Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Top Seven Tuesday: Inspiration

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish
Hey all y'all. It's me, Christina, and I'm happy to be providing the ol' Top Ten Tuesday list this week! I'm supposed to do my Top Ten Inspirational Characters. The funny thing is, I generally hate inspirational stuff. I could only come up with seven genuinely inspiring people for this list. When I do get inspired, it usually happens from reading about actual people's lives, not the adventures of fictional characters. So the following "characters" are all from works of nonfiction.

1. Jean-Dominique Bauby, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
I just reviewed this book last week, so naturally he was the first person to spring to my mind when I started thinking about inspiration. Even though I wasn't crazy about his book, I find M. Bauby's story quite inspiring. In a sad way.

2. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Infidel
Where do I even begin? Ms. Hirsi Ali is an absolutely amazing person. After a traditional (and abusive) Muslim childhood in Africa and Saudi Arabia, she fled to Holland to avoid an arranged marriage. She eventually became a member of parliament there, and an outspoken critic of Islam. She has lived under armed guard ever since a fatwa was issued against her in 2004.
She is an incredibly brave, strong woman. If my son had been born a girl, his middle name might have been Ayaan; that's how much I admire this woman.

3. Sultan, The Bookseller of Kabul, by Asne Seierstad
Here's a quote from my goodreads review of this book (back in '08!) that pretty much sums up my feelings about him:
"...the one I really [hate is] the bookseller himself, Sultan. Despite being well-read and "liberal," he denies even his own children a basic education. He berates his wives and female relatives and hordes money and fruit. He doesn't even share his relative wealth with his own immediate family. He ruthlessly pursues an impoverished carpenter who steals postcards from his bookshop. He seems ONLY to care about business, money, and himself. Honestly, I don't know if I've ever felt so strongly about anyone I've encountered in a book, and it's even more disturbing because he's a real person."
Reading such a strong example of everything I hope NOT to be provides me with inspiration to be a better person.

4. Atul Gawande, Complications and Better
Dr. Gawande rocks. He is a practicing surgeon and a professor at Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health, AND a fantastic writer. Complications was a National Book Award finalist. I read lots of medical narratives, and Gawande's are the best.
But beyond the professional accolades, he seems to be a really good person, a compassionate, thoughtful person. His essays contain this big, admirable urge to make everything better by making medicine better by making doctors better, and that idea really speaks to me.

5. Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
Every time I break open this book I feel inspired to try to compose beautiful prose about the most mundane details of my life. I haven't succeeded, and I almost certainly will never even come close to the level of artistry in Sylvia Plath's unedited daily free writing.

6. Greg Mortenson, Three Cups of Tea, co-authored with David Oliver Relin
Here's another example of a book I didn't love, by/about a person whose work I admire and respect. Mortenson's unceasing efforts to improve the lives of children in Central Asia is quite moving. He makes me want to help make the world a better place somehow.

7. Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place, co-authored with John and Elizabeth Sherrill
During WWII, The Ten Boom family helped many Jewish families escape Nazi-occupied Netherlands. They built a closet-sized hiding place behind a false wall in Corrie's bedroom to be used in case of a raid. In 1944 the family was arrested and sent to prison. Corrie and her sister were sent to concentration camps.
What's inspiring about Corrie and the Ten Boom family is their self-sacrificing kindness and especially the strength of their faith under the most horrendous of circumstances.

I feel bad about not making it to ten! I do have a few runners up that I could include (Angela's Ashes, A Long Way Gone, The Pianist) but they're really books that I know are supposed to be inspiring, not books that inspired me personally. So there we have a short but honest list.