Elizabeth Edwards writes about her husband’s infidelity and her second bout with cancer in Resilience, her new book about facing adversity.
The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James (Dover, $5). I am drawn to this novel because of the moral depth, and precision, of James’ fiction. As Graham Greene once said, James was the last writer to whom everything, every bit of life, was important. This is the story of a young American woman and the consequences of her decisions. Hers is a great American story, one of the best, of someone raised to be independent who has to discover how independence can survive responsibility.
The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty (Vintage, $12). I could only skip Harper Lee’s work because I’m able to recommend another stunning Southern novel. Welty’s is a beautiful book for many reasons, for it is about the loss of those we love and yet also about the discovery of how that love remains—despite everything.
Self Reliance and Other Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson (Dover, $2). Perhaps no one understood the idea of integrity better than Emerson or was able to speak of it better than he did in “Self Reliance.” For him, integrity was not an occasional moral stance; it was the essential central fact of living. Emerson wrote on everything and wouldn’t let things rest—tried to understand what intelligence was, what love was, what loyalty was. There is in Emerson an aspect of the American spirit that is still alive today, or tries to be.
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (Anchor, $14). A book about being honest. In writing. In life. It is funny and instructive, not an easy combination to pull off. But it is the simplicity of this unpretentious book that I find most irresistible. It makes you wish you had Anne Lamott as a friend.
Collected Poems by W.H. Auden (Vintage, $25). I love Auden. Few poets were so strong in grappling with what countries and governments can and should do, and at the same time could write such unsurpassed love lyrics. And there is much fun in Auden, much love of life.
Collected Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay (Harper, $23). Millay does not have the reputation she deserves. Her imagery, often barely noticeable, understands that much that we love in life is invested in minor moments and minor things that the great world would never notice, much less understand. Perhaps that is why they matter so much.