Ten Influential Books

To Kill a Mockingbird, coverI was tagged in one of those Facebook copy-and-paste status updates today, which is normally a surefire way to get me to dig in my heels.  But the request was about BOOKS and the person who tagged me was sweet enough to drop the requirement that I tag others.

Books have been a huge part of my life.  Most of what I’ve learned has come from books.  They are all over my house.  I’ve spent countless hours in libraries and bookstores.  I love to read, and I love to browse.  I was one of Amazon’s earliest customers, back when I was stupidly naive and thought they loved books as much as I did.  I love real, physical, paper books; I also love electronic books – they take up less space and I can pack hundreds of them in a single device, which also has its own illumination, infinite bookmarks, and a built-in dictionary.  (And I love audiobooks, which allow me to consume far more than I would otherwise have time to read.)

I think an honest list of influential books can reveal a lot about someone.  In choosing what to include, and especially what to leave out, we tell a story about ourselves.

I gave this list about 30 minutes’ thought.  The first three are permanent – they have been in place for years.  The rest of the list is a pretty fair assortment of what matters a lot to me.  The big debate, of course, was whether to include the Bible (this is where “what gets left off” becomes interesting.)  Well, I didn’t want to be cliche.  Of course the Bible has probably directly influenced my life more than anything else on this list, but then again, so has the dictionary (which I might consult even more.)

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (Best I’ve ever read.)
2. For Keeps by Pauline Kael (My desert island book, it sits on my nightstand.)
3. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (Gets funnier and truer the older I get.)
4. The World According to Garp by John Irving (The first book I ever thought of as “required reading.”)
5. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (First encountered in 4th grade, awakened a sense of wonder.)
6. Nobody’s Fool by Richard Russo (The most empathetic writer I know.  Funny and true.)
7. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (The writer who best matches how I see myself, for better and for mostly worse.  And yet, a dazzling high-wire comedy.)
8. The Complete Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz (50 books in this collection, and they have not yet all been published.  Hugely influential on my life and countless others’.)
9. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess (The only book I’ve ever memorized.)
10. SHOUT! by Philip Norman (The first biography I ever read, and the only one I’ve read more than once.)