Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Transcendent Books

In keeping with the theme of yesterday's post, I thought it might fun for us to share with each other books that we consider to be "transcendent". A transcendent book is one that you couldn't stop thinking about when you finished reading it. A book that you want to share with all your friends and fellow bibliophiles. A book that touched you in some way. A book that makes you sigh and smile when you utter it's name. THAT is a transcendent book.

I have two books that I consider transcendent. Before the RARI event, I referred to them as my All Time Favorite Books. Transcendent sounds soooo much better. Here they are. Can you hear me sighing and see me smiling?

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

I first read this book when I was 14 years old and in 8th grade. I can not remember if it was assigned reading or a book I simply stumbled upon. My guess is that it was assigned. I had a wonderful 8th grade English teacher, Mr. O'Donnell, and I can easily imagine him assigning this amazing book to his Junior High School students. As I grew into adulthood, I remembered that I LOVED this book, but I couldn't remember much else about it. Except for an image of a homeless man with gnarled and filthy feet and how the protagonist (a teen age girl) saw his feet and thought to herself that at one time he was someone's precious baby boy and his mama probably kissed his tender pink toes with love. Wow! THAT image stayed with me for nearly 25 years at which time I finally took the time to reread A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I was curious to see if I still loved the book as an adult as I had as a young teen. The answer is YES! I loved it! It's wonderful. I recommend it to almost everyone who comes into the library and tells me they are "looking for a good book". And not a single one of them has ever been disappointed. Typically, when they return the book they ask for another recommendation. And without a moments hesitation I say....

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

Ahhh! Somehow I managed to live 43 whole years before I read this book! What a shame. I remember first hearing about this book from the woman who was my hairdresser at that time. Isabel was a fellow book lover who received this book as a Christmas present and positively raved about it to me. It took me approximately 3 years before I finally decided to pick it up myself. Why did it take so long? Well, I am constantly learning about great new books. I try my best to keep up with all these wonderful new titles. Of course, I can't possibly read all the fabulous books I hear or read about, but I do give it the old college try. Since I am always frantically trying to keep up with all the great current literature being published, to go back and read an "old" book is very hard for me. Such a dilemma! Anyway, this book is worth a bookshelf full of great new books. It is worth dropping everything and reading - right now! And like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, no one has ever been disappointed that I recommended it.

Ok, now it's your turn. Leave me a comment telling me about your "transcendent" book(s). Not just a good book or a great book, but your All Time Favorite Book. I can't wait!

Images from Google Images


Terra said...

oh boy....It is too early for me to process this completely - I might have to come back later. I am not sure what my transcendent books are....

Tammy Howard said...

Pam this was such an excellent post. It was weird, because I was easily able to pick a few for Tom (I hope he comments and I hope I'm right!) but it was harder for me. I read your post then walked away from it for a while to contemplate before commenting.

I don't have 2 solids like you do and like I suspect Tom does.

I will tell you about a couple that have stayed with me. I'm going to go with that. I don't know that they're necessarily transcendent. I don't even know if they're necessarily my favorites. But here are a couple that lived with me long after the last page was read:

'She's Come Undone' by Wally Lamb. I know, I know, it was an Oprah choice, but it really spoke to me.

'Ishmael' by Daniel Quinn. This is one of those books that I was told was transcendent. When I read it I liked it ok, but I wouldn't have put it on any ZOMG best book evah lists. But I find it creeping into my subconscious with alarming frequency. It was a sneaky little bugger.

'Jitterbug Perfume' by Tom Robbins. All of Mr. Robbins' books stay with me and make me think long after they're closed, so this one was chosen rather arbitrarily. I think it is one of the more powerful novels, though. But then I think about another one and say, oh yeaaaaahhhhhh - I forgot about that...

'Slaughterhouse Five' by Kurt Vonnegut

So many more - it becomes a post of it's own... I'm gonna go with those four for now. Betcha a nickle when I come back to check out your comments later today I'll find myself saying, "Oh yeaaaaaah! That too! Good one!"

Thanks again for a post that forced me to think!

Alex the Girl said...

I'm probably in Tammy's boat, but my mind goes blank when the question is asked. I can tell you the one that is on top of my list, and it was one that I was forced to read in college: "To Kill a Mockingbird." The characters in that novel came to life so much to me that even now when I hear someone complain about mockingbirds, I comment on it being just plain wrong to kill one. My ATFL is big though, Tammy's Slaughterhouse 5 is one of them.

Poot tweet?

Kathy B! said...

Fountainhead by Ayn Rand is my most transcendent :)

Valentine said...

my childhood transcendant book is Number the Stars, by lois lowry. it was assigned and it got me thinking if i would do the same in their situation.

as an adult, it would have to be atlas shrugged by ayn rand. it was an everest of a book to read, but so worth it in the end. especially in our current economic situation, i think about it more and more.

Miss Lady Grey said...

Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follet. That's my all time favourite so far. There was just something about the way he wrote...it was like I was transported back in time each time I read a chapter.

Ms.Emily said...

both of those books sound great!

I have so many books I want to read right now!

I think I need to head to the library here and ask for a card. (we just moved)

C said...

I read so much that it's hard to choose! Some are favorites for different reasons....books I read when I'm sad, when I'm happy, when I miss my friends. And there are tons that have stuck with me for different reasons. I think one of the ones that has stuck with me most in recent years is The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (it was made into a movie, which was also very good, but the book -- as usual -- is better.). It's about the struggle to connect with two different worlds, and how to find a home for yourself in both. It's about Bengali family who come to the United States, and raise their children here. Then it turns into a story about their son's struggle to reconcile his heritage with his life in the US, and to discover what it is that he wants.

It's really well-written, and always makes me think.

Pam said...

Terra - I hope you do come back and tell me your favorite!

Tammy - I hope Tom does leave me a comment. I'm very curious. Btw, I didn't realize at first that Bass is your husband. I'm a little slow sometimes!

I loved She's Come Undone, too. Not all Oprah books are worth scoffing at. Actually, most of them are pretty good. Collectively they're a little "self-indulgent". She made the mistake of choosing all books of the same "type". I haven't read Ismael or anything by Tom Robbins. I may have to check him out. As for Slaughterhouse 5, my husband loves Vonnegut. Me, I don't really like SciFi.

Alex - I read Mockingbird in HS and couldn't remember a thing about it. My book club read it a few months back and everyone LOVED it! Great book. Definitely transcendent!

Kathy B and Valentine - YIKES - Ayn Rand! I tried to read Atlas Shrugged about 10 years ago. I read 600 pages (!) before I finally gave up. I just don't think I "get" Rand. Kudos to both of you for not only reading her, but understanding her. I'm not worthy!

Lady Grey - I recently read Pillars of the Earth on the recommendation of a friend. I agree that Follet does a good job of evoking the time period. It was definitely an epic book.

Emily - Most definitely you should get a new library card! A library is like a candy store. Imagine the possilbities!

C - Jhumpa Lahiri is one of my favorite authors. She is originally from RI and her family still lives here. She was here recently doing a talk and signing in Providence and I had a prior committment I couldn't get out of. ARGGH!!! I LOVED The Namesake - book and movie. I actually asked for the movie as a gift (I hardly ever buy movies). Have you read her other books - Interpreter of Maladies (won the Pulitzer) and Unaccustomed Earth? Both are short stories collections. Which I usually hate. But those I love. I wrote a book review for Unaccustomed Earth for the library where I work. You can read it at http://tiny.cc/Vtzm9.

Anita said...

I've been thinking about this all day. I think when I was young, one of the first books I read that made me really think, changed my way of thinking was To Kill a Mockingbird. I saw the movie as a child and my mom said the book was even better, and I read it, and I was in love with the characters and the visual images that were drawn.
I've read many books as an adult that made me really think, transcend, so to speak.
We Are All Welcome Here by Elizabeth Berg really touched me, perhaps it was her mother's struggle with polio, perhaps it was her desire to be normal and have a different life, but when I finished this book I wanted to know more.
Most recently the Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri was another one that touched me. I wanted the main character to succeed to love and be loved and to finally understand and cherish his name. I cried in the movie. I have no read her other books, but I really should.
Thank you Pam for making me think, and to share about the books that have left an impression on my mind.

Pam said...

Anita - If you loved The Namesake you really should check out Lahiri's other books. They are just as wonderful.

Elizabeth Berg is another of favorite authors! I've read everything she's written. Sometimes they get little mixed up in my mind, but the first one I read was Range of Motion and that one hooked me on Berg. I also loved Pull of the Moon. I read that one a time in my life when I could completely identify with the main character. Berg has a new book out - Home Safe. Did I blog about here? I can't remember. I definitely blogged about it on my work blog. I knew this would happen. I'm getting them mixed up. I'll have to check. If I haven't posted it here yet, I will. Maybe tomorrow!

Clare said...

Oh what a fantastic post. Mine are The Witching Hour, Anne Rice, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Voodoo Queen by Robert Tallant.

Tammy Howard said...

Ya know, I was gonna put The Namesake on my list, too - T. and I were both very moved by both book and movie.

I can't get through Ayn Rand, either. I'm so glad to find it's yet another thing we have in common. (and I also offer kudos and respect to those who not only got through it, but loved it)

I've only read a little Elizabeth Berg, but now that you mention it, it did stick with me. Perhaps I should pursue more of that.

Pam, I've had so much fun reading your post and the ensuing comments! You rock!

Pam said...

Clare - I haven't heard of The Voodoo Queen or Robert Tallant. I'm on it!

Tammy - Glad I'm not the only bookworn who Ayn Rand is lost on. Phew! Glad you liked this post and comments. I love it when the comments pages becomes interactive. Very cool!

Lucky Wife/Bookaholic said...

I read "5 people you met in heaven" by Mitch Albom shortly after my grandfther passed away... I LOVE that book, hubby loved that book. I have sent it on to several other people to read

The other book, Redeaming Love by Francine Rivers. She wrote this book as a testamony to her new found faith, and I related to the character in so many way, she was able to explain what I felt and couldn't explain. I could read both of those books over and over again...

Pam said...

Lucky/Bookaholic - Don't you just love when you find a book that is able to express EXACTLY how you feel about a topic? Especially when it is something meaningful and emotional. This happened to me with a couple of books as well.

Ronnica said...

I finally got around to writing "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" on my to-read list, then I saw your second book. Seriously? I had to read the Good Earth in high school, and it's second only to The Grapes of Wrath of abhored books from that time. Blech. I have read something else by Buck (Pavilion of Women) more recently and enjoyed it at some level.

I never how to answer these things. Maybe I'd pick Anna Karenina. Or maybe Oliver Twist. Or maybe Sense and Sensibility (or Pride and Prejudice). Or maybe Tom Jones. Ach!

Pam said...

Ronnica - THIS is the very thing I love most about talking about books. One woman's "transcendent book" is another woman's "abhorrent book". FASCINATING! Do you remember why you hated this in HS? I can easily imagine this book (like Grapes of Wrath) would have been pure drudgery to a teenager. As an adult, I totally LOVED it. I haven't read any of your possible choices. Again, "old" books. I really need to go back and visit some "oldies, but goodies". It's just so hard to do when all these new titles are calling my name. Ach! - indeed!

Oz Girl said...

Honestly, I'm so tired right now that I can't even search in my memory for the great books I have read. I know I have. I'm just brain-dead at the moment.

It's been awhile since I sat down with a good book, really took the time to relax. So I'm going to take some of your suggestions here and try to read them. I'll let you know! :)

Pam said...

Oz Girl - Good to see you! It's been a while. Sometimes I completely draw a blank when someone asks me for a book recommendation. Being the Type A person that I am, I now have list handy to refer to. Crazy, I know! I hope you are able to find some time to relax with a good book soon!

Stephanie said...

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant is a really powerful read and probably my favorite book (tied with another great one, The Kite Runner)

Pam said...

Stephanie - Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting. I loved both The Red Tent and The Kite Runner! I like Hosseini's second book, A Thousand Splendid Suns even more that The Kite Runner - which I wouldn't have thought possible.

Myrthe said...

The one book that comes to mind is In Search of Adam by Caroline Smailes. After I first read it, I couldn't stop thinking about it and I ended up rereading the book within a month of having finished it. That has never happened to me before (or since, for that matter!).

I tried to paste the link to my review in the comment, but for some reason that didn't work. If you click on my name, that should take you straight to the review on my blog.


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