Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Insisting on a Blessing

22The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. 24Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” 27So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” 29Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” 31The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.

Here is Jacob-- Scoundrel Extraordinaire, but Scoundrel who has recently been schooled in the ways of the world, possibly to his growth and maturing-- and he is waiting for his brother to come and clobber him. Esau has a grudge and an army and a target, and that target is Jacob. Esau hasn't gotten over that blessing-stealing thing. He's mad. He's serious.

And here's Jacob, waiting to get his just desserts. (He's sent the wimmin and children off to safety, to his credit.) And... along comes this mysterious stranger, this man, who challenges Jacob to an all-night wrestling match.

Sounds like two things to me. One, it sounds like fear. Wrestling all night, not being able to let go, worrying a problem half to death. Sounds like something I remember from various times in my life. Sounds like something I remember from yesterday... that, Uh oh. Here it is. Can't go over it, can't go under it... you know the drill.

The other thing it sounds like is... Esau. It occurs to me, perhaps the older brother has come by cover of night to challenge the upstart. It reminds me a little of the wedding in which Leah is substituted for Rachel. Is the angel substituted for Esau, or Esau for the angel?

Years ago I heard someone use verse 26 (b) to describe feminist biblical scholarship: the determination to struggle with the text until it gives a blessing. It strikes me that should and could describe the LGBTQ approach to the text as well. The blessing is there for us. We may walk away limping, but, by God, we will walk away blessed.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Brilliant Insight of the Day, Applied

Have you noticed how much easier it is to be able to pinpoint problems in the ways other people process life and relationships than it is to apply that very same information to one's own life?

Case(s) in point: This week I have had two different situations in which people talked to me at length about family dynamics, problems and complaints they had with loved ones, that sort of thing. And I had this brilliant insight: People would have much greater peace and serenity if they could accept that people are who they are. Oh, I think occasionally people have epiphanies, life-changing experiences, that sort of thing. But, truthfully, in most cases, people remain true to form. They, to coin a phrase, are pretty much the same today, yesterday, and forever. If your boyfriend criticizes your appearance constantly while you are dating, chances are excellent he will do that after the wedding. If your mother was late for your first grade school play, she will probably be late to your high school graduation. People are who they are, and they don't change much. And if we could just appropriate that information in a real and meaningful way, how much happier we would all be.

Brilliant insight, right? And how easily am I able to apply it to my very own relationships, with my very own loved ones? Not really very easily at all, I regret to report. Even with Beloved. You know I'm mad about the girl. But have I mentioned that we are different as (forgive the cliché) night and day? That she is Felix to my Oscar, and Martin to my Lewis? That I am a night owl and she desires to turn out the lights somewhere around 8:30? That I believe in a certain amount of kind obfuscation (for example, never, ever answering the question "Do I look fat in this?" in the affirmative), and she believes that she must be honest and fully disclosing of all her opinions, even at the risk of causing hurt feelings? We are not the same, my love and I, and nothing is going to change that. Wouldn't it be grand if I were able to really get that, and to let go of the illusion that next time we'll play by my rules?

As I type this Beloved is snoozing gently on my couch. We have just eaten a lovely dinner of Greek style stuffed zucchini (minus the avgolemono sauce) and watched "Daphne, " a biopic about Daphne DuMaurier. I am mad about the girl. In our case I think the differences are part of the fun (except when they're not). Note to self: Just love her.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

For My Beloved

A song by Lucinda Williams...

I envy the wind
That whispers in your ear
That howls through the winter
That freezes your fingers
That moves through your hair
And cracks your lips
And chills you to the bone
I envy the wind

I envy the rain
That falls on your face
That wets your eyelashes
And dampens your skin
And touches your tongue
And soaks through your shirt
And drips down your back
I envy the rain

I envy the sun
That brightens your summer
That warms your body
And holds you in her heat
And makes your days longer
And makes you hot
And makes you sweat
I envy the sun

I envy the wind
I envy the rain
I envy the sun
I envy the wind

Monday, July 21, 2008

On Resentment and Getting a Wife, Old School

15Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?” 16Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17Leah’s eyes were lovely, and Rachel was graceful and beautiful. 18Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” 19Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.” 20So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her. 21Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.” 22So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast. 23But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. 24(Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.) 25When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?” 26Laban said, “This is not done in our country—giving the younger before the firstborn. 27Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.” 28Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife. ~ Genesis 29:15-28

Anyone out there hear this story for the first time in the context of "Fiddler on the Roof"? Perchik, the itinerant revolutionary, tutors Tevye's youngest daughters, tells the story, and draws himself up to his full height, and says, "Therefore you can see that the Bible clearly teaches that employers are not to be trusted" (or something along those lines).

It's a laugh line. It gives Hodel a chance to needle Perchik, and gives him a chance to break down some boundaries with her (because, of course, they end up together). But the purpose of using the story is to show how people bend their interpretation of scripture to suit their own interpretive, political and personal goals.

This is such an awful story. Anyone, this far into the Genesis stories, getting tired of infertility as a trope? (Raising my hand.) Anyone, loving these stories, still cringing along with me at the way these people mistreat one another? (Raising my hand again.) Anyone recognize themselves in at least one if not more characters? (Yeah.... you know.)

Personally, I have been both Leah and Jacob, the unloved wife and the one longing for someone other than his spouse. I have, I see it now, spent a lot of time feeling I have been wronged.

What is that all about, I wonder? I think perhaps I have been wronged now and then, but I have done the wronging, too, oh my, yes I have. In 12-step groups we talk a lot about resentments. They are considered toxic and dangerous to the addict. Resentments are what give us permission to drink/ drug/ gamble/ binge/ cheat/ have illicit sexual liaisons (depending upon your particular addiction, of course). Someone at a meeting said, "Resentment is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die." Isn't that the truest thing?

Truth be told: we hurt one another. Sometimes, intentionally. Often, inadvertently. We hurt one another, and life can be painful as a result. But it can be beautiful too. Forgiveness is one of the most beautiful things we can give one another. It is release, for the forgiver and the forgiven, both at once.

I wonder about Laban. Did he just have it in for Jacob? Why was that? Did he get a telegram from Esau before Jacob ever pulled up to the well? Did he decide this guy was too big for his britches, and he needed to be taken down a peg?

Notice where God is in the story: no where. Not until wombs start opening and drying up. God lets the people work all this stuff out themselves. But God does, in the end, seem to love a love story just as much as the next guy.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


I'm feeling a bit more connected to my garden, having spent my day off weeding, waiting out a rainstorm, weeding some more, planting some new fan plants in my window boxes (my wave petunias having expired a dramatic, Scarlett O'Hara-type death), and watering (yes, I know it rained.... it wasn't enough). What I didn't do: mow, and weed about 7/8 of the property. It was only one day off!

There is nothing like weeding. Even as the young child of grass-and-tree-and-flower-phobic parents (my mother always claimed to want to cement everything over and paint it green) I loved weeding. It felt spiritual to me... pulling away what is not going to bring forth something beautiful or nourishing, leaving only what is good. Jesus had other ideas, of course.

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” ~ Matthew 13:24-30

I wonder... would any farmer, then or now, agree with such a strategy? Honestly, I don't know enough about the subject to answer that question. This seems so much more transparently "allegory" than "parable" to me, and an allegory aimed at those who would pass judgment on others. Clearly, there was something going on in Matthew's community (or Mark's) that called for some tough love. For my garden, I reject the strategy outright. For the church... I am willing to listen to reason.

My Beloved and I have had some wonderful time together lately. I'm feeling more connected to her, too.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Seven Songs I'm Digging Right Now Meme

Eileen (always delightful) did this meme recently. I want to do it too.

List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your summer. Post these instructions in your blog along with your seven songs. Then tag seven other people to see what they’re listening to.

1. "Shut Up and Let Me Go" by the Ting Tings.

2. "I Envy the Wind" by Lucinda Williams.

3. "Casimir Pulaski Day" by Sufjan Stevens.

4. "Perfect World" by the Indigo Girls.

5. "Waste" by Smashmouth.

6. "Crazy" by Seal.

7. "West" by Lucinda Williams.

I won't be tagging anyone... but let me know if you play.


I haven't talked about my garden much. I feel somewhat disconnected from it this year. One reason is the fact that, while Beloved and I scoured nurseries and found the plants we wanted, my son did much of my actual planting for me. I have been feeling very guilty about this... is it my garden if someone else's hands put the petunias in the soil? I'm not sure. I realize that my schedule has changed a lot this year... could it be that I'm now swimming and walking at times when previously I would have been digging and weeding? The only thing I planted were the herbs, which I am growing in pots. Thanks to Beloved's discovery of mushroom compost, they are stunning, enormous, taking over everything that stands in their way.

Last weekend I made a big pot of gazpacho. I love the old Moosewood cookbook recipe... very simple, just lots of chopped vegetables, tomato juice, garlic, onions and tons of herbs. Into the pot I threw thyme I'd grown, as well as basil and parsley. It was amazing. I'm not kidding. I impressed myself. I'm having the last of it today... a real summer delicacy. Last week I made a stir fry of beef into which I threw handsful of thyme, basil and tarragon, also out of my pots. It was amazing. The big delicacy among the herbs is something called pineapple sage. It's just what it sounds like... sage with hints of pineapple flavor in it. I have taken the leaves and mixed them with greens for a salad. Amazing, even moreso when I put fruit in the salad with them.

Another odd thing about my garden this year: volunteers. Most gardeners deal with these from year to year, but I'm a new enough gardener that I haven't had too many. Every year for about five years I had sown sunflower seeds along a fence separating my yard from my driveway, but they had never germinated... at least, not in my yard. This year, I gave up on sunflowers. So, naturally, seven enormous ones have sprung up... not along the fence, though. They migrated to the small triangular plot next to the driveway, where they form a kind of natural wall around the rest of what I did plant (or, my son planted): pumpkins. Pumpkins, lavender and sunflowers... this is the oddest little plot you'll find.

I told Beloved this morning that I'd like to run away with her for about a month. But really, I'd like us to stay home for about a month. I think the lack of vacation time so far this summer is catching up with me. Life at church is wonderful, very lively... but I long for some real time off, which I won't get until August. And though I get time off, Beloved doesn't. She is not in a position to be able to leave her business just now... staff turnover, transitions of that sort.

To run away home... that sounds like a sermon title, perhaps.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Arte Y Pico Award

This past week I was notified by two separate bloggers that they had nominated me for the Arte Y Pico Award... Choralgirl at Choral Reef and Doxy at Wormwood's Doxy. Women, I am honored! These two bloggers are exceptionally grace-filled and honest, and I am, well, truly honored to be selected by them. Thanks, gals.

Here's what it's all about:

1) Pick five blogs that you consider deserve this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also for contributing to the blogging community, no matter what language.
2) Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.
3) Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.
4) Award-winner and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of Arte Y Pico blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award which is here: Arte Y Pico.

Alex at BesoMami has gone through a number of permutations of her blog, and has landed on a visual style that I think is exceptional, snappy, modern and cool. She posts gorgeous pictures of her gorgeous children, and her own commentary on life, church, family, etc... lucid, faithful, succinct... always a pleasure.

Songbird at Reflectionary has also lived in a number of different styles. Her current blog design is luscious... gorgeous colors and photos set of her beautiful, insightful prose. I am so grateful that she posts her sermons there!! Her honest sharing of her struggle with recently diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis is moving and grace-filled.

I nominate FranIAm because... well, her honesty and passion are searing, she makes me feel like a child or a poseur in terms of my own political convictions. And, to paraphrase Popeye, She Is Who She Is. And she is wonderful.

Speaking of Searing Honesty, there is "Ask Sister Mary Martha." I hardly know what to say about this woman, a Roman Catholic Nun qua Catholicism-Emily-Post (she answers questions from readers about All Matters Catholic). She includes photos/ illustrations that are brilliant. She is beyond hilarious-- acerbic, dry-- I hardly ever agree with anything she says. But I love how she says it. She would be appalled by me, I feel confident. But I must give the lady her props. (On reflection, I don't want to appear disrespectful to the good sister by claiming to disagree with everything she says. She certainly represents Catholic doctrine and practice accurately, from what I am able to discern. It's just that... I know we part ways in rather significant places... ah well. She is a pleasure to read. That's all.)

And finally, meet Mary Sue at the Order of Santa Ignora. Read her post "Who Is Santa Ignora?" (in the banner across the top). I'm probably twice her age, but I feel dwarfed in wisdom by her writing. And her style.

Towards Freedom

I have been working closely with a woman to assist me in my recovery efforts from addictive behavior with food.

I have known this woman for a few years, casually-- from somewhat of a distance. I witnessed her work in group settings. She always struck me as calm, compassionate, and a real hard-ass. In other words, there was a right way and a wrong way to do things. She didn't let slackers slide through. I believe this is one reason I like working with her... I have my slacker tendencies, especially where this issue is concerned.

This woman is not a member of my congregation, but she works closely with several members on a community project. I had decided, a while ago, that I would not be coming out to her.

Yesterday, the winds of the Spirit blew in a new direction. Shortly after breakfast, I knew that I needed to talk to her. I knew that I needed to tell her.

This felt risky. I had no way of knowing what her position would be on my position. Would she think I was-- you know-- of the devil? Or something? But, addiction is about secrets. And I work so closely with this woman... I had already found myself fudging about Beloved and our relationship. I decided to take the risk.

She listened compassionately. She offered an open door should I want to talk about the complexities and challenges of this situation. She even offered thoughts on the folks from my congregation, where they might stand. She did not reject me.

As we parted, and she gave me a long, fierce hug, I found myself looking heavenward... it's such a strong instinct! And I said, "Thank you. Freedom is calling, and you are going to get me there."

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Born to Fight

21Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. 22The children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is to be this way, why do I live?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. 23And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger.” 24When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. 25The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. 26Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them. 27When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents. 28Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob. ~ Genesis 25:21-28

The thing I love about Genesis is, it's so damned true all the time. Some brilliant student of human nature wove all these stories together for us, and held them up to us as a mirror, and here we are.

I know this woman... this manipulator, as she will turn out to be. I know her insecurity, married to the unsure son whose own father held a knife to his throat. Notice how Isaac is almost a nonentity after the akedah? How he can't even get a wife for himself, but has to rely on Dad's hired man? Rebekah should have known what she was getting into, when her groom couldn't even bring himself to close the deal.

And I know her sense of outraged victimhood... in pregnancy, which she has longed for, and which now is a royal pain. And God names it... and speaks to her. How many biblical women have that privilege? Not a whole lot, but enough to let us know that it happens. "Two nations are at war in your womb, honey. Sorry, but that's how it is."

These boys come out battling... their birth is something worthy of a video game fight, or an action sequence from Xena Warrior Princess... the herculean struggle for primacy, and then the parents choosing sides.

What a student of human nature wrote this tale. S/he doesn't excuse behavior, but sure does explain it. S/he doesn't gloss over responsibility, but places it in its messy, human context. S/he shows us two boys, fighting their way out of the womb, one gripping the other's heel, and we know the rest of the story almost without reading it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Good Colleagues

I have just come home from a lovely dinner party, consisting of three colleagues in ministry, and I am so deeply and joyfully refreshed.

It's hot here. As I did my errands this afternoon I wondered how I would feel by evening... would I be too tired to even enjoy this?

I am so glad I went.

About a month ago, a dear friend in ministry contacted me and one other friend (whom I do not yet know as well), asking whether we would like to set a regular time to get together. Maybe we would study, maybe we would read a book together, or watch a video series we are all interested in. As plans materialized we realized we wanted to have dinner together too.

Tonight found us in Dear Friend's beautiful home, eating a salad almost completely from her garden, a crustless broccoli quiche, and (for the others) a fragrant loaf of cheese bread. (There was also wine, which I am presently unable to enjoy). We had no program other than enjoying one another's company. It was exquisite. Beautiful friends, similar outlooks on our work, very different life stages for each of us. But what a true (if brief) sabbath it was. I can't wait to do it again.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Big Read: Edited

I got this over at Alex's place. This is from something called 'The Big Read', and it is designed to encourage community reading initiatives. The NEA came up with a list of their top 100 books and they estimate that the average adult has only read 6 of these books. I will highlight the ones I've read. Cut and paste into your blog and let us know which you've read.

I am adding this, which I found over at Pastor Peters' place. More fun!

1) Look at the list and bold those we have read.
2) Italicize those we intend to read.
3) Underline the books we LOVE (I’ve used an asterisk)
4) Reprint this list in our own blogs

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen*
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien*
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte*
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling*
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible*
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott*
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier*
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien*
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
8 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams*
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens*
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen*
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne*
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving*
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood*
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan*
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen*
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold*
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt*
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens*
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White*
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare*
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Well... looks like I have some reading to do.