Thursday, February 2, 2017

My Top Three Inspiring Books

Top 3 Inspiring BooksI'm an English major. I love books.

Hand me a book, I'll read it. Don't hand me a book, I'll take it myself and read it anyway.

The summer before sixth grade, I read books 1-5 of the Harry Potter series in one week. That's over 2,500 pages!

I have shelves full of books, crammed in every which way, because I like to organize by size in order to make the most of the space available.

I just love books.

So, it shouldn't surprise you that I take a lot of inspiration from books!

Today I'm going to share with you the three books which inspire me the most...

The Phantom Tollbooth
front cover, Random House 1989 edition,
cover illustration by Jules Feiffer
1. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (brilliantly illustrated by Jules Feiffer)

YOU GUYS. If you never read any other book in your life, read this one. It's a light, humorous children's novel that will have your mind spinning in ways you never thought it would.

Ever wonder what dwells in the Mountains of Ignorance? How exactly one "jumps" to Conclusions? Ever think what life would be like if we grew up instead of down, or wonder what arranges the colors of a sunrise?

This book will run circles around everything you thought you knew, everything you've taken for granted, and everything you've always assumed. 

Don't bother to read it unless you're willing to reconsider the way you think and make decisions.

Dang. It's just. So. Good. My mom gave me a paperback copy when I was kid, and unfortunately I was going through an underlining phase, so I underlined everything I deemed particularly profound (probably 85% of the book). A few years later I found a flawless hardback at a thrift store, and I was beyond thrilled to have a fresh, non-underlined copy!

Humans of New York book
front cover, St. Martin's Press 2013,
photos by Brandon Stanton,
design by Lauren Harms
2. Humans of New York 
by Brandon Stanton

PEOPLE: this book, and Brandon Stanton's blog, has slowly but surely changed my life. He photographs people on the streets of New York City, and shares little tidbits from their lives. A story, a regret, a hope, a brief statement. And folks, no matter what the topic, who the person, or what their story is, I'm always inspired.

Call me basic, claim his project merely confirms stereotypes, call his portraits uncreative (I read all these statements in a blog post I will not link back to at this time), whatever. I absolutely love it all, because I would never have the courage to walk up to a stranger and strike up a conversation like that! It's also gained a new importance to me in recent days, because many of the people Stanton photographs are immigrants. Now, their stories need to be heard more than ever before.

He's released a couple more books since this one, both of which I have yet to buy, but they're on my list. If you ever want to "restore your faith in humanity", look no further. This book is a a true gem.

3. Chasers of the Light: Poems from the Typewriter Series 
by Tyler Knott Gregson

Chasers of the Light
front cover, Penguin 2014,
cover design by Rita Carroll
FOLKS. I've read some of Tyler Knott Gregson's poetry, mainly due to his partnership back in 2014 with the nonprofit To Write Love On Her Arms (read about that partnership here), but dang, son.

My sister and her fiance gave me this little book for Christmas, and I fell in love. Gregson bought a typewriter and created almost 1,000 poems on found paper--receipts, envelopes, book pages, etc., and it's all incredibly beautiful and emotional. I just love it.

Flipping through those pages, reading those poems, I feel so inspired to create. It makes me want to make collages, paint fantastic and deeply emotional self-portraits, or type my own poetry on a typewriter. Gregson's heartfelt and lilting poetry, combined with this fun mode of presentation, always has me ready to go create.

Inspiring Books
So that's it! The three books that are my go-to for creative inspiration. They may seem random, but they each inspire me in a different way. Tollbooth reminds me to refuse boredom, think outside of the box, and question my assumptions. HONY reminds me to listen to people's stories and believe in goodness. TKG inspires me to forget the eraser, put on my creativity cap, and just go for it.

There's a lot of ugliness going on the world. A lot of fear and hatred, a lot of protesting, a lot of people who are lost, hungry, afraid, and homeless. Let's find ways to look inside and look around. You and I can do something about the ugliness. You and I need not contribute to the hatred and fear, if we only have the courage and inspiration to show others what's in our hearts.

I hope you take a look for yourself, and comment below to share the books that inspire you!