6 Books That Made a Difference to Sue Monk Kidd
The author of The Invention of Wings has a pile of books on her desk that keeps her going—not just in writing, but in life. Read them all...
"Reading this, I discovered for the first time, that there was this whole interior world. There was the inner life of the soul—the soul being not just some immortal spirit, but instead what I think of as the holy repository of inner life, where we connect with what is the deepest thing in us, that divine spark in us. It was an enormous discovery—not just that we had this whole intimate relationship with the divine within, but that we could work with it and develop it."
Time and the Soul
By Jacob Needleman
"You know how you read something and everything in you resonates in the truth of it? Well, I felt that about this book. It's about how we relate to time and that need to be attentive and present in the moment. It's an old, old story, but presented in a beautiful way."
"I think of this as Anne Frank for grown-ups. Hillesum wrote a lot of it before she went to the concentration camp. How she carried on as she faced what was coming, how she chose to live, how she was able to find some kind of joy anyway—I love all this. She came at things very differently. She was just a young woman, but so wise, wise enough to say, 'If God does not help me to go on, then I shall have to help God.'"
"I read poetry if I get stuck. There's nothing like either a walk on the beach or walking into a poem that can pull us back into our own work. David Whyte's
work is fantastic, especially the poem 'Sweet Darkness.' I can quote it when he says 'Give up all the other worlds except the one to which you belong,'and 'Anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.' How can we read that without being moved to return to ourselves, to return to what matters, to return to our work? If you read a poem with great attentiveness, often you experience a little rebirth"
By Kate Chopin
"Chopin writes about a woman's, Edna Pontellier's, struggle against the limitations of her culture. I read it when I was 19 and it woke me up to my own journey, breaking through the limitations of growing up as a girl in the '50s, coming of age in the '60s in the South, prefeminist America. I had to find my own truth, my own voice and not one that was the voice imposed upon me. Reading this book, I became aware."
The Known World
By Edward P. Jones
"Okay...this one is not on my desk but it's a masterpiece. I found it so morally complex and enlightening. I want a novel to move my heart, mainly, but I love it when I can learn something that I didn't know before—and I did not know until I read this book that African Americans owned slaves. Jones dropped me into this world, in a setting so richly rendered. At the time I was reading it, I didn't know I was going to be writing a book about slavery. I would've sworn that it was not possible. But, when I was writing The Invention of Wings, I thought back on this book. I wanted that same feeling of realness."