Books for the Table

I’m sure you’re all dying to know which books I chose for my table, and why I chose them….

Dying. Right.

Well, it’s not something I want to forget and since this consumed a huge portion of my life in 2013, I decided I’d make a list.

These are the 27 titles in the pedestal, complete with explanations to how they made the final cut. (Also, if you click on the table post and scroll to the photo of the completed pedestal, these are in the order you see them, from top to bottom).

1. Ireland (coffee table book) – given to my Grandma Conway, by me, because she was Irish and loved reading/learning about the culture. After she died, I got the book back and used it as the top anchor for the tabletop.

2. Nancy’s Mysterious Letter & 3. The Mystery of the Ivory Charm – Carolyn Keene. I loved Nancy Drew when I was a girl. I have several, still, that I saved from childhood. I happened to have duplicates of these two books, so they went into the table.

4. The Indian in the Cupboard – Lynn Reid Banks. This is a beloved favorite from childhood. I was entranced by the fantasy concept of the story, I can still remember wishing I could bring a favorite toy to life.

5. Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret – Judy Blume. What preteen girl didn’t read this book? It’s a classic for a reason, well, if you’re a girl.

6. Tuck Everlasting – Natalie Babbitt. This is one of my favorite books of all-time. It is the first book I remember falling in love with. I love many, many books now, but when I was a child, I just read them and moved on. This is the first time I actually loved a book and wanted to go back and read it again. It is also the first time I remember reading a book without stopping. I loved this book so much, still do, actually.

7. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis. Evidently I really liked fantasy as a child. It’s weird because I don’t really now, but looking at this, all of my favorites were fantasy novels. Perhaps fantasy is better written for children than adults. Anyway, I loved this book so much I actually refused to see the movie, which came out in 2005. As an adult, I didn’t want to ruin that beautiful childhood bubble in which I hold this book.

8. The Giver – Lois Lowry. I was a fan of Lowry’s  Anastasia Krupnik series ( a book I had trouble tracking down for this project) as a child, so when she wrote The Giver in 1993 (I was 14) I decided to read it. This is the first time I remember being truly astonished at a book. It introduced me to ideas that I had never before considered. Surprisingly, I now realize it was the first dystopian novel I ever read. That is currently one of my favorite genres to read.

9. A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle. Oh boy, do I love this book. The whole series is good, but this one? The first book I recall rereading. Deliberately. It was so good I had to read it again to make sure I got it all. I’ve read it dozens of times since then. Also sci-fi/fantasy.

10. Black Beauty – Anna Sewell. My parents gave me this book for my 8th birthday. My mom wrote Happy 8th Birthday on the inside cover. I’m a little amazed that they’d give this book to an 8 year old. It’s pretty advanced, but I was a good reader. I don’t remember anything about reading it, but I do remember marveling at how pretty it was. Even back then I liked pretty books. Still  do…a weakness of mine.

11. Johnny Tremain – Esther Forbes. I had to read this in school. It was my first dip into historical fiction. I liked it so much I bought this copy at a library book sale so I could have it. Still have it all these years later.

12. Thurston House & 13. The Ring – Danielle Steel. Now we head into my teen years. My gramma Conway was the biggest reader I knew and she loved that I was a reader. She had been waiting and waiting for me to get old enough to read her romance novels. She loved Danielle Steel. I’m not as huge a fan, however, I will admit that old DS books, from her early years are actually pretty good, if dated. These are both her early novels. They are also from my gramma’s collection, which I inherited after her death and hold a great deal of sentimentality for me.

14. The Two Mrs. Grenvilles – Dominick Dunne. This books is a classic example of what my gramma liked to read, however, this one was a particular favorite of mine. I don’t read this style of book anymore, but that doesn’t erase the nostalgia factor at all. 

15. A Necessary Woman & 16. No Love Lost – Helen Van Slyke. These two books are the only remaining hardcover ones from my grammas collection. Helen Van Slyke was her favorite author. I read all of her books, and still have the paperbacks. She was a good writer, no doubt. Even my mom gets sentimental over these books, so much so that I asked her permission to put them in the table, because gramma loved them so much.

17. For the Roses – Julie Garwood. Garwood is one of MY favorite authors, no doubt about it. This is the first book I read by her and it is a longtime favorite of mine. I’ve read it so much I could actually quote from it. Once, I was browsing in a bookstore and two women, older than me, came in and were looking at romance. They whispered back and forth and I hear “ask her”. So I turned to them and asked if I could help. They said they had never read a romance and wanted to know where to start and since I clearly read them (I think I had a stack of like 10 in my arms at the time) would I help them. We talked about a few things and this is the book I recommended. One of my favorite romances, but also one of my favorite stories.

18. A Woman of Substance – Barbara Taylor Bradford. In the all-time favorite list, for sure. Before or since, I’ve never read a book like this. It is an incredible story that went on to inspire a series of seven books. The others get consecutively worse and worse, but this book, written the year I was born, still stands the test of time.

19. Bridge to Terabithia – Katherine Paterson. Another childhood love. Not really a fantasy, though it does contain some serious fantasy elements. But this was the first book I can remember reading that dealt with (spoiler alert) the death of a child. It was pretty heavy stuff for a kid to read. I think I was in the 4th grade when I read this book. It stuck with me.

20. The Secret History of the Pink Carnation – Lauren Willig. Elena recommended this book to me when I was in grad school. At the time, I was pretty down on romances, I just needed something different. She said to try this one anyway. And when I started it I realized it was two stories told simultaneously, jumping back and forth. I hate books like that. Hate them. But,  it was only a few chapters in when I realized this was not like the others. Both stories are so incredibly well told I never minded moving back and forth. I loved this book and it totally rekindled my love of romances. I used it in a book club where they said they didn’t like romances and it got raves. And it is the start of a series. The other books are good, but not as fantastically awesome as this, the first one.

21. Remember When – Judith McNaught. My favorite romance author of all time. No question. I own every book she has written. She also hasn’t written a new book in NINE years, but supposedly is releasing a new book this May. Excited would be an understatement. Back to the matter at hand, when this book came out, it was released in hardcover, which was RARE for romances at the time. I wanted to read it so badly (and was like 500 something on the library list) I actually went out and bought the hardcover book. I never do that. I have since bought the paperback as well. While this is not my favorite book by her (that would be A Kingdom of Dreams, for the curious), I needed to have something of hers in the table.

22. Shadow Dance – Julie Garwood. I mentioned a beloved Garwood at #17, that book was making it, no matter what. Julie Garwood was the only romance author with a shot at knocking Judith McNaught off her pedestal. Her historical romances are some of my favorites. The Gift? One of my all-time favorite books. The Bride and The Wedding? I own two copies each of these books, because I owned them but I was out somewhere and wanted to read them so badly I bought second copies. True story. I couldn’t wait….until I got home. I wasn’t even out of town. But then, in 2000, she suddenly switched to contemporary/suspense. It makes me so sad. They’re still fine, if I had never read her historicals, I’d probably still like her, but I have and so they make me sad. This was one I picked up at a book sale. I actually only added it for extra height to the table…

23. A Selection of Poems – Robert Frost. Also from my gramma’s collection. Frost was her favorite poet. When I was in the 9th grade, we had to choose a poem to memorize and recite for the class. I chose “The Road Not Taken” by Frost because of her. I used this book to read and memorize the poem. “Two roads diverged in a wood, and sorry I could not travel both. And be one traveler, long I stood and looked down one as long as I could, to where it bent in the undergrowth.” Yes, I still remember it. And so this book holds great meaning to me. I also like the variety it provides.

24. The Wizard of Oz – L. Frank Baum. How many people have actually read this book? I have. One of my favorites, no doubt. Oddly, another fantasy. The book is amazing, and amazingly different from the movie. Also one of the few examples where the movie is better than the book.

25. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll. I’m not a fan of choosing a favorite book. I have favoriteS, but choosing just one? It’s too hard. But, if I had a gun to my head and absolutely had to choose, this would be the one. There isn’t another story like this in the world. It’s incredible. I know most have seen the movie, but I, again, have to wonder how many have read the book? No matter how many times I read it, it still makes me laugh out loud and draws me into the story. Yet another fantasy….and also the book I chose for the table’s top.

26. Pinocchio – Carlo Collodi. This is the only book that was included just because. No rhyme or reason. I was going through my hardcover books and I noticed this on my bookshelf. I had no use for the book, it’s a fancy edition of the classic story. When I opened the cover, it was inscribed to my brother Zack. So it’s also the only book that A) isn’t mine and B) I didn’t get permission to use! Sorry Zack.

27. Ireland (coffee table book) – as with book #1, I purchased this as a gift. I gave one to my mother and one to her mother….both in very different years. They both kept them displayed in their respective homes for years and then both books made their way back to me. My mom offered this one as the base of the table because it is big and heavy. It works well to help stability. I like the symmetry of the top and bottom being similar (not the same) books with a similar history. It’s all about the story.

Well, there you go, the complete list of the books I used to create my table, along with my explanations. I know this will come in handy down the road, and this project was such a big part of my life last year, I am glad I stopped to record these thoughts. Even if it took me two months to get this written! Mostly I was surprised, upon writing this, how many fantasy books are on this list. Romance didn’t surprise me at all, but practically every book I loved as a child had a fantasy element to it. I never really realized that before. I would have said I never really liked fantasy that much. Clearly, that is not true. So after everything, this project helped me learn something about my reading habits. After all these years, who woulda thunk it?



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