The Book List

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Today is my day off…kind of.

I have to clean, blanch, package and freeze a dozen quarts of green beans.

I have to bake a few dozen cookies.

There are phone calls and Emails to respond to.

This afternoon I will go make beds and clean floors at the farmhouse.

This evening I have a dinner engagement with family and friends.

May as well start the day quiet and slow, I think.

Over morning coffee and trips to the door to let the dogs out and in, I typed up my list of 62 Life-Altering Books. If you’re interested, you can find it under the “Books” tab.

“Life-altering” seems like a pretty strong term for some of the titles, but it is true in every case.  Often it was a matter of a particular book falling into my hands at just the right time. Perhaps  my my eyes were opened, my thoughts were altered or my ideas clarified. Maybe I learned something entirely new.  Sometimes it was the beginning of a long, on-going relationship with books in general, or with a particular author or field of study. The cookbooks I mention here are only a sampling of the ones I own and enjoy. The same for gardening and lifestyle books. I have gone on to read every single book by Mark Twain, Alice Walker, Louise Erdrich, Maxine Hong Kingston and Barbara Kingsolver, so the entries that made the list are only my favorite or most memorable.

I can already think of several books that should have made the list but didn’t.

Ah, well.

Putting it together brought back lots of memories.

Memories often lead to stories, don’t they? Here is one:

When I was a young mother living out in the country in a tiny cottage near a lake, my husband brought home The Exorcist. It was a brand new title, on several best-seller lists and getting a lot of press coverage. “Don’t read it…” I warned him, “too scary!” He laughed. Not having been raised in the Catholic faith, as I had been, it didn’t seem as real, as possible or as terrifying to him. He read it. “I will never read it,” I assured him.

When I married my husband Terry, he was in a band. It was pretty common back in the seventies for a few guys to get together and form a group, especially if one or more members could play an instrument. Terry and his cousin, Steve, both played guitar and sang. That was plenty reason enough to start up a band. It consisted of Terry, Steve and whoever else was around and interested. They got together once or twice a week to practice and to drink.

They never got any actual “gigs” so the “band” element kind of faded to the background. By the time my first daughter was born and we’d moved to the lake cottage, it was basically just a routine of Terry taking his guitar and going out drinking with the guys. Terry would leave right after supper – or sometimes even directly from work – and not get home until the bars closed. Shit-faced drunk.

Leaving me at home alone with an infant, no telephone, no car and no adult companionship. At least once a week.

It always resulted in a big argument which usually lasted over several days. It always ended with him swearing that he was finished with the band, done with going out with the guys, and that he’d quit drinking.

That lasted until the weekend.

The next argument was accelerated by the fact that he’d not only gone out drinking, but had broken his promise to me.

It amazes me to look back and know that this pattern of behaviors – on both of our parts – went on for years.

Anyway, one night after dinner, when we were young parents living in the country, Terry started telling me that Steve had a friend who played drums, and they wanted to just get together and see what they could do, music-wise, and he wouldn’t be late and he didn’t even think there would be beer there…and I said, “Sure, right, I’ve heard it all before,” and then the threat, “I swear, if you go, I’m going to read The Exorcist!”

“Don’t you dare…you can’t handle it!”

“Try me!”

He left.

I put the baby to bed, and read The Exorcist, cover to cover.

When Terry came home, sometime after 2AM, I was laying under the covers with my eyes wide open, with every single light in the house on, absolutely terrified.

Which he thought was completely hilarious, and which took the starch out of our usual battle.

He didn’t let it go, though. He continued teasing me, knowing how the story haunted me.

I plotted my revenge.

One particularly scary part had been the appearance of stigmata, as a sign from the devil.

One day, when Terry was relaxing after his shower in a pair of bib overhauls (it was the seventies, after all), I looked, alarmed, at his chest where there were a series of grommets and buttonholes on the front placket.

“What??”

“That wasn’t there before,” I said, pointing to one of the buttonholes.

“Oh, it was, too.” he said, “how else would it get there?”

“I don’t know…but remember that story…?”

He got a nervous look, but we let it go.

The next week, after laundry day, there was a new eyelet on the front placket.

I stared at it until he noticed, then just shook my head and walked away.

Two weeks later, there was a new buttonhole (that I stitched by hand, one night when he was out “with the band”)on the front.

When he put the bibs on, my eyes got wide. “Terry, that is new, I know it! What the hell?!”

When he looked, his eyes took on a look of terror. What followed is what his daughters and I have come to call a “Terry fit” with cursing and pounding walls and raging. He tore off the bib overhauls. I think he was prepared to burn them, until he caught the look on my face.

“Gotcha!”

He never teased me about The Exorcist again!

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14 responses »

  1. This is hysterical. I hope there’s never a reason you have to get revenge on me – you’re too good at it.

    As for The Exorcist, I’ve seen the movie, but didn’t read the book. Interestingly I was in a quaint used bookstore recently and saw The Exorcist on the shelf. Even more interesting is the fact that just a couple of days before I thought to myself it would be a great scary book for me to read as i’d been in the mood for one. When I saw the book I was tempted to pick it up due to the synchronicity of the events, but then didn’t touch it.

    Your list of books is amazing. I think I’ll try a few!

    • Oh, my gosh, that is quite a bit of synchronicity! I don’t know that I’d have been able to pass! I have never seen the movie, The Exorcist, frankly because I thought it would scare me to death, as the book did. I have been known – in the middle of watching a scary movie – to call one of my daughters and beg, “just stay on the line with me, until this is over!” Thanks, Sara!

      • That’s so cute! Calling your daughter to stay on the line with you. I sense you have a love/hate relationship with the scary stuff.

        I, personally, love scary stuff. One of the most terrifying books I ever read (around 1981-82) was The Shining. I’ve longed for a book that scares me as much as that one did back then. I wonder sometimes if my age/experience has prevented me from being “scared” like I used to be when I was younger.

      • I don’t like things like that, though you don’t forget them. Lately, I’ve had a really hard time getting through The Dog Stars as it scared me to death. I do think authors are having to push the envelope to offer something new and terrifying after all we see in real life.

      • Seriously, I’m looking for a scary book. Is The Dog Stars really that scary, or are you just a big chicken? I’ll have to look into this.

      • It is really scary in the “this could really happen” sense. It’s very well written, but very hard to read, about this world after the flu has nearly wiped out everyone on the planet, and frightening groups of marauding, scavenging survivors are the only ones left. I’d love another perspective on it!

  2. I had fun reading this, Cindy. Revenge, done properly, really is sweet. (I saw the movie, and feel no desire to read the book, but I do want to check out several others on your list.)

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