Anna’s Book Nook: Epilogue


Photo illustration by Anna Keneally

In the closing chapter of The Book Nook by Anna Keneally, the author reflects on her favorite stories, what they have taught her and how she has grown.

Friends, we have reached the final chapter, an epilogue if you will. As I expressed in my last article, I am so proud of what I have accomplished through this column and I am so thankful for every person who has taken the time to read it. Last edition, I gave you all the floor and now I am taking the microphone back, to  give my unsolicited opinions one last time. This time, I am going you on a tour of my all-time favorite books and the ones that have shaped me into the person I am today. 

Starting off with the first series of books I ever read, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. My dad used to read books to my brother and me every night, but this was the first time I had read something substantial on my own. I did not understand the Christianity imagery or the deeper underlying themes, but I saw for the first time how cool reading could be. It was not boring or tedious, it was a wardrobe-shaped portal that took me into a world where lions could talk and I could have tea with a satyr. My favorite of the series was The Magician’s Nephew. The Chronicles of Narnia taught me how to use my imagination.

Later in elementary school I retained my appreciation for fantasy that The Chronicles of Narnia introduced me to, now exploring The Shire and beyond in The Hobbit, by J.R.R Tolkien. All of the books I read when I was young were taken off of my dad’s book shelf. If you have not already realized by now, both of us are big fans of prequels. Here I discovered the reason why I read: to experience a world different than my own. There is nothing wrong with the life that I am living, but how amazing would it be if there were wizards, hobbits, elves and dwarves? Watching Bilbo leave behind the world that he knew in favor of adventure was just what 11-year-old Anna needed to find her own appreciation for the natural world. 

As you get older, the fantasy stories accessible to your reading level dwindle, but mythology does not. Sophomore year I was introduced to the wonderful world of mythology retellings and have been immersed in them ever since reading Circe by Madeline Miller. If you have been following along my book reviews for a while now, you know how much this book means to me. My copy has been marked up, dog eared, ripped and accordioned like no other book that I have owned and I read it again and again just to feel even a fraction of the excitement and awe I felt the first time I read it. How is it possible for a story so old to feel so new? Good writing is how. 

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is the most reread book on my shelf. I currently own three different copies of the book and get a new one every time I find a pretty one. Everyone has their own form of comfort, whether that be a certain food or T.V. show. My comfort is reading about the lives of the March family. I try every day to be undeniably kind and every time I lose sight of that, I reread Little Women. My favorite character of all time is Beth March. The love she has for her family and the people around her is refreshing, which just makes this book all the more heartbreaking. 

I read Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens while sitting on the porch of my beach house in the Outer Banks where the book takes place. I am a sucker for a perseverance story and Kya’s story is a knockout in this genre. The natural world that I learned to love so much from The Hobbit was celebrated again, this time without the fantasy, but retaining the magic. Where the Crawdads Sing was the book that rescued me from my first-ever reading slump and I have thankfully never experienced one since then. It is always interesting to see a facet of yourself in the book, but there was nothing cooler than looking out from my house in Corolla and being able to picture Kya running across the sand in front of me.

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett was the first book that I ever laughed out loud while reading. Dry humor was something I had always enjoyed while reading, but this was the first time I experienced an overwhelming bubbling of laughter every time I turned the page. In between my fits of laughter and joy, I thought about my place in the world, which I never thought could occur simultaneously. Good Omens made the random, confusing and chaotic seem not so scary.

Still Life by Sarah Winman was a recent read that already feels like an old friend. Following a year of learning how to appreciate art in AP Art History, I learned how to appreciate life as a work of art through Winman’s story. Sometimes life gets too fast, with the end of my high school career on the horizon, Still Life helped me appreciate the little things and slow it down. My favorite feature of books are the allusions. It was the most rewarding experience for Winman to mention the painting: The Deposition from the Cross and immediately picturing the work in my head. Still Life made me look for the artistic qualities of life that I often overlook. 

Finally, We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry is my current favorite book. Field Hockey is obviously important to who I am as a person as a sport and as a team game. I am not a fan of sports books because I often find them corny. We Ride Upon Sticks uses field hockey as a vehicle for personal growth, not as the main attraction. I read this book right before my senior field hockey season and I think that it shaped me into a better player and captain. I will forever associate this book with the best season of my life and the liminal space that came between my high school and college field hockey career.

I have never read a book with the intention of having my life changed, it just happens if I allow it to. When I was young, I started reading because it was a way to escape to somewhere more interesting than where I was. Now as I have grown, I no longer read to escape. I read to find beauty in my own life through the reflections that books represent. Reflecting on my reviews, I have realized that every story I have ever loved is a part of me and I can always carry them with me, even when I reach the back cover. The Chronicles of Narnia taught me to find beauty in nature and family, The Hobbit taught me that great things lie out of my comfort zone, Circe taught me to live authentically, Little Women showed me the value of indiscriminate kindness, Where the Crawdads Sing showed me that our differences are what give us our strength, Good Omens helped me learn that you do not have to be stiff to be taken seriously and We Ride Upon Sticks showed me that what I do is important and that putting efforts into something I love will make me a better person. I would like to thank my adviser Evva Starr for giving me constant support and a platform for my unsolicited opinions, it means the world to me. I hope to continue my reviews even after graduation, so be on the lookout for that and please feel free to reach out and chat about books. As you can tell through my column, talking about books is my favorite thing to do.