Thursday, June 04, 2009

Fifteen Sticky Books

This week’s Booking Through Thursday suggests the following: “Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.”

That’s exactly the way I approached this – making a list of books in less than 15 minutes and then taking a few more minutes to explain why these books are the ones I chose. It was much easier than I thought it would be, and I think that doing it quickly is what makes it an accurate representation of some of the key books from my years of reading.

· Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry – This Pulitzer Prize winner is arguably the classic western of all time and is destined to be the book that keeps McMurtry in print forever. Who can forget Gus, Call, and the rest of the crew?
· To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – This is another modern classic, one that made a huge impression on me as a young reader and is the book chosen by the city of Houston for The Big Read 2009.
· Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – one of my all-time favorites despite the way Dickens caved in to his critics and changed its ending.
· Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe – Another one that had a great impact on me as a young reader because of how easily I could picture myself under similar circumstances.
· Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle - I picked this one up in paperback in Nashville while there on a three-day pass during Army basic training at Ft. Campbell, KY (1968). I read the whole thing on the bus back to Ft. Campbell and had to sneak it into the barracks and hide it for four more weeks because books were forbidden to us during basic and I couldn’t bear to part with it. I still have that paperback, in fact.
· Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart by Joyce Carol Oates – This is the book (1990) that convinced me that Joyce Carol Oates is a national treasure, one of the most talented and important novelists of my lifetime.
· The Greatest Game Ever Played by Jerry Izenberg – Game Six of the 1986 National League playoffs between the Houston Astros and the New York Mets, and I was there for all 16 innings. I am even quoted by name in this one, so how can I ever forget it?
· Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin – My lifetime admiration of Abraham Lincoln went up another notch when I read this one about Lincoln’s idea to appoint his three biggest rivals to his first cabinet. Goodwin makes this one read almost like a novel.
· Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson – This is the most complete, and easiest read, one volume history of the four years of the American Civil War that I’ve ever found – a great combination.
· Deliverance by James Dickey – I read the book before seeing the movie, thank God, and couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. Its story of four city boys who find out the hard way that the world is not what they think it is.
· From Here to Eternity by James Jones – Jones, a WWII veteran, wrote what I still consider one of the best novels ever written about that war. I don’t have fond memories of the movie, but the book is one of my favorites.
· Life of Pi by Yann Martel – Just when I thought I had this one all figured out, everything changed and it became a whole different book.
· Resistance by Owen Sheers – I love alternate history (when it is done seriously) and this is one of the best alternate histories I’ve read in years. It is completely believable, one of best “what ifs” about WWII I’ve ever read.
· This Republic of Suffering by Drew Gilpin Faust – This history book explores America’s 19th century ideas about death and it puts the massive death toll of the American Civil war into perspective.
· In Cold Blood by Truman Capote – Probably the first “true crime” book I ever read, one that I will always remember because of how Capote was able to mix elements of the novel with elements of nonfiction, effectively creating a whole new genre.
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