A couple weeks back I started a Facebook page. You can visit it here, though that’s not really the point. I started it as a way to talk about books and writing and art, sort of a FB extension of whatever it is that I’m doing here.
Since I started it I’ve been thinking about books and reading a lot. I’ve discussed in a few of the previous posts about why I started writing and how I’ve always been surrounded by books.
I don’t know that this is going to be much more than a listing of a lot of books I’ve read and liked over the years.
I don’t get to talk too much about books and writing and art in my everyday life. I’ve found that besides the other random silliness I post about that here and over at the FB page I’ve found a good outlet for that.
I’d love feedback. I’d love to know what books you are reading, what books you’ve read, what books are your favorites and what books have affected and stayed with you as the years have gone on.
I looked at my book case a little bit, but mostly I’m just doing this from memory. I’m sure I’ll forget some. I read everything when I was a kid – I loved to go to the library and pick out a new book. I read less as a teenager, though many of the books we were assigned to read in high school remain some of my favorites.
My reading life probably spiked the highest when I worked at a Milwaukee, WI area bookstore in the mid-nineties. As life has gone on I’ve read less. But still now, even if there are only stolen moments when I can find time I read.
I love so many different media. TV, movies, internet and etc. are great.
But there’s something about reading, isn’t there? It’s an intimate, solo but not lonely experience. For me, it’s inhabiting a world and the people within that world for a time and not wanting to leave. It’s sprinting to the end of a great book but feeling a little melancholy the closer to the end I get because I will not be with those characters anymore.
The stories and the characters within aren’t real, but they are more real than any TV or movie character could ever be.
I had many favorites as a child. From Richard Scarry picture books to Dr. Seuss to The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein I read most of my favorites over and over. My favorite Seuss works were Green Eggs and Ham and The Cat in the Hat (I loved the mayhem that Thing 1 and Thing 2 created.) I think I was drawn especially to Horton Hears a Who. Horton was an outsider, but regardless of what anyone said or did to him he held fast to his beliefs but especially to the truth.
As I grew I started to read Judy Blume. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and SuperFudge were my early favorites. But even though Blume wrote for kids and preteens, some of her subject manner was a bit controversial. Titles like Then Again, Maybe I Won’t or Are you There God? It’s Me, Margaret deal with coming of age and preteen and puberty issues in a frank manner that caused some of her books to be banned in certain places.
I never felt like it was a big deal, and I learned from them. It was exciting to read about some of the things I felt and may have been going through from the perspective of someone my age. And looking back, that my parents trusted me with such content was super important to me as well.
As I moved through late childhood and into preteen and middle school, some of my favorites included:
- Roald Dahl – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, of course, and James and the Giant Peach. Also, did you know that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had a sequel called Charlie and the Glass Elevator? It’s not the equal of the original, but is still pretty good and expands on the Willie Wonka mythology. I’m actually surprised that one has never been made into a film.
- I loved Bridge to Terabithia even thought the ending was terribly sad.
- John Knowles A Separate Peace has stayed with me all of these years, as has many of Robert Cormier’s works, especially After the First Death, about a terrorist group and the hijacking of a bus full of children. (Yes, I know, I was drawn to terribly downbeat works, and still am to some extent.)
- Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time will always be one of my favorite childhood reads. Besides comics and superheros, it may have been the book that kick started my love of sci-fi and speculative type fiction.
- SE Hinton’s The Outsiders.
- Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
I know I read on my own in high school. WP Kinsella’s The Iowa Baseball Confederacy and Shoeless Joe were favorites. I read Margaret Atwood and The Handmaid’s Tale for the first time. Mostly, though, I read books that were assigned to read in English class. They became favorites, thought some of them I’ve tried to go back and read and have found them a bit dense to read without a teacher guiding me though. Nevertheless, we read such classics as:
- Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, which really should be required reading for all American high schoolers.
- Nathanial Hawthorne’s The Scarlet A.
- John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.
- Ernest Hemingway, especially A Farewell to Arms.
- Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Cities.
I did not read too much in college, at least that I can recall, though I know I was introduced to Toni Morrison through The Bluest Eye in sophomore year English.
But then the bookstore and I began reading again in earnest on my own. So many favorites:
- Of course Vonnegut and Bradbury (I’d read some Bradbury when I was younger, but read The Martian Chronicles for the first time. It may be/probably is my favorite work, if I made such a list.)
- I read Catcher in the Rye and Catch-22 for the first time, and wondered how I missed them when I was younger.
- Tim O’Brien is works on Vietnam, especially The Things they Carried.
- Most of the works by James Ellroy.
- Many of Don DeLillo’s works.
- Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men but later and especially The Road.
- The short story collections of Lorrie Moore, Raymond Carver and Thom Jones.
- Nick Hornby, especially About a Boy and High Fidelity.
- Ken Kesey and One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
- Richard Ford and The Sportswriter and ensuing sequels.
So many more. My favorite was trading suggestions with co-workers and customers, exploring new authors and little known authors.
Later, some of my favorites:
- I’ve always read a bit of Stephen King now and again, but committed to his Dark Tower series and have always felt it’s his best work.
- I read the entire Harry Potter series as an adult, and also The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
- I really got into Phillip Roth, Michael Cunningham (especially The Hours), Michael Chabon, and Russell Banks, especially (Rule of the Bone).
I know as soon as I post this I’ll remember a bunch more. I also know that there are books I’ve read that I cannot remember the title or the author, or even the whole plot, but bits of a character or scenario remains with me.
Books are a part of me. No matter how much or how little I read, they always will be.
Books! So man books!
What do you like? What have you read? Let’s talk about it!