I am a self-proclaimed bookworm. Having spent most of my life, including my childhood, without a television, books have always been my easiest escape route and my guaranteed portal to fantasy and relaxation. Even now, with Netflix at my fingertips, there is nothing quite the same as curling up with a book before bed. I read all sorts of things, from poetry to memoirs to fiction to how-to-make-a-million-bucks (yep, I love that stuff). I love to read great books and sometimes I love to read crappy books. Chick-Lit has gotten me through some of the toughest times of my life, its pages filled with sweet nothings about divorce, debutantes, and romance-seeking cowboys. During my Saturn Return transition, which I wrote about a few months ago on Moondaughter's blog, I could not get enough chick-lit. It was my pain-killer, my muscle-relaxer. Every day I slid willingly into pages full of mindless fantasies. Again, the cowboys.
A girl cannot live, however, on chick-lit alone. She needs depth, inspiration, tears. She needs access to the universal knowing-of-things and the secret language that exists somewhere, for all of us, if we can only tap into it. Over the years, I've come to learn a few things about reading and about books -- about what I love (and what I don't) and why I read, what I'm looking for. Here are a few guidelines I've adopted for myself in the process:
- I only read what I like. I don't waste time on books that aren't quite working for me, no matter how good the book's reputation is or how many smart people like it. There are too many books in this world (and not enough days) to waste time on something we don't love. I will abandon a book as early as 20-30 pages in, if I don't like it. On to the next!
- I ask around. I am always asking people what they're reading, or searching around on the internet for what's good. I like to follow certain trends and trails that might lead me to new authors I like. It's amazing what will come to you when you put your desires out there, and it's always fascinating how books find us when we need them.
- Letting go: As a reader and a writer, there is a lot of (perceived?) pressure about what should be read and enjoyed. However, I've found that a lot of "classics" are frozen in bygone eras and trapped in languages hard to understand and absorb. The issues facing many of the characters are hard to relate to and frankly they can be quite boring. I have little-to-no interest in slogging through the frozen swamps of "classic literature" that doesn't move me. I've decided to stop feeling guilty about it, and of course I still enjoy a few old gems now and then. But modern literature is my jam.
I read to escape, a lot of times, I'll admit it. But I also read to inspire myself, and to learn from experiences that I will never get to have. Learning from other people's lives feels precious and valuable to me. It gives me perspective and scope, and then I can incorporate it into my life. That being said, I've put together a list of books that I recommend for all of you, our wild and dear Bohemian Collective readers -- a group of intelligent, motivated and dreamy babes. Though it was hard to narrow it down to 5, I've done it -- perhaps I'll do a second installment in a follow-up post.
- Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver - Prodigal Summer is a story of love and earth, of womanhood and of finding our hearts in the wild bramble of life. Woven throughout the pages of this story are beautiful totem metaphors, tapping the wisdom of moths, of the moon, and of mama coyotes. One of my favorite books of all time, Kingsolver really nails it with this one. It takes place in the south, among plowed fields and forests of hickory trees.
- Wild by Cheryl Strayed - This book has recently been made into a film and is sweeping the nation with its success. I read it a few years ago, and was struck not just by the beautiful and powerful story, but also by Cheryl Strayed's beautiful writing, and her ability to capture glory in a perfectly-crafted sentence. I'm a big fan of Strayed's, and Wild is a pleasure to read. It's perfect to bring with you on a trip as it's not too dense and it translates easily to the heart.
- Daughter of Fortune by Isabelle Allende - As a California native, this book hits particularly deeply for me. Set during the California gold rush, this book tells the story of the birth of our beloved San Francisco -- a city built on feverish hopes and dreams, a gathering of the world's masses, crammed into a tiny bay at the edge of our world. California as we know it is a state built by bandits and pirates and constructed with the fervor of men who confused freedom with dollars. This particular story spans California and Chilé, Allende's homeland, and is told from the perspective of a woman trying to love a young cowboy with gold fever. Being a woman in California during the gold rush was high-risk with low-rewards. I love this book, and I love Isabelle Allende.
- The Red Tent by Anita Diamant - If you have not yet read this modern female classic, you must do so immediately. A rare glimpse into biblical times through a female lens, this story chroncles the loss of matriarchal/tribal times over generations and patriarchy flooded the fields. It illustrates how much can be lost in just one generation. How much knowlege we can lose if our daughters don't learn it. I read this book when I was 21 and it left me aching for community and ancient wisdom. Anita Diamant is a Jewish scholar, and this is one of her most widely-known works. For those of you who might not know, the red tent was an actual tent where women gathered during their menstruation -- back in the day when women all cycled together during the new moon.
- The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan - Amy Tan is a genius. She is not only a genius, but I believe she is also a divine channel for ancient Chinese mysticism as it pertains to the modern woman. As iwth much of her writing, this book is heavy with mother-daughter dynamics: the give and take, the sorrrow and love, the karmic weight of generations before and generations to come. All of her books I've read come with both tragedy and glittering, profound wisdom; this one spans eons and eras, generations and landscapes and it is truly a story. Like a story of grandmothers and medicine and histories that are locked away in hearts of ancestors. Highly recommended.
If you have book recommendations, leave them in the comments below or on our Facebook page so that we can all benefit! These are 5 of my all-time favorites, but there are a lot more books that I love. If you want to really geek out, you can follow me on Goodreads.
All the love,
Sadie Rose is a writer, designer, and shop owner who lives in Paradise, California. Learn more about her here.