What really knocks me out

Students in my school library book club show their favorites. Honolulu, Hawaii, 1995

Students in my school library book club show their favorites. Honolulu, Hawaii, 1995

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.”J. D. Salinger

Who comes to mind when you read this quote?  For me, several people do.  Alexander McCall Smith, Anne Lamott, Malcolm Gladwell, Jan Karon, Maya Angelou, Maeve Binchy, C. S. Lewis, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens…hey, I’m imagining here, so it doesn’t matter if they died many years ago, or wouldn’t even know what to do with a phone if they heard it ringing.

One of the most magical aspects of reading is the way it connects us directly to the writer in a way that often transcends the short conversations we have in daily life.  When we read a book, whether fiction or nonfiction, we take a sort of journey with the author, and there’s nothing like traveling with someone to get to know them.  I am so grateful to so many authors who continue to invite us into their worlds through the enchanted gateway of reading!

If you could have an imaginary dinner party with literary guests from any place or time, whom would you invite?


  1. so true ! there is always somebody who feels like you and thinks like you … and you feel like clenching your fists and yelling …’you know that is what I think, and feel, and wished I could write and share it too’ !!!!!!!!!!

    • I think that’s why conversational writing styles are so popular. They mirror more closely how we actually tend to think and speak. And the best writers connect with that part of us that we always thought different or peculiar, that made us feel isolated and timid. Writing is all about connecting, I think.

  2. HarryS

    The game of games,
    This story of stories,
    The glory of glories,
    is the unfoldment of the divine

    Unfoldment of the Divine

    The game of games,
    The story of stories,
    The glory of glories,
    is the unfoldment of the divine

    Unfoldment of the Divine

    “The purpose of our lives
    is to give birth to the best that is within Us.”
    — Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love.

    There’s nothing about an oyster that would make one think that there is anything of beauty inside.
    You have to look for it.

    Come to think of it there’s nothing about a lot of human beings when looked at on the outside that would lead one to think that there is anything beautiful inside. Just live long enough my friend, keep an open mind and be always looking for the beautiful mystery that encompasses this life and you will be surprised, oh so many times. This is only part of the abundant life.
    Rebellion against your handicaps gets you nowhere. Self-pity gets you nowhere. One must have the adventurous daring to accept oneself as a bundle of possibilities and undertake the most interesting game in the world — making the most of one’s best.
    Yes the most interesting game in the world is to discover the possibilities within and develop the talents and engage in the joy of living. Herein lies the unfoldment of the Divine. Herein lies the mystical connection with the universe. David Campbell, considered a foremost authority on human nature and its connection to the myths that we know deep within advises us to follow our bliss (State of extreme happiness). Blessed are those moments of (complete) clarity when we are overcome by bliss. I call it being lost in the moment. It is to be so totally engrossed in the activity at hand that a different state of consciousness is entered and all else is totally blocked out. It’s probably a state of intense concentration, being focused on the task at hand with complete joy and enthusiasm. This is not unique to any one person or any privileged person but to all of humanity. I have known some of what would otherwise be called the simplest people on this earth who I believe are blessed with this uniqueness.

    And to do so, gives birth to the best that is within us. That is all that is asked of us. That is enveloping and being enveloped by love. It is when you know that everything you need is already there.

    • Yes, I think it’s wonderful to be able to spend time in the state of “flow” as some have described it. It’s something we all want, especially if we have ever experienced it. The problem is, for many of us (if not all), we have a lot of non-negotiable responsibilities that lie outside our bliss. Whenever there is discussion at church about people needing to serve according to their “gifts” (in this context, meaning basically what they enjoy doing) I always raise the question: Whose “gift” is it to clean the toilets? I think this is what Jesus may have been getting at when he washed the disciples’ feet. That too, though not glamorous or exciting, was definitely another example of the unfolding of the divine — which, judging by the life of Jesus, tended to ALWAYS surprise people. Thanks for being here, and for your comment!

  3. I did not know Salinger said “done” when relating to first or second person!?! I thought that was only the youth of today. Don’t get me started 😉 I’m all done.

    • Well, technically it was Holden Caulfield, Salinger’s most famous character, who said that. As in this kind of sentence, which, as Dave Barry would say, I am just making up: “Grammar and all that kind of stuff makes me crazy, if you want to know the truth. It really does.” Holden’s eloquence became legendary — often imitated and never really duplicated — but it was certainly not grammatically correct, if you want to know the truth. It really wasn’t.

  4. Mike Bertoglio

    Missing Hawaii. Have you read Sarah Vowell’s ” Unfamiliar Fishes ” book about Hawaii? Kind of fun and she spent her vacation in the archives stacks of University of Hawaii library-while her friends were on the beach. Would be fun to have coffee with her. She is pretty brilliant.

    • No, I haven’t, but I should look it up. Having spent two years in the stacks of UH, I probably would have a lot in common with her! UH had two big libraries (besides the law library and other specialized ones). For preservation reasons, they were kept frigidly cold, so library students tended to have warmer clothes at hand. There was a sweatshirt they used to sell on campus – with a polar bear picture and the caption “THE LIBRARY: It’s the coolest place on campus!”

  5. Mike Bertoglio

    My Wifi is marginal today.

    • Well, I’m glad you are here anyway!

  6. Oh wow! What a question! And so hard to choose! I’ve been a reader all my life so favorites have come and gone over the years. I’m afraid I would forget some. Lets try though (it’s too fun to resist)! There would be Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Eve Titus, Donald Sobol, Beverly Cleary, The Bronte sisters, John Keats, Byron (yes, even him), Pablo Neruda, Barbara Kingsolver, Neil Gaiman, Jim Butcher, Francine Rivers, and maybe even Barbara Cartland (I read her books as a teen and was impressed that she was in the Guiness book of records for being so prolific). I’m sure there are so many more I can’t think of right now too. Lol!

    • Hey, can I come to your party? Can I bring Ray Bradbury, Jane Austen (we’ll seat her well clear of the Brontes), Jhumpa Lahiri, and Lisa See? Yes, the two of us could go on and on…Incidentally, I think Beverly Cleary is phenomenal. She is the only writer of “chapter books” who has remained so consistently, wildly popular with a broad group of school kids (meaning most of them, boys and girls alike) for literally decades on end. Of course, she was a school librarian, so what more can I say? 😉 Don’t even get me started on imaginary dinner parties with favorite fictional characters!!

  7. Sheila

    Julia, I so enjoy the low country authors. I would invite Pat Conroy, Mary Alice Monroe and Anne Rivers Siddons and of course, Jan Karon. I had the pleasure of having lunch recently at Harvest Table, a restaurant in Meadowview, Va. that Barbara Kingsolver owns with her husband. I’m reading her novel, Flight Behavior…. quite good! I hope you are having a good weekend, maybe visiting with little Grady? Thinking of y’all, Sheila

    • Hi Sheila, yes, I was just holding Grady. He was upstairs watching the ball game with his grandfather and I snapped some photos, but then he decided he wanted to EAT so I had to give him to his Mama. I love Jan Karon and heard her speak at the National Cathedral in 2005. I scribbled a quick note to give the program director for her, because couldn’t wait in line to meet her as we had to get back to York. I didn’t know if she would even get my note but a week later I got a lovely surprise – she sent me one of her books along with a very nice handwritten answer to my note. Of course I cherish both. There’s a bit more to the story but it’s too long to go into here. I read Kingsolver’s Bean Trees, Pigs in Heaven and Animal Dreams and enjoyed them all. Hope you have a lovely weekend!

      • Sheila

        I’m sure he’s changing daily! That’s such a precious time to share. I’m so happy for you and yours tonight. Love, Sheila

  8. G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, and Mark Twain to stir things up,

    • Wow – I want to come to that one too!

  9. merry

    all the authors you listed plus a few others…Anne Perry, Debbie Macomber, Beth Moore, etc.. I enjoy browsing the library, finding new authors while my favorite authors busy writing new books!~/

    • Merry, I am reading a nonfiction book by Debbie Macomber called One Simple Act, and I really love it. I haven’t read any of her fiction or other books. I read Anne Perry’s books about Jesus, and I have read parts of Beth Moore’s books. You obviously have good taste :-).

  10. This is probably too light weight for you but I read to get a giggle and almost always will pick up a comedy. I’ve read every single book Sophie Kinsella has written. I liked ‘Twenties Girl’ the best. When a very elderly woman dies, her neglectful family gather at her wake. One gal starts, reluctantly, seeing and talking to a flapper who’s ranting on about a necklace that’s missing. Thru the book, you learn that this young saucy flapper is her grandma that just passed away. She loves to dance, wear pretty clothes and go to the cinema. It really makes you look at seniors differently, they’re just young people in broken down bodies. Sophie has a ‘Bridgett Jones Diary’ way of writing and she’d be a hoot at a dinner party.

    • I love “light weight” reading and the book you described would probably be right up my alley, or “the bee’s knees” as a flapper would say. As a girl I was fascinated with the 20’s and was convinced I had been born in the wrong era. The movie “Thoroughly Modern Millie” did nothing to dissuade me of this idea. I guess there are a few relics of this still in my life – I learned to play Mah Jongg and love it, though it’s hard to find a group anymore who really knows how to play — and I never learned to do the Charleston, but maybe someday I will. Thanks for sharing this – it reminds me a little bit of my grandmother.

      • Oh, I love the 20’s era too. Beautiful cloths and cars. Gatsby style.
        You might really like the Wood Allen movie ‘Midnight In Paris’. The delightful Owen Wilson gets lost in Paris and hops into a vintage car with some revellers who turn out to be prominent writers, artists and composers from history. It’s tricky to explain, but it’s just magical. Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose) plays a flapper who’s a mistress to Picasso. I’ve seen it several times.

        • Yes, Jeff and I rarely go to the movies, but we made an exception for “Midnight in Paris” which we both loved. I think Kathy Bates steals every movie she’s in and I thought she did a great job with Gertrude Stein – making her more appealing on screen than I ever found her to be in print. If more movies were like this one, I’d go to the movies more often. One thing I really liked about it was how the Parisian artists talked about the Renaissance as if “those were the good old days” – a real reminder that amazing things are happening in our own time, right under our noses, and we will miss that if we stay lost in nostalgia.

          • You’re totally right Julia, I tend to be nostalgic about movies, clothes, cars, decor and just about everything but I must remember to embrace my time since in a few years someone will be nostalgic for the early 2000’s ha!

            • It reminds me of the quote from Ashleigh that I used on this post. So wild to imagine that someday, our grandchildren might think that Facebook and YouTube and blogging and such are ancient history.

  11. bobmielke

    This is one time where technology has certainly connected us all together. My reading tastes lean toward science fiction novels. After finish a book by a new author to me I wish there were sequels to the book. I found the author’s email address at the end
    Of the book so I emailed him telling him how much I enjoyed his novel. I asked if hei had plans to continue the series and he gave me the publication date as well as the name of the second book. He really appreciated the direct feedback as he gets encouraged to continue when he feels noteworthy. We need to take time in our lives to tell others how much we appreciate them. – Bob

    • Thanks Bob! I too have been thinking about how wonderful it is to be able to contact an author directly (and not send a letter c/o the publisher, hoping against hope that the letter would ever get to its destination and be read). I have noticed a great many authors who publish their own works on Amazon, Smashwords and so on, give contact information to enable just the sort of connection you describe. It’s nice that authors can now connect directly with their readers, without all these gatekeepers in between. We all do appreciate hearing from others who enjoy our work– and speaking of which, your photo blog is so fantastic! Always something worth seeing. Thanks for your visits, and for the comment.

      • bobmielke

        I use my Kindle and Amazon.com for all my books. They have plenty of free or very inexpensive novel by new writers who rely on the replies of readers to keep going. I will follow someone I like until I’ve exhausted their entire book list. – Bob

        • Yes, Jeff got me a Kindle paperwhite and I’ve been surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed it. I like being able to make the print bigger, and read it in the dark (it’s back-lit, unlike the earlier Kindles) and I too download the “freebie” books; many of them are very good! I like to use my Nook HD (9″) for magazines that I get free through the local library’s Zinio program, but I just love being able to carry 200 books around in my purse in a little lightweight device. We are so fortunate nowadays. Pretty much everyone can be rich, with or without money.

  12. Carlyle

    Interesting that you hit on this thought by Salinger.
    I have fallen into– I will not call it a fantasy– I actually believe that many contemporary writers are personal friends. Not as nutty as it seems when you stop to think of it.

    • Daddy, I don’t think it’s nutty at all. I think writers connect with readers much more directly than other artists (although artists, actors and musicians also give something of their own unique characters to their patrons). Perhaps such connections give us a hint of the transcending ability to connect across time, space and mortality that some of us believe we will experience in the afterlife. It’s not hard for me to believe in an omnipresent God when there are human, fallible authors who continue to live and touch people long after they have died.

  13. Mike Bertoglio

    Paul Fleischman also for young adult/ anyone works. “A Fate worse than death.” Also Sherman Alexie from my part of town. And David Gunderson.”Snow falling on Cedars.

    • Believe it or not, I am familiar with Fleischman as any youth services librarian would be, but I can’t recall if I’ve read any of his books. I think Jeff and Matt have read at least one or two of them together. Not familiar with Alexie, but I do have a dim memory of maybe reading Snow Falling on Cedars many years ago, although I may be remembering the movie. I need to check my reading log to see. Somewhere in the early 90’s I started keeping a log of just the author and title of every book I read. It amazes me when I look back, how many I read that I have absolutely no memory of now.


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