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1 Challenge Books 003

I consider books to be songs of life.  The good books tell us about life and they sing with images and metaphors that enter our hearts and minds and stick.  Sure, we read a lot of mediocre books for fun and learn from them, too, but the great books that inspire us and leave us in awe are the books we cherish.  They are the songs we choose to live by and that help us get going and keep going.  

Books that sing strike to that deep inner part of us where we recognize ourselves as belonging in the universe.  Authors blaze a trail through pathless woods.  They do hard work cutting down the brush so we can see and follow.  We love song lyrics and these books are just longer songs.  They skewer our pretensions, they lift us up, they make us engage with the characters and often cause us to have the courage to act.

The books sing of true life adventures, of real people who lived difficult and inspiring lives, and they have fictional characters that teach us about a world we can only visit from our reading chair.  The books show us life hundreds of years ago and remind us about what the future could be.

Want to know what a small town is like years ago where young people are trying to do good things?  Read Eliot’s Middlemarch.  Things in this song go terribly wrong for the characters and yet in the end we see that they will make their way on their own terms.  

Do we want to understand what happened to the Czech Republic in WW II?  We can read Prague Winter by Madeleine Albright.  Do we want to know what happened to the country under the Soviets and when the Berlin Wall came down?  We can read Vaclav Havel’s memoirs, To the Castle and Back.

What was it like to live in the wilderness of Canada around the time of WW I?  Read Mrs. Mike by the Freedmans and fall in love with Mrs. Mike and her husband, friends and neighbors.  This is a love song despite the tragedies and hardships.  Watch Oh Be Joyful and Jonathan.  Hear Constance’s story.  This book has been on the top of my list of best books for as long as I can remember.

What is it like to climb and sleep in the tallest trees in the world?  Read The Wild Trees by Richard Preston.  Imagine being in the tree that has shallow roots when gale force winds begin to blow.  

Do you wonder what was it like when our nation was struggling to be born?  Read John Adams by McCullough.  

Do you wish to go on an adventure trip in a small boat from the East Coast to the West Coast?  Read River-Horse by William Least-Heat Moon.  

There are many songs of courageous people who fight for a better life or save others.
There are books set all over the world; Kenya, South Africa, Vietnam, Kosovo, Rwanda, Russia, and Haiti.  There is so much to learn about life and love.  

Yes, songs of life and love.

My list (just a few of many):

Taylor Branch:
   Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-1963
   Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-65
   At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years 1965-68

The Cat from Hue by John Laurence

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

John Adams by David McCullough

Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

Black Boy by Richard Wright

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

In the First Circle by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Journey into the Whirlwind and Within the Whirlwind by Eugenia Ginzburg

Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain and Testament of Experience

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

River-Horse by William Least-Heat Moon

The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

And There Was Light: Autobiography of a Blind Hero of the French Resistance by Jacques Lusseyran    

1861: The Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart

Gettysburg by Stephen Sears

The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo  by Tom Reiss (General Alexandre Dumas)

The Night Country by Loren Eiseley

An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison

The Lymond Chronicles, House of Niccolo, King Hereafter by Dorothy Dunnett

The Charioteer by Mary Renault

The Curve of Time by M. Wylie Blanchet

The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo by Paula Huntley

In the Sea There Are Crocodiles: Based on the True Story of Enaiatollah Akbari by Fabio Geda

An Ordinary Man: autobiography of Paul Ruesabagina with Tom Zoellner

The Intimate Merton: His Life from His Journals ed, by Patrick Hart and Jonathan Montaldo

Bill of Wrongs by Molly Ivins with Lou Dubose

Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road by Neil Peart

Will Eisner's New York by Will Eisner

Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

The Wild Trees by Richard Preston

Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder about Dr. Paul Farmer

Our Choice by Al Gore

A Sense of the World...the story of James Holman the Blind
Traveler (born 1786, died 1857) by Jason Roberts.

Mildred Taylor: Song of the Trees and Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry

Baghdad Burning part I
Baghdad Burning part II
by Riverbend who was 24 when we
invaded Iraq and her life changed.  She had a job with computers,
but lost it after the war began.  She then began blogging her thoughts
and news.

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

Homer Hickam
   Rocket Boys
    The Coalwood Way
    Sky of Stone

James Herriot

   All Creatures Great and Small
    All Things Bright and Beautiful
    All Things Wise and Wonderful
    The Lord God Made Them All

An Alchemy of Mind by Diane Ackerman

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown

A Pirate of Exquisite Mind by the Prestons

Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen

Gorillas in the Mist by Dian Fossey  

Mrs. Mike by the Freedmans

Please mention your Songs of Life in the comments below…fiction, non-fiction, plays, films, songs…

Diaries of the Week:

Write On! meeting reader expectations
by SensibleShoes

Kos Katalogue Holiday Mothership Diary - HOTLIST THIS!
by Sara R

Contemporary Fiction Views: Coming together
by bookgirl

Robert Fuller says:

Chapter 31 of my novel The Rowan Tree is now available to read for free. Enjoy!


Also if anyone is interested in my memoir, the paperback version is now on Amazon:


The ebook version should be out in a few weeks.

(I am adding the overview for the memoir…cfk)

Belonging: A Memoir

Paperback – October 24, 2013

by Robert W. Fuller (Author)

"How did you make the leap from Physics to Dignity?" This question arises at every Robert Fuller talk. Belonging traces Fuller’s personal evolution and suggests that taking one’s questions seriously will lead to a life of meaning and purpose. Accompany Fuller as he meets with “somebodies” like Robert Oppenheimer, Indira Gandhi, Mikhail Gorbachev, David Bowie, John Denver, and President Jimmy Carter, and share in the wisdom he finds in people whom the world writes off as “nobodies.” Belonging shows how transformative quests await anyone willing to learn from somebodies and nobodies alike.
NOTE: plf515 has book talk on Wednesday mornings early

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Wed Nov 06, 2013 at 05:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter.


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