A Few of My Favorite Books…

Next to the aroma of fresh-roasted coffee, I love the smell of libraries and bookstores best. A reoccurring fantasy of mine was to actually work in a bookstore unpacking new inventory.  Alas, bookstores are shrinking just like newspapers.  When I visit someone’s home for the first time I’m surreptitiously drawn, like a peeping Tom, to investigate their bookshelves–wondering if I’ll discover something new and interesting.  There is hardly a feeling I enjoy more than being engrossed by a great story.

My home contains six bookshelves all scattered around the house—small and large.  The shelves hold certain classics, science fiction, thrillers, spirituality, biography, general history, gardening, art history and art instruction books–and others hard to categorize.  Sometimes, my husband and I have played the game–if you could only take 10 books with you to a deserted island, which would you pick?  Don’t know what I’d do if this doomsday scenario came true.

Today, I spent the morning browsing the internet and stumbled across someone’s  recommended reading page.  As I reviewed their list, it occurred to me that I might like to share my favorite reads, too.  So, here are three to begin…

By Doris Kearns Goodwin:

The Fitzgeralds book image No Ordinary Time book image Team of Rivals book image

It’s ironic that we measure how good a book is by the sadness we feel as the end of the story moves closer and closer with each turn of the page.  A Pulitzer Prize winner, I find Kearns Goodwin’s books hard to put down.  She weaves the history of an era along with interesting details to help me imagine what it was like to be alive at a moment in time.

The story of The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys begins with the baptism of John Patrick Fitzgerald, an infant less than one day old, on February 12, 1863.  One can imagine the cold, dark,  and filthy Irish tenements of Boston where survival beyond infancy was surely a miracle.  How the Fitzgeralds and Kennedys became  one of the world’s most famous families reads like an exhilarating drama.

No Ordinary Time tells the story of  Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt’s marriage against the backdrop of the Great Depression, Roosevelt’s presidency, and the events leading into World War II.  With compassion, Kearns Goodwin illuminates their character flaws and foibles and makes these iconic figures come alive.

Her latest book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, is the basis for Steven Spielberg’s latest movie, Lincoln.  Knowing how the story ends—with Lincoln’s assassination, I thought I was prepared to find the story of Lincoln’s life and presidency interesting and enjoyable.  However, once again, I was immersed in the sweeping time and place of nineteenth century United States.  When I reached the end, I found myself weeping for a long-ago dead President, as if he had just been killed yesterday.

We are often tempted to judge history with 20-20 hindsight.  With Doris Kearns Goodwin, the moral tensions and historical complexity become part of the story.  I end up wondering, who would I have been?  Would I have had the moral courage to recognize injustice and take a stand?  And then I ask myself, “What about now?”

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  1. Found you by accident and liked what I saw and decided to follow. Hope you will visit me sometime. I have a poetry blog at poormanspoet.wordpress.com and a general comment and commentary blog at oldmainer.wordpress.com.


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