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The Books of Our Hearts

For Valentine’s Day, we thought it would be fun to share with you “The Books of Our Hearts.” #TeamBookEnds is sharing what book holds that special place in their heart. Whether it made them a reader, made them want a career in publishing, or just touches them every time they re-read it. Let us know yours after you’ve read ours!

Jessica Alvarez- I’m going to cheat if I can and mention two books that I read much too young but had a lasting influence and helped shape my career. First was a purloined copy of Penny Jordan’s 1988 classic Harlequin Presents, Levelling the Score. I was about nine years old and this was one of the first romances I read, if not the very first, and it hooked me on category romance. I still have it and have re-read it probably 100 times. Soon after, a stranger at a Waldenbooks in the Paramus Park mall saw me browsing the romance shelves and told me I HAD to read Kathleen Woodiwiss’s The Flame and the Flower. From there, I went on to devour every historical romance I could get my hands on. I credit those two books with starting me on the journey that led to a job editing historical romances at Harlequin, and then eventually on to BookEnds.

Kim- I think I’ve said it before on the blog, but I first read Snowfire by Phyllis Whitney in middle school and it sparked my obsession with gothic romances.  All of Phyllis Whitney’s books are special to me, because I shared the love of her work with my late grandmother and my mom.  I now have inherited their whole collection of hardcovers, but my mom still texts me from used bookstores when she finds a “new” one to add.  Also, the only fan letter I ever wrote was to Phyllis Whitney when I was in high school.  I still cherish the note she wrote back.

Rachel- One of the earliest book memories I have is my mom reading me The Store Book by Ronne Peltzman about an adorable rabbit family going shopping. (I grew up to love animals, shopping, and reading….hmmm.) I still cherish my worn copy with its 69 cent price on the cover, even though the pages are barely held together with staples and tape.

Beth- Honorable mention goes to Harry Potter for being the series that made me a reader, but I think my heart truly lies with The Circle of Magic series by Tamora Pierce. It’s no secret that I love found family narratives, and this series (and its sequels and offshoots) was the start of all of that. Reading those books, it was the first time I realized that you really could pick your family, and it could be four foster siblings, two moms, and a network of loving and supportive adults. Now I have the family I was born into and my own found family, and I credit The Circle of Magic with showing me that was possible. I re-read those books almost every year. And cry. Every time.

Amanda- I think there are floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in my heart, but if I had to pick one it would be Katherine Neville’s THE EIGHT. I borrowed a copy of the paperback from my grandmother when I was twelve-ish, and, I’m sorry to say, she never got the book back. It’s a dual timeline story (1970s and French Revolution) that centers around a mystical chess set with mysterious engravings. Solve the formula, and you can create the elixir of life. With a strong heroine in each time period and a blend of history, science, and mysticism, I was hooked. A few years ago, my husband bought me a hardcover first edition to replace the now ratty paperback.

Naomi- The first book that ever pulled me into the pages so deeply I could barely detach myself from the characters when I closed the cover was Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I was too young to understand why, but I remember feeling a powerful connection with all the characters while reading how different Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy were from each other. In hindsight, it made school-aged me feel like being different – a little creative, a little eccentric, a little headstrong – was an asset. During these early reading years, I developed a sincere appreciation for characters who felt real, especially when my interests branched into science fiction and fantasy, where suspending disbelief can only happen with characters who make the story believable. My tastes have changed through the years, but I can still be swept away just as easily as the first time whenever I sit down with Little Women.

James- This is a tough one, but I think I have to go with Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. I only read this one a couple of years ago at the recommendation of a professor, but it’s stuck with me. It’s wise and funny, heartbreaking and poignant; everything all in one book. It reads like fiction and teaches like non-fiction. My copy is well-loved.

Moe- Well, as I am secretly a Time Lord in disguise, I consequently have two hearts and can thus have two books of my heart. (I also couldn’t pick between the two. So sue me.) The first is Avalon: The Return of King Arthur by Stephen Lawhead. I probably re-read this book at least once a year for years. It was one of the first books that introduced me to the wonderful world of reimaginings of legends. The way Lawhead took the original legend and translated it into a modern world still sticks with me. It’s my gold standard for the types of retellings I will always want on my list. If you love politics mixed with Arthurian legends, I can’t recommend it highly enough. My other book of the heart is The Midnight Club by Christopher Pike. Back in the days when YA books were the 200-page Archway mini-paperbacks, I devoured every single book Pike ever wrote. Of all of them, this book stood out to me for the way he could weave a story about 5 terminally ill teens (and you know all of them will die by the end) but still have this tone of hopefulness… it will tug at your heart and definitely is a book I love to revisit.

Tracy- Is it terrible that I can’t remember the exact title of the book of my heart, but I certainly remember my first book-related heartbreak? It was a beautiful, illustrated storybook of fairy tales. I believe the cover had an orangey-yellow background, and the endpapers had this gorgeous scene of Lords and Ladies going through the woods. Each story was maybe four pages at most, with pages full of color.

And as for the heartbreak… when I was six or seven, it split in two. And even then I mourned for this beautiful piece of art. I suppose it’s no wonder that all these years later I’d be representing and writing picture books!

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4 comments

  1. James, all of these foundational reads revved up my mind this morning!

    Beth, thanks for sharing your love for found family narratives. I’m working on a TV script about what we claim in life and how the “where” influences this. Your contribution today helped inspire a fresh logline. When we share from our hearts, we never know who we’ll touch. 🙂

    James, omg, if you haven’t listened to Frank McCourt’s audio version of Angela’s Ashes—it’s a must. Just thinking of his voice and that story creates a catch in my heart’s beat.

    Tracy, reading your description sent me Googling. Thanks for starting my day with illustrations by Margaret W. Tarrant and Arthur Rackham.

    I’ll add mine so I can feel part of this Valentine’s Day party. As a kid, all of Walter Farley’s Black Stallion books with a mix of Jules Verne. When we moved to a new town, I remember peddling home from the library with a stack of WF’s books balanced on my handlebars. The max I could check out. It was better than Christmas morning! My legs outgrew my dream of becoming a jockey.

    1. I never thought to listen to Angela’s Ashes, though that is now my next audio book on commutes. Thanks for the suggestion. And thanks for sharing yours! My mom used to work in a kids clothes store, and they sold these really cool copies of classic books. I have GREAT EXPECTATIONS and TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA somewhere. I’ll have to dig that out and re-read, now that you’ve brought it up.

      1. James, second-hand stores were the best! I bet we both loved assigned reading in school. (grinning here) GREAT EXPECTATIONS, well, it changed my life, too. Reading in distinct time periods of publishing created another level of subtext for the stories. (I didn’t know this as a kid yet absorbed it. Diction, syntax, etc.)

  2. I am amazed you could stick to one or two. No way can I do that. I have to list authors and even then the list is long. I have a bookshelf (which is full) of “part with over my dead body” books. These are books I hold very near and dear and reread often. Gerald Durrell, James Herriott and David Attenborough are why I became an environmental scientist, Enid Blyton (particularly Children of Cheery Tree Farm) made me fall in love with books and reading, LM Montgomery (particularly Anne of Green Gables series) were the first books where I lost myself in the words, David Eddings let me escape and lose myself from the school bullies in other worlds – where I started to write because I could create my own worlds, Agatha Christie and Dick Francis were why I fell in love with mysteries (which I write now).

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