Most of us have been on journeys of one kind or another where we’ve wound up a little bit lost. Victoria Price knows this, and has written about her own journey to find herself in her inspiring book The Way of Being Lost. Here, Price has rounded up some of the books that have spoken to her in her own life. Each of these books tackle the notion of being lost, only to find yourself once again.
Many of the books I have loved shared this message: You have to be willing to get lost in order to be found. Here are six favorites from childhood to present.
This book has lived in my heart for half a century. I think of it every time I visit my favorite museum—the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. A girl named Claudia feels underappreciated by her parents, so she conscripts her brother to run away with her to the Met. She hopes not to return home the same girl as the one who left. New worlds of mystery and friendship open up to Claudia. Those worlds may not be the same ones that open up to me at the Met, nonetheless I never fail to imagine what I would do if I had even one night to myself in those halls of wonder. Would I meditate in the Zen garden, worship in the Egyptian temple, converse with the subject of my favorite Diego Velázquez painting, or lose myself in the minutiae of Johannes Vermeer? Regardless, I would discover—as I l do in every museum “that often the search proves more profitable than the goal,” learning, as Claudia taught me, that to become the heroines of our own lives we have to be we have to be willing to risk losing ourselves to find out who we are supposed to become.
I discovered Gabriel García Márquez the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college. I lay by my mother’s pool by day reading voraciously from Gustave Flaubert to Marcel Proust, before working the disheartening night shift at a Taco Bell. But it was the magical realism of Márquez that proved that summer’s madeleine. I was so engrossed in Márquez’s masterpiece that I read it at the cash register. One night two pretty blond girls ordered tacos, one asked what I was reading. With as much disdain as I could muster while wearing a brown polyester uniform, I wordlessly showed them the title. “One Hundred Years of Solitude” the other read. “Wow. Well that would make you horny.” Almost forty years later, I still remember my withering glare, my gleeful retelling of the story, and then, my eventual remorse at my intellectual hubris.Marquez believed that “what matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.” I will always remember that beautiful book not only for its gorgeously imagined story about love and loss and power and penitence, but also for my own eventual understanding that we judge in others what we hate in ourselves.
I spent my oh-so-miserable early twenties squatting in a log cabin with no running water or heat in the mountains of New Mexico. To find a book that took me out of my angst proved rare. The Bone People—the story of a reclusive female artist, a lost little boy, the Maori people of New Zealand, and the power of love to shatter as well as heal—was the book I needed. It modeled my hope that out of devastation and loss comes the promise of a later healing: “They were nothing more than people, by themselves. Even paired, any pairing, they would have been nothing more than people by themselves. But all together, they have become the heart and muscles and mind of something perilous and new, something strange and growing and great. Together, all together, they are the instruments of change.” When we are willing to lose our ideas of our individual selves, we find our healing in the whole.
This was my first Haruki Murakami book. Like all first loves, it remains the sweetest. After my miserable twenties, the spiritual seeking of my thirties came as a blessing. Although the decade brought the deaths of my parents as well as deep personal struggles, I had found a path that called me. I just couldn’t seem to find anyone who understood. The paradox of finding myself while seeming to lose my connection to those closest to me was mirrored in this novel: “Everybody’s born with some different thing at the core of their existence. And that thing, whatever it is, becomes like a heat source that runs each person from the inside. I have one too, of course. Like everybody else. But sometimes it gets out of hand. It swells or shrinks inside me, and it shakes me up. What I’d really like to do is find a way to communicate that feeling to another person. But I can’t seem to do it. They just don’t get it. Of course, the problem could be that I’m not explaining it very well, but I think it’s because they’re not listening very well. They pretend to be listening, but they’re not, really. So I get worked up sometimes, and I do some crazy things.” That was my thirties—lost and found in the wild wonder of becoming.
By my forties, I mostly read nonfiction. On my only beach vacation during that workaholic decade, I picked up this novel and was swept away to Malaysia in this story of love and loss, duty, and desire. The characters, the moral dilemmas, the lush landscape, and writing lured me in. But what endured was what it taught me about legacy: “When you are lost, in this world or on the continent of time itself, remember who you have been and you will know who you are. These people were all you, and you are them. I was you before you were born and you will be me after I am gone. That is the meaning of family.” By the end of the decade, I finally realized that I had to rewrite my own family legacy in order to hear the beating of my own heart.
One summer in my fifties, I hiked through the Catskills getting lost while listening to this meditation on getting lost read by Rebecca Solnit herself. Her lyrical voice became my compass: “To be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery. And one does not get lost but loses oneself, with the implication that it is a conscious choice, a chosen surrender, a psychic state achievable through geography. That thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you is usually what you need to find, and finding it is a matter of getting lost.” For the first time in my life, I felt present to the possibility finding my own way by being lost. Lost and found in the world of words. As I have always been.
Victoria Price is the author of the critically acclaimed Vincent Price: A Daughter’s Biography. A popular inspirational speaker on topics ranging from art collecting and design to creativity and spirituality, as well as the life of her famous father, Price has appeared on Good Morning America, A&E’s Biography, NPR’s Fresh Air, and Morning Edition. Her work has been featured in USA Today, People, Travel & Leisure, Art & Auction, and The New York Times.