Books I Have Loved

There is nothing I love to do as much as read a good book.  Not one of those Kindle or Nook appliances, but a real honest-to-goodness bound book with pages whose print still holds the indelible image of readers who have traversed this road before.  A book whose stories and characters have tiptoed into your heart but never really leave, even after the book has occupied a corner of an upper shelf for many years.  For me, the books I have loved occupy a short list, but a lofty and memorable list it is.  Jane Eyre, the classic by Charlotte Bronte is one which every young lonely girl who believes that love and happiness will find her one day, not matter if she was born in 1825 or 2012.  Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club is a heartfelt saga of mother and daughter which took me on a whirlwind of emotion–any daughter whose mother holds a special place in her heart will find herself irrevocably entranced by the stories of a Chinese family, which, in effect, represents all our families. Later, I discovered the beautiful, lyrical novels of Gail Tsukiyama, most notably Street of A Thousand Blossoms, a story of two brothers, one a mask maker and the other, a sumo wrestler who undergo the devastation of World War II ‘s Japan as well as the vicissitudes of their personal struggles.  I am not ashamed to say that when I finished the novel and was torn away from its noble characters, I shed a few tears.  My most current object of affection is Anouk Markovits’ I Am Forbidden, which weaves an enthralling tale of three youngsters who meet in Europe after their families have endured the horrors of the Holocaust.  The novel provides unique insight into the ultra-Orthodox Satmar group, shedding light on the influence of religious and the paths each character chooses to take.  I lost myself in this book for only three days, and I still cannot stop thinking about it!


Of course, there are other books which have left their imprint  upon my heart.  Eli Wiesel’s Night continues to inspire; Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth is a true and heart-wrenching reflection of ordinary life; Ursala Hegi’s Stones From The River, whose well-crafted characters will never be forgotten; Lisa Genova’s Still Alice, which chronicles the devastation that is Alzheimer’s; Betty Smith’s homage to my hometown, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  For those that prefer a short story, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout elevates everyday life to something extraordinary, and for a good mystery, you can’t go wrong with a good Joy Fielding novel, Grand Avenue, for example.  Oh yes, poetry…..Mary Oliver, of course.     Thank you to these phenomenal authors for inspiring me as a writer, and keeping me a lifelong reader!

Please let me know about some of your favorite books.  Also, if you have already read My Mother’s Shoes, I would love to hear your input.  Enjoy the summer!–Shirley



About shirleywachtel

Shirley Russak Wachtel is the author of The Story of Blima—A Holocaust Survivor (publ.2005), a novel which recounts the early years of her mother, Betty Weisstuch Russak. The novel s listed as a recommended novel by the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education. Wachtel is the author of several children's books, including a series of interactive mysteries, Charlie Wonder, Chef-Detective (2005), which includes several recipes; Brad Sureshot, Coach-Detective (2007) which details basketball skills; and Howie Rocket, World-Traveler-Detective (2009) which has handy foreign language phrases. In The Mellow Light (2009) is her first book of poetry. She is a professor of English at Middlesex County College in New Jersey. In addition, Wachtel is the co-author of Spotlight on Reading (2011), a textbook for college-level students. A mother of three sons, she resides with her husband, Arthur, in East Brunswick, New Jersey. Initially written as a doctoral dissertation for her Doctor of Letters Degree from Drew University, My Mother's Shoes , says Wachtel, is not just the novel of her life, it is the novel of her heart.
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