1. A book that changed your life
The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera. Less loved than he probably should be now, when I first read him during my junior year in high school Kundera made me think. And reading a book that made me consider my world rather than simply reading for enjoyment changed the way I approached many things. It is probably the reason I was (disasterously) a Lit major in college for a while. If you ever want to learn to hate literature, be a lit major.
Godel, Escher, Bach by Douglas R. Hofstadter made me want to be smarter than I am.
2. A book you’ve read more than once
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. One of my all time favorite books. I find something new in it everytime I read it.
“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.
“That’s some catch, that Catch-22,” he observed.
“It’s the best there is,” Doc Daneeka agreed.”
3. 1 book you’d want on a desert island
The Unabridged Mark Twain by Mark Twain. 1300 pages of Mark Twain goodness, how could you go wrong?
4. 1 book that made you giddy
Too many to list, probably one of my favorites was when I read Bevis, The Story of a Boy by Richard Jefferies. I read it first at about age 8 and loved it. These days when I read it I am reminded of the magic that I experienced for some of my childhood. It is a distinctly romantic and nostalgic book and at times it can be slow going, but it captures the wonder of childhood better than anything else. It reminds me of the awe that I want my son to experience.
5. 1 book you wish that had been written
Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace. There are books that I can imagine writing, that I can relate to the process of having those ideas and writing them down on paper in some sort of approximation of the form the author chose. This is not one of those books. This is a book wherein the talent required to write it simply boogles my mind. I can’t imagine being able to think the way Wallace does. See also G.E.B. above.
6. 1 book that made you sob
I don’t think a book has ever made me cry. I have certainly been moved by books, but I can’t remember crying because of one. I remember getting a lump in my throat reading Shane by Jack Schaefer, but that was when I was very young.
7. 1 book you wish had never been written
Dean Schwartzmiller’s disgusting record of the thousands of molestations he comitted over the years. It included categories such as “Boys who said no.” It makes me ill to think about it. Obviously it was never published and I have never read it. But it never should have been written.
8. 1 book you’re currently reading
Blue at the Mizzen by Patrick O’Brian. The last of 20 novels in a wonderful series. I will miss Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin when I finish it. As a whole the series is a remarkable work of art.
9. 1 book you’ve been meaning to read
Grendel by John Gardner. I’ve been told many times to read this. I’ve started to several times. But I seem to give up rather quickly. I’ve been told I remind people of the title character. I’m not sure how to take that.