There's a meme out on the internet right now where friends are listing their top ten books. I love writing about books (and have listed many on my blog over the years), so I thought I'd give it a try.
The two most influential authors from my childhood were Laura Ingalls Wilder and Louisa May Alcott. I read all the Little House books and many of Louisa May Alcott's. It was after re-reading them with my girls that I realized how much of their writing I have carried with me throughout my life. Laura Ingalls Wilder and Louisa May Alcott provided me with an "inner view" of history. It was through their writing that I began to envision the past. I grew up with an idea that history was about ordinary people living out their lives and this influenced my approach to history as an adult.
I think I learned more about history from James Michener than I did from any high school history class. I remember finding those thick books on the shelves at my local library and just plowing through them--Chesapeake and Hawaii were both favorites.
The influential reads from my college years also take on a history theme. Two books rise to the top:
In Small Things Forgotten and The Transformation of Virginia. These two books helped me to see how historians use material culture to make sense of the past. After reading The Transformation of Virginia, I saw the landscape in entirely new ways.
While I continued to read many, many history books after college (I got an MA in history), the books that rise to the top are all focused on family life.
We were well on our way with Waldorf Education when I read Mitten Strings for God. Katrina Kenison helped me think about how to integrate our family life with Waldorf Education.
Barbara Kingsolver's, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle was one of those books that helped define a new path for our family's nutrition. I have always loved books about food, but this one actually pushed us to make some changes toward local food and we've never looked back.
Colleges that Change Lives was integral to the college search. The author articulated an approach to education that seemed like a natural next step after Waldorf. Passionate teaching, residential communities, holistic admissions policies, and a focus on personal growth became the parameters in our search.
So, if I'm following the internet MEME, I have one book left to list. I've just turned 50 and I am at a turning point. I'm not sure what the 10th book should be. I find myself being quite introspective these days, reading some poetry, memoirs, and meditations. I think I'll list book #10 in a few years.