10 Books That Have Stayed With Me

I read a lot. So here goes.

The Tanglewood Secret
I read this as a kid, and I must have read it about 50 times. It was one of the first novels I read. I remember it seeming very long, but it’s apparently less than 100 pages.

The Handmaid’s Tale
I think every woman should read this book. It is haunting and surprisingly relevant. It is dystopian, but the narrator still remembers the “before”, and I think that is what gives it the most impact.

I love pop psychology type books. This was probably the first one I ever read. Now I try to seek them out whenever possible. It challenges me to think differently. I also love the format, of seemingly unrelated anecdotes that demonstrate a larger point.

Kissed by an Angel
This trilogy is amazing. It’s definitely one I think about often, as it went a lot deeper than I would expect for a YA book, especially written before YA got to be popular and good. I particular recall the scene with the cat.

4 Hour Body
This was the first book I read that challenged the conventional wisdom of food. The slow carb diet isn’t perfect, but it was one of the many stepping stones that lead me to where I am now.

For Women Only
This book changed the way I thought about marriage, and how to better interact with my husband. We had only been married for 6 months, and after reading this I was able to “argue better”. It mostly helped me see that we were coming at issues from very different perspectives.

To Kill a Mockingbird
This was the first literary fiction I read that I didn’t hate. I’ve read a lot more since. I think I finished this book in a couple days, and then had to wait until everyone else in the class caught up.

The Feminine Mistake
While I might not agree with this book anymore, it gave me a lot of food for thought and changed how I thought about being a woman in the economy. The book is a little alarmist, but brings up some good points.

The Notebook
I read this long before it became a movie. It is a short but beautiful book. The movie is a piece of junk. Everything that made me love the characters was demolished in the movie.

Brave New World
I didn’t like this book at all the first time I read it. It was the first dystopian book I ever read, and I don’t think I really “got it” because I was 17 at the time. But I frequently think back to it.

Is Pop Culture Worth Talking About?

There are a lot of forums in which to discuss pop culture. It seems to be something that we, as a society, can’t consume enough of. Is it all just noise? When real problems are out there, is it silly to discuss and love pop culture so much?

Part of it is silly, I’ll admit. If I didn’t know where my next meal was coming from, or if I would have a roof over my head tonight, or if I was afraid for my safety, then I would definitely not be sitting in my pajamas typing this. But, despite that, I’ll argue that it is important. Not in a “breaking news” type way, of course. We are fortunate to live in a society that has enough recreational time to devote to creating and enjoying culture. When I stop to think about it, it’s something that I’m truly thankful for.

First of all, pop culture makes us happy. You can be having a crummy morning, but if the right song comes on your iPod or someone forwards you the right cat .gif, it can improve your mood instantly. A really satisfying novel or engrossing movie can shift your attitude. It’s not only just a fleeting pleasure either. I often can think back to something that I enjoyed, and the memory of it still produces happy thoughts.

For those who create, it’s a fantastic emotional outlet. It may even be better than talk therapy for some! Even if what you create isn’t marketable, it’s an excellent way to sort through feelings and thoughts in a way that maybe conversation can’t. Who hasn’t filled a journal or two with horrible poetry or doodles? It may even help those who consume it, to put words to thoughts, or know that someone, somewhere, is having the same problems that you are.

Pop culture is a part of our identity. Just as we equate certain paintings and sculptures with ancient Greeks or Renaissance Italy, the culture that surrounds us identifies us in a particular period of time. It’s also an important part of our individual identity. Your favorite poem or TV show can tell someone things about you that you may not be able to articulate.

Finally, it connects us together. The shared experience of a particular thing can bond people, even if they never meet. This is why cover songs either work well or completely bomb. If someone already has a connection to a song, and a band presents it again, it will either bubble up nostalgia or ire that the group has “messed it up”. It is rarely ever judged on the merits of being a good song on its own; there is always the context of the original to guide it.

You may still think that writing and thinking about popular culture is a waste of your time. Maybe it is. But I will continue to love it and embrace how it changes and delights me.