Whatever your thoughts on Hillary Clinton and the volatility in the political realms, there’s one figure who continues to fascinate me, not only because of these historical moments, but also because of her bookish references.
Of course, one’s literary portfolio matters, as does the books that sit on one’s bookshelves. You, too, find yourself glancing in the directions of the books on the shelf when you visit someone. It says something about who they are…
On Oprah.com, Hillary Clinton shares the list of books that have touched her. She first mentions The Return of the Prodigal Son, saying that one sentence hit her: “The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.”
Books on Hillary Clinton’s Bookshelf
Hillary goes on to highlight Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. For all of us who’ve known (and loved) the story of Jo Marsh and her sisters — the choice is perfect. Beyond just resonating, the Alcott’s message is one of strength, survival and perseverance in the face of poverty and public perception. At the same time, though, Jo is one of the best female heroines in American literary history. She’s smart and witty; she’s a survivor.
Strong women, who survive against all odds, appear in the other novels mentioned in Hillary’s Oprah list as well. Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible is the story of a missionary family, struggling against the backdrop of tragic and impossible circumstances. Rachel comes to the realization:
“What happened to us in the Congo was simply the bad luck of two opposite worlds crashing into each other, causing tragedy. After something like that, you can only go your own way according to what’s in your heart. And in my family, all our hearts seem to have whole different things inside.”
The Rest of the Story: Hillary Clinton
The books traverse history, cultures and varied experiences. On the list, we discover the brutality of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, while continuing to embrace self-discovery and transformation. Amidst the stories of survival and strength, Jean M. Auel’s bestselling The Clan of the Cave Bear holds a place on the shelf. As does Jung Chang’s story of cross-generational hardship and turmoil: Wild Swans. It’s memoir paired with history, to create an unforgettable tale of political upheaval.
The trend toward nonfiction continues on the shelf, with Beryl Markham’s inspiring West of the Nile adventures. I suppose we could stand Markham alongside Hillary Clinton when we look at the ground-breaking, even revolutionary strides that have been made. Markham was the first to fly solo east-to-west across the Atlantic Ocean.
While all these books have probably found their way into your thoughts (and hopefully your bookshelf) at some point in your reading career, the last jumped out at me the most of all. Perhaps, Amy Tan’s The Joy Club jumped out from the page. It’s possible that my fascination could be tainted by the unforgettable experience of meeting the author, and by the well-read, battered and signed paperback copy that I have tucked away in my own bookshelves.
Here, too, we have the interplay of history of legend across generations and cultures, in a way that’s endearing, powerful and unforgettable. Tan writes:
“To despair was to wish back for something already lost. Or to prolong what was already unbearable.”
Even the flicker of hope seems sorely lacking in the rhetoric of today. But, what these books demonstrate is that there is hope. There is strength. There is survival.
And, there is a light at the end of the tunnel…