Sunday, October 24, 2004
influential books
Here is a list of the 20 most influential books in my life so far, for those who haven't seen it. I'm adding short descriptions for the ones you may not have heard of.

This is not necessarily a list of my favorite books. Rather, these are books that changed me fundamentally and make up a chunk of who I am today, as if some of the pages melted into my skin. This list is ever changing and I may have forgotten some. (the dates are approximately when I first read them)

1. Free To Be You and Me (70s, duh)

2. Dr. Seuss books (70s)

3. Pippi Longstocking books (70s)

4. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis (1980)

5. Walden, by Thoreau (1986)

6. The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath (1986)

7. Sula, by Toni Morrison (1987)

8. The Dead (story in Dubliners), by James Joyce (1987)

9. 100 Selected Poems of e.e. cummings (1988)

10. A Room of One's Own, by Virginia Woolf (1988)

11. Anne Sexton: The Complete Poems (1989)

12. Animal Dreams, by Barbara Kingsolver (1993)

13. Any book by Thich Nhat Hanh (1994)
Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Zen Master. He was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He writes well and thinks well. He's the best.

14. The Artist's Way, by J. Cameron (1997)
This is a workbook for getting in touch with your creative side. Cheesy, I know. But I know many people whose lives it changed. A friend of mine who thought she'd never be creative again ended up going to UCLA for a Master's in Dance and Folklore after reading it. She also started going to Circus School. Seriously. I taught myself guitar and won poetry contests after doing the book. And left social work to finish my degree and go to massage school. Of course that's all in the past, but my point is: sometimes cheesy is good. It can get things moving in the right direction.

15. Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet and biographical info (1998)

16. Collections of short pieces by MFK Fisher (1998)
Fisher is one of my very favorite writers. She started publishing in the Depression Era. She writes about food and life. Her short pieces often include recipes and mouth-watering descriptions of cooking and eating, often in Europe. The fact that I am not a connoisseur of food or wine, and the fact that I have little interest in becoming one, should make this endorsement all the stronger.

17. The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, by Aimee Bender (2000)
This is one of the best books ever. Short stories. Magical short stories. Magical short stories about real women. One about a librarian, even. It won some prize too. Damn, this is one of the few books I'm motivated to actually own.

18. The Rough Guide travel book for Spain (2000)
The Rough Guides are my favorite travel guides. Yum, yum, yum. Plus, that month alone in Spain the first time quite changed me. I owe the discovery of my favorite place on the planet to this book. La Alhambra. (click through the palace pictures to the Generalife garden pics too!)

19. Too Loud a Solitude, by Bohumil Hrabal (2003)
This is the story of "a man in a police state who loves books too much." The character rescues books from the trash compactor every night, so many that they actually threaten to crush him in his own home. (he ran out of room and started storing them above his bed.) Hrabal is (was?) a popular Czech writer, and the short book (which I rescued from a Goodwill bin, ironically) is touching and philosophical and magical. Here's a quote: "Because when I read, I don't really read; I pop a beautiful sentence into my mouth and suck it like a fruit drop, or I sip it like a liqueur until the thought dissolves in me like alcohol, infusing brain and heart and coursing on through the veins to the root of each blood vessel."

20. Party of One: The Loners' Manifesto, by Anneli Rufus (2003)
This is a book about being alone, and wanting to be alone. It "rebuts the prevailing notion that aloneness is indistinguishable from loneliness, and that the only experiences that matter are shared ones."

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The views expressed here are my own and do not represent in any way my employer. Or my school. Or even my friends. And heaven knows the views here aren't representative of my family. Ha! This is a personal blog and it only represents me. And on some days, even that is questionable. So there.

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