Monday, July 09, 2007

I Am Reminded That I Still Need to Get Bookshelves for the New House

A literary meme stolen from Jaquandor:

Recommend 3 books you believe everyone needs to read and say why people should read them.
I object. The truth is that I don't believe there are any books that everyone must read. Books I'd highly recommend, sure, but people are just too different or me to pretend that there are any books that would touch everyone in the world. Now that the hyper-literal pedantry is out of the way, the three books I pimp most vigorously are:

The Known World, by Edward P. Jones. I've waxed rhapsodic about this book, a disarmingly simply-told tale of slavery in the South, many times before; suffice it to say that I strongly suspect it will be the novel I am most moved by, I return to most, I love most deeply, for a long, long time. Do people need to read this? Not sure. I certainly wouldn't feel less of anyone who hasn't read it. But it moves me so much that I do not hesitate to recommend it to anyone who loves the novel.

The Green Mile, by Stephen King. It may be my favorite King novel, and my favorite novel ever, but this is the one I recommend to King neophytes, or readers with no love for the horror genre. There's some horrific stuff within, no doubt, as well as some supernatural mumbo-jumbo, but this is not a genre book in any real way, and is thus appropriate for those scared off by vampires, monsters, or other worlds.

The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck. A good book for all (well, most, maybe) Americans to read, anyway - paints a devastating portrait of a particular historical moment and imbues it with complete and total relevance for our lives today.

Name three books you’ve never been able to finish and explain why.

Quicksilver (The Baroque Cycle, Vol. I), The Great Hunt (The Wheel of Time Book 2), and Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders. All three share a common thread - they are remarkably dense. Long, detailed, with lots and lots of characters and places to keep track of. And they all defeat me, every time. The fault is mine, not theirs, but I just don't seem built for such beasts.

Name three books you want to read, but haven’t yet.
I'm always seeing books to add to the infinitely growing list of "books I want to read." Three recent additions: Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: A Year of Food Life (a memoir of her and her family's year of living off of the land in the Applachians); Stephen King's Blaze (I will always read King's stuff); and Dave Eggers' What Is the What? (an apparently mostly true story of a refugee from the Sudan).

Are there any books that you’ve loved, but been disappointed by the film/TV adaptation?
I could fill this up several times over with Stephen King adaptations alone. But for variety I'll go with The Shining (a movie that really squandered the potential in the novel), The Neverending Story (which truncated the novel horrifically, ending the story halfway through), and The Black Cauldron, which saw Disney take a very half-hearted step towards doing a more serious, less formulaic adaptation of an epic fantasy tale but in the end back away form any real changes.

Which books (apart from the Potter books) do you re-read the most?
I've already kind-of-answered this: Stephen King's It, Robert R. McCammon's Swan Song, and Lloyd Alexander's The Book of Three and The Black Cauldron.

Which books do you remember most from your childhood?
The aforementioned Prydain books by Lloyd Alexander, which I am rereading now. Oddly enough, in that today I read hardly any epic fantasy at all. But I adored these books as a young'un, and seemingly always had one of them out of the library.

Are there any books that you are proud to say you have read?
Not really. There are many, many books I'm immensely grateful to have found, or to have had recommended, but no one book I can point to as being "proud" of reading. In some countries, the act of reading may take the kind of courage one can be proud of, but not here, I'm happy to report.

Are there any books that you are ashamed to admit reading?
No. Bad books I regret having read, but I take no shame in reading fluff - I went through a period as a pre-teen of reading more movie novelizations than I can remember, but I feel no shame. And some were pretty good. (Come to think of it, I should try and track down that Goonies novelization).

Are there any books that have had a big emotional impact on you?
The aforementioned The Known World moved me deeply. But (and I'm cheating here) the piece of writing that moved me most was an article called "Higher Learning" by Gary Smith about a black basketball coach in Amish country. Each time i read it, it moves me to copious tears.

Until Whenever


bill said...


HERETIC!!! Oops, sorry; that would be on my blog. The pace picks up after about 500-600 pages, but that's a lot to slog through if it doesn't engage you. I think the Baroque Cycle is an amazing work, though I can't fault anyone for giving up. Would it help if I said that after about 2500 pages there's a great Monty Python joke?

Here's two of mine I can't finish. I've been working on Godel, Escher, and Bach for about 25 years. Don't think I've ever made it more than halfway through.

God: A Biography I've had for 10 years and don't think I've read 25%. This one is really sad because I love the idea behind it and the writing is fun to read...I guess I get distracted and never pick it up again. Give me a week at the beach with nothing to do and I'll finish it.

Tosy And Cosh said...

The really, really sad thing is that I read a good 200-300 pages of Quicksilver, abandoned it, and then two years later went back to it - starting over. That time I got through almost the whole thing. But when I had about 30 pages left I lef the book at home, not wanting its heft in my backpack for the train, and I've never gone back and read those last 30 pages. It's genius, genius stuff, but, I am forced to admit, not my cup of tea.