The First Time I Fell in Love

The first time I fell in love, I was five—and I fell in love with a monster. The Monster at the End of This Book starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover. The illustrated Grover would read the title page, and when I turned the page, he would freak out in all caps:

“WHAT DID THAT SAY? On the first page what did that say? Did that say there will be a Monster at the end of this book??? IT DID? Oh, I am so scared of Monsters!!!”

Overcome with fear, Grover would muster the strength to politely ask me not to turn the page, which of course, I did. I knew Grover’s words by heart, and in my five-year-old mind, my impersonation of his Sesame Street voice was spot-on. I flipped pages as he tied them together with rope, nailed one page to the next, built a brick wall, and BEGGED me to stop turning pages. In the end Grover finds himself at the end of the book. He. Is. The Monster. And this Little Golden Book taught me some important life lessons.

Lessons from Grover: Labels lead to misunderstandings, and even monsters can be furry and lovable. Fear can be crippling, and more often than not, outcomes don’t turn out as bad as the build-up in your head.

Photo courtesy of listal.com, The Monster at the End of This Book was written by Jon Stone and illustrated by Michael Smollin.

I suppose my love of a good story started here with Grover, and I suppose that same love compelled me back to school to become an English teacher. I suppose this love is why I’ve spent the last twenty years in the classroom, and I suppose it compels me now to write stories of my own. And most of all, I suppose I owe the lovable, furry old Grover a huge debt of gratitude for forever changing my life.

Let’s Talk about Books, Baby

I wish I could remember the specifics of all the books that follow. The details now blur in my mind, lucky for you. This could have been an extra long post. In short, I LOVED them all. In my perfect hypothetical library, these books would stand proud in my bookcases waiting for someone like you to flip their pages and escape to another time and place.

Top Favorite Books of My Life on Earth by Crystal Byers

  1. The Help by Kathryn Stockett*
  2. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini*
  3. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry*
  4. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant*
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  6. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
  7. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden*
  8. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls*
  9. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt*
  10. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
  11. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides*
  12. Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
  13. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  14. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  15. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak*
  16. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou*
  17. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
  18. The Book of Bright Ideas by Sandra King
  19. Circling the Sun by Paula McLain*
  20. Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton*
  21. Me Before You (#1) by Jojo Moyes
  22. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  23. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
  24. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

I gravitate toward historical fiction and female perspective and memoir and young adult fiction. Anyway, I typed the list in random order, so #1 means nothing other than the beginning of my list. I can’t answer the “What’s your favorite book” question. I can only give you my top 24 and let you know I have trouble cutting my list short. On a second look, I asterisked the ones that truly star in my top ten or twelve, so if you’re looking for a MUST-READ, start there and Google to help you find your next favorite book. Oh, and I left off the Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings series, which I LOVE, as well as some classics because I’m nerdy, but I have to shout out my all-time favorite character Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities. You see, my list could’ve gone on and on, so I just stopped at #24.

Your turn. Summer approaches, and I'm a teacher. What's my next MUST READ?