Yesterday, I wrote about dreaming, about changing, about taking risks, and living big. So I spent most of the day thinking about how I’d gotten here – to this quiet farm, to this life constructed from words, and I came to this conclusion:
Books brought me here.
Many years ago, my mom gave me a copy of Made from Scratch by Jenna Woginrich, and I can still remember sitting in an eye doctor’s waiting room and devouring page after page, as if the book was etched into my lungs. Here was a single woman who wrote and wanted to build her own farm. Here was me. That book was the beginning.
But books have always inspired me, and when I look back and call to mind those books which have most stuck with me, I find three themes – art, farming, and solitude. Just writing down those words washes me with a deep peace.
So today, here are the 11 books that have most inspired me to live this life of words and work.
1. Made from Scratch by Jenna Wonginrich. She’s bad-ass. She farms, she writes, she heats her house with wood. And now, she trains falcons. Yeah, I try to be like her every day.
2. Paradise by Toni Morrison. I honestly don’t remember most of the plot of this book, but it still holds tight to my ribs because of the way it portrays women in an isolated community. Love that.
3. Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott. Top of my list of favorite books ever because it’s honest and powerful and so, so funny. Plus, I kind of want to be her, too.
4. New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton. The way Merton speaks of solitude, of the need for silence. The way he calls to my spirit from his own quiet space. I find myself needing that more and more.
5. House by Tracy Kidder. This book reminds me that even the most common things – like the construction of a home – can be complex and beautiful. And I want to write those stories.
6. Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I’m past the point where I will walk the whole PCT or AT – and I really don’t have a desire to do that – but the way she shows how solitude and adventure can heal – that, that I know well.
7. Head Off and Split by Nikky Finney. If I can ever have half the power and truth in my words as Finney does in this collection, I will consider myself a profound success. She writes of injustice and racism, history and now with such strength.
8. Bringing It to the Table by Wendell Berry. Berry’s thoughts on agriculture and farming, on the way that efficiency cannot – should not – be the end aim of all things, particularly farming – they remind me to slow down and be true to this place.
9. Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris. To step away, to immerse myself in a routine – I hope that the arrival of the animals here will bring some of this holy farm liturgy to life in this place. Plus, Norris’s words about worship and prayer speak the truth I know.
10. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. I love the adventure in this story, but my favorite scene is when Lucy discovers Narnia in the snow – the quiet, the vastness. Yes, my soul says, yes.
11. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. We haven’t reached the place where we can grow everything here at God’s Whisper, but I’m striving to be more and more like Kingsolver every day. And while I can’t get coffee beans grown locally, Trager Brothers even brings that close.
Over and over, I come back to books that remind me to step away, to dig in, to write deep. This is not the call for everyone, but it is mine, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to answer it.
What themes do you see in the books you most love?