I recently wrote about how I’m planning on leaving a good 90% of our library behind while we move to Washington. The place we’ll be staying at is interim and cramped for space, so a lot of our library must be packed up for good and stored until the Lord seems fit to reunite my wife and I with them.
I also recently wrote about how the decision process is like being forced to choose between your children, and as fitting, my wife has part of the library that is “definitely hers” while the rest are “his books.” Thus, I am forced to sift the wheat from the okay wheat from the tares, only to bring those books whose character doth excel above all others. Or something like that.
Well, while many people look at different indicators to discover more about someone (for Polonius and Perez Hilton, it’s clothes; for nutritionists, it’s what you eat), I am a firm believer that books reveal more about a person than anything else, and so here are the first half of the 10 books I new immediately I needed to keep:
1. The Holy Bible and triple combination (The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price) –
Being a good, faithful Mormon boy, of course these four books top the list. Some may cry foul in combining these four volumes into one selection, but those who do obviously have never seen what many LDS members affectionately call “the quad.”
My particular volume is not a quadruple, but separated into two – The Bible and the rest of the Mormon canonical works combined into one; it’s easier to study cross references with both volumes instead of flipping back and forth with fingers in pages. My particular set is also the extra large print version, which I got during my mission for the extra wide margins for note-taking. The notes come in two layers – early-mission notes are inked with various colored pens, while late-mission (and post-mission) notes are scribbled in pencil, a habit I picked up from the mission president.
I still carry them to this day and they are my principle workbook for scripture study. They also carry silly notes my wife and I pass each other during sacrament meeting, one which details a cartoon of me throwing sharks with my wife’s version of herself rendered in stick figure form swooning, “So hawt!” I am not making this up.
2. The Book of Mormon, RLDS version, circa 1955 –
This is the closest thing I have to an heirloom and prized possession. Should I become rich and famous and robbed whilst a character of a popular crime show (such as Castle, wink wink Nathan Fillion), the object of desire by said robbers would be this tome. I picked up while browsing an antique shop in Blackwell, Oklahoma on my mission. At first glance, it was just a really old edition of The Book of Mormon, more than enough excuse to buy it. Upon further examination, I realized that Alma chapter 21 is a whopping 186 verses long, and that a paper pasted in the front cover had you writing to The Council of Twelve, The Auditorium, Independence, Missouri for more information. Turns out, this was an RLDS version, and this book became that much more precious.
As a bonus, included in the book was a wonderful Christian tract about how the barcode was the mark of the beast.
3. Digging to America by Anne Tyler –
This bittersweet novel captures all of the conflicting and intricate emotions of immigration in America. Two very different families meet at the airport, both waiting for their adopted Korean daughter. When they receive them at the same time, one family suggests an “Arrival Day,” celebrating the anniversary of the two Korean daughters entering their lives. Thus begins a story of acceptance and rejection, of inclusion and exclusion, full of laughs, cringe-worthy events, and the hilariously melancholy observations of an Iranian grandmother with a Korean grandchild, Maryam.
Lou was too busy talking to keep up with them. First he talked to Sami, on his other side – boring man-talk about jobs, followed by the high price of housing once he learned that Sami sold real estate. Then it was Maryam’s turn: how long had she been in this country? and did she like it?
Maryam hated being asked such questions, partly because she had answered them so many times before but also because she preferred to imagine (unreasonable though it was) that maybe she didn’t always, instantly, come across as a foreigner. “Where are you from?” someone might ask just when she was priding herself on having navigated some particularly intricate and illogical piece of English. She longed to say, “From Baltimore. Why?” but lacked the nerve. Now she spoke so courteously that Lou could have had no inkling how she felt. “I’ve been here thirty-nine years,” she said, and, “Yes, of course. I love it.”
4. Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
Then We Came to the End has been described as the novel form of the television show The Office, Catch-22 about white collar office life, or the next great American novel for the 21st century. It details in lucid prose the antics of an advertising agency on the verge of recession. As the firm lets their employees go one by one, the paranoia increases and everyone learns how to cope (or not cope) with their crumbling lives as they realize how much each co-worker means to them – and how little they know about them. The book’s unique hallmark is its narrator – 1st person plural. Ferris’ novel sucks you in as you start to feel like one of the employees, whispering over the cubicles and gossiping by the water cooler about each character’s private and public lives. This book sports one of the best endings in the history of literature (really, dead serious, best ending I’ve ever read in my life) but also sports some pretty heavy language, so avoid if you’re not into that stuff.
Tom wanted to throw his computer against the window, but only if he could guarantee it would break the glass and land on the street below. He was under his desk removing cords. “that’s sixty-two stories, Tom,” Benny said. And Tom agreed it was a bad idea if he couldn’t break the glass. If glass didn’t break they would say Tom Mota couldn’t even f— up right – he didn’t want to give them the satisfaction of that, the bastards. We were the bastards he was referring to, in part. “But I don’t think it’ll break the glass,” said Benny. Tom stopped tooling around with his computer. “But I gotta do something,” he said, sitting back on his heels.
5. A Treasury of Jewish Folklore edited by Nathan Ausubel
I picked up this gem in Seattle, during my honeymoon, at a small bookstore in Pike Place Market. The owner is a great guy who loves to talk about your purchases with great zeal and friendliness. I picked up this book for two reasons. One, it was old looking, and old books get me every single time. Two, it’s a collection of Jewish folklore! What more do you need?
I ended up lucking out since this book is actually really old – the fifth printing in November 1948 (the first printing was in June 1948), and according to my friend who went looking for a copy of his own on Amazon, has seen many a share of its editions and printings.
The first month or so, I would read a couple of pages and then read my favorite ones out loud to my wife; bless her Jewish-lineage heart, she tolerated my readings and would even pretend to laugh from time to time. I still read through this on a regular basis, and I will still read some of my favorite stories out loud to my beautiful wife.
A Jew was drowning in the Dnieper River. He cried for help. Two Czarist policemen ran up. When they saw it was a Jew, they said, “Let the Jew drown!”
When the man saw his strength was ebbing he shouted with all his might, “Down with the Czar!”
Hearing such seditious words, the policemen plunged in, pulled him out, and arrested him.