My reading log began in July 2003. Since then, I have chronicled the books I have read in a spiral-bound journal. I record the title, author, the date I completed reading the book, and my thoughts on the book. I am a bona fide book person.
As a writer, I read with appreciation and gratitude. I know that putting words to a page isn’t an easy task, so I highlight gorgeous phrases and poetic descriptions. There is an art to making good writing look effortless.
Limiting myself to one selection per letter was not always easy. But I did it, and here I share with you my list of A to Z books found on my white Ikea bookcase.
A Aunties by Tamara Traeder and Julienne Bennett. I read this book while sitting at Los Angeles Unified School District headquarters - waiting for my paperwork to be processed before beginning my first teaching assignment, and awaiting the birth of my first nephew. I had such high hopes for developing a close relationship with both my nephews. Distance, work, and disagreements with my sister have complicated our relationships, but the book still has a special place in my heart.
B Beyond the Diaper Bag edited by Megan Bekkedahl and Melaina Lausen. My first book. Okay, the whole book isn’t mine. But one of my essays is included in this anthology that explores motherhood.
C Courage and Craft by Barbara Abercrombie. Several years ago, I decided I was ready to take my writing seriously. I enrolled in a weekend class offered by UCLA Extension and taught by Barbara Abercrombie. I will forever credit Ms. Abercrombie with giving me the nudge I needed to write and send my writing out.
D Dream When You’re Feeling Blue by Elizabeth Berg. I cannot adequately describe Ms. Berg’s writing. It’s honest, it’s beautiful, it’s touching. It’s full of rich images and sensory details. And this story, the relationship these sisters have, the sacrifice one can make for another, the forms true love can take, deeply resonated with me.
E Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center. This book got me at the first sentence: “The day I decided to change my life, I was wearing sweatpants and an old oxford of Peter’s with a coffee stain down the front.“ While reading, I marked pages with post-its, and in my own review, I wrote, “I needed this book.”
F France, A Picture Book to Remember Her By designed by David Gibbon. Paris, France was always my dream destination. I remember celebrating an elementary-school-aged birthday at Benihana and receiving this book as a gift. I fell in love with the Eiffel Tower, the street lamps, the gardens. I knew I was meant to go to Paris.
G God on a Harley by Joan Brady. I first read this book many years ago, and re-read it again, and know that I’m due to read it again. It’s the story of a woman who questions her life’s choices, who is introduced to the opportunities that do exist for herself. It was a fun, fast, re-affirming read.
H How Stella Got Her Groove Back by Terry McMillan. It is a book I have read more than once. I thoroughly enjoy Ms. McMillan’s conversational writing style. The pages flew by.
I I Touch the Future...The Story of Christa McAuliffe by Robert T. Hohler. The space shuttle Challenger exploded when I was in fourth-grade, killing teacher-astronaut Christa McAuliffe and her six crew mates. I was completely inspired by this teacher who wanted to take all students on the “ultimate field trip”.
J Julie and Romeo by Jeanne Ray. It was this novel that exposed me to Ms. Ray’s subsequent novels (all of which I have thoroughly enjoyed). This story may sound like the familiar premise of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, yet with a twist. Plus, as a former florist, I enjoyed that the story was set in competing florist shops.
K A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks. Mr. Sparks crafts beautiful stories - stories that make you cry, stories that make you believe in goodness and true love. As with his other books, this is a love story that lingers.
L Love, Rosie by Cecilia Ahern. A complete page-turner written as a series of emails, letters, and notes. A romantic story that explores the idea that two people are meant to be together, but sometimes, the timing just isn’t right to allow it to happen.
M Multiple Choice by Claire Cook. It was this novel that made me fall in love with Claire Cook’s writing style. The novel explores a mother and daughter enrolled in college, at the same time. (No further synopsis necessary)
N The Next Thing on My List by Jill Smolinski. A woman is on a quest to finish another woman’s life list. An incredible premise, but the things on the list make it even better.
O Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott. This is the book I read during those first few months when my son was an infant and a full night’s sleep became a distant memory. I’d feed him, kiss him, and place him back in his crib. Then I’d sit in the next room, making sure he was asleep before I went back to bed. And I’d read Anne Lamott’s honest account of motherhood (re: including curse words) and know that I wasn’t alone. Motherhood isn’t always easy, isn’t always fun, isn’t always anything, except permanent.
P Promises to Keep by Jane Green. I’m a Jane Green fan, but this novel was especially poignant and touching. Maybe because I know it was inspired by Ms. Green’s close friend. Maybe because it’s about family and being there for one another. Maybe because it’s a reminder that life is short, and unpredictable, and we really don’t know what is around the corner.
Q The Kids’ Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph.D. This book I discovered before I was a teacher, and knew that someday, I’d refer to it, searching for journal prompts for the students I would someday teach.
R The Radiance of Summer Sun. Back in 1999, I became a published writer. One of my poems was included in this anthology published by poetry.com. Granted, I had to pay for the book and most people haven’t heard of this book, but it was the first time I saw my name in print as a published author.
S A Summer in Paris by Cynthia Blair. I don’t remember how old I was when I first read this book. I do know that I’m 35 years old, and the book is still on my bookshelf. I wanted this summer trip to Paris. I wanted the experience. My book was a connection to my dream.
T Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. This is the book that introduced me to Mr. Albom’s writing, and since Morrie, I’ve read others. This story touches me - the idea that our teachers are all around us, that we can take a second chance, get back the person we used to be.
U An Unfinished Marriage by Joan Anderson. I read Ms. Anderson’s first memoir, A Year by the Sea, and had to see how things were working out. How do people stay together for so long? How do they grow and change and still continue to love each other? How do they not lose the “he” and “she” and the “they”?
V The Victoria’s Secret Catalog Never Stops Coming and Other Lessons I Learned from Breast Cancer by Jennie Nash. I read this book because I took a class given by the author. Ms. Nash’s medical story is not mine, but I can read her book and appreciate her honesty, her candor, her writing style, her organizational decisions in presenting this period of her life.
W The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton. This novel was an unexpected find for me. I fell in love with the story, these women, their bond. Women who are wives and mothers, women who become family, women who are writers.
X Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss. I admit; I like reading this book. Liked it as a kid, liked it as a kindergarten teacher, and now like reading it to my son.
Y Your Future in Space by Flip and Debra Schulke and Penelope and Raymond McPhee. Half of my childhood was spent dreaming of becoming an astronaut. My bookshelves at the time were full of space-related books. And while I have not held onto my entire space library, this book is still there - reminding me that there is a place like the United States Space Camp in Alabama, that some people will grow up to be astronauts, and for a while, it was my dream.
Z Zlata’s Diary by Zlata Filipovic. This was the book that was being compared to Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl. I only read it once, honestly, don’t remember all the details. I do remember being impressed by a young girl’s eloquence, honesty, and courage. And I remember being saddened, that fifty years later, another girl was in hiding, trying to survive a war.