Artist and writer Sandra Boynton, author of Barnyard Dance!, Moo, Baa, La La La!, Hippos Go Berserk!, and more than 4,000 signature greeting cards, picks six books she particularly loves:
The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin (Hyperion, $12). This is an exquisite, and oddly sweet, off-kilter novel about an obsessive-compulsive man who is finessing the peculiar challenges of his solipsistic world. Steve Martin’s play Picasso at the Lapin Agile would be on my Six Favorite Plays list. Steve Martin himself would be on my One Favorite Comedians list.
No Fighting, No Biting by Else Holmelund Minarik, illustrations by Maurice Sendak (Harper, $4). Cousin Joan, a poised and reasonable young woman, invents stories of two somewhat unruly alligator siblings, to amuse (and enlighten, perhaps) Rosa and Willie, her two somewhat unruly young cousins. I’ve always loved this children’s book, and all four of my children adored it as well. The writing is wry and perfect, and Sendak’s Victorian-inflected drawings and his terrific alligators are captivating.
Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life by George Eliot (Oxford, $14). Insightful, complex, nuanced, elegant, sad, glorious. It’s just a perfect book all around.
Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis (Penguin, $15). An understated, wonderfully plotted, and very funny narrative of a year in the life of a reluctant young history lecturer at a provincial English university. With Lucky Jim, I’m starting to see what the books on my impulsive, peculiar list have in common: perspective, compassion, lively originality—and a skillful delight in the sound and sense of words.
A Passage to India by E.M. Forster (Houghton Mifflin, $14). The strange atmosphere of Forster’s 1924 novel is like no other book I’ve ever read.
Dickon Among the Lenapes by M.R. Harrington (Rutgers Univ., $17). A thoroughly engaging and detailed tale of a fictional English boy rescued from drowning by a Lenape family. Certainly this skillfully illustrated 1938 book is not widely known—partly because a later publisher inexplicably retitled it The Indians of New Jersey. But Dickon Among the Lenapes was very important to me in third grade, and it has endured well.
—Sandra Boynton is the author of Barnyard Dance!, Moo, Baa, La La La!, Hippos Go Berserk!, and more than 4,000 signature greeting cards. She has just published two new books — Perfect Piggies and Happy Birthday