Regular Life

Regular Life

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on. – Robert Frost

A Few Favorites Part 1 : Books

(Note: Readers of “Apartment Life Returns” may now read Part Nine, which takes us very near the end of the story)

I’ve made casual remarks about movies, books, music, and television series here and there. Although there are several of each that appeal to most people, choices can be intensely personal. Two people who get along well and consider each other close friends may hold widely divergent opinions not just on what they like, but on what constitutes “good.”

Today I start a four-part series focusing on what I like and why. It can’t possibly cover everything, so I’ll try to give a representative sample.

Just like other media, with books I like a little of almost everything. Bestsellers and obscure dollar bin finds, science fiction, drama, comedy, nonfiction, horror, alternative history — the list goes on.

Instead of the entire list, however, here is a smattering.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.
This is the first and only Dickens I read, at about age 33. He tells a great story and turns phrases that had me dog-earing pages so I could go back and marvel at them again later. Not because they were flowery, but because of their succinct statement of a moving or thought-provoking message. Entertains me and makes me think. Very hard to beat.

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
I didn’t read this until age 30, under pressure to complete at least the first tale before the movie came out. Somehow Tolkien makes it easy to get past the talking trees and giant eagles.

All Over but the Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg
An autobiography by a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times feature writer, this book moved me like few others. Bragg goes through a harsh childhood in Appalachia and later a life-threatening experience in Haiti. His devotion to his mother is unflagging.

Simon of Space by Cheeseburger Brown
I had to include this one, even though it’s still in the final stages of revision before publication. As good as it was online serially, I can’t wait to see it tightened up in novel format, and send copies to friends and relatives.

The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski
I “discovered” this book in a college course called Adolescent Literature. It’s a harrowing account of a boy’s efforts to survive in war-torn Poland during World War II. Alone, dirty, and half-starved, the boy exemplifies pure will to live.

I didn’t link to each of these because links change. Stressing again that I’ve never been paid nor offered payment for linking, I encourage you to use for all your online book purchasing needs.

I’m sure I’ve left out many books I call all-time favorites. Thinking of these is difficult, especially when I don’t have them on shelves for easy perusal. I’m sure I’ll share more of these in the future.

Next up: music.

12 Responses to A Few Favorites Part 1 : Books

  1. Oh, I definitely put Simon of Space in my top books I’ve read, but unlike you, I’d rather it be in it’s “imperfect” condition, than sanitized and scrutinized.
    There’s something to be said about the thoughts as they are originally written down, and not re-written and re-thought.

    I also read and re-read over and over The HitchHikers Guide to the Galaxy series, and all the Spider Robinson “Callahans” books. I’ve lent Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon to people that hate Sci-Fi (it’s not really Sci-Fi, but I don’t know how else to categorize it), and they’ve became HOOKED. I highly recommend this book, as it’s a collection of short stories and an extremely easy read, but I warn you, you’ll run to the store for the next in the series.

    Happy Valentines Day Shan… I hope Mark treats you to something special!

  2. Dave – That isn’t the first time somebody’s recommended Spider Robinson’s work. I’ll have to check that out. Thanks!

    Um, Shannon got to wake up next to me today (well, she isn’t up yet). Isn’t that enough for a grand Valentine’s Day?


  3. I’m quite looking forward to seeing how CBB tightens up his SoS tale. As good as it was serially, I know it’ll make a better read after being filtered again by him and and real live editor.

    Moby Dick, man. I’m still less than halfway through my first read, but Hemingway’s a frikkin’ genius when it comes to insights into the human psyche.

    I like these personalised ‘favourite’ type of posts since they give another view of the author. Of the rest of the books there, I’ve only read Lord of the Rings, and it still stands as my favourite book ever.

  4. This is a great idea Mark. Still eating Dewey’s Pizza and hoping the house is there when I get home tonight. I would like to borrow this idea in the future if I ever get time to post something besides ice photos. I love Albris.

  5. Simon – I must tackle Moby Dick at some point. Not sure if it will be the next one I read, but maybe.

    Blitz – I hope you get folks back to normal without losing your own sanity. This is a reply to your comment on my previous post, too, by the way.

    Feel free to borrow the idea. I got it from a book I saw at Barnes and Noble while Shannon and I waited for a table on recent date night. It was comprised of lots of famous and merely critically acclaimed authors’ lists of their favorite 10 books of all time. I think I mentioned it in a post, but Great Expectations was on many of the lists.

  6. Very cool post, Mark. I may do something similar (if I ever return to my poor neglected blog ;)

    I’ve not read much off your list, but might have to take a look at them when I get a chance.

    My favorite book is still Hyperion by Dan Simmons. It’s been about two years since I reread the series…so that means I’m due again.

  7. MG – You bring up two good points.

    The first, that your blog is neglected. Poor thing. More than 10 days now.

    Next is that I’ve never re-read a book. Maybe because, due to my tendency to nod off, I read books in very small chunks and it winds up taking me forever, I don’t figure it’s worth the time invested. Plus, there’s always something out there I haven’t read yet. I don’t know the exact reason, but I’m sure I would enjoy re-reading some books if I tried it.

    Everyone – I must say I should have spent more time on this to include 10 books. Maybe I’ll continue the book list in the next post instead of moving on to music (a post which became unwieldy just during my lunch hour).

  8. Mark, I recommend re-reading a good book even more than I do starting a good book. The subtleties and layers come out more easily and I frequently find myself saying, “How’d I miss THAT the first time around?”

    Fun as it is to pop your cherry on a new book, a comfortable, experienced book can give you more in the long run.

    And yes, MG needs to update. (Hyperion has been on my list to buy for the longest time!)

  9. I very rarely re-read books. It takes me a long time to slog my way through a book and it is very seldom worth my time to turn back to an old favorite. The one and only exeption I make to this rule is Hyperion.

    As for my blog. I blame my damned short story. It fights me. I blocks my efforts to complete it. It is currently spitting in the face of my blog, saying cruel things like, “He’ll never come back to you, little blog…his soul belongs to me!” Who’d have thought my imagination could have created a story with such a mean streak?

    Oh…and then I spent quite a bit of time last week working on a particular cd set. ;)

  10. Other than “Lord of the Rings,” sadly, I haven’t read any of the other books on your list. But, even more sadly, unless it is some sort of self improvement book related to sales, there’s a good chance that you could put up a LONG list of books that I haven’t ever read. I’m convinced that I’m one of a only few people who haven’t ever read “The DaVinci Code.” Even more sadly, I’m not sure that I spelled DaVinci correctly. :-(

    I don’t even read many sales books any longer, because they all re-hash the same principles with different icing. I have read several sports books over the years, with the best being “Who’s Your Caddy?” by Feinstein. It has some great insights into the personalities of Pro golfers. “Golf is not a Game of Perfect” by Bob Rotella is also an excellent read, and many of it’s principles can relate to almost anything in life.

    I think I’ve come to terms with the fact that I probably have adult ADHD, so I’d rather pick up a golf club, or a guitar than sit and read something that isn’t instructional. I’m liable to read three chapters of fiction, ear mark a page, only to pick it up so much later that I’ve forgotten what happened up to that point.

    Just think…later in life when I can’t play golf, and I’m stationary, I’ll have all of these books to read. It’s all about long-range planning and goal setting. :-)

  11. Simon – I think LOTR would be worth a re-read, but good Lord in Heaven it’s big (that’s what she said).

    MG – Forgiven, considering the circumstances. (even though you weren’t asking for forgiveness)

    Charles – That’s interesting, because I’ve never been able to get into self-improvement or instructional books.

    The Davinci Code is an entertaining read, but I liked Brown’s Angels and Demons better, and it follows almost exactly the same formula.

    John Feinstein is featured regularly on NPR, and I have a feeling I would like many of his books.

    You probably put down books you don’t like. I’ve done that. But, fiction reading isn’t for everybody.

  12. Shoot, I had written a big long comment to this post and its not here. I vaguely recall PD distracting me when I wrote it. I bet I didnt hit Post. There were things about Tale of Two Cities, To Kill a Mockingbird, everything by Pat Conroy, some others. There was something about wanting to read Moby Dick one day. And something about how lucky Shannon is… but I cant remember exactly what I said.
    Someone please tell me how to type an apostrophe without a search box popping up.


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