Ten Favorite Books
Death with Interruptions by Jose Saramago – What would happen if death stopped doing her job for awhile? How would the government, the clergy, and the general population react? Are people so sure that dying is such a bad thing? The plot and the writing combine to make the book both humorous and heartfelt. I never really knew whether I was laughing at genuinely funny parts or at the author’s portrayal of human nature at work, wherein laughter is the only correct response.
Angel in the Whirlwind by Benson Bobrick – This is a thorough and scholarly history of the Revolutionary War without the usual 2×4-upside-the-head qualities of some historical non-fiction, in which the reader is bombarded with so many nit-picky details that the rest of the story sort of melts away as they lose consciousness and start drooling on the page. I compare this book to Shelby Foote’s three-volume history of the Civil War, which is a narrative that reads like you’re sitting on a porch sipping tea while an old guy with a southern drawl tells you amazing (and true) stories. This is the same thing, though the stories concern a different war and I’m pretty sure Bobrick’s a yankee.
The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy – I was a Clancy freak growing up, devouring his books one after the other. He sort of started phoning it in after awhile when he began writing the Op-Center drivel and later detailing the finer points of armored cavalry regiments and fighter squadrons. This was the first in his amazing Jack Ryan series of novels. To pick this book up and start reading is to relegate yourself to sleepless nights and wasted days, such is its amazing pacing and ability to suck you into the action.
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace – It’s all about the writing. And the footnotes. There are multiple entertaining plot lines that seem to be running in parallel until you gradually realize that they’re slowly converging into a single point in space. Again, though…the writing. Holy crap, yo.
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers – He’s the dude responsible for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, a venerable publishing house of humor writing and truly spectacular lists. This was his first book and constitutes a sort of autobiography that chronicles his efforts at keeping both he and his little brother alive after everything else in their lives seemed to fall apart.
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving – This is the only Irving book that I’ve read, a fact for which I have no excuse after having enjoyed this one so much. It’s basically about a little guy overcoming the world’s preconceived notions in order to go forward and do extraordinary things. I believe there was an effort at a screenplay adaption a few years after the book that resulted in a movie so awful that people left the theater blind.
About Face by David Hackworth – He joined the Army on the sly when he was 15 and went on to distinguish himself in Korea and Vietnam en route to becoming the most decorated soldier of his generation. Later, as a field-grade officer, he made public statements about the political and military efforts that were making the Vietnam war all but unwinnable and immediately fell out of favor with the powers that were. This book was both his explanation and vindication, making him a hero in the eyes of veterans of any war and solidifying his legacy. He had a pretty amazing life, which translates to a pretty amazing book.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho – This is one of those books that usually gets thrust at you by someone yelling about how important it is that you read it IMMEDIATELY IF NOT SOONER. It may have been as meaningful as it was to me by virtue of when and where I was existentially when I read it, or perhaps it was just simply a good book with a great and timeless message. Some people scoff at it, others practically build alters and sacrifice animals to it. I’m closer to the sacrificial side of the spectrum, though I have yet to build an alter or put any animals under the knife.
The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne – I read me some Winnie the Pooh every year because I need to remind myself that there’s a little corner of reality that contains this kind of fictional perfection. I’ve loved this book since before I could read it. My favorite story is probably the one where Eeyore takes an ax and chops his way into the bathroom where Kanga is hiding, then sticks his stuffed donkey snout into the now-open panel and says, ‘Heeeeeere’s Johnny!’ all creepy like. Then Kanga screams, while Roo is running around this big hedge maze. At least I think that was in this book.
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – ‘Science fiction has never been my cup of tea.’ I’ve said this for years. After reading this book, however, it was that tired refrain that made me desperately want to kick my own ass. If anyone had told me that I would one day be gobsmacked by a science fiction book written by a Mormon I probably would’ve wet myself laughing. My love for this book is unnatural and slightly disturbing.
Sir @ July 17, 2009