Monday, April 05, 2010

Sure, why not? Ten Books that Rocked My World

The Korean, and my buddy Danielle posted on this. May as well weigh in, because I like books. I notice with dismay that none of these books made it onto my radar more recently than my first year in Korea - six years ago. That's too long no not have my mind totally blown by a book. Don't know what's happening. The ones that came closest in the last five years were probably... Dune (Frank Herbert), Coraline (Neil Gaiman), "The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking" (Dale Carnegie another great teacher in writing), and the Tao Te Ching.

1. Ahead of All Parting: The Collected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke, Translated by Stephen Mitchell - This was the book I carried with me everywhere for about three years. I first read The Duino Eulogies and the Sonnets To Orpheus before I had any idea what they were really about, but they reached a deep part of me that hadn't been awakened yet. When my mom died, that part of me woke up into grief, and Rilke was my counsellor: while other friends saw me though my grief, Rilke taught me how to grieve.

2. The Catcher in the Rye/Franny and Zooey - JD Salinger: catcher in the rye is an amazing portrait of a person who hasn't quite figured out yet how to take his sensitivity and perceptiveness, and use it to fall hopelessly in love with the world... but he's on the cusp. Franny and Zooey's last five pages make me happy for a week, and have put me to rights a number of times when I've been depressed. But you have to read the whole book for the last five pages to mean anything.

3. The Art of Happiness - The Dalai Lama - this book is not only applicable to Buddhists; the Dalai Lama makes sure to teach only principles that are universally applicable in this one, and does it in style. He's the best teacher in writing, that I've ever read.

4. The Book of Job - The Bible - stark, harsh, this is the most difficult book in the bible, and the one that lays bare the lonely, starkness of grief and tragedy most powerfully.

5. The Annie Dillard Reader - Annie Dillard - whenever I open this book, I look a little more closely, live a little more mindfully, for about a week.

6. Ender's Game/Speaker For The Dead - Orson Scott Card - Dune was the best written, Asimov's Foundation books were the most thought provoking, but Ender's first two books were the most compelling to me, personally: Ender is an everyman portrayed with compassion and sympathy, and Orson Scott Card creates a world that resembles the real world: one where people don't do bad things because they're fundamentally evil, but because they think they're doing what's right, and they happen to be incorrect, or misinformed, or lacking perspective.

7. Where the Wild Things Are - Maurice Sendak - The movie was OK, but nothing will ever take the place of the book. I remember being fascinated and haunted by this book when I found it in the library as a kid, and then fifteen years later, in university, a friend had it on his shelf, and before I even picked it up, I knew this was the book that had stuck in my head for a decade. Only had two or three other "aha!" moments like it in my life.

8. Haroun and the Sea of Stories - Salman Rushdie - One of the very few books I'd recommend just as enthusiastically to a university professor as to a twelve-year-old bookworm. Witty, charming, fantastical, and full of the life Rushdie infuses his other books with, but without the sometime pretension.

9. Mirrored Minds: A Thousand Years of Korean Verse - trans. by Kevin O'Rourke - Kevin O'Rourke translates a group of Korean poems from a huge variety of different poets. Some are shockingly beautiful, and the spareness of these poems - putting so much philosophy, or sensuality, into three or five lines -- cured me of the wordiness of many English poets.

10. The Harry Potter Series - My enjoyment of these books peaked at about book 4, and bottomed out in the last fifty pages of book 7 (see here for the rundown of why); after that, I kind of started hating Harry, and thinking he was a sort of a dick of a role model for kids. But the first four books especially are absolutely awesome.


adamgn said...

Definitely watch the new South Park episode, "The Tale of Scrotie McBoogarballs." It's a riff off of Catcher...

Of course, I never liked Catcher in the Rye so I thought it was hilarious.

Mo said...

The Lord of The Rings would definitely be on my list!

kignusonic said...

I agree with the above poster - Lord of the Rings is one of the best books ever. I would also add To Kill a Mockingbird and Crime and Punishment.

And all the Calvin and Hobbes compilations.

I'm no Picasso said...

I'm reading Franny and Zooey right this very now. Now, I'm really looking forward to the last five pages.

The Book of Job is incredible, and not for all the reasons all my pastors growing up tried to make it be -- for the exact opposite, in fact. It forces you to grapple with any faith you may have, reconciling it with the fact that horrific shit just happens, but it's not a reason to give up on your faith. Ecclesiastes is my other favorite.

Anonymous said...

Catcher In The Rye. Agreed. I don't know how many times I've read that one. I'm also a huge, huge fan of Paul Auster. A book I'd recommend for you is 'Man in the Dark'. 'Oracle Night' is also very good. Another is 'The Road' by Cormac McCarthy. Powerful book that is.