Three Books With…Amy Spurway, author of CROW

We asked Amy Spurway, author of Crow, to name three books she considers essential titles, the books that come to mind first when she’s asked to recommend an excellent read. 

Tough question, because I think different books are—or become—essential at different points in our lives. What was essential for me two years ago, seems less so now, and the criteria for what makes a book important to me at any given time is also always shifting. 

That being said, the following titles have an enduring place in my heart because they teach me something new every time I pick them up:

Dr. Seuss books, especially Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories, Horton Hatches the Egg, and The Lorax. Because you are never too old or too serious to learn something from Dr. Seuss..

Dr. Seuss presents three modern fables in the rhyming favorite Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories. The collection features tales about greed (“Yertle the Turtle”), vanity (“Gertrude McFuzz”), and pride (“The Big Brag”). In no other book does a small burp have such political importance! Yet again, Dr. Seuss proves that he and classic picture books go hand in hand.

*

Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, one of most comically heartbreaking, beautifully human books I’ve ever encountered.

Slaughterhouse-Five, an American classic, is one of the world’s great antiwar books. Centering on the infamous World War II firebombing of Dresden, the novel is the result of what Vonnegut describes as a twenty-three-year struggle to write a book about what he himself witnessed as an American prisoner of war. It combines science fiction, autobiography, humor, historical fiction, and satire in an account of the life of Billy Pilgrim, a barber’s son turned draftee turned optometrist turned alien abductee. Billy, like Vonnegut, experiences the destruction of Dresden as a POW, and, as with Vonnegut, it is the defining moment of his life. Unlike the author, he also experiences time travel, or coming “unstuck in time.” Billy Pilgrim’s odyssey reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we fear most.

*

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World, by Peter Wohlleben is absolutely mind-blowing, and it profoundly changed the way I relate to nature in general, and trees in particular. 

Are trees social beings? In this international bestseller, forester and author Peter Wohlleben convincingly makes the case that, yes, the forest is a social network. He draws on groundbreaking scientific discoveries to describe how trees are like human families: tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, support them as they grow, share nutrients with those who are sick or struggling, and even warn each other of impending dangers. Wohlleben also shares his deep love of woods and forests, explaining the amazing processes of life, death, and regeneration he has observed in his woodland.

After learning about the complex life of trees, a walk in the woods will never be the same again.