It seems there are a lot of holidays we don’t celebrate in South Africa. A while ago it was Halloween, this time it’s Thanksgiving. It’s not that we don’t take time to be thankful, but we don’t have Thanksgiving Day. (A while ago I learned that Canada celebrates Thanksgiving on a different date than the States – I found that interesting). Anycase, I have attended a couple of Thanksgiving events hosted by American Expats and such, and I always found it to be lovely. So, in celebration and collaboration with The Broke and the Bookish, here are the top ten books or authors I am thankful for.
1. Author Jane Austen – yeah okay, I’ve only read Pride and Prejudice, and I’m not sure that I’ll read any of the other books. It was nice, actually, but I guess romantic novels just don’t really make me tick. But, since Austen was apparently revolutionary for literature of the day, I am thankful that she wrote what she felt needed writing. It feels like she gave birth to a new kind of literary female, and I have no doubt that she changed the face of bookish women in her own small way.
2. Author Rosamund Kendal – I realise I am beginning to sound like a groupie, the way that I have ranted and raved about this South African author. Her books, The Angina Monologues and The Karma Suture inspired me this year, when my medical school career seemed endless and uninspirational.
3. Author Roald Dahl – He formed my childhood and fueled my imagination. I went to the library again and again in search of more of his books. In a way, he introduced me to reading, to writing, and the sanctuary offered by libraries. Did I mention he was a pretty diverse individual? His adult works are on my TBR-list.
4. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini – I love this one and A Thousand Splendid Suns equally, but I feel that Kite Runner really exposed the world of men in Afghanistan. The West so often thinks of Muslim men as being woman-hating fiends, and this book introduces us to the real world, and the real struggles, of men in Afghanistan, and those who had to flee.
5. 28 Stories of AIDS in Africa by Stephanie Nolen – It inspired me to study Medicine. It was one of the biggest game-changers in my life. I would lie if I said I had never reconsidered my decision, but here I am.
6. Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Plunges into History Again by Bathroom Readers’ Hysterical Society – funny choice? Funny indeed. My aunt brought this to us when she visited South Africa in 2002. It never really intrigued me until Grade 9, a few years later, when History was my poorest mark and I was clinging desperately to my good grades. I picked up the book and it served as a reminder that History was a STORY. I turned the work I was studying at the time – the Renaissance, King Henry and all his wives, and anthropology into a story which I told myself. And suddenly I could not only remember it, but enjoy it. History became – and remains – one of my favourite subjects. It was my saving grace among all the sciences I had to take in high school.
7. Author Jack Canfield of Chicken Soup fame – so these books are soppy and these days they annoy me, but I read them by the dozens when I was a troubled young thing and I think they really helped me cope and persevere.
8. Frank Warren of PostSecret fame – he started a revolution in compassion. The books and the Sunday Secrets are my modern Chicken Soup. And I get super annoyed when I walk into a bookstore and the people who work there have never heard of it.
9. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness – I felt that YA had again hit a bit of a dry patch for me, with too many books and plots alike in fashion. And then this one came along and the writing style and dialogue and the whole damn premise was so wonderful. It has been a while since I enjoyed a book this much, and it made me so happy.
10. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling – I agonised over this one because I dislike going the easy route. But seriously? This series WAS my childhood. I grew with Harry and Ron and Hermione, and I could identify with them, and they gave me the confidence I lacked. I know it is the same for thousands of other readers, and that makes me doubly thankful. And people started reading.