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?

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. mike c

    Well lets see. Definitely Anne Lamont and Joan Didion also Ron Rollheiser, Henry Nouwen, Thomas Merton. St. Augustine, Thich Nhat Hahn, Pema Chodron, and of course Mark Twain to name a few, Probably not Salinger. Maybe Hemingway to talk about the fishing.

    • I’d rather hear about Paris from him, but then, I’m no fisherman. That’s a pretty somber bunch you’ve got there. None of them could be accused of being overly cheerful or fun-loving. Salinger would fit right in, but of course, there is no way he would attend in the first place. It would be interesting to hear Didion critique Chodron, though.

  2. Chris

    Hi Julia,
    I’m sure my list would include the usual, some you mentioned, but I would be remiss if I did not include Julia Denton at the top of my list! 😊
    When I read, I really connect with the characters, more so than the author. Maybe that’s what you mean, but I’ve found that I often recall a specific character before I think of an author. Perhaps that’s inherent in an author’s greatness.
    I like the photo. Children are so impressionable at that age. Did you ever have contact with any of your students as adults?
    Have a wonderful day!

    • Chris, I’m flattered that you’d include me. The others would be thinking “who is that flaky woman and how did she get invited?” 😀 As to the characters, that too would be a delicious idea. Though they are the creation of the author, they are definitely individuals. I’d love to have the reformed Scrooge to dinner (no doubt he would help fund it), along with Dorthea Brooke (Casaubon), Alyosha Karamazov, Lieutenant Colonel William Dobbin, Hermione Granger, and Pi Patel, to name just a few. The combination of sharp intellects, kind hearts and noble spirits would make for a most enjoyable evening for everyone, I’m sure! If Scrooge was paying we could have many more but these come to mind off the top of my head.

      We moved so often that I never saw any of my students grow up. In a way that’s best, as not all the stories have happy endings. I can imagine them all successful and content.

  3. Susan

    Once we were in London and I was standing outside a shop waiting for my husband to finish a purchase, and on the sidewalk a distance away was a woman who looked like Maeve Binchy. Could it be? I was transfixed and so excited. As the women got closer I realized she was too young to be Maeve, alas! She looked enough like her to be her daughter, although I knew that Maeve didn’t have children. I really wished I could have spent some time with Maeve before she passed away. I’m rereading her books in order (Firefly Summer right now).

    Three times I went to book signings with Valerie Tripp, who wrote some of the American Girl doll books. I have pictures of her with my oldest daughter when the series was new, and over a decade later with my youngest. The first time was at Springfield Mall and there were hundreds of girls; she took the time to greet every one of them.

    With my youngest two I also met Tomie DePaola. He was as delightful as you would expect.

    What a wonderful picture! When I was in elementary school going to the library was a highlight of my week.

    • Susan, we too met Tomie while we lived in Hawaii. He is truly wonderful, the sort of person who seems to draw energy off showing generous enthusiasm to total strangers. I have several signed books from him that are treasured keepsakes to this day.

      Yes, the library was definitely the highlight not only of my weeks, but my years in elementary school. Our high school library was run by the stereotypical humorless disciplinarian so I liked it less. In fact, when our law class had its yearly moot court (complete with staged crime and impromptu witnesses) the “crime” was the murder of the widely disliked librarian, ostensibly by a student who had been kicked out by her not long before. I was one of the two defense attorneys, and our (innocent) client ended up being acquitted, having been framed. The entire trial was broadcast on closed circuit TV to the entire school, and it’s one of my most fun memories of high school.

      Maeve Binchy was such a gifted storyteller. I imagine that, had you really met her, she would be as down-to-earth and gracious as her novels suggest.

      • Susan

        What a fun project! I would have loved doing something like that in school.

        • I probably learned more from that project than almost anything else I did in high school. I can remember being amazed the kind of things that can’t be asked in cross examination, for example. We were lucky to have one of the science teachers who did a great job being the judge (he was a retired army colonel). Our key witness turned on us and committed perjury for the prosecution, but ultimately the jury didn’t buy it. I was in NYC when the verdict came back so I wasn’t there to hear it, but I called my fellow defense attorney and was elated to find that we had won. Sadly, she died just not too long ago.

          • Susan

            That sounds amazing.

            • Thanks, Susan. It was great fun and a lot of friendships formed or grew closer in the experience. Although the law teacher (possibly intentionally) cast my best friend as one of the prosecuting attorneys! 😀

  4. Judy from Pennsylvania

    I’d invite John (the apostle), Paul, Augustine and CS Lewis. Now that would offer some very interesting dinner table discussion! I’d just sit and listen. Want to come? 😊

    • Definitely count me in. Can I invite Martin and Katharina Luther? 😀

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