My son asked me, a month ago or so, to list my top ten favorite books. As I told him then, it’s not quite that simple to just spout them off immediately. As an adult, you’ve gotta let those types of answers “marinate” before putting them out there.
Remember when you were a kid and you were so adamant about your favorites? My favorite movie for years was “Patriot Games”. I had read the book and then saw the movie and LOVED it. Time has softened my opinion, like it does for all of us, and although it’s not a bad movie per se, it’s definitely not one of my favorites. My favorite movies are a whole other monster and I could write several thousand words on them specifically. We’re not here for that though are we? (Sidenote: I discussed TV back in 2011)
Back on point, I actually had to print off my Goodreads list of books I’ve read to give my kid the most honest answer I could come up with. I didn’t list the Bible, but it’s a constant process reading through that, so this list is books that I have actually “finished”. It’s difficult to pinpoint, even looking at the list of 270+ books. What I did was go through and circle the titles that I could remember leaving some sort of indelible mark on my psyche (and I STILL didn’t get all of them). There are a few of the following books (yeah, it’s more than ten I know) that I’ve already written down my thoughts on previously. I’ve linked to my original thoughts on them if available. Keep in mind that there is no particular ordering scheme to my list either. As an avid bibliophile, it’s difficult to pinpoint one exact book, let alone TEN. I’ve read just as many fantastic books as I’ve read absolutely horrendous books (language, be warned). Some books start out strong and then falter by the end, and others do the exact opposite. I’m currently reading “Looking for Alaska” by John Green and even though I was enjoying the characters up to a point, it didn’t actually gut-punch me until the event that each chapter’s title is counting down to. Now that said event has occurred, I’m ALL IN. Well-played, Mr Green, well-played.
The most ironic thing about writing, I mean truly being interested in writing more than just what is assigned in class, is that the work is never done. My son asking me this question forced me to think long and hard (that’s why it’s a month later and he’s been hounding me). It’s not possible to make a list like this and NOT explain the reasoning behind the emotional footprint left behind so I’ll do my best.
With that being said, strap in. I’ll try, when I’ve got some more time, to expound on thoughts of the books I haven’t already “reviewed”.
–Flowers For Algernon – Daniel Keyes
Read while I was in the Navy, I remember being absolutely enthralled in Charlie’s transformation from a simple-minded man to a genius as a result of some scientific testing. The eventual side effects from his experiment bring us to a heartbreaking conclusion. This book is written in a journal format, BY Charlie, and is basically his documenting the process of his medical experiment. After my initial reading back in the 90’s, I’ve read this another two or three times. Fascinating stuff. (There’s a movie starring Uncle Ben!)
–Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk (Thoughts on the movie basically echo thoughts on the book as well)
–The Road – Cormac McCarthy
There is no possible way I can do this book justice. The first McCarthy I ever read, it was bought by my wife for Father’s Day 2007 and mailed to me while I was away at training. Even with all the studying I was doing, I started this book on a Friday afternoon and was done by Sunday afternoon. This is another I’ve read three times. The meat and potatoes of this story is about a father and son’s relationship as the last two people on Earth after an apocalyptic event. As the book progresses along, we are exposed to other characters, both good and bad. “You have to carry the fire” is tattooed on my right forearm. Lifted from the pages of this book, those six words say so much to me. Take them any way you want to, and out of context they may sound a bit odd, but if you read this book I assume you’ll understand the meaning of the father saying this.
–Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy
This book was probably my fifth or sixth book of his. It took me THREE times to finally make it through. An incredibly violent book, from start to finish, it’s mind blowing in its beauty. This book showed me how you can take the most mundane events and create something so descriptive out of them. The violence in the book sticks with me for sure, but there is a passage of a mule falling down the side of a cliff that is one of the most incredibly descriptive passages I’ve ever read. Like “The Road”, my words will never do this one justice. You have to read it yourself to see how powerful a master of words Mr McCarthy is.
–On Writing : A Memoir of the Craft – Stephen King
The best part of this book, in my opinion, is how informal it is. If you could picture sitting down at a table and having a cup of coffee with Mr King while you pick his brain, THIS IS HOW THAT WOULD PLAY OUT. Known primarily as a horror writer, Mr King has made a fantastic book for anyone interested in writing. He addresses his childhood, the origins of “Carrie” and his strong dislike of adverbs. Hilarious and very down-to-earth, this is one of my all time favorite non-fiction books.
–Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis
C.S. Lewis terrifies me. There, I said it. He is an intellectual giant and some of his work is very difficult to get into (I tried to get into “Miracles”, but only made it about twenty pages in. Will give it another go again later.). This book is actually culled from a series of radio interviews and turned into a single book. There is no better way to summarize the subject matter than to look at the title. Breaking the Christian faith down bit by bit, he does a fantastic job of explaining why he believes the way he does and why we, as fellow Christians, should believe. One of the books worthy of rereading and rereading, this one is a permanent staple on the book shelf.
–The Hunters – James Salter
Mr Salter was a fighter pilot during the Korean War and this is a fictional, for lack of a better way of putting it, “autobiography”. One of several pilots in a highly competitive field, Salter creates a great story of men in war and their desire to turn casualties into statistics, and statistics into bragging rights. I can’t summarize the quality of this writing in a short paragraph, but suffice to say it’s worth your time. Not a long book (233 pages) by any means, it’s definitely worth a look over your beach side vacation.
–Unbroken : A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption – Laura Hillenbrand
Wow. Currently being made into a movie by Angelina Jolie, this story is incredible. Considering how many people complain about the most inane stuff on social media now, it might be worth reading what Louis Zamperini went through. Shot down during the war and floating in the ocean for 40+ days before floating ashore on a POW camp, Mr Zamperini has every right to be bitter and angry (as he was during his initial return and descent into alcoholism). Mrs. Hillenbrand has created an amazing page turner that will most likely make you prioritize your own gripes and complaints.
–A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 – W. Phillip Keller
A Christmas gift, just a few months ago, from my mother, and originally written in the 1970’s, this is a great book that correlates the 23rd Psalm and the real life of a sheepherder. Each verse in the Psalm is broken down and explained how it applies to the life of a shepherd. Incredibly well written and still relevant, I highly recommend this one to anyone. It is also, as a paper thin volume, a very quick and easy read. Don’t let the brevity fool you though, it’s heavy stuff.
–Stiff : The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers – Mary Roach
A book I acquired a few years back, I dove in not quite knowing to expect. A pleasant surprise, Mrs Roach explains what exactly happens to the human body after it’s been donated to science. Considering how dark of a subject death is, it’s refreshing to see some wry humor injected throughout. Never inappropriate, just the right amount of humor makes for a highly enjoyable, educational, and engrossing read.
Well, there you have it. I’m constantly looking for that next great read and enjoying the journey as I search. What are some of YOUR favorites? Comment below.