Monday, May 17, 2010


I love books.

More than just reading, I like to hold them, leaf through them, smell them. Before I begin a new book, I read the dust jacket, front and back flaps, all the information on copyrights and the title page. I need to know who an author dedicated that book to. And, if possible, why.

I want to go over to your house right now and look over your book shelves. No matter that you're not there, though I will ask later why your Scott Fitzgerald is next to your Lee Smith, why there are a series of biographies with a slim volume of poetry spliced into the center. How, in the ordering of things, did you go from Vonnegut to Cheever, Maugham to Chernow, Conan Doyle to Roddy Doyle?

It's not judgment, just curiosity.

I don't borrow books. I don't sell books. I like to keep the books that I read. Occasionally, I will give away a book because one of the greatest gifts, I believe, is to give something someone that has brought you such joy.

I read slowly and that's a handicap. There are so many books I want to read, and I'm sure I'll get to most of them, but how many more could I devour if I could read more quickly? Instead, I read slow and steady. I pace myself.

I didn't become a reader in the proper sense until my early 20s, but have done pretty well for the past 20 years. I can remember some, though not all, of what I've consumed. Not so much of characters or details, or even plots, I'm afraid.

But some do stick with me like friends.

Because Elizabeth did it. And because SAM did it. And because a list is the simplest form of blog post, both in the writing and the reading, here is my list of my all-time 23 books. In no order.

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  2. Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
  3. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
  4. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
  5. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  6. Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
  7. Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  8. Franny & Zooey by J.D. Salinger
  9. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  10. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
  11. The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
  12. Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  13. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  14. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
  15. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  16. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  17. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  18. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  19. Max Perkins: Editor of Genius by Maxwell Perkins
  20. The Godfather by Mario Puzo
  21. The Risk Pool by Richard Russo
  22. Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo
  23. The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson
Am I forgetting some? Probably. Am I assigning a loftier status to books that may not deserve the distinction? Probably so. But these are the ones I think of right now, at this moment, when I think of the books that have shaped me as a person, as a reader and as a writer.

I think I'll go read now.