BBAW Day 1: Introducing Myself

Day OneIntroduce yourself

I decided to join Book Blogger Appreciation Week because I felt like over the past several years I’ve not done a great job at connecting with my fellow book bloggers. When I saw the topic for Day 1—discuss five books that define you—I thought at first I would have no problem, but then I spent the weekend thinking about it and realized what a very difficult topic that is. Naming five favorite books is an easy thing to do, but naming five books that basically tell the world who you are? Whole different story. After careful consideration, here are my selections:

The Secret History, Donna Tartt. I was only 23 the first time I read The Secret History. It had just been published, I and I was in my first semester of graduate school. I grew up in Texas, but I have always had a fascination with New England, with the idea of going “back East” to school, with academic life…I could go on, but let’s just say I identified with Richard Papen in so many ways, an outsider always unsure, a natural dreamer, a drifter looking for a place to belong.

M Train, Patti Smith. I read this whole book on a long flight from Amsterdam to Atlanta. When I finished it I felt like I’d just finished a book-length letter written exclusively to me by my best friend. Smith loves books, gets so involved in her favorite television show she worries over the characters almost as though they’re real people, watches Law and Order marathons, and is possessive of her favorite seat in her favorite coffee shop. If people know us by our friends, I certainly wish I could count her as one of mine.

Cat’s Eye, Margaret Atwood. “Little girls are cute and small only to adults. To one another they are not cute. They are life-sized.” Back in the 1990s, way before Mean Girls, this was the book that put a narrative to my own experience growing up as a female. I was always more comfortable in one-to-one friendships, wary of groups, and even today I’m sometimes stunned by the dynamics of women in groups. I’m definitely a feminist, but I also don’t kid myself that as a sex we are always all for each other.

The Best American Short Stories Series. For most of my early reading life, I read novels and biographies exclusively. Short stories were things I read in my English classes only, and like a lot of people I thought we read them because they were easier to discuss and be tested on. It was only after my best friend suggested that I try to write a story that I realized I really had no idea what that meant. How was a story different than a novel? This series supplied my answer, and introduced me to authors like Lorrie Moore, Charles Baxter, Richard Bausch, and Alice Munro, and made me dare to try to write something of my own. (Still trying, by the way.)

What the Dead Know, Laura Lippman/In the Woods, Tana French. I’m kind of cheating here and counting these two books as one, because they changed my reading life. Before I read these novels, I ONLY read literary fiction or classics, and I definitely looked down my nose at people who liked to read mysteries and series. In all honestly, I don’t know where I got the idea that it was all pulp fiction, and I’ve certainly learned my lesson. Reading mysteries has deepened my reading of other types of literature as well. Really, everything is a mystery of one kind or another.

So that’s enough about me. I look forward to reading everyone else’s picks!

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44 comments

  1. You’ve got 3 books on this list that I have meant to read for such a long time. The Secret History, Cat’s Eye, and What the Dead Know. I own all of them. Maybe this year. 🙂

  2. Beth, M Train has a completely different feel, but in some ways I loved it even more than Just Kids. You definitely get a more complete picture of her as an artist and a person. She just seems like a wonderful human!

  3. I really must read Cat’s Eye. Especially after your description of it. I’m with you. Women are sometimes our own worst enemies. I wish we were better at supporting each other, but we seem to be much more prone to tear each other down.

    I am glad you found your way to crime fiction. In the Woods is so good. Have you read anything by Elizabeth Haynes yet? I highly recommend Into the Darkest Corner.

    Patti Smith sounds like my kind of person. I will have to read My Train.

    Thanks for sharing a bit about yourself with us!

  4. Oh Cat’s Eye–such a great book. I love all of Atwood’s books (that I’ve read) for the exploration of female relationships. I listened to In the Woods last year and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I don’t typically read mystery either, but I have Galbraith on my list to read as well.

  5. I have yet to get to The Secret History! Sigh. Someday..hopefully soon. Glad to come across your blog through BBAW.

  6. I like that quote from Cat’s Eye. Girls can be quite mean to each other (though I had my share of bullying from the boys too growing up). As an adult, I have not really encountered the mean girl dynamic.

  7. What a great list! I love Atwood but haven’t read The Cat’s Eye. I love how book blogging opens us up to new genres! I don’t know if that’s what got you to explore mysteries and such, but it has worked that way for me.

  8. You’ve made me want to read M-Train (I worry over characters and have favourite seats/mugs/cups/so many things), and re-read Cat’s Eye (it’s been so long I can barely remember it).

  9. Oh my gosh, you are nowhere near cheating! People have included WAY more books than six in their lists today. I love your choices! I love how they represent, like, different phases of your reading life — that’s awesome. The Secret History is one of my very favorites, too.

  10. The more I hear about M Train, the more I realise that I need to read it! And I haven’t had much joy in my experience with Margaret Atwood so far, but Cat’s Eye sounds great. I might have to check it out.

  11. What a brilliant list! I toyed with the idea of putting M Train on my list, because of our shared love of crime drama, but I decided against it.

    I signed up for BBAW for the same reason 🙂

  12. Katie, what I like about Atwood is that even her non-dystopian work keeps that same feel as all her other work. Elaine definitely gives Cordelia so much power that she seems otherworldly, which sort of creates an alternate reality for Elaine.

  13. Literary Feline, Cat’s Eye is still my favorite Atwood. It’s such a powerful book. I have not read Elizabeth Haynes but I’ll be putting Into the Darkest Corner on my list! Thanks for the recommendation! I think you’ll enjoy M Train, too. It’s a quick read, but one I can see re-reading more than once myself because it’s easy to dip in and out.

  14. Trish, I just read Cuckoo’s Calling in December and it was terrific. If you enjoyed In the Woods then I highly recommend you check out French’s other books. They’re all different, but so absorbing! Cat’s Eye is definitely my favorite Atwood, but The Robber Bride is also very good (if you haven’t read it already). Thanks for visiting!

  15. Christy, what Atwood explores in the relationships between women is a bullying that’s so different from what boys/men do. I’m glad you haven’t experienced that as an adult. I have, and it’s pretty nasty.

  16. Shelley, I picked up What the Dead Know and In the Woods several years before I started the book blog, so I was already interested in finding more works like that. Book blogs were definitely responsible for helping me find those books!

  17. Marce, I am not proud of it, but I did. Finding some really strong writers in the genre definitely helped me to change my tune, and then book bloggers helped me find even more mystery authors to love!

  18. Jenny, I hadn’t seen anyone else’s list when I wrote mine, but I definitely saw people who had chosen way more than five books. I understand–it was so hard to narrow it down, and after I started visiting everyone I kept thinking of other books I should have included.

  19. Lisa, it was so hard to choose! And really those were both significant changes in my reading life, and I think for serious readers it also changes us as people…

  20. Loulou, I guess it’s obvious that I highly recommend both! Cat’s Eye is not dystopian, if that’s what did not appeal to you in your earlier experience.

  21. Same! It was just nice to see how into the world of another isolated introvert who has to sit in the same place in her coffee shop. I don’t drink coffee, but I may have a seat on the bus that I get upset if anyone sits in before I get to it…..

  22. It’s so great to see a blogger give Cat’s Eye some love! It was one of the first (maybe the first?) Atwood I ever read, and I just loved it. It held up on a reread too. I admire everything she does, but i have a special place in my heart for her realistic fiction.

  23. Laila, it was the first Atwood I read. I’ve read it at least three times, and it never disappoints. And I agree, she rarely makes a wrong turn, but her realistic fiction is my favorite.

  24. I loved Patti Smith’s “Just Kids” but didn’t really get to give “M Train” a chance before I had to take it back to the library. I’ll give it another try based on this recommendation, though!

  25. Citizen Reader, it’s a wholly different kind of book than Just Kids, but it’s absolutely just as good. I definitely recommend trying it again! Thanks for visiting!

  26. We have reading similar tastes — loved Just Kids, currently reading Alias Grace (The Blind Assassin is probably my favorite Atwood novel), and really enjoyed Into the Woods by Tana French as well! Looking forward to following your blog.

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