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What's the most important book in your life? Tell us

It has been a busy few months for your local book scribe. Immediately following the holidays there were trips to Los Angeles and Dallas to cover the Oregon Ducks in the Rose Bowl and the national championship game. After that I was preparing for my Valentine’s Day wedding, followed by a couple of days in Puerto Vallarta for my honeymoon.

When things get super busy in my life, reading never falls by the wayside. What does fall by the wayside is reading new books. I find myself returning to the familiar world of books I already have read and loved, taking comfort in the escape I know they can provide rather than risking a new journey with a new book that might not offer everything I want or need.

After Sarah and I were married in a lovely celebration on Valentine’s Day, I began rereading the most important book in my life, “For Whom the Bell Tolls” by Ernest Hemingway.

I first read “Bell” my senior year in high school. Never had I been transported into a world so vividly created, with such complex characters and such sophisticated human emotion. The love story between the American soldier Robert Jordan and the Spanish damsel Maria is set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. Taking place over three days, Jordan learns what it means to love a woman, love his life, and love the world in which he lives.

Hemingway’s masterpiece taught me so much about love, life, courage and what it means to be a man.

Reading “Bell” while sitting by the pool with Sarah on 90-degree days in Puerto Vallarta, it was as if I were seeing an old friend again. This was probably the 14th or 15th time I have read “Bell.” I always go back to it during the most important times of my life. And even though I can quote entire passages and I know exactly what will happen with each turn of the page, I do not believe I will ever stop reading it.

Anyway, that was a long way of saying that I am now back and ready to dive into new books by local authors. Here are some that have caught my eye:

• “In the Path of Destruction: Eyewitness Chronicles of Mount St. Helens” by Richard Waitt (WSU PRESS, 413 pages, $22.95). The title pretty much makes you salivate for action-packed stories about the great mountain blow of 1980.

• “Beneath” by Roland Smith (Scholastic Press, 272 pages, $16.99). Smith has written numerous award-winning books for young readers. “Beneath” holds the promise of good YA fiction that you do not have to feel guilty reading.

• “Portland on the Take: Mid-Century Crime Bosses, Civic Corruption & Forgotten Murders” by JD Chandler and JB Fisher with a foreword by Phil Stanford (The History Press, 146 pages, $19.99). I adore learning things about my hometown, and I adore good crime writing, and this book sounds like the perfect combination of both.

• “The Residue Years” by Mitchell S. Jackson (Bloomsbury, 343 pages, $26). While the book originally was published in 2013, Jackson recently won the eighth annual Gaines Award for his semiautobiographical novel based on Jackson’s experience growing up in Portland in a neighborhood filled with violence and drug use. (Jackson, by the way, will serve as host for the Oregon Book Awards, April 13 at the Gerding Theater.)

• “Hunger, Hope & Healing: A Yoga Approach to Reclaiming Your Relationship to Your Body and Food” by Sarahjoy Marsh (Shambhala, 279 pages, $17.95). I did a good job of working out and eating right before the wedding. That virtuousness got blown out of the water with the Mexican food in Puerto Vallarta. So maybe this book by Marsh is exactly what I need to get back on track.

• “Wild Creative: Igniting Your Passion and Potential in Work, Home, and Life” by Tami Lynn Kent (Beyond Words, 216 pages, $16.99). Kent is a holistic women’s health care provider who maintains a private practice in Portland. It has been quite a while since I took the plunge into anything resembling self-help, but this one sounds interesting.

Obviously I have a lot of reading to do. In the meantime, returning to the “Bell” theme, I would like to hear from you, readers, about the most important book in your life. What is the book that has changed your life, or that you find yourself rereading over and over?

Send me an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., tell me about the book, and give a brief description of why it is so important to you. If I get enough good responses, I’ll highlight some of the books in a future Book Report.

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