Friday, February 24, 2017

Ten Books that Mattered: Prologue

In 2014, I got tagged in a "ten books that mattered to you" meme. I spent a while putting this list together, and have continued referencing and revisiting it ever since. Although there are many runners-up (Absalom, Absalom!, The Open Curtain, Inside Scientology), and although I've read some necessary-to-my-life-and-brain books since 2014 (The Argonauts, I am not Jackson Pollock, Moby-Dick), these still stand as the ten most important, most impactful books I've read.
1. C.S. Lewis - The Chronicles of Narnia
2. Sue Townsend - The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 1/3
3. Stephen King - Carrie
4. Blake Nelson - Girl
5. Anais Nin - Incest
6. Dorothy Herrmann - Helen Keller: A Life
7. David Foster Wallace - Oblivion
8. Edna O'Brien - The Light of Evening
9. John D'Agata & Jim Fingal - The Lifespan of a Fact
10. Lidia Yuknavitch - The Chronology of Water
These are all by white people, sadly. Five are by men and five are by women. Six are fiction and four are not. Six are by Americans, three are by UK writers (two British, one Irish), and I could not find out much of anything about Dorothy Herrmann, unless she's Bernard Herrmann's daughter as well as the author of the Keller book, in which case she too is American.

I thought I might, for the next several weeks, write intermittent posts about why these books matter so much to me. I don't know if I'll go one by one or not, because some of these books were important for clear-cut reasons that don't require much analysis. Maybe I'll lump a couple together.

Oh, and there's one that towers over all the rest: Hamlet. But it's not a book, it's a play, and I think of it as a kind of river flowing under my reading constantly. And its importance is both more ordinary and more subjective than the rest of these. Hamlet matters to me because of 1) its music and 2) what it demonstrated to me about making art. Those aren't reasons for me to recommend it; those are reasons 1) to love it and 2) to teach it.

I could teach some of these ten, but others would be hard. The same poem read aloud by 20 people is going to sound terrible in some percentage of those voices, and that average applied to some of these books would wound me. Hamlet, though, can take whatever you throw at it, and it will keep swinging, as it has for 400 years.

Anyway, look for these posts coming up if you like it when I talk about books. That's a big if, I realize.

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