Intersections – 10 Books

Posted by August 27, 2014


By Nicki Salcedo

It’s no secret that I love the Decatur Book Festival. I volunteer every year. I don’t mind getting sweaty. I move boxes and chairs, usher attendees, and guide authors.

I encourage first-timers to come. Dress comfortably and be prepared for heat or rain, but the reward is worth the weather and exhaustion.

There are many reasons why I write and read and love book festivals. The news is filled with strife and fear. Dead-ends. Books are filled with windows and intersections. In books, I meet people who are different from me in every way. We share no politics, religion, or choices. Stories can transcend those labels. What matters is in the heart of the characters. Fear or love or redemption. Books are the great equalizers.

Isabel Wilkerson spoke at the DBF a couple of years ago. A long line formed to meet her after she discussed her book, “Warmth of Other Suns.” Two ladies in the line were holding hands and smiling and crying. I assumed they were old friends. One was black and one was white. I asked what they enjoyed about the presentation.

“We just met,” one lady said.

“We sat next to each other and immediately became friends,” the other said. “Ms. Wilkerson was telling our story up there. Our families are in that story.”

They hugged and laughed.

That’s my favorite DBF memory. If I meet someone who likes a book that I like, we are instantly friends. That was how I met one of my closest friends in college. Freshman year I brought too many books, and she noticed my bookshelf before she noticed me. Same favorite author equals insta-best-friend.

She had a theory about people based on their favorite book from high school. There were only two kinds of people in the world. She was “A Separate Piece” by John Knowles, and I was “Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger. Like fingerprints, the books we love mark us.

This week someone asked me to list ten books that left an impression on me. I’m getting DBF ready, so here’s my list:

This week someone asked me to list ten books that left an impression on me. I’m getting DBF ready, so here’s my list:

10. “Shotgun Lovesongs” – Nickolas Butler. (He will be at the Decatur Book Festival!) The descriptions in this book were so accurate and evocative that I wanted to highlight every page.

9. “The Outsiders” – S.E. Hinton. I promise you I can recite the entire first paragraph, maybe even first page of this book. I have read this book more than any other book in my life.

8. “Vows” – LaVyrle Spencer. It’s a love story about a tomboy. I was a tomboy growing up. Nice reminder that love is out there even for those of us who don’t look like princesses.

7. “Paradise” – Judith McNaught. My favorite hero in a romance novel ever. This is the book that made me insta-best-friends with my college roommate.

6. “The House on Mango Street” – Sandra Cisneros. Quick chapters that read like poetry. It’s filled with sadness and longing and hope.

5. “Ender’s Game” – Orson Scott Card. Science Fiction with lots of political, social, and military commentary. Great ending.

4. “The Hours” – Michael Cunningham. Three stories interwoven in one book. The middle story about the mother struck a chord with me. Some days you have to throw out the entire cake.

3. “Frankenstein” – Mary Shelley. If you haven’t read it, it is nothing like you would expect. We are the monsters. Beautiful and sad.

2. “Love in the Time of Cholera” – Garcia Marquez. Magical realism and a love story. The first line gets me every time.

1. “Beloved” – Toni Morrison. I love this book, but it is not one that I go back to over and over again even though it is my all-time favorite book. I rarely cry reading a book, but it’s Beloved or Where the Red Fern Grows if you want to see me ugly cry.

Here are the rules: list 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and do not think too hard. They do not have to be the “right” books or great works of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way. If you want to play leave your list in the comments.

I could list books forever. I could add the “Chronicles of Narnia” and the play “A Raisin in the Sun” and my favorite poems from Robert Frost.

Have you ever thought about writing a book? Do you love reading? The festival is where you should go to be inspired and energized.

My advice if you are a reader: Read everything. Read something unexpected. Challenge yourself. Go hear a favorite author or go hear an author you’ve never heard of. Make a connection.

My advice if you want to be a writer: You are already one. No qualifiers. Write. Find a way to scare someone. Teach them to laugh or ask questions. Don’t give them a happily ever after. Then another time, do.

Volunteering is a great way to throw yourself into the festival if you are shy. That’s why I volunteered the first year, and every year since.  It’s been worth it.

Are you returning again or are you ready for a new adventure? Study the schedule. Make a plan. Highlight the authors you want to see. Spend the day. Spend the weekend. You will be glad you did. I hope to see you at the Decatur Book Festival. I could always use one more friend.

Nicki Salcedo will be speaking about her novel All Beautiful Things on Saturday, August 30 at 3 p.m. at Marriott Conference Center and on Sunday at the Romance Pavilion (booths 413-416). Check the DBF Schedule for details. Other times during the festival Nicki will be volunteering. If you meet her and tell her you are reader of this column Intersections, she may have a little treat for you. 

Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning. 


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  • Jim Dillon

    Sandra Cisneros! Thanks for reminding me, nice memories there.

    • Nicki Salcedo

      I love Cisneros. Now I wish I listed 10 more books… Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell. Read that book. Raw, beautiful. Thanks for reading.

      • Caroline Fenimore

        Her book of poetry, My Wicked, Wicked Ways, is one of my favorites. “For a Southern Man” could have been written by me (if I had that kind of talent..). 🙂

        • Nicki Salcedo

          Everyone has the talent. Everyone should at least try.

  • Caroline Fenimore

    1. The Unbearable Lightness of Being-Milan Kundera
    2. The Poisonwood Bible- Barbara Kingsolver
    3. The God of Small Things- Arundhati Roy
    4. Atonement- Ian McEwan
    5. The English Patient- Michael Ondaatje
    6. Trainspotting- Irvine Welsh
    7. The Year of Living Dangerously- Christopher Koch
    8. The House on Mango Street- Sandra Cisneros
    9. My Friend Flicka- Mary O’Hara
    10. Smilla’s Sense of Snow- Peter Hoeg

    And I can think of 20 more, but those were off the top of my head. Love books and the authors who write them!

    • Nicki Salcedo

      Shotgun Lovesongs reminded me a lot of The Poisonwood Bible. Thanks for sharing your list.

  • Bridget Remington

    In order of my development: A Little Princess, A Taste of Blackberries, the Westing Game, Tiger Eyes, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Pride and Prejudice, Hollywood (Bukowski), The Time Travelers Wife, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Submergence.

    So glad I am allowed to not judge myself for my book choices! Thanks, Nicki! I agree about book bonding!

    • Nicki Salcedo

      A Taste of Blackberries. I’m still crying over that book. Thanks!

  • Aaron Marks

    The Plague –
    Post Office –
    The Fixer –
    Where the Wild Things Are –
    American Pastoral –
    The Death of Ivan Ilych –
    Beowulf –
    The Iliad –
    Job –
    The Bear –

    • Nicki Salcedo

      Aaron, you are the first person I’ve ever seen with The Plague on their top 10 list. Camus would be happy. I might need to invite you to our book club. You’d fit right in.

  • Tammy White

    1. Where the Red Fern Grows – By Wilson Rawls – Ann and Dan (must have Kleenex)
    2. The Outsiders – S.E. Hinton – I’ve read this book over and over and seen the movie countless times. (Needed Kleenex for this one too when Johnny died)
    3. To Kill a Mocikingbird – Harper Lee – ” You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it. ”
    4. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett (Also my Mother’s Favorite)
    5. The Harry Potter Books – J. K. Rowling
    6. The Wizard of Oz Books – L. Frank Baum
    7. The Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis
    8. The Little House on the Prairie series – Laura Ingalls Wilder
    9. All Judy Blume books
    10. Where the Wild things Grow – Maurice Sendack
    11. Where the Sidewalk Ends – Shel Silverstein
    I also loved The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Mysteries, Sherlock Holmes and Agathie Christie books and The Bobbsey Twins and The Boxcar Children….I can think of tons more….I love books!

    • Nicki Salcedo

      Tammy, we are Outsider twins. Who didn’t want to be Cherry? Where the Red Fern Grows was the second book that made me cry. I dare anyone to read the first chapter of that book and not cry.

  • Jill Chandler

    Little House on Plum Creek by Ingalls

    Little Women (or Jo’s Boys?) by Alcott

    Alas, Babylon by Frank

    Habibi by Nye

    All Beautiful Things by my friend, Nicki Salcedo

    The Way They Learn by Tobias

    Luckiest Man – The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig by Eig
    (or Tuesdays with Morrie?)

    Choosing to See by Mary Beth Chapman

    Gift Hands – The Ben Carson Story

    KJV Bible

    • Nicki Salcedo

      Ingalls’ autobiography is coming out, and I can’t wait to read it. Gifted Hands is a great one. KJV for me. I’m Joshua 1:9 all day everyday.

  • Meisha MommyLion

    1. The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison 2. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee 3. The Story of My Life – Helen Keller 4. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley 5. Where the Sidewalk Ends – Shel Silverstein 6. Native Son – Richard Wright 7. Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier 8. A Raisin in The Sun – Lorraine Hansberry 9. The Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka 10. Like Water for Chocolate – Laura Esquive

    • Nicki Salcedo

      Brave New World! The Metamorphosis! I’m working on a story based on that… Great list.

  • Kane Hudson

    Autobiography of Malcolm X
    Where the sidewalk ends
    Coldest winter ever
    A time to kill
    The learning tree
    Along came a spider
    Great negroes
    The color purple
    Donald Goines books
    Their eyes were watching God

    • Nicki Salcedo

      Malcolm X. So good. I love how people’s list include books that evoke different emotional responses. That pick is right next to Where the Sidewalk Ends. I love it.

  • Gabi Stevens

    Here are my ten. 1. From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by EL Konigsburg2. All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
    3. Bewitching by Jill Barnett
    4. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
    5. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
    6. Harry Potter Series, J.K. Rowlings
    7. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
    8. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
    9. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    10. The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss

    • Jill Chandler

      James Herriott love!

    • Nicki Salcedo

      Bewitching by Jill Barnett. I loved that series. To Kill a Mockingbird. How did I forget that one. Best closing line in a book. Ever.

  • Tracey Spada Shelby

    Memoirs of Geisha
    The Secret History
    She’s Come Undone
    My Side of the Mountain
    Ordinary People
    The Things They Carried
    The Bell Jar
    The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao
    When the Crocadile Eats the Sun
    Truth and Beauty

    • Nicki Salcedo

      What a great list. The Things They Carried is another favorite.

  • Thisten

    But, what about Dragon Con?! They have Patrick Stewart this year and Walter Koenig, Gates McFadden, Karl Urban (the new McCoy), in addition to Ralph Macchio and C. Thomas Howell from The Outsiders movie?! Can you fit both festivals in?

    • Nicki Salcedo

      Thisten, my sister saw Karl Urban yesterday. The Patrick Stewart line was worthy of his knighthood. I threw some costumes on the offspring, and we wandered around looking for our favorite characters during the afternoon. Then it was a date to be remembered with Joyce Carol Oates. Can I fit both festivals in? Yes. They say you have to choose, but I choose both. Hope to see you at DBF Saturday or Sunday!

  • D. Flores

    So glad I took the chance to see what would come to mind. All of them have left indelible impressions for a variety of reasons.
    Alexander, and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day – Judith Viorst
    Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
    Jacob Have I Loved – Katherine Paterson
    Native Son – Richard Wright
    Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – Edward Albee
    Borderlands/ La Frontera – Gloria Anzaldúa
    Persuasion – Jane Austen
    Almost Heaven – Judith McNaught
    All Beautiful Things – Nicki Salcedo
    The Book of Light – Lucille Clifton

    • Nicki Salcedo

      No fair! Lucille Clifton. I need a separate list for favorite poetry books.

      • D. Flores

        I was debating for a moment between Lucille’s Book of Light and Rita Dove’s Mother Love

  • Nicki Salcedo

    The Goldfinch made your list? Ok, I’m adding it to my to be read pile. Thanks for sharing, Marilyn. Great list. The Book Thief. Crying.

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