“I am so excited for you to read it!” said Lani (her voice is the best, the kind you want to hear on self-help tapes).

Her excitement came from my un-American confession that I had never read To Kill A Mockingbird. Allow me this, when you are an American (as I am) and you have not read To Kill A Mockingbird you feel like you are left out of a very epic and timeless inside joke. Americans feel like they have a personal affair with the characters in that book. My sister named her dog Scout (who is Scout? I didn’t know). My cousin named her brown-eyed boy Atticus (Attic? No, Atticus). The name Boo Radley is one I recognize as well as my own. Bookstores, websites, lizards -all taking the names of strange character names sometimes ending in Finch.

Lately the scripture from Doctrine and Covenants 109:7 And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom, seek learning even by study and also by faith has been echoing in my mind. (Perhaps it’s echoing because my mind is a bit empty these days.) To quiet the voice in my head (this is not the first time) I have decided to seek out the “best books”-only I don’t always know what that means.

I think the “best books” is literature that makes the reader stretch (mentally speaking.) Not to plug Segullah (but, to plug Segullah) I’ve put our latest issue “Cleave Unto Charity” in a high traffic area of our home. Every day or so I will stop and read an essay, cry and think. Even my husband, who after reading a few pieces became inspired and changed his mind on charity-related issues (our publication is for all!)

Over Christmas vacation I was wondering around Barnes and Noble in Twin Falls, Idaho smelling the decaf and perusing the new age nutrition books. I wanted to read a book on nutrition philosophy. I had noticed (and blamed on Girls Camp) that ever since July my mind had stopped working properly. My once proud ability to understand and promote good nutrition had suddenly disappeared around Pioneer Day (a holiday that us Utah folks enjoy late in July). When I had read a few chapters of that book about French women being skinny and generally better in every way than their American counterparts (but did they ever read To Kill A Mockingbird?, I wonder) I felt very helpless. I started down the self-help aisle, shiny head shot-ed authors were smiling (mocking?) me. I read their titles. Seven Highly Habits, Seven Days of Saving Yourself, Seven Confessions of a Sultry Smart Woman. Generally, the number seven gives me the creeps (2007 is going to be crummy) so the title of the book I bought had to be void of the number seven. I was hard pressed.

It was then I heard a voice. That same echoy voice that I admitted to (see third paragraph) hearing regularly.

“Courtney?” It asked.

“What?” I replied (not out loud, in my mind)

“When was the last time you read the Book of Mormon?” It asked.

I slumped down on a black plastic shelving stool. I knew my problem.

I had read the entire Book of Mormon in three weeks in June, (right before a trip to Europe where I rubbed shoulders with skinny French women) but since then, turned my focus on the more-modern Book of Doctrine and Covenants.

The Book of Mormon is the “best book” of all. It is no coincidence that my failings coincided with my conclusion of it’s pages in June (it also helps with any alliteration problems you might be having).

Under the tree this year there were two books awaiting my unwrap. The first one was To Kill a Mockingbird. I remember Lani explaining that when she was reading this classic she grew more sad as she came closer to the end of the book. “I didn’t want it to be over” she said. I almost read all of it on New Years Day, and had to stop myself as I felt the same way. I’ve asked myself to slow down to a chapter a day (will they ever see Boo Radley?) (Don’t answer that.)

The other book was the Book of Mormon.

It was nice to hang out with Nephi again. I am feeling better already.

What is on your “best books” list?


  1. Lee

    January 3, 2007

    Les Miserables. Someone told me that President Kimball said it’s the book we ought to use to base our lives on if we didn’t have the scriptures, but I don’t know if that’s really true. At any rate, I love the book. I wish that I knew French so that I could read the original text.

  2. Cardine

    January 3, 2007

    Oh, I love To Kill A Mockingbird. I agree with Lee, as well. But, I sort of like sad or depressing books, like Bridge to Terebithia, 1984, The Good Earth, etc.

  3. Lyle

    January 3, 2007

    So I made the “to kill a mockingbird” list. Yet in spite of all the English courses that I’ve taken, I have never read a Dickens book front cover to cover. So I would have to put any one of his classics on my “to read” this year list…perhaps “a tale of two cities”…GA’s are always quoting authors like c.s.lewis and dickens.

  4. Justine

    January 3, 2007

    Anything by Carson McCullers is good (a bit sad and tragic, but beautiful).

    If you want some CS Lewis, try “Till We Have Faces”. It’s one of his works of fiction.

    I hope you love To Kill a Mockingbird. I also just started “A Brief History of Time” by Hawking. I’ll let you know how that goes.

  5. The Wiz

    January 3, 2007

    Dickens is Dull. Yes, with a capital D. Don’t go there, unless you feel you have to.

    I love Wallace Stegner. “Crossing to Safety” is my favorite one, but they’re all great.

    Also, if you haven’t read “The Hiding Place” by Cory Ten Boom, go get it immediately.

    “Cold Sassy Tree” by Olive Ann Burns.

    I second anything by C.S. Lewis. I too love “Till we Have Faces” and even rereading the Narnia books as an adult is so great, understanding more of the allegory each time. “Mere Christianity” is also awesomeness.

    Ok, now I’m excited to go read. Too bad I have to go pick up my daughter from school.:)

  6. Emily

    January 3, 2007

    Great Expectations isn’t dull. It’s really good.

  7. Leisha

    January 3, 2007

    My all-time favorite book, Jane Eyre. Here’s why…

    “I will keep the law given by God, sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad–as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour, stringent are they; inviolate they shall be…with my veins running fire, and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs. Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by: there I plant my foot!'” Chapter 27, pg. 279

    “Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilised by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.”

    “Women are supposed to be very calm generally; but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.” Chapter 12, pg. 96

  8. cougarLin

    January 3, 2007

    Cotus- weren’t you born in 1977? cougarlin

  9. c jane

    January 3, 2007

    Good point Cougarlin. I couldn’t help being born in a year with double sevens. Did I chose to come to earth on year 1977? (Only Saturday’s Warrior can explain.)

    I like this little Dickens war we’ve got going on here. I was thrown out of my freshman honors English class because I couldn’t keep my mouth shut during our reading of Great Expectations. My mouth kept moving to compensate for pure boredom. But if Emily likes it…

    Welcome Lee!

  10. c jane

    January 3, 2007

    Thank you for the Jane Eyre quotes. What happened to heroines like Jane? So full of sense and smart.

  11. Lisa

    January 3, 2007

    These books have had a profound influence in my life and I feel that everyone should read them:

    A Room of One’s Own Virginia Woolfe
    Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury
    Frankenstein Mary Shelley
    Simple Abundance Sarah Ban Breathnash
    Franny and Zooey J.D. Salinger (and Catcher in the Rye)
    The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne

    (And I’m really not kidding about Frankenstein)

  12. stephanie nielson

    January 3, 2007

    this is the thing-with all the “stuff” the church hands out (ensign, confrence issue ensigns, preach my gospel, bom, d & c, pogp, bible, sunday school lessons, reief society stuff, the big book on pres kimball…the list goes on) WHO FREAKIN HAS TIME TO READ ANYTHING ELSE…seriously, I WANT TO KNOW

  13. Justine

    January 3, 2007

    Ignore your children. Quit your day job. Don’t do dishes. Just read.

  14. Heidi

    January 3, 2007

    One great book I haven’t seen anyone mention is “How Green Was My Valley” by Richard Llewellen. “A Christmas Carol” by Dickens is wonderful, even if it is a period piece, and if you can cleanse your mind of the adulteration of the same by Disney. And for your sneaky reads (when the kids are at school and you have raided the cookie jar–something no self resepecting French woman would do) fall in love with Lord Peter Wimsey in all of Dorothy Sayers’ wonderful mysteries. I cannot forget to mention the Chronicles of Narnia, whcih are THE BEST BOOKS. EVER.

    Stephanie: Don’t know if this will work for you, but it does for me: BOM every night. Set time–say 1/2 hour. Other church related books: 1. As family scripture study 2. In the bathroom 3. Sunday reading 4. As “couple” scripture study 5. In a nifty book holder on the elliptical machine at the gym (this also opens you up to missionary opportunities). I do not allow myself to read anything but church-related stuff on Sunday–Nibley counts here, too. That’s not because I think everything else is “unworthy” to be read on a Sunday, just my way of making time for everything wonderful worth reading that I can.

  15. Emily

    January 3, 2007

    Come on…there’s a cratchety old lady in a room full of cobwebs, a mysterious benefactor, what’s to be bored about? A Tale of Two Cities, now that’s boring.

    Stephanie, I think if any of us read, it is perhaps because we are not as talented in the department called: Looking Extremely Adorable and Stylish My Life Ought to be a Catalog Doing Such Fantastic Projects WIth My Children. I can speak only for myself–I am not as talented. You are the queen. (The sad thing is, I really don’t read that much.)

  16. Maralise

    January 3, 2007

    Portrait of a Lady, Henry James
    My Antonia, Willa Cather
    Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi
    Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
    1984, George Orwell
    Life of Pi, Yann Martel

    I find that I have time to read (never time that is set apart mind you) when I’m eating breakfast and lunch, before I go to bed, using the loo. I’m always surprised at how much I can read with only a few minutes here and there spent each day. Thanks cjane. I always love telling others my favorite “reads.” The only problem is that I have such a hard time choosing…

  17. Courtney

    January 3, 2007

    Thank you Mara and Heidi for mentioning the bathroom as a great place to read. Perfect for short essays (Nora Ephron).

  18. Carina

    January 3, 2007

    I wanted to time travel to the 19th century and beat up Jane Eyre, that’s how badly I hated that book.

    I’m going through an existential book crisis. Do I really like the books I like because they are good or because they spoke to me at a certain point in my life? Recommendations may have to wait.

  19. sue

    January 3, 2007

    My name is Asher Lev – Chaim Potok
    Joy in the Morning – Betty Smith
    The Giver – Lois Lowry
    and of course – The Chronicles of Narnia

  20. mistaben

    January 3, 2007

    A few favorites that have affected me:

    Folk of the Fringe by Orson Scott Card (I enjoy all of his fiction, some more than others)
    Lord of the Rings by Tolkien (especially before it was popular)
    The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson
    The Bonds that Make Us Free by C. Terry Warner
    Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling by Robert Lyman Bushman
    Radical Origins by Val D. Rust

  21. j5t

    January 3, 2007

    I was just telling Carina last night that I need a book “that is so good I neglect my family.”

    Life of Pi
    To Kill a Mockingbird
    Poisonwood Bible
    I am a Puppy (I’ve got this one, if you’d like to borrow it)

    I think this will be a great year. At least two really fab gals turn three-oh, you know.

  22. Neen

    January 3, 2007

    I just read Mockingbird for the lst time and I’m fifty. But I loved it. Other favorites read this year:
    Life of Pi – Yann Martel
    The Screwtape Letters – C S Lewis
    The Goose Girl – Shannon Hale
    Girl in Hyacinth Blue – Susan Vreeland

  23. Natalie

    January 3, 2007

    ahh! i love to read…though I have never read To Kill a Mockingbird (gasp!) Maybe I will put it on my list for this coming year. And thank you for reminding me how important the B of M is to read. As always, I love to read what you have to say.

  24. Marilyn

    January 3, 2007

    Reading is like breathing to me. Crucial for living!
    Best novel I have ever read and still read once a year…The Count of Monte Cristo..unabridged!

    Just finished the 4 Gospels in time for Christmas. It was the best precursor to celebrating the Saviour’s birth I have ever experienced. I can’t wait to complete the rest of the New Testament this year but I love reading the BofM too. As I get older I find myself getting sort of lost in that book; not able to put it down; but it’s past my bedtime kind of experience.

  25. Carina

    January 4, 2007

    Love in the Time of Cholera
    Atlas Shrugged

    Less crucial:
    I Thought My Father Was God
    Pleasure of My Company

    I have a decent library and will lend to friends.

    Alternatively, I offer free tours of local bookshops with personalized recommendations (years of being a bookseller.)

  26. Lucky Red Hen

    January 4, 2007

    My latest obsession (it’s listed under Young Adult and also considered sci-fi but I think it’s more supernatural than sci-fi and the author is from BYU)…

    Twilight – Stephenie Meyer (with an E)
    New Moon – Stephenie Meyer (follow-up to Twilight)
    Eclipse – Stephenie Meyer (I’m excited for this one)
    4th in series by Stephenie Meyer (she’s working on it)

    Tender at the Bone – Ruth Reichl, NY Times Food Critic
    Comfort me with Apples – Ruth Reichl (follow-up)

    (Couldn’t get thru Catcher In The Rye; too many GD’s)

  27. Pflower

    January 4, 2007

    K, so I just have to say that I have some favorites but the are not the “classics”……In book group we read a couple that I just LOVED!!

    The Ladies Auxillary
    These is my words

    and for a book that I would not say “uplifts” but that it goes deeper and deeper into the dirty underbelly of human nature.

    House of Sand and Fog

    and of course:

    The Secret Life of Bee’s
    Memoirs of a Geisha
    The Red Tent

    And for a fun beach read:

    Goodnight Nobody
    Wolves in Chic Clothing
    I did (but I wouldn’t now)

    I guess after reviewing by selection I should concentrate more on getting a few more classics under my belt. I know I read a whole slew of them in HS but can I remember them now???? Oh well, If I think of more I’ll let you know.

    Happy doing

  28. Melinda

    January 4, 2007

    I was wondering if anyone would mention Twilight. I just read it. I stayed up until 3 am and couldn’t put it down. I recommended it to my sister and she just called me a few minutes ago and thank me profusely. She read it until 2:30 am last night, well, this morning. (She must read faster that I do.)It’s 500+ wonderful pages.-I, too, am becoming obssessed. 🙂

    I have not read any Dickens but I love to watch Muppets Christmas Carol.

    I love Shannon Hales’ books and Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books ever. I love Wuthering Heights, too.

    I also love:

    Push Not the River- a true story of a Polish princess
    I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
    Little Britches series by Ralph Moody (my boys love these read aloud)
    Narnia Chronicles are delightful.

    I was going to paint my banisters today, but now I just want to curl up with a good book.

    Thanks for all these great ideas, ladies!

  29. Carina

    January 4, 2007

    Second on I Capture the Castle!

  30. Phoebe

    January 4, 2007

    Okay, Lucky Red, My sister has been raving about the Twilight book. I will have to read it now.
    This year I enjoyed…
    Goose Girl
    Princess Academy
    Enna Burning
    I Capture the Castle
    Peace Like a River
    East of Eden (I was an English major and a Californian and had never read it!)
    I also love anything Wallace Stegner and all of Willa Cather
    I have to say I am not sure how anyone made it through A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolfe without falling asleep. Really.

  31. Geo

    January 4, 2007

    I second Frankenstein, Peace Like a River, and Screwtape Letters, and many others that have been mentioned. I’ll also cast in a vote for Remains of the Day and Vanity Fair. If you want something fun to read in the bathtub, try The Scarlet Pimpernel. It’s fluffy to match your Mr. Bubble. Rob and I are thoroughly enjoying reading together A Girl Named Zippy, children’s stories by Issac Bashevis Singer, and the Moomintroll series.

  32. c jane

    January 4, 2007

    Thank you so much everyone for the suggestions. I have a list already.
    I finished To Kill a Mockingbird last night. I loved the language. I loved the story. I hated it to be over (renting the movie ASAP.)

  33. cew-smoke

    January 4, 2007

    I like reading books at different points in my life and see how my perception of them have changed. Reading the first book on my list was an adventure story when I was young, a morality tale as a teenager and a political philisophy discourse as an adult. Don’t you dare miss reading it and don’t substitute the movie (even if it is well done).

    My top 5 list:

    Watership Down by Richard Adams
    – ’nuff said

    The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein
    – Lovely, lovely fable by the master of his field

    Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert A. Heinlein
    – Powerful book on slavery and doing what is right in spite of your circumstances set in an intriguing science fiction backdrop

    The Sea Wolf by Jack London
    – Yeah, the guy is a raging communist, but he’s such a fun writer to read and this one is my favorite

    The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King
    – Yes, it’s modern. Yes I know King has no business on a list of important literature. Nevertheless, this very human tale that is not anything like his other books and should never be stocked anywhere near the horror section is a fantastic read. Of course I also like all the Harry Potter books as well, so what do I know about literature.

    Anyways, good reading to all of you, whatever your “classics” might be.

  34. Justine Dorton

    January 4, 2007

    Well, now I’ve added 24 new books to my Barnes and Noble wishlist online. Great. It’s going to cost me a forture, because you know I’m going to have to go buy and read all these books now!!!

  35. Sharlee

    January 4, 2007

    I know what you mean, Justine! I just finished ordering The Ladies Auxillary and These is My Words from amazon.com.

    Here are a few of my favorites that come to mind:

    Bel Canto
    Beloved (difficult; but oh so beautifully written!)
    A Circle of Quiet (we’re not just talking fiction here, are we?)
    Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott (language alert!)
    The Secret Life of Bees
    Most anything by Anne Tyler
    Most anything by Barbara Kingsolver
    Most anything by Dickens (sorry, ladies; love the guy!)
    Most anything by Jane Austen
    Most anything by Potok
    Most anything by Eudora Welty
    Most anything by Dostoevsky

    Some favorite middle-grade/YA authors:

    Karen Hesse
    Sharon Creech
    Joan Bauer

  36. Justine Dorton

    January 4, 2007

    Sharlee, I am a huge Eudora Welty fan. Ponder Heart is still sitting on my nightstand for another round of reading. Willa Cather is another favorite author. I enjoyed Crime and Punishment, but it was such a huge commitment to get through, I haven’t read anything else of his. What else do you recommend?

    We need to post these awesome lists somewhere permanent!

  37. Wendy

    January 4, 2007

    I love Dickens! Anything by Jane Austen & the Bronte sisters would be a good choice, too.

  38. Heather H

    January 7, 2007

    Dickens rocks! Come on you modern ADD people you can do it, just focus 🙂

    What about Steinbeck? I love The Grapes of Wrath. So stinkin’ sad, but amazing. Of Mice and Men . . .

    I love YA fiction too, Karn Hesse (personl favorite of hers: Letters from Rifka). Another great YA series, the Orphan Train Adventures, by Joan Lowery Nixon. Or check out the Caldecott winners and honorable mentions, they are great. I taught middle school for three years and have had a hard time reading grown up books since then.

    A Girl Named Zippy is a great memoir. I love memoirs.

    Did any of you read The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio? I thought it was a great book about how a woman’s sheer will and pluck caused literal miracles. And it’s pretty funny too. Sad too, it’s human what else can you expect?

    Other favorites:
    Jane Eyre
    Cold Mountain
    Life of Pi
    Harry Potter series (I bet more of you love these than have admitted it. You can love great literature and J. K. Rowling.)
    Secret Life of Bees
    The Little Red Shoes

    Don’t remember all of the authors, but you should be able to find them.

  39. Aunt Lisa

    January 8, 2007

    Jaynie just told me how to read your blogs, Courtney.
    I miss seeing you.
    Here is the list of books I wanted to buy for people for Christmas this year because I love them:
    How Green Was my Valley by Llewellyn ( your mom told me you loved this book as well.) I bought it for Jayne.
    A Little Lower That The Angels…V. Sorenson
    The Gathering of Zion…W. Stegner
    I Know Why the Caged Bird Flys..Mya Angelu
    Mormon Mother… Annie Clark Tanner
    Reflections of a Scientist….Eyring
    Passage to India…EM Forester
    The Talented Mr. Ripley
    The Color of Water…James McBride
    ***Where Angels Fear to Tread…EM Forester
    A Room with a View..EM Forester
    A House for Mr. Biswas…VS Naipal
    Emma and Joseph..Gracia Jones
    Pride and Prejudice…Jane AusTin
    ***Reading Lolita….Nafisi

    I also love anything by Elizabeth Bowen

    I love my little grandson Atticus and I’m glad you read To Kill A Mockingbird, Courtney

    You were a darling darling little girl and have grown into a beautiful, smart woman.

Comments are closed.