Thursday, August 20, 2009

15 Books, with Commentary (because I wanted to...)

I got tagged in Facebook to list the first 15 books that will always stick with me. Since I haven't posted here in forever, I thought I'd add it just in case people are actually still checking in. I'm still working on replies to the last post. Maybe once school starts...

In the order in which they came to me:

1. Foucoult’s Pendulum (in Italian), by Umberto Eco. It was my first major interlingual literary conquest and it was a serious bitch to read! I had no idea it would be so time consuming, but I was too stubborn to walk away from it.

2. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding. I read this book for fun when I was in 9th grade. It was my first exposure to how easily manipulated people can be by fear, and that it does not matter most of the time what’s wise or just.

3. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison. I picked this book up by mistake, thinking it was the H.G. Wells book. I loved it, even if it wasn’t what I intended to read.

4. House of Sand and Fog, by Andre Dubus. This book moved me in so many unexpected ways. It scared me to think of how simple acts of inaction and inflexibility can send us spiraling out of control.

5. Bicycles North! A Mystery on Wheels, by Rita Ritchie. This book came to me when I was 9 years old, and it cemented completely my desire to be a distance cyclist. At that time I was already riding around the neighborhood on my single speed with the banana seat, but after reading this book, I had dreams of going much, much farther.

6. Choice Theory: A New Psychology of Personal Freedom, by William Glasser. Glasser’s theories about the role of connectedness in relationships replaces external control psychology and puts into different (and much better) wording what I’ve been feeling all along about how to satisfy out own needs without sacrificing those of anyone else.

7. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkein. It was not the easiest book to read, but the story was wonderfully deep and it hooked me on fantasy as a genre of literature, both to read and to write.

8. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. I was thoroughly enchanted by Scout, and by the humanity with which Lee weaves this story. I don’t know how many teenagers today would identify with it today, but it really spoke to me when I read it in high school.

9. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck. I remember someone telling me that they couldn’t stand this book because it didn’t go anywhere. “There’s a whole chapter with nothing but a turtle crossing the road!” they said. I found that same chapter to have incredible meaning, and the story as a whole (the ending, in particular) touched me very, very deeply.

10. The Buddhist I Ching, by Thomas Cleary. Not as much for its content (although I also find it a rich and wonderful resource), I list this book because of the amount of inspiration I get from the author. A translator of works from eight languages into English, Cleary’s approach to translation seeks to make clear not just words, but intention, meaning and purpose. As someone who studies languages and values good communication, I draw a great deal of encouragement from Cleary’s work because it reminds me constantly of how powerful language is.

11. Dune, by Frank Herbert. Paul Atreides’ journey of self-discovery and acceptance of his place and power in the universe really connected with me. This is one of the few books I’ve read more than once.

12. Among Schoolchildren, by Tracy Kidder. It didn’t connect with me at the time I read this book initially in college, but Mrs. Zajac, the focus of this experiential biography, taught near where I do now. I can relate much more to what she went through now because I can see the city where her kids come from. This book helped me to realize the day-to-day truth of what teaching is. It helped to confirm for me that I would still be in love with my career choice years later.

13. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller. The colossal inanity of the things Heller writes about are nestled in fiction, but if you look at the world through my eyes there’s not much difference between his fiction and reality. Knowing someone else sees the same things was refreshing!

14. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams. The humour of this book is entirely British in flavour, and I louved it! I bring a towel with me whenever I travel!

15. The Old Man and the Sea, by Earnest Hemingway. I was introduced to Hemingway and his style of writing when I was in college (thanks, Jonothan!), and this story is in many ways the one I’ve drawn the most inspiration from. It’s not long and there’s very little action (by the standards we use today), but Santiago’s ultimately hollow victory against the fish is poignant in ways I’m only just beginning to understand now. I aspire to be able to communicate as well in as few words.