I read a lot. That is something I have always copped to and don’t regret it. And, each year I keep a list of all the books I have read that year. I typically try to hit 50, or for the math challenged, about one a week.
In all the years I have been reading and/or writing, I haven’t really taken the time to write or discuss anything about my favorite books.
Considering that I keep this blog as a chronicle of my attempts to improve myself, my career and pass on some useful information, I am going to post a couple of lists over the next few days or weeks. This initial list is going to be a list of some of my favorite books.
1. Underworld: Don DeLillo-If you haven’t read this book, you are missing out on some of the greatest writing about baseball that you possibly ever could have the chance to read. If you are a fan of baseball, tell me that you can’t taste the hot dogs or feel the tension in the air at the game where Bobby Thompson hit ‘the shot heard round the world?’
2. The Sheltering Sky: Paul Bowles-This has some of the most interesting characters I have ever encountered. I am still waiting for someone to describe Kit in a different way than the way that I see her, even though Bowles never really describes her.
3. Junky: William S. Burroughs-I remember reading this when I first moved to Seattle and I was living on Queen Anne Hill in a building that would have fit right into the book. If you have ever seen someone fall down the stairs of a drug addiction, or been surrounded by drugs, you recognize the characters and the sentiment in this book. Plus, the fact that something that is so awful can become so readable is amazing.
4. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: Hunter S. Thompson-I’m sure that there are a ton of kids floating around the world now named Hunter after the good Doctor, but I could never name a boy Hunter, that would be disrespectful to this man that wrote two great novels and also created a form of journalism that was all his own.
5. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love: Raymond Carver-I could have put any of the collections of short stories that Raymond Carver published on this list. His writing changed the way that people write. That’s about as good an endorsement as you can give a writer. The prose is stripped so bare that you can’t find a stray word in any of his stories, but if one word were changed or replaced, the stories would fall apart…that’s craft.
6. The Sun Also Rises: Ernest Hemingway-I think when I was younger I fell into the camp that believed that Hemingway couldn’t be that great. Or that because he was of my grandparents generation, that he wasn’t relevant to me. But reading his books, especially this one, you see that he could have lived in any time, and that most men could learn how to be men from reading his stories…flaws and all.
7. Just Kids: Patti Smith-I think I remember learning about Patti Smith about the same time I learned about The Ramones in 1993-94, my freshman year at the University of Alabama. I think somehow, even if I didn’t know a lot about her, I really understood how important she was as an artist and how revolutionary her music was…even if I only thought the songs were great. But reading his story of her early years in New York, learning and loving, becoming an artist, reminds me of the dreams I have held over the years. It also reminds me of the incredible power of focus and dedication and also belief in yourself.