Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Books They Gave Me: True Stories of Life, Love, and Lit

By Jen Adams
 Free Press     2012
235 pages   Nonfiction
The Shortlist

Last month I had a significant birthday. Several people gave me books as presents. My long time friend gave me Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight for me to review. A book-selling sister-in-law gave me The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, and a soul friend gave me The Healing Power of the Sacred Woman by Christine Page for my spiritual journey. My sister gave me I'm Too Young to Be Seventy by Judith Viorst. These are people who know me well. 

The sweet little The Books They Gave Me is a compendium of very short essays gleaned from Jen Adams' blog of the same name. Each essay tells the story of a book--a gift book--given thoughtfully or carelessly. Given with great love or no love. Given to educate or given to heal. There are essays about every type of book imaginable, and not surprisingly, I had read many of them. Some of the essays are inspirational, and some are comforting. Many are about lost loves but there are also essays about love discovered because of the sharing of a book. 

As I read the blog entries, I thought about the books that I have given and the books that I have received. I remember giving The Complete Works of Edgar Allen Poe to my first real boyfriend. I remembered a book of meditations called Creative Brooding by Robert Raines that I gave to my husband Lee to share before we were married. Then I remembered a book that I was reading shortly after I married Thell. It was a series of essays about reading, and it was very funny. (Can't remember the name now.) Thell asked me why I was laughing, and I said, "Want to hear it?" That moment began one of our most treasured gifts to each other. We take turns reading aloud every day. It generally takes us a couple of months to get through a book, and we have read dozens of books--everything from novels to biographies to science. Right now we are reading The Infinite Resource by Ramez Naam, which is a book about innovation. We just finished Healing the Heart of Democracy by Parker Palmer, which I will blog about tomorrow.

In Adam's little book, we see the power of the gift of a book. The Books They Gave Me would be a delightful gift book for a graduate or a bibliophile.

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