While sitting in my favourite corner at my local library, I read a piece in a food and life magazine (that perhaps came from Real Simple, Eating Well, or Martha Stewart Living) that asked its readers a very simple question: What books would you pass onto your children?
Books and libraries have always been my happy place (to the point that if you show a composite photo of me to library staff in the Greater Toronto Area, they have probably seen me more than once), and I think it will probably be an overwhelming experience for me, to say the least, to take my own kid to get her or his first library card and first borrowed book. I mean, books and libraries and my own kid? I can only imagine how that’s going to feel.
Although I have a lot of books in possession (and a lot more to buy), a great need for a library in my forever home (which would need a really good kitchen because food), and the dream of having a stack of books sitting at the side of a plush leather Restoration Hardware Churchill Leather Chair (that would obviously be sat in front of a roaring fire and beside a small side table where a steaming mug of date and cane sugar whip cream topped cinnamon-star anise hot chocolate, and a honking slice of chocolate icing with marbled vanilla-chocolate cake….) it was an easy list to make.
#1. Khalil Gibran The Prophet
One of my dearest friends introduced me to The Prophet. We have a similar history, and one day, as we sat under an alcove near our lecture hall, she talked to me about him. I particularly remember her quoting the parts on parenthood and hope and living. This is a profound text that has given me a lot of life during some difficult times. I’ll share my favourite passage with you now :
“And a woman, who held a babe against her bosom said, ‘speak to us on children.’ And he said: ‘Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself. They may come through you, but not from you. And though they are with you yet they do not belong to you. You may give them your love but not your thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls. For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.”
#2. Khalil Gibran Secrets of The Heart
Secrets of The Heart is another remarkable work by Gibran. In Secrets, Gibran shares his thoughts on love, knowledge, the future, and so much more than I can say. It is an absolutely glorious, mesmerizing, and illuminating read. My favourite passage is on love:
“Love appears to a heart’s cry and shuns a demand; love’s fullness pursues the hearts desire; it shuns the empty claim of the voice…Oh Seekers, Love is Truth, beseeching Truth, and your Truth in seeking and receiving and protecting Love shall determine its behavior.”
#3. Rudyard Kipling The Jungle Book
I bought The Jungle Book and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (the next one on this list), having not read either as a child and thinking that it would be nice to experience them as an adult. I love The Jungle Book.
#4. Mark Twain The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is exactly the kind of book you want to read to your child. You would just have to take care to explain any antiquated passages or value systems that you might find between the pages. But parenthood is about teaching, isn’t it?
#5. Robert Munsch The Paperbag Princess
The Paper Bag Princess was a top book for me as a child. I was that elementary school kid who was so ostracized in school that libraries and books (including this one in particular) were a huge comfort to me. I spent many lunch hours shoveling a sandwich down between the covers of this book. As if by magic, I spotted this edition at the checkout of my alumni’s bookstore, and bought it quicker than I have ever bought anything in my life.
#6. J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter Series
The Harry Potter Series is everything.
#7. Art Spiegelman Maus I: My Father Bleeds History and Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began)
Oddly enough, I read Maus I for one class, bought Maus II (because I needed to know how it ended), and Maus II turned up on the syllabus of one of my classes the next year. Can you believe it?! Maus It’s a graphic novel by Art Spiegelman which details Spiegelman’s fathers experience, and that of his wife, friends, and kin, in Nazi Germany. Prepare to have your mind blown.
#8. Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
As a black woman, naturally, I’m drawn to books that explore the black identity (whether it’s in reaction to culture or in regards to treatment by those who are not persons of colour). Obviously, any child I might have would be a person of colour too. So I know Why The Caged Bird Sings is very important.
#9. Ntozake Shange For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf
Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf is an amazing play. Since deciding that I actually do want to have children, the next step was deciding what kind of parent I would like to be, and how to co-parent a child in a way that prepares them for the good and bad that exists in the world. This book explores identity, confidence, strength, and the struggle that comes with being a woman of colour. I think it would open up a lot of beneficial dialogue between parent(s) and child.
#10. Rajaa Alsanea Girls of Riyadh
Girls of Riyadh is (according to the back-flap) the book that might “shake up an entrenched society.”Although I am sure that they are referring to society in the Middle East, I think it also shifts the very limited Western perceptions about Middle Eastern culture that exist. I don’t perceive anything about anything I don’t yet know, but I can tell you this is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever read in my life. The characters are so richly described, and it really reaches you. I think I would save this one for the teenage years.