World Book Day

Today is World Book Day?  Just what I’ve been waiting for.  I’ve been thinking about books since I read someone else’s list of Most Important books.  Most Important sounds a little pretentious to me, but I started thinking about books I would put on a list–books I enjoyed, books that had an impact, books that I learned from, maybe even books that made me cry.

So here goes.

1.  My first book has to be The Book of Fascinating Facts.  It was a cheap paperback that I found in fourth grade and it was the perfect book for the fourth grade me.  I walked around asking, “Did you know . . .?” until I had exhausted the book and then I began listening for fascinating facts in the world around me.  Pretty soon I was spouting off new information and my mom would ask, “Did you get that from The Book of Fascinating Facts?” much to my delight.  My dad started calling me the Girl With Fascinating Facts, and my brothers covered their ears or told me to shut up.  What a great, life changing book!

2.  Fear No Evil by Natan Sharansky.  Obviously I was no longer in fourth grade when I read this book.  It was an example to me of integrity, of the determination to do what’s right despite circumstances.  I remember Morris was four years old when I first read Fear No Evil–more than a quarter century ago and I still think of Sharansky’s book, of his experience in the Gulag, his reliance on his faith, his willingness to stand firm.  Great book.

3.  Hamlet’s Mill by Santillana. This is a book I had to read and reread and still, every time I read it I learn new things. It talks about mythology and cosmology and it helped me see the world and our history in new and interconnected ways.  Not everyone will love this book, but for me it is such a true book.  I feel like reading Hamlet’s Mill is almost like getting a PhD.  I have to study, I have to think, I have to change my perceptions of the world, and then I have to read it again.  Mythology will never again be simple little stories that our simple ancestors told to explain the world.  Mythology is a complex  system used to pass information down across generations and millennia.  Pretty deep, huh?  This book makes my list of top books.

4. The Book of Mormon.  This is my most important book.  It explains everything else.  I think I like Hamlet’s Mill so much because it shows how interrelated everything is. The Book of Mormon shows how integrated God’s world really is.  It’s not us and them, it’s everybody.  I read it over and over again and I learn more every time I read it.  It testifies of Christ and his never-failing love for each of us in every part of the world.  It follows the rise and fall of civilizations, the atrocities committed by those who follow Satan, the love and integrity displayed by the humble followers of Christ. It gives me an example to follow and patterns to avoid. It helps me to know Christ and what he expects of me.

5.  Books touching on survival and atrocities around the world.  Babi Yar was a Nazi concentration camp near Kiev, Ukraine–one not as well known as Auschwitz. I read Babi Yar by Anatoly Kuznetsov, who as a young boy  sneaked into the camp to see what was happening inside (curiousity killed the cat, right?).  He survived and lived to become a witness of the atrocities committed inside.

To Destroy You is No Loss written by JoAn Criddle recounts the story of a young girl who survives the destruction of Phnom Penh and lives to witness the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge before escaping to the United States. It is classified as young adult fiction but the story is poignant defying age classification.

Spring Moon by Bette Boa Lord is the story of Bette Bao’s younger sister who was left behind in China after Mao took over and closed the Chinese borders to the outside world.  Eventually the sister is reunited with her family.  What a contrast between the lives of the two women.  (I really like Bette Bao Lord’s books.  Her children’s book The Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson is delightful.)

Emma’s War is another atrocity book worth reading–the story of an aid worker in the Sudan who through her own naiveté ends up being killed in an area that is much more dangerous than she gives it credit for.  I won’t give these books each their own number.  It is the class of books that stands out for me.

6.  Shaman Priest.  The first book I wrote and published on Kindle, Shaman Priest takes place during the Guatemalan civil war.  The story follows three fictional characters through a very real landscape of war, death, horror and triumph.  Okay, it may not be a classic, but it was a major milestone for me!

7.  The Round House by Louise Erdrich.  Written by a Choctaw Indian this book drew me in.  I liked it so well wished I had written it.  My book Monster Slayer’s Son deals with the same problems of Justice and Law Enforcement of the Reservation.  But Louise Erdrich adds an emotional dimension that I will strive for in my next book. I read Round House after I wrote Monster Slayer’s Son and it inspired the book I am currently writing.

We have so many books we had to build a separate building to house our library.  But for World Book Day, these few will have to do.

Happy reading!  There is nothing like a good book.

About Karen Hopkins

Karen Hopkins (1949-) was born in Los Angeles and raised in Martinez, California. At seventeen she moved to Talcahuano, Chile. After completing her university degree she worked in London, England for Pan American Airlines and traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Middle East, and India. For twenty-six years Karen taught Spanish and English as a Second Language in a variety of settings including a private school in Panama, the "most remote school in the United States" in Ticaboo, Utah, the Navajo Reservation, and a teacher exchange in Hermosillo, Mexico. Karen and her husband traveled extensively throughout Mexico and Central America, spending many summers in the highlands of Chiapas and Guatemala . Karen currently lives in Southern Arizona, near the Mexican border.
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