By that I mean, what kind of books are you prone to choosing?
There’s a constancy of business books in my diet, so much so that new titles leap off bookstore shelves at me because I am so familiar with what has already been there. But lucky for me, it seems that other people gently prod me into reading different things, and when I do I am so exceptionally grateful that I took their advice and introduced the needed variety into my spirit.
Lately it’s been my son, or I should more accurately say his English teacher. Zach is a senior in high school, and I’ve begun to read the book assignments he gets in English class when he’s done with them. He just gave me A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley, a book I would’ve never chosen on my own. Others are books that I’m reading for the second time, having done long-forgotten book reports on them when I was in school. But now, reading them again as an adult, they seem brand new, and of course there’s a world of difference in my own appreciation of them.
How about this surprise: A friend recommended I read The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. I waited for a month for it to come in, then after finishing it, discovered Zach had a copy buried under the junk on his closet floor, unceremoniously tossed down in relief after he finished his current class discussions on it. I picked it up and leafed through it, and found that we had underlined this same passage, him in his copy, me in mine:
“Intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of life, where the histories of all people are connected, and we are able to know everything, because it’s all written there.”
While I was writing Managing with Aloha I’d get gifts from friends sweetly encouraging me with writer’s books, like Carolyn See’s The Making of a Literary Life, and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Both are books I cannot recommend more highly whether you’re a writer or not, for they are simply great reads. Both are written with this generosity: reading them, you really feel like the authors want you to succeed beyond your wildest dreams.
I remember picking up Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven when it first came out, after one of those periods where I had breezed through a veritable Wall Street parade of business books. I had run into one of my employees while I was killing time in Borders one day, and he said, “Rosa, do us all a favor and buy a light-hearted book this time, okay?” When I latched onto a great book my managers would get excerpts to read, and I’d evangelize about it to everyone who’d listen — so he was right; I’d gotten way too serious and was in desperate need of some diversity in my reading.
Well, I wouldn’t call Albom’s book light-hearted, but I took it home that afternoon and absolutely devoured it. It had been much too long since I’d read good fiction, and that story was like a drug given to someone who’d gone through a long and painful withdrawal. What a gem it turned out to be! So much richness, drama, color and imagination is packed in such a small book. Couldn’t put it down once I’d started it, and I finished it entirely in an afternoon and evening’s time sunk into the comfort of my living room couch, skipping my own dinner and leaving the rest of my family to fend for themselves. About a year ago I read it again, this time more slowly, savoring every word and every picture in my mind. I refused to watch the highly hyped TV story that came out on it because I wasn’t willing to mess with the imagery I have locked in my own imagining.
I gave that book to everyone that Christmas after the first reading: and I do mean, everyone, every age. They’ll love it one day.
So what about you? How do you choose your books? What are you most inclined to read? Share your picks with us.