(For the weekly writing challenge…)
There’s this meme going around Facebook where people are asked to list ten books that have moved them in some way or another. I haven’t been tagged because I suppose I lost my ‘bookworm’ status when I became a mother (and, really, if it weren’t for my metro rides I wouldn’t be reading anything at all!), but reading has always been important to me and will continue to be important, even if I’m swapping Dickens for Seuss for a while. Coming up with a top 10 was a bit of a Sophie’s choice, but I think I was able to narrow it down. In no particular order…
He was conscious of a thousand odors floating in the air, each one connected with a thousand thoughts, and hopes, and joys, and cares long, long, forgotten.
2. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy, because it has it all: Sex, violence, intrigue–storytelling at its best.
Love. The reason I dislike that word is that it means too much for me, far more than you can understand.
3. Dharma Bums, by Jack Kerouac, because Kerouac makes writing seem so effortless–inspiration always seemed to be at the tip of his fingers.
One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.
4. Franny and Zooey, by JD Salinger, because that’s when I first fell in love with the crazy, intelligent, beautiful Glass family.
“I love you to pieces, distraction, etc.”
5. David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens, because it has the best first line in the history of first lines.
Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.
6. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey, because it was a really poignant look at mental illness (runner up: I Never Promised You a Rose Garden.)
But it’s the truth even if it didn’t happen.
7. Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky, because I like saying ‘Dostoevsky’ and because it was one of the first required reading books in high school that I literally COULD not put down. (runner up: An American Tragedy)
Where is it I’ve read that someone condemned to death says or thinks, an hour before his death, that if he had to live on some high rock, on such a narrow ledge that he’d only room to stand, and the ocean, everlasting darkness, everlasting solitude, everlasting tempest around him, if he had to remain standing on a square yard of space all his life, a thousand years, eternity, it were better to live so than to die at once! Only to live, to live and live! Life, whatever it may be!…How true it is! Good God, how true! Man is a vile creature!…And vile is he who calls him vile for that.
8. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, because it has the best last line in the history of last lines.
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
9. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, because he makes the surreal feel real.
“Things have a life of their own,” the gypsy proclaimed with a harsh accent. “It’s simply a matter of waking up their souls.”
10. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov, because (and to paraphrase some reviewer somewhere) it is quite possibly the best use of the English language ever (written by a Russian…go figure!)
We had been everywhere. We had really seen nothing. And I catch myself thinking today that our long journey had only defiled with a sinuous trail of slime the lovely, trustful, dreamy, enormous country that by then, in retrospect, was no more to us than a collection of dog-eared maps, ruined tour books, old tires, and her sobs in the night — every night, every night — the moment I feigned sleep.
And the runner up would have to be Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, I think. I love the book because of its grit and candor, and I love the movie because of how closely it adheres to Thompson’s text.
And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .
So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.