Monday, January 7, 2008


In a recent conversation on Unschooling Canada, Beatrice Ekoko of Radio Free School asked us what books have had a profound affect on our lives. The question took me down a road of memory littered with the literary.

I've always been a big reader. Early literacy was a wonderful gift my mother gave me, supplemented by quality literature from the first. I read 1982 in
1982, when I was ten and lived under Reagan. It formed the base of
my relationship with government institutions, and created an odd
pocket of sanity inside me in the wilderness of public junior high.

There have been lots of others just as influential. I remember
reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X in my closet at fourteen and
experiencing a sense of breakthrough to a new level of understanding
immediately followed by the shocking realization that most adults
around me did not operate anywhere close to that
level. I learned as much through New Yorker cartoons and Doonesbury
as any great work of fiction, too.

And in recent years, I'd say Learning To Be White by Thandeka and Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn have been both fundamental frame-shifters as well as
dear to my heart.

How about you, dear readers? What wonderful books have shaped your world--in the distant or recent past?


Egg Mama said...

I liked Kohn's book a lot, but the two most mind-blowing parenting books I've read have been "Parenting from the Inside Out" - a look at the neurobiology of how we relate to others and specifically our kids, as well as how the brain is shaped based on experience - and "Hold On To Your Kids", which is about preserving our kids' attachment to *us* and preventing them from replacing their parents with their peers, an all-too-common scenario these days. It really made me rethink my own childhood. Both of those books did.

So many books have had a profound impact on me; where to start? "The Handmaid's Tale" was something that was a real paradigm shifter for me in high school and it has stayed with me. I'm sitting here thinking now of all the other books that have turned my brain upside down at one time or another..."Invisible Man"..."The Stranger"..."Man's Search for Meaning"...and then the books that I just loved for their pure pleasure, like "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" when I was 16 and any number of Agatha Christie or Tony Hillerman mysteries in more recent years.

It's hard to find time to read serious literature these days. Literature is demanding. I just read an Anna Quindlen (sp?) novel that was pretty good - "Rise and Shine". I find that nonfiction is easier. I got Oliver Sacks' "Musicophilia" for Christmas and looooooooooved it. It's the best nonfiction I've read since "Guns, Germs and Steel", I think.

So I'm kind of on a reading jag right now and lovin' it. I think I should spend less time on the internet and more time reading the old-fashioned way! It is so much different.

Egg Mama said...

Oh, and I am so sorry we keep missing each other on the phone! I have not had a "good moment" to call you back in days, between working, kid activities, non-napping Egglets, and my very sick cat. I'm sorry!!

Anonymous said...


May I say it is a privilege to be reading your beautiful musings. You
are a
poet and a philosopher and I'd be rushing to end my No More Church
reign if
I knew I had the likes of you to listen to on a Sunday morning. Or
afternoon. Whatever.

Books. Books. I could try to narrow down to a top 873.

I just finished Eat, Pray, Love. That was brilliant. Oh! And the
almost shares your name. Elizabeth.

Eat, Pray, Love kept bringing Life of Pi into my consciousness, and
that is
another of my favourites. Both left me pining to retreat away to the
of essentials ... but after our recent sojourn in Costa Rica, I realize
ashraming in India is prolly going to have to wait another decade or

Some old, old tomes are perpetual re-reads for me: The Goat Song, The
Chrysalids and A Canticle for Leibowitz. Have you read A Canticle for
Leibowitz? You with your particular constitution would particularly
this, I'm certain. It's a post-apocolyptic tale, beginning, like, a
thousand years hence, and is set in three parts, each a thousand years
hence. It's an extraordinary tale of theology, of humanity, and of

I recently went on a Daniel Quinn blitz, reading everything he wrote,
a decade after he was au courant. I guess he got cocky after the wild
success -- well deserved -- he enjoyed with Ishmael, The Story of B,
and My
Ishmael; his later works, including A Newcomer's Guide to the
which by its title might intrigue you Elisabeth ... resist the intrigue
border on the bizarre.

On parenting, my top three reads, hands down, have been Radical
(by Brad Blanton, which first introduced to me the concept of
although I don't recall that he ever uses the word) Toxic Parents,
was particularly insightful in my own healing path, having been
toxic parented) and Alfie's Unconditional Parenting.

Malcolm Gladwell's Blink is worth the time.