By Catie Baldridge • October 25, 2018
My granddaughter was visiting this past weekend to help celebrate my 75th birthday. She recently started a new job at ThriftBooks, and the conversation rolled around to our favorite books. Knowing I'm a blog writer, she asked me to do a piece on my favorite novels. My dad encouraged library use at a young age and I still frequent them regularly. I sometimes check out audio books to keep me entertained while I sew but I haven't invested in an ereader yet. Family and friends tell me they love theirs but for now, I'm too fond of strolling up and down library aisles and surfing the web to buy books. I read constantly throughout my twenties, thirties, and forties but perhaps because of VCRs, DVDs, and computers, my pace slowed in the mid-1980s. I still read, but I find myself nodding off a whole lot quicker than I ever used to thanks to that age thing.
I ended up with 19 books on my "favorites" list. The oldest was Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriett Beecher Stowe, published in 1852. It was the second highest-selling book of the century after the Bible. When I was in elementary school, we ordered TAB books in the classroom...what a thrill it was when the box arrived! Two of my favorites from that period are The Lion's Paw by Robb White and Sue Barton, Student Nurse by Helen Dore Boylston. I've noticed both books showing up on eBay more these days.
I read all of the Nancy Drew mysteries by Carolyn Keene, as did my friends. Other favorites from the 1940s are Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter, So Big by Edna Ferber, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, and Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor. The '50s, '60s, and '70s books on my list include On the Beach by Nevil Shute, Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann, The Godfather by Mario Puzo, Roots by Alex Haley, Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough, and The Stand by Stephen King.
I identified with girls and women who were struggling to make ends meet as a result of my Aunt Velna's influence. She was born in 1905 and lived through the depression, spending her entire life convinced we were going to have another one any minute. I noticed she often read books about pioneers and farming. I was raised by my father and grandfather, with aunts and uncles always on the sidelines directing me on how to behave. They were all thrifty and resourceful and I took notice.
In the 1980s, I loved Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, and One More Time by Carol Burnett. Carol's was the only nonfiction book on my list. I loved her autobiography and felt encouraged to write my own after reading it. Her mother was never going to a win an award for her maternal skills and I immediately identified with that. I was impressed that she wrote about her mom in such an honest way and forgave her shortcomings, taking it all with a grain of salt. I wanted to write like that. I sent her a fan letter and much to my delight, she wrote back. I also wrote to Stephen King after reading The Stand, and his return postcard is in my box of collections with Carol's letter.
If I had to pick my top three favorites (because picking just one is impossible), I'd have to go with Roots, Lonesome Dove, and Clan of the Cave Bear. Roots encouraged me to research my family tree, and what a delight that hobby ended up being. My mother was adopted in 1927 and never was able to find out anything on her biological family. Thanks to the introduction of computers, I was, and I sent her photos of both her parents in 2000...she was 74 years old at the time. I recognized at an early age that I had a strong desire to learn about my genealogical history, and Alex Haley's powerful book kept me motivated to find the answers I was seeking.
About the Author: Joyce Blankenship is the proud grandmother to the ThriftBooks Office Administrator, Catie Baldridge. Joyce Blankenship grew up in Port Townsend, WA, the same town where her father grew up and she raised her children. After retiring from the local paper mill, she wrote half a dozen self-published books about her family and her hometown. She now resides in Port Angeles and spends her time writing a blog, working on her family tree, and working on sewing projects which she gives to people whether they want them or not.