Anne Lamott, the honest, hilarious author of many heartbreaking and hopeful non-fiction and fiction books, recently came to my city. She spoke for a while, and I sat, poised with my phone, tapping away notes on all of the funny and wise words she offered up despite a broken microphone and a venue with poor acoustics. She said she’d keep the reading and commentary brief because she had toured the country and interacted with audiences enough to know that people really come to ask questions, that we all are just seeking opportunities to connect.
And the moment when I felt like she was speaking directly to me came when someone asked which authors she loves, what books have meant the most to her.
Lamott’s answer contained a nod to an author friend in the audience. But her real response was focused on the books she read as a child.
“I was a girl who found literal salvation in chapter books,” she explained and I recorded in my notes. “Pippi Longstocking, Beezus and Ramona, Little Women.”
An audible “ahhh” rose up from the audience. We congregants were not all the same age, had driven to this church to hear Anne Lamott from different parts of the city. But if the reaction told anything it was how many of us had also been lost — and perhaps, found — in those same pages.
As parents, we get the joy of rediscovering the books we loved as kids. I am even more thankful to the late, brilliant Beverly Cleary for the Ramona and Henry Huggins and other series she penned now that I’ve re-read them all with my son. And after writing this piece, which compiles teacher choices for the best middle-school reads, I know I have many more new (to me) bindings to crack.
For some reading — and re-reading — inspiration, here, some of our favorite public figures share their favorite childhood books, too.