At our weekly blog scheduling meeting I made a comment about something American (as I unfortunately do too much) and my colleagues jumped on the chance to get me to write a blog post for Independence Day (4th of July). I did at one point in this conversation threaten to declare Independence . . . wisely, they saw it as a hollow threat. I was trying to avoid this by talking about BBQs and the merits of having fireworks in the summer (it’s warm out for one!) and not the winter (Bonfire night). I did not succeed.
So, this blog was supposed to be about my ‘favourite American book’. This is deeply unfair. Deeply unfair. It would be like asking me to pick my favourite British book, or Fantasy book, or YA book (please don’t make me choose!). I mean, how could I choose between The Great Gatsby (I can hear our intern, Becca shouting Gatsby! as I type this. For more on her take of The Great Gatsby check out our previous Friday Read), or Little Women, The Poisonwood Bible, Catch 22, The Catcher in the Rye, Slaughterhouse Five or Charlotte’s Web (I have never cried so hard as I have at the end of that book!). These are just some of the books I read growing up that stayed with me.
And what about fantasy novels? Well, now this becomes tricky. You could pick American authors who wrote amazing fantasy novels . . . or you could pick equally amazing American themed Fantasy novels like: White Cat, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, The Passage, Dreams and Shadows, the Percy Jackson series (does it surprise any of you that this makes my list?) and American Gods. I’m going to stop now, because I could go on and on. How can you pick a favourite from that list?
And let’s talk horror. How can you choose from everything written by Stephen King (but especially The Stand, Salem’s Lot and The Shining), Edgar Allen Poe, Shirley Jackson, Joe Hill. Again I’m going to stop because literally I could go on and on!
I’m not even going to get started on my epic YA list. Let’s just agree it would be massive.
So, faced with this task, I polled the marketing department for their favourite American books. I got some interesting answers. Some books that surprised me. Some I’ve even listed. But, none of it made my choice any easier.
After a lot of thought, I decided on my choice. It was a book I read over a summer as a ‘required reading’ in high school. I remember the cover, the hole in the tree filled with hidden baubles and the bird flying away into the night sky. To Kill a Mockingbird was required reading, and I’m grateful for that. I can’t think of a more important book for teenagers to read. To Kill a Mockingbird was the kind of book that felt important while I was reading it. It felt like every other page was filled with so much wisdom:
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
“You are too young to understand it … but sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hand of – oh, of your father.”
“People in their right minds never take pride in their talents.”
It’s impossible to choose just one quote. As well as being filled with wisdom the book also contains so much humanity and hope. To Kill a Mockingbird is not just a coming of age story. It asks you to think about the people around you, the way you see the world and take a stand for what is right in the face of hate and intolerance. I’m not going to lie, I seriously love Atticus Finch. How could you not? He’s got to be one of the best father’s in literature. And if you’ve read the book—how about the scene where he has to shoot the dog? Or the scene in the courthouse? The movie is also fantastic and a classic, but nothing is quite as staggering as seeing the world from Scout’s naïve eight-year-old eyes. As Scout struggles to make sense of her world and the actions of people around her, which are frequently in contradiction to their words you get a very clear picture of humanity and the strength of some people. This book is about dignity, courage and hope. All things that make me proud of my homeland. Happy Fourth of July!