My Absolute Favorite Book of All Time

Valentine’s Day has come and gone, and this will have been my third year in a row spending it single. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! I’ve been perfectly happy opting to celebrate Galentine’s Day instead; there’s a lot less pressure and usually a lot more fun. However, one treat I always indulge in this time of year is re-reading my all time favorite book: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. I’ve found that it’s the perfect way to spend some quality time alone with myself on a holiday that emphasizes so much togetherness, and I always take away something new from the book after each read. I first read this book when I was a sophomore in high school for an English class assignment. The assignment was to choose an American autobiography or biography to read and create an interesting artifact we could use to present what we read to the class. Originally, I was completely at a loss on what book to select, so I turned to my mom for a recommendation. My mom, who worked at my school as an administrator and who was a close friend of my English teacher, knew my teacher loved The Glass Castle and that it would make for a great project. Even better, my mom already had a copy laying around that I could use. 

The second I started reading the book, I could not put it down. Seriously, I know people say this all the time, but I cannot stress enough how addicting this book is. Jeannette Walls lived a life full of unfathomable hardships, but she writes about it with such grace and humility and tells her story in such an intimate way that it feels like you’re having a in-depth conversation about her life directly with her. My favorite review of this book of all time comes from the Chicago Tribune, where the critic wrote “On the eighth day, when God was handing out whining privileges, he came upon Jeannette and said, ‘For you, an unlimited lifetime supply.’ Apparently, she declined His kind offer.” 

The book’s introduction begins with Jeannette in a taxicab, on her way to a fancy, upscale party in Manhattan. She lives in a Park Avenue apartment and works as a major gossip column editor. While stuck in traffic, she looks out the window to see a homeless woman digging through alleyway trash cans, and when she gets a better view of the woman, she realizes that it’s her own mother. Jeannette becomes overwhelmed with embarrassment and slides down in her seat to avoid her mom and asks the driver to take her back to her apartment. Later in the week, Jeannette meets with her mom for lunch and offers, again, to provide her with financial support. Her mom is instantly shocked and disapproving of Jeannette's attempt to help her, and Jeannette asks her “What am I supposed to tell people? How do I explain how you live?” Her mother explains calmly that shame is a foolish feeling and that she should be perfectly fine telling people the truth about her parents’ lifestyles. Jeannette leaves the lunch date pondering her mother’s advice, and goes on to detail the story of her astounding life piece by piece, beginning with her first hospital trip at age 3.

You’ll have to read the rest of the book on your own time to really understand the beauty of her life story. I promise that whatever you’re expecting, it’s not in this book -- you have to experience it for yourself to understand. I think the reason why this book has earned the title of my all-time favorite is because it is the most honest depiction of the human experience I’ve ever read that also keeps the reader’s attention in its story-telling. Too many times I’ve picked up a book that’s supposed to “tell an honest story” about life but instead ends up boring me to sleep, doomed to be set down forever after I've only read a few chapters. The Glass Castle has never let me down, and every Valentine’s Day I’m reminded of my favorite quotes that I believe anyone can learn from, no matter their walk of life:  “...he said it was interesting. He used the word ‘textured.’ He said ‘smooth’ is boring but textured was interesting, and the new scar I had meant that I was stronger than whatever had tried to hurt me."