Five Books I Can’t Leave Behind by Stephanie Joyce Cole
In Stephanie Joyce Cole’s debut novel, Compass North, a desperately unhappy woman is thrust into a new life and a new identity in a small town in Alaska when she is presumed dead in a freak accident. She discovers that it takes more than a change of venue to reinvent a life. In honor of publication, Stephanie shares the books she can’t live without.
My husband and I are moving soon. It will be both wonderful and wretched. Wonderful, because it’s exciting to have a new place to live and explore. Wretched, because moving is so much work, and involves so many hard choices.
When we planned our move from Alaska to Seattle about four years ago, I owned many bookshelves chock full of books. Years and years of books. It made no sense to move them. I reminded myself that there are few books that I read more than once. But as I carted box after box of those books to the used bookstore, I felt as if I were losing pieces of myself.
Now, we’re going to do it again. I haven’t accumulated as many books (and many of my newer books are now on my Kindle), but some culling still needs to be done. It’s easy to justify keeping books that may be important for future research. Some books I’ll keep for sentimental reasons, like books my mother gave me.
And some I just can’t part with. I just can’t. These five books (in no particular order), each very different from the others, will make the move:
1. Amy Hempel’s Reasons to Live. This collection of short stories was first published in 1985. The stories are brief, fragmented, beautiful and heart-breaking. They aren’t easy to read; read slowly, every word counts. If you only read one story in this collection, read “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolsen is Buried.” And prepare to cry. This book comes with me to remind me of how beautiful brief prose can be.
2. Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose. (Well, his book Crossing to Safety is coming too). It was first published in 1971, and he won the Pulitzer for it. Vivid and complex. It has to come because I need to re-read it to see how it’s held up over the decades.
3. Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, first published in 2001. This is a crazy almost demented story, of ancient gods who live among us and who have lots of problems of their own. Gaiman’s imagination astounds me.
4. Diana Galbaldon’s Outlander. Truthfully, I got bored with the many sequels, which I think bogged down with too much historical detail. But this first book: Fanciful, romantic, and oh-so-sexy. Truly delicious. It has to come along.
5. Maeve Binchy’s Circle of Friends (and her other books, too). Binchy is an Irish author who recently passed away. Her books are like warm bread, comforting and satisfying. I think her appeal stems from her genuine affection for her characters and her concern for their problems. Binchy’s books may not go down in history as great literature, but they make me feel good. So she can’t be left behind.
Oh and there are so many more…Alice Munro’s books, Louise Penny’s mysteries…I think I need more boxes.
Stephanie Joyce Cole lived for decades in Alaska. She and her husband recently relocated to Seattle, where they reside with a predatory but lovable Manx cat (no tail!) named Bruno. Stephanie has a law degree from UCLA and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Alaska, Anchorage. Since 1986, she has been associated with Alaska Quarterly Review (AQR), an award-winning literary magazine housed at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. She is currently a Senior Affiliate Editor for AQR. When she’s not writing, she’s hiking, creating ceramics, practicing yoga, traveling, volunteering and discovering new ways to have fun–and oh yes, reading, reading, reading. Learn more about her debut novel, Compass North, here.
There's nothing we love more at Shelf Pleasure than a ..
Author and Shelf Pleasure contributor Karen A. Chase on how ..
One of author Mary Miley’s favorite things about being a ..
Author and police psychologist Ellen Kirschman, Ph.D., weighs the pitfalls ..
Little known fact about Shelf Pleasure's Kristen: she's obsessed with ..
Although Debbie De Louise has been a librarian and avid ..