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Intersections – 10 Books

D'ish Decatur

Intersections – 10 Books

Nicki Salcedo


By Nicki Salcedo

It’s no secret that I love the Decatur Book Festival. I volunteer every year. I don’t mind getting sweaty. I move boxes and chairs, usher attendees, and guide authors.

I encourage first-timers to come. Dress comfortably and be prepared for heat or rain, but the reward is worth the weather and exhaustion.

There are many reasons why I write and read and love book festivals. The news is filled with strife and fear. Dead-ends. Books are filled with windows and intersections. In books, I meet people who are different from me in every way. We share no politics, religion, or choices. Stories can transcend those labels. What matters is in the heart of the characters. Fear or love or redemption. Books are the great equalizers.

Isabel Wilkerson spoke at the DBF a couple of years ago. A long line formed to meet her after she discussed her book, “Warmth of Other Suns.” Two ladies in the line were holding hands and smiling and crying. I assumed they were old friends. One was black and one was white. I asked what they enjoyed about the presentation.

“We just met,” one lady said.

“We sat next to each other and immediately became friends,” the other said. “Ms. Wilkerson was telling our story up there. Our families are in that story.”

They hugged and laughed.

That’s my favorite DBF memory. If I meet someone who likes a book that I like, we are instantly friends. That was how I met one of my closest friends in college. Freshman year I brought too many books, and she noticed my bookshelf before she noticed me. Same favorite author equals insta-best-friend.

She had a theory about people based on their favorite book from high school. There were only two kinds of people in the world. She was “A Separate Piece” by John Knowles, and I was “Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger. Like fingerprints, the books we love mark us.

This week someone asked me to list ten books that left an impression on me. I’m getting DBF ready, so here’s my list:

This week someone asked me to list ten books that left an impression on me. I’m getting DBF ready, so here’s my list:

10. “Shotgun Lovesongs” – Nickolas Butler. (He will be at the Decatur Book Festival!) The descriptions in this book were so accurate and evocative that I wanted to highlight every page.

9. “The Outsiders” – S.E. Hinton. I promise you I can recite the entire first paragraph, maybe even first page of this book. I have read this book more than any other book in my life.

8. “Vows” – LaVyrle Spencer. It’s a love story about a tomboy. I was a tomboy growing up. Nice reminder that love is out there even for those of us who don’t look like princesses.

7. “Paradise” – Judith McNaught. My favorite hero in a romance novel ever. This is the book that made me insta-best-friends with my college roommate.

6. “The House on Mango Street” – Sandra Cisneros. Quick chapters that read like poetry. It’s filled with sadness and longing and hope.

5. “Ender’s Game” – Orson Scott Card. Science Fiction with lots of political, social, and military commentary. Great ending.

4. “The Hours” – Michael Cunningham. Three stories interwoven in one book. The middle story about the mother struck a chord with me. Some days you have to throw out the entire cake.

3. “Frankenstein” – Mary Shelley. If you haven’t read it, it is nothing like you would expect. We are the monsters. Beautiful and sad.

2. “Love in the Time of Cholera” – Garcia Marquez. Magical realism and a love story. The first line gets me every time.

1. “Beloved” – Toni Morrison. I love this book, but it is not one that I go back to over and over again even though it is my all-time favorite book. I rarely cry reading a book, but it’s Beloved or Where the Red Fern Grows if you want to see me ugly cry.

Here are the rules: list 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and do not think too hard. They do not have to be the “right” books or great works of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way. If you want to play leave your list in the comments.

I could list books forever. I could add the “Chronicles of Narnia” and the play “A Raisin in the Sun” and my favorite poems from Robert Frost.

Have you ever thought about writing a book? Do you love reading? The festival is where you should go to be inspired and energized.

My advice if you are a reader: Read everything. Read something unexpected. Challenge yourself. Go hear a favorite author or go hear an author you’ve never heard of. Make a connection.

My advice if you want to be a writer: You are already one. No qualifiers. Write. Find a way to scare someone. Teach them to laugh or ask questions. Don’t give them a happily ever after. Then another time, do.

Volunteering is a great way to throw yourself into the festival if you are shy. That’s why I volunteered the first year, and every year since.  It’s been worth it.

Are you returning again or are you ready for a new adventure? Study the schedule. Make a plan. Highlight the authors you want to see. Spend the day. Spend the weekend. You will be glad you did. I hope to see you at the Decatur Book Festival. I could always use one more friend.

Nicki Salcedo will be speaking about her novel All Beautiful Things on Saturday, August 30 at 3 p.m. at Marriott Conference Center and on Sunday at the Romance Pavilion (booths 413-416). Check the DBF Schedule for details. Other times during the festival Nicki will be volunteering. If you meet her and tell her you are reader of this column Intersections, she may have a little treat for you. 

Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning. 

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