My Favourite Book: Rachel Ball


I’ve always admired Rachel, since she seems to have magic in her fingers – everything she touches turns out beautifully, as is evidenced by her jewellery and kitchen shops. I’ve spent much time browsing through her jewellery shop, admiring the simplicity and delicacy of her pieces. I also like it when she posts what she’s reading, or her own writing, since it’s quite rare for me to come across a blogger who designs and creates wares, and who also appreciates the written word with equal fastidiousness. Her taste is impeccable, which is why I was curious to ask her about her favourite book. Also, we’ve sort of ‘known’ each other for a while online, so I’d like to think we’ve become friends. There is a gentleness to her blog that I appreciate, and I think this gentleness comes through in her contribution to My Favourite Book. Thank you Rachel!

When I think of my favorite books, I think of the ones that compel me to write, that are written so vibrantly that it seems impossible the characters don’t really exist, that make me stop and reread a sentence just to absorb its pleasure again. I think of The Shipping News. I love this book for its lyricism, for its fragmented sentences, for the character names like Quoyle and Tert Card and Sunshine, for the way every chapter begins with an epigraph. I love passages like this:

The sea glowed, transparent with light. Wavey and Quoyle picked near each other. Her hard fingers worked through the tufted plants, the finger and thumb gathering two, seven, rolling them back into the cupped palm, then dropping them into the pail, a small sound as the berries fell. Walked on her knees. A bitter, crushed fragrance.

But there is also a kind of inexplicable reason why I’m so taken with this book. There is a quality I just can’t pin down; it is simply that I feel it in my bones.

I was in a local bookstore the other week and decided that it was time to buy my own copy; when I’d read it before, I’d borrowed it from the library. But I loved it too much to not have a copy for myself; I wanted it closer to me, and wanted the freedom to dog-ear my favorite parts, feeling the pages soften from repeated handling. In the bookstore that day, I slid out a copy from a tightly-packed bookshelf and brought it up to the cash register. I was buying two other novels, too, but the cashier only commented on The Shipping News.

“Have you read this before?” she asked as she rung it up, and I smiled and said yes. I told her it was one of my favorite books.

“It’s so, so beautiful,” the cashier said, and I agreed.

A note on the image: The above image is Thrown Stones by Amy Sacksteder. Rachel asked me to choose an image to accompany her words, and my mind went straight to this painting by Amy. I can’t really explain why, other than saying that it inspires the same feelings I have when reading the passage Rachel picked out above. Thanks Amy, for giving me permission.