Melina’s Reading Insights

What are you reading now?

Mostly I am reading nonfiction books for a college class that I’m taking on canines and human evolution. There are three books that I read from daily: Genius of Dogs by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods; Wag by Zazie Todd; and Dogs: A Philosophical Guide to Our Best Friends by Mark Alizart.

I also love to read poetry and recently picked up Cast Away: Poems for Our Time by Naomi Shihab Nye, who is one of my favorite poets and a Young People’s Poet Laureate.

What is in your TBR pile?

I am forever trying to read To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. It was gifted to me by my late mother before I moved to San Juan Island. Every time I try to read it I begin to cry remembering what an amazing person my mom was and how she inspired my love of books and stories.

I’m also on the wait list for Refugee by Alan Gratz. It’s an award-winning book for young readers that tells three different stories throughout history of children seeking refuge.

Favorite children’s book and why?

Oh my goodness, there are so many. Where do I begin? My answer might turn into a thesis of a response so I am going to keep this very brief, but please know that I love hundreds of children’s books.

Favorite book when I was a kid was: Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. My grandmother was from a homesteader family in North Dakota and I loved any subject related to homesteading and being a pioneer living on the plains. As a kid, I also traveled to see several of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s childhood homes. To this day, I vividly can remember the experiences of visiting those sites.

Another of my all-time favorites is a book that I can read again and again and again. It’s The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. I fact, I just read it this week. I have probably read that book hundreds of times by now. It is one of the simplest yet most profound stories I have ever read. When I get to the last page showing the old man hunched over sitting on the tree stump, I begin to cry. Not just any cry, but a cry that forms deep from within my heart and soul. I’m a very emotionally sensitive person and I respond to stories that stir emotional responses and speak to our humanity. This book delivers on that and so much more.

Favorite non-fiction book and why?

Written for adults:  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. This book is an incredible achievement in investigative journalism. It brings to light one of the most important heroic figures of the 20th century. Henrietta was an unassuming woman with cancer who unbeknownst to her at the time would go on to be one of the most influential beings on the planet for scientific discovery in medicine. By telling Henrietta’s story, the author also reveals many important subjects that have tarnished America for generations– racism, sexism, poverty, and inequalities in healthcare and justice.  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a phenomenal and moving read and a book that I hope all people will read at some point in their lives.

Written for children:  Kids at Work: Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor by Russell Freedman. This book offers another look at a certain time in our history as a nation. What is so encouraging to learn from the book is that in addition to the dedicated efforts of Lewis Hine, the children themselves also helped inspire the citizens of the United States to enact child labor laws. Through thoughtful writing and effective imagery, the book shows just how far we have come as a nation “to form a more perfect union.”

Favorite movie and why?

This might come as a surprise to those who know me but my favorite movie of all time is a film I came across rather accidentally when I was just 10 years old. It’s Witness for the Prosecution, the Agatha Christie story that renowned director Billy Wilder brought to the silver screen in 1957. The directing is brilliant, the acting is superb, the suspense is beyond remarkable, and the unexpected ending of the film haunts me to this day. As a girl I loved the movie – even though it is a very adult-themed film – and as an adult I still love it.

Favorite TV series and why?

Northern Exposure, hands down. There is nothing in my book that even compares to this highly original television series that debuted in 1990 on CBS. The show’s content was the perfect recipe of drama, comedy, philosophy, and tragedy. It included one of the best ensemble cast of characters I have ever seen and the storylines were both original and imaginative. My only complaint about the show was that the eclectic personalities featured weekly were fiction. I so wanted the town of Cicely, Alaska and its residents to be real so I could move there an live amongst them.

Favorite fiction book and why?

Wow, this question is almost impossible for me to answer. I don’t have one favorite. I can say that I love almost any book by American Novelist Karen Hesse. Her historical novel in verse, Out of the Dust, is among my top 10 favorites. It is a heartbreaking tale of a young girl’s triumph through the Dust Bowl of the Great Depression. The writing and description of the setting are so well done that as a reader I felt I had been transported back to that time in history.

If someone was to play your favorite book character on screen who would it be?

Hmmmm…? Maybe Paul Giamatti as Billy Wayne in Louisiana Power & Light by John Dufresne.