It’s Tuesday! Time for another Top Ten List! This week’s topic, decreed by the Broke and the Bookish, is “Top Ten Books I’d Quickly Save If My House Was Going To Be Abducted By Aliens (or any other natural disaster…you get the drift. )” I didn’t know aliens abducted whole houses, and that is kind of a mouthful, so I went with the more traditional “Books I’d Save if My House Were on Fire.”
Because the aliens might give the books back eventually, but if they burn, they’re gone. (Pro Tip: Logic.)
Now, you might think this would be an excuse for a Top Ten Very Favorite Books of All Time kind of list, but here’s the thing: most books, if what you like about them is just the contents of the book itself, are replaceable. So this list includes some of my very favorite books, but highlights why these particular copies are, you know, not replaceable.
The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies by Beatrix Potter: It is a little dark green hardcover, one of six. It lives in my best bookcase. It is the only children’s book (along with its companions) I have not let Zoe touch or even see. It begins: “It is said that he effect of eating too much lettuce is ‘soporific'”, a sentence that hooked me from the start.
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger: I love my little white paper back with the rainbow stripes. I love that it is inscribed “to Margaret with love, Pop” from my dad. I love that “Maggie Lux” is written on the inside cover in my very round 13-year-old’s handwriting. I love the “NOTES” I wrote on the last pages about “clothing” and “depression”. Stay away, aliens. Stay away, fire.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: This one bears a similar “Maggie Lux” ID and similarly brilliant marginalia. My name and homeroom are also written on three outside edges of the book–either I was very concerned about losing it or this was a Thing in the eighth grade at WJHS. This is the first book I remember reading critically (and I remember loving both the book and the critical reading experience).
The Last Tycoon by F. Scott Fitzgerald: My mother (I think) had a whole set of Fitzgerald, and I read most of them in high school, loving that they were hers and feeling very grown up. I don’t know where the others are, but this one, my most favorite, has traveled the Midwest with me. I would want to save it from the flames for sure.
Lutheran Book of Worship: I have one with my (maiden) name printed on the front. It was an Easter present from my parents in 1996 (Pro Tip: You’re never too old for an Easter basket). It was exactly what I wanted. Why was the call to ordained ministry so surprising to me, exactly?
Shells by Craig Arnold: I sat in the front row at a poetry reading in college, and was rewarded with this inscription from the poet himself: “to Maggie–who smiles at all the right places, i.e. most of the time.” (As you will see, I am a sucker for inscriptions.) Also, the poems are pretty good.
The Norton Anthology of English Literature: If you insist, I will not insist on both volumes, contenting myself with Volume Two only (obviously). This one wins because I have such a vivid memory of buying it (the expense and the sense of awe–so much literature on so many thin pages), of reading it, of lugging it around, of falling asleep with it in my lap. Plus, if the aliens are taking everything else, I should go for both quality and quantity, and this book has both.
Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse: First Christmas present from Mike, who inscribed it charmingly: “Maggie–Surprised you are new to Wodehouse; glad you enjoy him. Love you, Mike.” I love a man who deploys a semi-colon with panache. And I love this book.
Flowering Judas and Other Stories by Katherine Anne Porter: We have two copies of this book, but I would save the one I gave to Mike for our first Valentine’s Day. We were serious enough to say “I love you”, but apparently not serious enough that I could give him my own copy and trust that it would one day be our copy. P.S. My inscription describes the stories as “lovely and heartbreaking”, which they of course are, but I wonder now why I thought it was a good Valentine.
ABC’s by Charley Harper: I was maybe 10 weeks pregnant. My friend Katie was visiting, and we spotted this gorgeous board book at one of the great used bookstores in Hyde Park. I resisted it, feeling frugal and nervous and probably nauseated, but Katie slipped it in among her own purchases and gave it to me for Zoe, then known only as Nacho. It is her first book, and it is good, and next time I see Katie I will get her to inscribe it.
How about you? What book (s) would you save from fire / earthquake / flood / aliens / your toddler?