There are certainly 10 Books that have stayed with me:
A Wrinkle in Time
Fear of Flying
Intruder in the Dust
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Their Eyes were Watching God
The Weight of Glory
The Good Earth
Well, I guess I have 11. I am going to comment on The Good Earth.
Wang Lung was a man made of good stuff. A man of principles, work ethic, honesty, family values, a strong sense of right and wrong, faith and custom. Above all he valued the earth, for from it came life. He would have been looked upon as “simple” in society, but Wang Lung was far from simple. He was a deeply complex figure with deep emotions. He loved fiercely, took his responsibilities seriously and thought through decisions in a meticulous process.
Wang had one weakness that was common to his status and culture. He felt himself less than, not good enough, a country bumpkin whom others looked down upon. The only thing that kept him from despair was his land and what he could see it produce to feed his old father and the hungry mouths of his worthless uncle and his family and above this, the bit that was left to sell.
Wang hated himself for hating his worthless uncle and his useless wife. The custom was to love and respect elders and yet, he could not love these.
When Wang Lung married, had sons and a daughter, his land thrived and for a long while he felt the gods shined upon him. He gave credit to his good fortune to this woman he married and to his land. He bought more land and then more. Wang became a very rich man, known to all as Wang the Big Man and Wang the rich. His sons, who had been raised to till the land and love it as he did, became lazy and entitled. Wang grew tired of his first, worn-out wife and took a second wife from a brothel. He made an apartment for her in his new beautiful house, with gold fish pools and maids for her and opium for her to smoke.
The first, humble and now sick wife, was heart-broken and died of cancer and grief, still pleading Wang to return to his land. Wang wept when she did. The first time he had wept since he had had to kill his friend and co-labourer his ox, for food in a year of famine. He missed this woman who had borne his children and worked in his fields beside him even though she was ugly and had big feet. He mourned his first wife and made a proper funeral for her with hired mourners and many flowers.
The second wife was angry and would not let Wang to her bed for many days. During this time Wang thought of his old father’s shouts at his second wife’s arrival at the house, “Harlot, harlot!” and was very ashamed in the memory of the first wife.
In the end, Wang returned to his land, his good earth, with his youngest son. He sat beside the doorstep and smoked his pipe as his old father had done as he watched his son turn the earth and he was for the first time in his life-content.