Friday, July 30, 2010

A Few of My Favorite Things: Books

As a writer and a reader (and a pursuer of a Masters in Publishing), people often ask me, "What is your favorite book?" I must say, I don't always have an answer, or I guess I should say, it is not always the same answer. So, inspired by my dear friend Justin and his insatiable quest for the best book ever, and my lovely friend Tim who always has a new book for me to read, here is a list of some of my "favorite" books.

Granted, some of these I have loved a long time, some I had to decide that I loved them along the way, and some, well, I love the author himself so much that I had to seriously sit down  and decide what was my favorite. Some, you may claim are not applicable to this list. But that's the beauty of picking favorites, they are mine, and I can pick whatever I want.  

They are in no particular order. 

A post-Apocalyptic tale of survival, friendship, love, lust and loss, and ninjas! This is most definitely a book worth adding to your collection. It is action packed, mysterious, bizarre, smart, funny and somehow, totally relatable and almost believable. Nick Harkaway's first novel is one of my all time favorites. We read it in my DC based book club, The Vikings, and for once, everyone finished it, and everyone loved it. 

Oh, and guess what? Nick Harkaway has a blog.

Yep, that's right, The Princess Bride is one of my all time favorite books. You think the movie is a classic? Try reading the book, as per usual, the book is better than the movie. Note: with the exception of Fight Club, I actually like the movie better. Anyway, you know Fred Savage's character in the movie? Well, in the book, that's actually William Goldman, the author. He has basically made an abridged version of his father's original tale, and instead of Fred Savage interrupting to say why he doesn't want to hear something, Goldman interjects with reasons why he cut something out. 

You know the scene when Buttercup realizes the the Dread Pirate Roberts actually Westley and they tumble down the hill? Yeah, the kissing part is actually cut out of the book too, and only by special mail-in request can you receive that part. Yes, folks, I totally mailed in and asked for the removed part - I am that much of a dork. Read it, you won't regret it.

This collection of short stories was actually my first introduction to Dave Eggers. I have since read The Heartbreaking Work of a Staggering Genius and You Shall Know Our Velocity, and while I am a fan of Eggers style, I understand that some people just don't get it, or maybe just don't like it. In essence, he can be a little wordy. 

Hence, the birth of a short story! This collection has some of the most beautiful things I ever read within is pages. Some of the stories, like with a lot of short stories in general, leave a little more to be desired, though it just encouraged me to read more Eggers. 

While my first introduction to Michael Ondaatje was The English Patient, which I truly love and have read twice, Coming Through Slaughter is my favorite. I have also read In the Skin of a Lion and Amil's Ghost. I bought his poetry collection The Cinnamon Peeler at the bequest of my dear friend Amanda and was given Divisedaro as a gift. Clearly, I love this writer. He is so poetic, so beautiful, and all at once heart-wrenching and hopeful. 

Coming Through Slaughter is the fictionalized account of a New Orleans-based jazz musician living at the turn of the century and slowly going mad. It is an incredibly fast read, though I say linger in it, devour it if you have to, and if you must, go a little mad with it. 

As a former member of another book club called the Diamond Dipsos back in Asheville, The Elementary Particles was another one that nearly everyone finished, and I know everyone loved. It has landed on many favorite book lists that I have seen over the years, and there is no question as to why.

French author Micheal Houellebecq weaves us through the tale of two half brothers, both plagued by social anxiety and insecurity, but for completely different reasons, not to mention a depraved sense of understanding personal relationships and sex - often times, awkward, unforgiving sex at that. These two have no chance to survive in our world, so each turns inward to figure out how to at least manage the day-to-day obsessions that have consumed them. The women are kind of poorly concocted, but never deter you from the read. Not to mention, it is a far better than anything that hack Chuck Palahniuk could ever conceive of in his misguided attempts to write about the wrongs of our modern lives.

Oh, Gonzo. The novel is one of the all time greats. It's funny and strange and the writing is brilliant. Set mostly in San Juan, The Rum Diary is the story of a journalist trying to survive life in Puerto Rico among trails of love, lust, violence, and of course, rum. Hunter S. was only 22 when he wrote it, which explains why it reeks of his influences that include Ernest Hemingway. 

Never you mind that though, it's still a fun read, and a great introduction to the Gonzo style. It's his only work of fiction. I also love Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Better Than Sex: Confessions of a Political Junkie about one Mr. Bill Clinton.

Another one of those fantastic short story collections that I plowed through in like an hour. Each story links poor, desperate, hapless souls through every kind of tragic account you can image, from a heroin overdose to a trip to steal copper piping from a house for money. The awkward reality these characters live in as touchable as it is alarming. 

Did I say Hemingway earlier, ha, well, it's because The Sun Also Rises is one of my favorites - of the authors, well and ever. He has influenced so many other authors with his poetic style. The lead character in this particular novel is certainly part of the "Lost Generation", as he is an American living in Paris, though still can't manage to find happiness there and takes a trip to Spain. He struggles with conformity, impotency and a sense of purpose. 

If anything, this youthful and beautiful book makes you ache to see the world in those more innocent days when the troublesome facts of of life, love and boredom were less tied to technology and more tied to beauty. I am sure that Hunter S. Thompson would not have been the writer he was without this book.

One of the only Roth I've read, sadly, though I've been told to read many, many more, and have a list of them on my shelves to plow through (the other is Indignation). This book is amazing. And I am saddened sometimes that I put off reading Roth for so long. This story is of a man lovingly referred to as "The Swede", and how his life has gone from being the town favorite to a shattered man lost in what his life has become. Don't expect to feel better about life after you read this beautiful novel.

"He had learned the worst lesson that life can teach- that it makes no sense. And when that happens the happiness is never spontaneous again."

Yes, that really is Hamlet you see there by William Shakespeare. I fucking love this play, and have a whole lot of it memorized. It is one of the most interesting and moving pieces of literature I have had the pleasure of being introduced to in stupid High School. I find myself referring to pitiful Hamlet and sob story Ophelia more often that I would like to admit.

This, in my humble opinion, is Shakespeare's greatest tragedy. What's not to love!? Greed, madness, murder, revenge, love, hate and incest! (Well, I don't love incest, but still). From band names to movie titles, from misinterpretations made clear through these thoughtful lines of prose and poetry. What dreams may come indeed.

I confess, I did not read this novel until after my mother introduced me to the movie version of the same title, - and one of Daniel Day-Lewis most amazing performances. After reading it, I was shocked that the story of Christy Brown was really true. Seriously, this is one of those completely inspiring stories of the triumph of the human spirit. 

Born with Cerebral Palsy in 1932 to a large Catholic family in Ireland, the autobiography of Christy Brown outlines his growth from birth to publication, all the while only communicating through the use of his left foot. Read this book. I'm telling you. Then see the movie.

No comments: