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Beth LaVigne is an Assistant Professor in the School of Education and a Charter Member of the Friends of The College of St. Scholastica Library.
Her favorite or most influential books:
Angle of Repose
Call Number: PS3537.T316 A8
This novel won the Pulitzer Prize and is described on the book jacket as “a story of discovery – personal, historical and geographical.” Here is a gem from late in the novel ... "A wandering dog of a night wind came in off the sagebrush mesa carrying a bar of band music, and laid it on her doorstep like a bone."
Sometimes a Great Notion
Call Number: PS3561.E667 S6 1988
I have recommended this to many people who say they “can’t get into it.” It is written in a unique way, changing from 1st to 2nd to 3rd person point of view which can be a bit confusing at first. The main characters are half-brothers who remind me a bit of some of my own brothers. The older brother is a tough, macho logger and the younger one is a “bookish,” sensitive college grad. As in all great novels though, the characters evolve as the story progresses so that initial descriptions become inadequate. Here is a line that tells what the younger brother thinks as he is struggling with feelings of loss and loneliness ... "Maybe that is it. Maybe the hollow is not something gone, but something not given!"
East of Eden
Call Number: PS3537.T3234 E3 2002
I was assigned to read this in high school and squandered the opportunity to appreciate it. I have read it several times since, and have done better. The discussion of the Old Testament by Lee, the Chinese cook and Samuel, the family patriarch is fabulous. Lee brings a passage from Genesis to his family scholars. Even though the scholars are not Christian, they know ... “Any writing which has influenced the thinking and the lives of innumerable people is important.” Samuel asks Lee, “Do you then not think this is a divine book written by the inky finger of God?” Lee answers, “I think the mind that could think this story was a curiously divine mind.”
This makes me think of times I have had to address Creationism/Intelligent Design vs. Evolution when teaching Biology.
Lord of the Rings
Call Number: PR6039.O32 L6 1981
My battered, dog-eared copies of the trilogy have been read every year for at least 10 years. As I get older and inevitably face more loss and grief, this line describing the hobbits who are undertaking yet another fearful task takes on more significance ... "The future, good or ill, was not forgotten, but ceased to have any power over the present. Health and hope grew strong in them, and they were content with each good day as it came, taking pleasure in every meal, and in every word and song."
The Mists of Avalon
Call Number: PS3552.R228 M5 1984x
I read this as a relatively young woman and it had a big impact on me. It is the King Arthur legend told from the perspective of the women in the story. It is fantasy, myth, mystery, romance… best read hunkered down under a blanket on a cold winter night. Here is a bit from the prologue ... "There was a time when a traveler, if he had the will and knew only a few of the secrets, could send his barge out into the Summer Sea and arrive not at Glastonbury of the monks, but at the Holy Isle of Avalon; for at that time the gates between the worlds drifted within the mists, and were open, one to another, as the traveler thought and willed. For this is the great secret, which was known to all educated men in our day: that by what men think, we create the world around us, daily new."
What are you reading now?
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.
Desert Island Pick
(A pick to take along to a lonely island for the sheer pleasure of reading).
Lord of the Rings!! I saw that Bret Johnson chose this as well. I agree that there is plenty in this to last for a long time. It is also a story of perseverance, which may be encouraging should I be marooned on a desert island.
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