Literature, it seems, always comes full circle. Take that little girl in the cozy reading nook flipping through The Velveteen Rabbit or the young boy who has recently stumbled upon the wonder that is Hugo Cabret. The teenage girl in love with Gilbert Blythe. The young man who can almost hear the howling of dogs while reading The Call of the Wild by flashlight. Writers were first readers, and ravenous ones at that.
And so begins our Literary First Love series where we visit with authors–new and established–to hear about the books that first captured their hearts, and also about the novels they’ve written as a result of their love-affair with words.
First up is this month’s featured author, Erica Bauermeister. Won’t you give her a warm welcome and then share your own Literary First Love?
There are books I fell in love with as a child — Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series and The Secret Garden. As a college student I discovered Anne Tyler’s Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant and became fascinated by the potential of stories told from multiple points of view. In one of my literature classes otherwise dominated by all-things-male, Tillie Olsen’s short story I Stand Here Ironing convinced me that everyday life is just as worthy of literature as the hunting of a big white whale. These books settled into me until they feel almost like my genetic structure. Perhaps we’ll simply call it an emotional structure, and I am grateful for the strength it gives me.
But I think there is much to be said for a literary love that comes in your adult life, when you spend long stretches of your day (or week or month) not being dazzled by the wonder of things. I first read Joanne Harris’s Chocolat purely for enjoyment, but when I started writing The School of Essential Ingredients it took on a greater importance. It’s the book I turned to when I had spent the day speaking to children in simple, direct phrases and I wanted to remember the sound of sentences unspooling across a page like silk. It’s the book I pulled off the shelf when I wanted a reminder of how the world contains moments of magic and tragedy, misunderstanding and grace. It wouldn’t take much — sometimes just a sentence or two — but like music or perfume or the smell of dinner cooking, it could change the color of my thoughts, settle them down, and leave me ready to write my own words. My copy is dog-eared and waterlogged and beloved, the way the best books so often are.
Erica’s second novel, JOY FOR BEGINNERS, is this month’s She Reads book selection. But you may be interested to know that her debut, THE SCHOOL OF ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS, is the much-applauded national bestseller born from her very own love of reading.
Once a month on Monday night, eight students gather in Lillian’s restaurant kitchen for a cooking class. They come to learn the art behind Lillian’s dishes, but it soon becomes clear that each one unknowingly seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen. One by one, they are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of what they create. Over time, the paths of the students intermingle and intertwine, and the essence of Lillian’s cooking expands beyond the restaurant and into the secret corners of their lives, with results that are often unexpected and always delicious.
And don’t forget that there is still time to enter this month’s giveaway and have a chance to win both of Erica’s novels, along with a journal and chocolates hand-selected by her.