora Webster — a statement she would absolutely hate! — and was in tears to say good-bye to her. My favorite among Colm Toibin’s books. 4) “White Teeth” — so dynamic, lively, absorbing, funny and smart. Every Zadie Smith book since has been a disappointment to me, but this is a masterpiece. 5) “Consider This, Señora” — written by a woman who published her first book at age 74, I keep this as a reminder that it is never to late to begin writing. But aside from that it’s a long-time favorite: a simple story in a spare landscape, but so beautifully rich and moving. There is something of Hemingway in her writing style, but she’s got a far softer touch and approaches her characters with grace and humility. Another book I’ve read several times since a first reading when I was in my early 20s. There are so many others I could include, but I will keep it to 5, in keeping with the task at hand. I am looking forward to seeing what others have to say.

    • Teresa says:

      I thought about a Colm Toibin book (Brooklyn) for my list. I love that book so much and felt so strongly for the main character. I must read more of his books!

  3. Kristen M. says:

    I don’t think anyone should malign dear Jane. In fact, seeing this book on so many lists today makes me want to pick it up again soon! And I’ve also determined today that I have GOT to start reading the Harriet Vane books!

  4. Christy says:

    Both great lists! Love that you share an author. I’m reminded that I need to read Barbara Pym, especially Excellent Women! I easily could have had Jane Eyre on my list as well. Such an influential book for many, as I’ve seen today. And I really need to re-read Gaudy Night in context with the rest of the series.

    • Teresa says:

      I can’t believe I’ve only read the one Pym novel. I have a couple on my shelf that I really ought to get to. I think you’d love Excellent Women.

  5. Jeanne says:

    No surprises here; I might have to read Excellent Women and re-read Gaudy Night.

  6. JaneGS says:

    Love both lists, and it’s clear to me that I need to read Marilynn Robinson! I loved Excellent Women and although married feel an affinity for the excellent women who form the fabric of society and are relatively unsung. Harriet Vane is definitely an ideal to aspire to!

    • Teresa says:

      Oh, you really should give Robinson a try. Even though Gilead is my favorite, they don’t need to be read in any particular order, and I know a lot of people who didn’t warm to Gilead but loved Lila, so I suggest starting there.

  7. I adore Barbara Pym! So great to “meet” a fellow book lover. I loved both lists.

  8. No overlap at all! Was that by design, did y’all consult about what would go on each of your lists? Either way, your lists remind me so much of why I love y’all. And I always appreciate any affection aimed at Harriet Vane and Jane Eyre, two of my all-time favorite literary heroines.

    • Teresa says:

      We didn’t consult at all! Jenny saw my list before creating hers, although I don’t think she would have selected any of mine instead of the ones she chose.

  9. Great choices, both of you! Thank you SO much for joining us!

  10. Lata Sunil says:

    Lovely lists ladies.

  11. Ah Jenny, another translator?? By the way, adding this one to my TBR. I read another one called The Translator: A Tribesman’s Memoir of Darfur, amazing! And see my 5 books, where it’s also about translation!:

  12. Kay says:

    Ah, some lovely books here and some great favorites of mine. I am so impressed with the variety of books that all have chosen. It’s been fun looking!

  13. lailaarch says:

    Great lists! Teresa, you nailed one of the things I love most about Barbara Pym – her ability to see the full range of women’s experience. I just read A Glass of Blessings and the heroine is a married woman experiencing some boredom and dissatisfaction in her home life. It was just as good, IMO, as Excellent Women. I think. :)

  14. Shelley says:

    So many great choices–I don’t know where begin! I’ll just say that I loved Gilead but I am not familiar with Lila. I’ll have to check it out.

  15. Alex says:

    The only one on your list that I haven’t read and loved, Teresa is the Pym, which suggests that i should go out and get a copy immediately!

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