Join us all summer long for Last Read posts from a long list of talented writers, librarians and readers.
Erin Brambilla is a YA writer who lives in Naperville, IL with her husband, three children, and a spunky golden retriever mix. She loves chocolate, can build just about anything out of cardboard and duct tape, and has super bendy, hyper-extending elbows. She has no published books just yet, but is told she writes some pretty killer emails.
Last reads? Could Ryann and Lynne have picked a more impossible question? People always say picking a favorite book is like picking a favorite kid. But here’s the thing…I have an actual answer for the kid question: The one who is not screaming. See? Easy. And non-committal. And if all three of my children aren’t screaming, then I guess it’s a tie. WE ALL WIN.
At first I thought it should be a classic. Something that stands test of time. Something my family would be proud to read in my obituary, “She was a loving mother and wife. She was kind to animals. And her last read was Anne of Green Gables.” Or maybe The Count of Monte Cristo. Or Where the Red Fern Grows.
But, if I’m being honest, none of those seem quite right. They’re books I loved and they formed part of who I was at the time that I read them. Especially that Anne girl. She’s a bosom friend through and through. I will look back on her fondly, but she won’t be the one I have with me when I say goodbye to the world.
So then what? Something modern? Something that’s pulled at my heartstrings or made me laugh recently? Maybe Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. Or Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. Both hit me right in the feels. Gave me the happy book sighs. But those aren’t books I’ll take to the grave either.
(By the way, do you see the way I am totally cheating here? Kind of like answering that kid question.)
After a while I decided that choosing a favorite book and picking a last read aren’t actually the same question. Similar, yes, but not the same. For one, some of my favorite books wouldn’t be comforting in death. (I’m looking at you, The Book Thief!) And when I realized I would seek comfort and love in my last moments, my real answer came easily. It brings me to tears just thinking about it.
My Last Read would be Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. And not just any copy, mind you, but the copy my dad gave me on my seventh birthday. The book I packed up and took to college with me, from dorm to sorority house to an off-campus house with friends. I took it from college to each of my apartments in Chicago. And now it sits on my bookshelf in my family home, where I pull it out and read it to my own kids. I think it has a poem for every occasion. Even this one.
I’ll begin my last read with the inscription from my dad. I’ll probably stare at it a good while before moving on to the poems. I don’t know in what order I’ll read them all. Maybe cover to cover. Maybe I’ll flip randomly through. But I’ll end with this:
If you are a dreamer, come in.
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-r, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire,
For we have some flax golden tales to spin.