Monday, June 15, 2009

What's In My... Oh, Whatever

I'm a loser. I didn't do hardly any crochet at all over my vacation. I made a flower. One flower. I could ignore my loserness and launch straight into vacationyness, but I left my memory card at home, so no pictures.

But, at least, I'm a loser with a meme.

15 Books - I did this on Facebook, but I'm posting here with some detail of the whys.

The rules were: Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you've read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.

1. Gone with the Wind - Margaret Mitchell - I read this for the first time when I was about 11. Perhaps a little young for a lot of it, but I really loved it. I don't exactly think that Scarlet is a good role model, but she sure is independent. I think she was my first historical independent woman and I loved watching her manipulate the world to do her bidding.

2. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen - I have probably read this about 7 times and really only liked it about the last three. I'd like to say that it grew on me, but the truth probably is that I grew on it. Elizabeth is a good role model and I wish I'd gotten that earlier. Every time I re-read it, I gain a little more appreciation for the craft. Every character is perfectly created to fill a stereotype, while destroying the basis of that stereotype. Plus, Elizabeth and Darcy are the PERFECT romantic couple.

3. Hyperion Series - Dan Simmons - I read Hyperion in high school and was fascinated by the whole Canterbury Tales thing it had going but that was about it. About five or six years later, at the suggestion of a really good friend, I read the rest of the series. Wow. I love Sci-Fi that attacks the issues of faith and science and this does such a great job of that, plus the the story just kicks ass and the Matrix is a rip-off. I've tried to read other Simmons stuff and just didn't really dig any of it, but I will always come back to this series as the perfect kind of SF.

4. The Dark Tower Saga - Stephen King - Since I couldn't pick just one of his books, I went with the series that it all revolves around. (See me after class if you'd like to debate that, I love a good Dark Tower vs. The Stand debate.) Roland is the perfect anti-hero. You love him and hate him at the same time. I will posit that King's work is very closely akin to what Faulkner does with Yoknapatawpha County, only King maintains an entire universe complete with alternate realities. Deny it, I dare you. Through the Dark Tower series, King brings all of those realities together and you see that what previously seemed like different stories (some tied together - like the Castle Rock stories) are really just part of one eternal tale.

5. The Hour I First Believed - Wally Lamb - I just finished this about a month ago, so I'm not sure I can attest that it will stay with me forever based on experience, but based on passion, yeah. Pretty much. I love Wally Lamb and have waited for this book for a decade and it was better than anything that came before it. If you haven't read any of his work, please read them in the order in which they were written, because as fabulous as She's Come Undone is, it can't compare with The Hour. I am pretty much a character person. I can happily read 700 pages of plotlessness if it has really good characters. While this book manages an amazing and riveting plot, it's characters are the real appeal.

6. Another Roadside Attraction - Tom Robbins - I've read a lot of Tom Robbins and I love his work. This book, though, this book. I seldom have a discussion about religion without bringing this one up. It asks the question, what's important to you about your faith? What do you need to believe? And it does it while being funny enough to have a flea circus and a Vatican karate instructor.

7. Beloved - Toni Morrison - One semester I had to read this book for three different classes. Professors love this book and I love Toni Morrison. So, why is this one the best? I don't know. For me, it's the ghost story melded in with what is probably the most compelling discussion of race and hatred I've ever read. You can't help but turn the pages even though it hurts to keep reading.

8. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens - I know, I know, I hate Dickens, too. But I love Miss Havisham. Honestly, this book forever changed my opinion of Dickens. Being the shortest (and arguably best written) Dickens, I'm not sure how I went all the way to college without having read this one. It made me a believer, though. A believer that maybe Dickens was more than I thought. Maybe he was a product of his medium. Maybe his overly wordiness was a part of being paid by the word. Because someone who could make a character like Miss Havisham (you love to hate her, admit it) can NOT be a bad writer. I even briefly considered re-reading David Copperfield, but then I came down from my post-good-book high and laughed.

9. The Sparrow - Mary Doria Russell - Another great faith/SciFi mashup. And talk about your kick-ass characters. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll die when you realize there's a sequel.

10. Helter Skelter - Vincent Bugliosi - I believed for a long time that high schoolers (especially girls) should be required to read this. I've since begun to understand how hormones and crazy mix together. But seriously, even if you don't have a not-so-secret obsession with Manson and the Family, this is a great book. It focuses more on the trial and investigation than on the events (which are told in a rather clinical manner - which is good for the squeamish because this is some messed-up stuff) but what it really shows you is the psychologyof the family. Sure Manson was crazy, but what's fascinating isn't necessarily his whys or hows (although, wow, that's interesting, too) but why people followed him. Why people didn't see (and in some cases still don't) his insanity.

11. Trainspotting - Irvine Welsh - I give this book and movie credit for quite a few people in my generation giving heroine a wide berth. Although I still sometimes have nightmares about the dead baby on the ceiling scene in the movie, the book haunts me with something deeper. I can't explain what it is, pity is too shallow and understanding too wide, but suffice to say, I'll never look at addiction the same way.

12. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller - This book is like M*A*S*H* on crack. Anti-war at it's heart, but funny at it's core, you can't help but love the madness. This book is essentially about the insanity of war, but it's also about the insanity of life. Even if you've never been touched by the specific issues of war at play here, you can see yourself reflected in these characters who fight to survive, fight to live and fight to be seen.

13. The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch - by Phillip K. Dick - Dick is the master of my kind of SF. If you think you don't know his work, you are probably wrong. This is the mind that gave us Bladerunner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep), Total Recall (We Can Remember it for You Wholesale), A Scanner Darkly, Paycheck and Minority Report (both short stories). The Three Stigmata is a product of the 60's in many ways and focuses on government sanctioned hallucinogenics, but it's more than that, too. Again (I am predictable) it intermingles faith and religion in the context of a fearful future. I love most of his work, but this is by far my favorite and one of those books you can't help but re-read.

14. Nueromancer - William Gibson - This is the book that is most often credited with having inspired The Matrix (which, really, it turns out ripped off so many other stories that it may just be original). Really, you could take the SF right out of this book and have a quite nice story of rejection and redemption. Which, is what makes for good SF: stories that use the context of the future or whatever to tell a plain old regular human story. Part of a loose trilogy, this book creates a sadly foreseeable future. A future that has already started coming true. Which is another hallmark of good SF: looking at the present and creating a compelling warning of the future.

15. Reading Lolita in Tehran - Azar Nafisi - There is a reason there isn't much non-fiction on this list. It's generally not my cup of tea, or particuarly memorable in my world. But this book could be fiction, it's so good. Really, I think what makes it so good is reading this story, this incredible story and knowing, really knowing, it's true. This story gave me a wider viewpoint on theocracy and really sharpened my knowledge of Iranian history. But it also showed me a universal truth: the written word will not be stopped. Books can not be banned, no matter how hard some will try. Literature is forever.


Strangeite said...

Just real quick.

I never really cared for Stephen King but was forced to read the Gunslinger by a friend of mine. It was an old battered copy and in the introduction King told us Constant Readers that he would die before the series was ever finished.

Needless to say, I became hooked and have read or re-read everything the man has written. It The Dark Tower series gave me a much deeper appreciation of his work.

After I put Book 7 down, I realized that 100 years from now, kids will be reading King in high school literature classes, and it will be because of that series.

So, yes the Stand is good but it is just a brief moment in the bigger picture.

Ka is a wheel.

(p.s. After Wolves of Calla came out, Anna and I spoke in the accent for about a month without even thinking about it)

Jessi said...

I have believed for a long time that Stephen King is one of the top ten great writers of our time. I suggest the Dark Tower books all the time to people are not so sure about King because of the scary stuff. For one thing, it's not as scary as a lot of his other work, but for another, it's just the best stuff out there. I'm glad someone made you read it, and I'm a little sorry it wasn't me.