Posts tagged #Kingsolver

The Poisonwood Bible

"Listen. To live is to be marked. To live is to change, to acquire the words of a story, and that is the only celebration we mortals really know. " I first read The Poisonwood Bible the summer between my junior and senior year in college. Since then, I've read it at least five times.

It's my favorite book. Ever. I long to write like Barbara Kingsolver. Her words seem to dance off the page effortlessly - and her description of Africa sets an ache deep in my soul. It's the perfect juxtaposition of grotesqueness and beauty and confusion and preciseness...

Set in Kilanga, Congo, Kingsolver's work attributed to my love and connection to Africa long before my feet ever touched the soil. There are so many reasons this book resonates with me. I see myself in Nathan: my pride all too often gets in the way and I lack the discernment to listen to the wisdom of those around me. When this monster comes for a visit, the result is always the same: I know what's best. I cling to what I think is best. Nothing can change me. And then I crash and burn - realizing with newfound humility my way means nothing in light of the sovereignty of Christ.

I see myself in Adah. Oh, I see myself in this girl. Creative. Misunderstood. Brooding. Shy. Did you know I had an imaginary friend growing up? I did. And I talked to myself. I would sit in my room, on my bed, and create these fantastical stories all the while whispering to my confidante. I was made fun of - my glasses and braces and crimped hair leading to nicknames seared in my heart's memory. I sat alone often. But, I was okay with this after awhile. And eventually, I came into my own - realizing the gimp leg I thought was my lack of self-confidence really was just a misnomer. I was confident. I did have stories worthy to share.

But most of all I see myself in Leah. And I wish I could say otherwise. I wish I could be chic and say Adah is my soul twin - which - probably isn't too far from the truth. But I empathize with Leah's absolute need for approval feeding into an unhealthy dose of perfectionism. My love language? Words of affirmation? Yeah...just another tally mark in my quest. I know what it's like to strain so far for someone else that you don't even recognize yourself anymore. And, I know the beauty of returning home - of finding your footsteps belong in the dirt of a continent that captured your heart long before you ever knew its importance.

At the beginning of the book, Orleanna speaks about how sometimes Africa comes and visits her when she leasts expects it. Smells invade her senses and suddenly it's all she can do to run, crawl, swim, dance, careen and somersault her way to the place that caused so much heartbreak and growth. I get this. I know this. In fact, while rereading this part recently, I literally jumped off the chair and turned circles with excitement. I miss Africa so much that it physically hurts sometimes - and it's so hard for me to understand because of what it did to my heart, but it's home. Even if going back means revisiting emotions tough to process and heavy to endure.

The first time I read Kingsolver's book I immediately knew I wanted to teach it someday. I didn't know how I'd incorporate it into my class, and up until this year, I've relied on excerpts to show the power of diction or voice. This year, I finally get to accomplish my goal. The students read the book for their summer assignment and we are currently talking about it in class. I can't wait to see what comes of our discussions.

Posted on September 1, 2010 and filed under africa, books.

THE list (one year later.)

Last year, I posted this list of the top 100 books according to NPR. Those I read I crossed out - I decided to revisit the list and see how I'm doing with twelve months in between this post and last post. (I highlighted the recent changes in red) 1. The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling 2. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee 3. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini 4. Bridget Jones's Diary, by Helen Fielding 5. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen 6. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, by Rebecca Wells 7. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald 8. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams 9. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, by Fannie Flagg 10. The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver

11. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger 12. Life of Pi, by Yann Martel 13. The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan 14. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien 15. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger 16. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell 17. Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett 18. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien 19. Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides 20. Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen

21. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain 22. The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver 23. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith 24. The World According to Garp, by John Irving 25. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller 26. The Prince of Tides, by Pat Conroy 27. Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel 28. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman 29. The Accidental Tourist, by Anne Tyler 30. Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer (really? top 100? hmm.)

31. A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole 32. East of Eden, by John Steinbeck 33. The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant 34. Beach Music, by Pat Conroy 35. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez 36. Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier 37. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card 38. Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry 39. The Thorn Birds, by Colleen McCullough 40. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon

41. Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett 42. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy 43. Interview with the Vampire, by Anne Rice 44. Cold Mountain, by Charles Frazier 45. Empire Falls, by Richard Russo 46. Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes 47. The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas 48. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, by Tom Robbins 49. I Know This Much Is True, by Wally Lamb 50. Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie

51. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott 52. The Stand, by Stephen King 53. She's Come Undone, by Wally Lamb 54. Dune, by Frank Herbert 55. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows 56. Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez 57. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll 58. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov 59. The Godfather, by Mario Puzo 60. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith

61. Animal Dreams, by Barbara Kingsolver 62. Jaws, by Peter Benchley 63. Good in Bed, by Jennifer Weiner 64. Angle of Repose, by Wallace Stegner 65. Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson 66. The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway 67. The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand 68. Breakfast of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut 69. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut 70. The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler

71. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway 72. The Hunt for Red October, by Tom Clancy 73. Cold Sassy Tree, by Olive Ann Burns 74. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding 74. Bonfire of the Vanities, by Tom Wolfe [tie] 76. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte 77. Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon 78. The Shell Seekers, by Rosamunde Pilcher 79. Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver 80. Eye of the Needle, by Ken Follett

81. Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck 81. The Pilot's Wife, by Anita Shreve [tie] 83. All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy 84. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson 85. The Little Prince, by Antoine De Saint-Exupery 86. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy 87. One for the Money, by Janet Evanovich 88. Shogun, by James Clavell 89. Dracula, by Bram Stoker 90. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera

91. Presumed Innocent, by Scott Turow 92. Franny and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger 93. The Secret History, by Donna Tartt 94. Dead Until Dark, by Charlaine Harris 95. Summer Sisters, by Judy Blume 96. The Shining, by Stephen King 97. How Stella Got Her Groove Back, by Terry McMillan 98. Lamb, by Christopher Moore 99. Sick Puppy, by Carl Hiaasen 100. Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson

A grand total of 25 books already read on this list. How much different is this number from last year? FOUR BOOKS. I know I have read about 100 books in my life time - the sheer volume of our home library is a testament to the truth that Russ & I love our books. And, although some of these books are absolutely stellar, some titles which made it to this top 100 list have surprised me. I mean, I know I've read more than four books this past year.

Over the next four days I'll take four of my favorites from this list and write about what makes me love them oh-so much. I may even do a follow up series of books I despise. Sounds favorable. (And probably much, much easier to explain why I hate Billy Budd so much as opposed to why The Stand had me reeling for weeks on end.)

Where do you stand? How many of these books have you read? Which one is your favorite?

Posted on August 30, 2010 .