It's been a long time since I've done an Authors Pick Five, so why not start now and bring the feature back? So I've asked Tova Mirvis, author of The Ladies Auxiliary and most recently Visible City (my review here) to answer this questions:
Here are her wonderful answers:
Here are her wonderful answers:
Tuck Everlasting/Natalie Babbit – This was one of the first books I loved as a pre-teen, one of those books that transported me so fully to another world. I fell in love with Winnie a young girl who stumbles upon a family’s secret potion for immortality, and with Jess, a teenage boy who asks Winnie to drink the potion and join him in eternally exploring the world. Here in this tender gentle book were questions about death and immortality and the meaning of life. From reading this as a pre-teen I understood that novels were the best place to ask the largest of questions.
The Scarlett Letter/Nathaniel Hawthorne –I read this in my small Orthodox Jewish high school in Memphis, TN, and first loved it for its distance to my own world: Here was blustery New England; here were other people’s rules which were so strict that they made my own religious world seem giddily free-spirited. But I also loved this book not just for its distance but for its proximity to my world. Here was a searing examination of religion and sin and goodness. When Hester wears the embroidered A on her chest, “every gesture, every word, and even the silence of those with whom she came in contact ... expressed, that she was banished.” Yet Hester’s sin also expands her capacity for understanding and allows her to peer into the private compartments of other people’s hearts. Upon passing a revered minister or magistrate, “the red infamy upon her breast would give a sympathetic throb.” Or upon passing “a young maiden,” “the electric thrill would give her warning - Behold, Hester, here is a companion.” Hester knows that she is not alone in her sin; and in looking at her, the townspeople know that neither are they alone in theirs. This is a book that commands empathy and humility and forgiveness.
A Thousand Acres/Jame Smiley – When I read this book, it filled me with such a sense of awe. I am a fifth generation Memphian and from the time I knew I wanted to be a writer, I knew I wanted to write about the place where I was from. Here, in a Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley majestically captured the deep abiding connection to a place. The opening section of A Thousand Acres got me every time – “From that bump, the earth was unquestionably flat, the sky unquestionably domed, and it seemed to me when I was a child in school, learning about Columbus, that in spite of what my teacher said, ancient cultures might have been onto something. No globe or map fully convinced me that Zebulon County was not the center of the universe.” Every time I read that sentence, I feel moved.
Mrs. Dalloway/Virginia Woolf – One day, one woman preparing for a party she will give that night. A simply plot yet the book brings you deeply inside the characters’ inner most feelings, as close as I’ve ever come to that experience that you can enter into what it’s like to be someone else. It’s a book that requires you to work hard, but the rewards are immense. Inside these pages are pain and beauty and exhilaration and despair. Most of all, it’s a book to read for the language. Each time I read this book, I want to get lost in the words, to stay wrapped inside Woolf’s sentences.
Bird by Bird/Ann Lamott– I return to this book whenever I am stuck in my writing, which is all too often. When I open it up, I feel like it’s an old friend I can call on a bad day and know I will come away feeling better. How to deal with frustration and envy and doubt and failure. How to keep going despite the writerly dread. How to make slow progress in art and life. All of this is conveyed with dark humor and complete honesty. My copy is ragged by now, so many passages are underlined and starred. It’s one of the books I won’t lend out, because I never know when I might need it. This book should be part of every writer’s emergency kit.
Tova Mirvis is the author of three novels, Visible City, The Outside World and The Ladies Auxiliary, which was a national bestseller. Her essays have appeared in various anthologies and newspapers including The New York Times, The Boston Globe Magazine, Commentary, Good Housekeeping, and Poets and Writers, and her fiction has been broadcast on National Public Radio. She has been a Scholar in Residence at the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute at Brandeis University, and Visiting Scholar at The Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center. She lives in Newton, MA with her three children.
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