Every month at the Berryville Public Library, we celebrate a theme with our displays and programs. For February, our theme is “Home is where the heart is.” We have all sorts of displays highlighting this theme, ranging from home improvement/interior decorating books to music about romance and relationships.
I decided to blog about all of the challenges that seemed related to heart and home from the 2016 Library Book Challenge this month, as well, and “Read a book your mom or dad loved” seems like a perfect start. So far, we’ve been providing lists of suggestions to help you make selections, but this challenge is so uniquely personal for everybody that I decided to instead write a more reflective piece on the books that my parents–and grandparents, who helped raise me–shared with me.
I grew up among readers, but I’m actually the only one in my immediate family who avidly reads novels. For the most part, my family prefers to stick to nonfiction. I enjoy nonfiction just as much as I enjoy fiction, so I have a lot of fond memories of various biographies and histories my relatives have recommended to me over the years. But for the purposes of this post, I decided to focus on the novels that they have suggested to me.
The first novel I remember anyone in my family recommending to me was Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty. When I was a small child, I was obsessed with horses. I honestly never remember seeing my mother reading, but she had shared my love for all things equine-related when she was that age, so she eventually gave me her own very battered copy Black Beauty. I consider this book something of a wonder of the world because when she gave me the book some eighteen years ago, it was missing all of its spine, still barely held together by some webbing. I still have her copy and it’s accompanied me on several moves, and it still has held together, though just barely. Nevertheless, when I finally decided to read Black Beauty, I checked another copy out of the library because I was afraid this one wouldn’t survive another reading.
I also own another well-worn, but nowhere near as damaged, copy of one of my dad’s favorite books, Allan W. Eckert’s The Frontiersmen: A Narrative. My dad shared my love for history, though we liked different historical periods. He was fascinated with the American Civil War and 19th century American history in general. I was much more of a 20th century European history fan myself. Nevertheless, one day he was unpacking some things and came across a copy of Eckert’s book. He gave it to me, telling me that one of his uncles had enthusiastically recommended it to him years before and that he had enjoyed reading it when he was stationed overseas in the military. I started it a bit apprehensively because I wasn’t sure the content would interest me, but I quickly became absorbed in this historical novel, which covers the parallel lives of renowned mountain man Simon Kenton and famous Shawnee chief Tecumseh. In fact, this book sparked my lifelong interest in Tecumseh. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to continue the family tradition of passing it along by recommending it to my brother, who rarely reads, and he enjoyed it as much as I did.
My favorite memory of a relative recommending me a book, though, is also probably one of my stranger stories about getting suggestions for what to read.
Confession: I own a lot of books. I can’t help myself. When I go to a bookstore, I buy lots and lots of books, much to the embarrassment of whoever is with me. It may take me awhile to get around to reading those books, but I still like having them with me.
For this reason, I bought a copy of Alexandre Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo when I was a teenager. I had forgotten that I owned it until a few years later when I was home on a college break. My grandfather and I somehow got on the topic of prison escapes. Perhaps it was something we had seen on the news. Anyway, he excitedly told me, “Oh it’s just like in that book of yours!”
I had no idea what he was talking about, but as he gave me more plot details, Dumas’s book was the only one that came to mind, though I didn’t remember buying it. When I mentioned the title, he confirmed it was the book he had read. He told me he had stumbled across my copy in the basement, was intrigued by the cover, and then decided to read it.
He had so obviously enjoyed reading it that I didn’t have the heart to tell him my familiarity with the story only came from film, but we still chatted about the story. I had never known my grandfather to read a novel on his own, so his enthusiasm (and my own personal shame) prompted me to pick it up and start reading. After I finished it, we revisited the book–after I admitted to him that I hadn’t read it before, which he found hilarious–and we had a lovely chat about Edmund Dantes’ adventures.
Don’t forget: If you’d like to check any of these books out of the library, just click on the covers. A link will take you straight to our catalog, where you can search for it to check availability and also put it on hold.
As I said at the beginning of this post, I know not everyone will have the same selections because everyone’s reading tastes and histories are so varied, but I’d love to know what your pick for this category will/would be. Even if you aren’t participating in the book challenge, please tell us about the books your parents and relatives loved and shared with you. Likewise, have you read any of the books I mentioned? If so, let’s compare notes! Share your thoughts about them in the comments.