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April 14, 2006

Five Books I'll Read Again and Again

I was in bed the other morning, looking at my "for pleasure" bookcase (which is the only bookcase allowed in the bedroom, as feng shui dictates work books must remain in work spaces) and came up with a quick list of five favorite books that I will (and do) happily read again. Obviously, I'm not counting any of my books, because much of the reason I read those again and again has to do with editing and updating (and only a wee bit of narcissism). Anyway, I'm now going to take a moment and share those books (and reasons for my great affection) with you. Books are listed in the order I first discovered them.

Click any image for the Amazon.com page associated with the title.

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The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. I had just broken up with my boyfriend, graduated from high school, and gotten hired as a bartender at Chili's. I was preparing for my trip to Madrid, where I would stay in a model's crashpad/hostel with my lifelong friend Becky Hewes, who had been modeling in Paris and Madrid for the year since she had graduated from North Springs. I had been looking for some good travel reading and "the guy" at the bookstore saw me thumbing through Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. He handed me The Tao of Pooh and said, flirtatiously, that he was sure I'd dig it.

And dig it I did! I spent most days in Madrid roaming the Plaza Mayor, visiting with street artists, and reading this little guide to life in terms any lover of the One Hundred Acre Woods could understand. The fact that the first play I ever did was The House at Pooh Corner certainly helps with the endearing level. My notes are scribbled all through the book, which makes picking it back up a pleasure for several reasons. The life lessons (never a Bisy Backson be) are still valuable and the information about how to get to El Corte Ingl├ęs makes me smile.

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Lovingly, Georgia: The Complete Correspondence of Georgia O'Keeffe and Anita Pollitzer compiled by Clive Giboire. Mom and I used to love going to Oxford Books (RIP) in Atlanta. We'd pretty much make a day of it. After I graduated from college (but just before I moved to Hollywood for the first time), I was looking for books that would help me understand who I was (or who I *potentially* was) as a woman, a feminist, an artist. Georgia O'Keeffe did a great job of helping me GET myself; not through her work, but through her correspondence with a lifelong friend.

I had had similar correspondence with Faith Salie (and continued to, later, when we'd each gone to grad school and again when we took turns living in Los Angeles--but never at the same time until 1999). I never thought of any of our 20-page hand-written letters about our experiences and travails through creative expression and love while being strong, intelligent women as anything special until I read the eerily similar exchanges between Georgia and Anita from nearly 80 years before. Suddenly, living alone for the first time, 3000 miles away from "home," I felt a connection to some purpose. I didn't understand it, fully (and I suspect I still don't), but I sure as hell knew it was right for me to be an artist in Tinseltown.

Sadly, this book is out-of-print (and therefore all the more valuable to my personal library).

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Nine Lives: From Stripper to Schoolteacher: My Year-Long Odyssey in the Workplace by Lynn Snowden. Having been driven home to Atlanta by the Northridge Quake and an inability to stay on-task with my Brilliant, Age 23 Life Plan in Hollywood, I was facing the all-too-typical quarter-life crisis, unsure of what the heck I wanted to be when I grew up. That's when I found this amazing book (also out-of-print) from a participatory journalist. (I began reviewing my time in Journalism School to see if I'd missed some cool course, which would've given me permission to write books like this one. No such luck.)

Snowden spent a year living the lives of nine different women (yeah, way before Morgan Spurlock started his excellent series 30 Days), trying on the careers of Skid Row pyro-technician, ad copywriter, publicist, substitute teacher, Vegas cocktail waitress, housewife, stripper, rape crisis counselor, and factory worker. Two things happened while I read this book for the first time. I learned that it is, in fact, possible to have a bunch of different jobs and remain sane (but it would take reading Barbara Sher's I Could Do Anything... If I Only Knew What It Was in 1997 and Deborah Jacobson's Survival Jobs: 154 Ways To Make Money While Pursuing Your Dreams in 1999 to really change my life). And, I began to appreciate the role of the journalist-columnist-author. I'm pretty certain--based on the two journalism degrees, five years of weekly columns, and four books I've added to the world's library--that this book was a big part of laying that groundwork.

I'm beginning to believe that I only ever pursued acting as a means to write about it. And, as I develop the book on understanding casting (for filmmakers), I wonder if perhaps I'll look back and say that I pursued casting as a means to write about that too. Hmm.

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Anything by Ralph Waldo Emerson. The book I've linked above looks pretty similar to what I would've read in grad school (but really, you could read anything). Of course, I'd read Emerson's works throughout high school and undergrad, but it wasn't until the early spring of 1995, when I spread out a blanket under the trees in Athens' Memorial Park with my Aussie Love, Dominic Hughes, that I really GOT something meaningful out of essays like "Self-Reliance" and "The Over-Soul." I was just in a very receptive place, spiritually. I'd done a hard reset of my life's plans, surrendering to the purgatory to adulthood that is grad school and becoming quite open to whatever new path might lie ahead.

It wasn't until Bob Brody wrote a review of my second book in which he said, "I swear Bonnie Gillespie is Emerson reincarnate," that I spent a little more quality time studying the dude. While I'm sure Brody was likening Self-Management to "Self-Reliance" (a comparison which I'll humbly accept on the basis of the similarity of title alone), I'd love to think I have it in me to someday be remembered as a leader, a teacher, a philosopher, a poet, a person whose words have staying power. I should be so lucky.

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Excuse Me, Your LIFE Is Waiting: The Astonishing Power of Feelings by Lynn Grabhorn. The above-mentioned Faith Salie gave this amazing astonishing book to me in late 2003, right after it had changed her life (which it then did mine). Definitely heavy on the touchy-feely, Wayne Dyer/Deepak Chopra/Caroline Myss scale, the late Lynn Grabhorn did a wonderful job bringing that woo-woo to a more accessible level. I know that is true because of the response others--to whom I've given copies of this book--have had. Cynics have become believers. Eeyores have become Tiggers. Those without... suddenly have.

The Law of Attraction is real. Keith and I are living proof of that. But just as yoga, feeeeeeeeling good (or buzzing, as Grabhorn also liked to call it) is a practice. Sometimes the overwhelming humanness of us overtakes what we've read, learned, and experienced... which is why this book is such a frequently re-read one in our home.

So... what are your happy re-reads?

Posted by bonnie at April 14, 2006 8:04 AM

Comments

Bonnie, I love your blog. I've actually had this whole long blog about Emerson stored up that I just haven't gotten to. Well actually about Thoreau, and how during his time spent at Walden Pond once a week he would walk a mile down the road to his friend RWE's house and take a hot bath and chat and he would leave with two of Mrs. Emerson's hot blueberry pies to take back to Walden Pond to last him the week. So when he was writing about sucking the marrow from life he was likely sucking the marrow from a hot homemade blueberry pie. And how, it's a myth happily perpetuated by artists themselves (ourselves!) (misery is so avant-garde!) that the best art comes out of desolation, when really, I think, it requires circumstances of redemption in order to thrive. Like, Thoreau needed the desolation of Walden Pond but just as important to the writing of Walden was the weekly visit to a toasty fireplace with hot food, a hot bath and like-minded companionship. That art doesn't come from the extremities but more from that movement between extremities, like the air being cut by a swinging pendulum. Does that make sense?

Haha now I don't have to write my blog. And Emerson himself has several of my favorite quotes.

I don't really have any favorite non-fiction books. Fiction-wise, I could read Gulliver's Travels and The Great Gatsby over and over. But here are two books that I really, really hate: 1) Who Moved The Cheese? and 2) He's Just Not That Into You.

Posted by: christy at April 14, 2006 1:16 PM

I was stopped by "Excuse Me" over two years ago at a Borders on the way to San Simeon but passed. I just went and nabbed it on half.com b/c I KNOW it will be the perfect genius thing for me to read right now.

I'll have to think on my re-reads and get back to you. It's a good meme candidate, really. We should all share the wealth.

Posted by: communicatrix at April 14, 2006 2:54 PM

Christy, you said some brilliant stuff, babe. I especially like: It's a myth happily perpetuated by artists themselves (ourselves!) (misery is so avant-garde!) that the best art comes out of desolation, when really, I think, it requires circumstances of redemption in order to thrive. Greatness. Truly.

And YOU still have to write your Emerson post. ;) You can just trackback to this comment (or repost the text as your blog post). ;) Some of my best posts were first comments at Erik's blog. Hee!

CoCo, I can't WAIT to hear/read how you feel about "Excuse Me..." once you get it. I know it came to me at the exact right time and I wonder if that's now for you (I suspect it might be). Like I said, heavy on the woo-woo, but you'll dig it. (PS--I was looking for your category of woo-woo this morning and see it's been... uh... woo-wooed?)

OH! And Christy, I wasn't trying to stick to non-fiction books. Those actually ARE my top five, including fiction. (Note: I don't read a lot of fiction. No real reason. Just never got into it much.)

Y'all track back, if you do this thing on your blogs, 'k?

Posted by: Bon Author Profile Page at April 14, 2006 6:27 PM

-Self-Management for Actors....You really saved me Bonnie. You changed my outlook for the better. You've helped me help others. I go to it when I'm feeling lost, confused and weak.

that is my re-read.

Posted by: Aimercat Author Profile Page at April 15, 2006 2:43 PM

Awwwwww, thanks, Ames. I'm so very glad that one of my books had such a positive influence on you. That's wonderful news and I'm thrilled to "hear" it! XXOO

Posted by: Bon Author Profile Page at April 15, 2006 4:38 PM