More recently, "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett and "Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen have moved me to laughter and tears. Sounds like I cry a lot when I read. I must say "Water for Elephants" had the best ending of any book I've ever read; one I'll never forget.
Books and interests change over the decades
You have asked that we, your readers, tell you what books still have meaning for us, or what books we would share with others. I have never viewed books in either of these ways so perhaps you will permit me to tell you about the books that I have enjoyed for various and changing reasons over almost 80 years.
When I was a child I read voraciously in what my parents considered children's classics. Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, Little Women and others like them carried me off into times and places that I fully enjoyed. As I got a little older I satisfied my need for adventure with "Kidnapped," David Balfour, and "Treasure Island". It was about this time that I also read "The Last of the Mohicans" and "The Spy".
As an adolescent I discovered two additional interests, stories about dogs and historical fiction. Albert Payson Terhune's books about his collies, and Alexander Dumas' stories of the "Count of Monte Christo," "The Black Tulip," "The Man in the Iron Masque," and best of all, the characters Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D'Artagnan showed me a whole new world to read about. Historical fiction led me to reading history, especially European history of the 16th to 18th centuries. I haunted the Houston Public Library choosing whatever appealed to me and taking it home. I read "Lawrence of Arabia" and was introduced to the world of Arabs and Bedouins. This led me to "Beau Geste" and similar novels.
Not surprisingly I majored in English, minored in history, earned a couple of degrees and spent my working years teaching about literature, and those who wrote it. In those years I read many books, both fiction and non-fiction, by many great writers.
Since January 2012 I have recorded each book I have read. There are 218 through November 30, 2013. My objective is to note which of many favorites I still want to re-read and to find new books and new authors that I enjoy. I find only one book, "Kim" by Rudyard Kipling, that I have chosen to re-read twice in this period. My most frequently re-read authors were Jane Austen, Patrick O'Brian, and John Le Carre. Three new histories which gave me great pleasure are "Travels of Marco Polo," "The Last Mughal" by William Dalrymple, and "The Men Who Lost America" by A. J. O'Shaunnessey.
It is fair to say that I would recommend to others the books and authors I have mentioned, but they are my choices and may or may not appeal to all.
Thanks for the opportunity to talk about favorite books.
A visit with friends every winter
Can a book turn into a treasured friend you visit every winter? In my case, it sure can. "Winter Solstice" by Rosamunde Pilcher is that book. Published in 2000, I read it that winter and fell in love with all the characters.
The story that unfolds over Christmas in Scotland includes a 60ish woman consoling a grieving old friend recently left a widower, following the death of his wife and teenage daughter. They had meant to share a joyless Christmas, but when a stranger and some relatives with no other place to go come to visit, everything changes.
The book was so cozy, the following year I decided to read it again that January. Every January since then I have revisited my old friends Elfrida Phipps and Oscar Blundell in the tiny seaside town of Cregan, Scotland in the dead of winter.
I was 51 years old when I started reading "Winter Solstice." Elfrida was 62. The January I turned 62, I realized I had caught up with my old friend and 62 was not so old after all!
I will read "Winter Solstice" again in January, (held together by a rubber band), cuddled with my blanket, hopefully looking out onto the snow, feeling happy to be revisiting my once a year friends.