Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thursday 13: The Books Edition

Once upon a time, I was a reader.  I used to escape the intolerable heat of south Texas summers when I was growing up by riding my brother's old bicycle to the library in the middle of town and parking myself under the scary taxidermied polar bear in the entry and work my way through the shelves. I read every volume in the Encyclopedia Brown, Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew mystery, Beverly Cleary, & Little House on the Prairie series, plus every other book I could get my hands on. I remember the young adult biography series the most, and I worked through all the presidents, scientists, inventors, writers, soaking up all the details and thinking about what it would have been like to grow up in those times.

As I grew up, reading became something I had to do for school, and my pleasure reading was limited to the latest Stephen King book or maybe all the Kurt Vonnegut I could find in my high school library (not much). In college and grad school, the reading continued to be academic, with a few fun things slipped in when I could manage it. After the boys arrived, my reading time switched to the kids' books, and our bookshelves were filled with Dr Seuss, Where the Wild Things Are, Lily the mouse (and her friends Chester and Wilson) and all manner of other great things. As the boys got older, we switched to Magic Tree House, Redwall, and some of the same books that I loved at their age like Ramona the Pest and Ribsy. Eventually, I read all the Harry Potter books with each of them, page by page, chapter by chapter, volume by volume, snuggled with them in their beds until one of us fell asleep; I'm not gonna lie - sometimes during my peak marathon training days it was me that didn't make it to the end of the chapter.

When I started traveling for work, I suddenly found myself with a lot of free time during my twice-weekly plane trips, and I was able to start reading again. It was glorious. But what to read first?  I ended up going through about four different versions of "books you should read before you graduate college" or "books everyone should have read" or "Top 100 American novels" lists and compiling them into one master list.  And then I just started working my way through them. When I ended a book on the road, I checked the list while I was at the airport and picked the next one. About once a month I'd hit Half-Price books and stock up on the classics on the list and throw a couple of them in my suitcase so I'd never be without a book. It was great, and now that I'm not on a plane for several hours a week, I'm finding it hard to get back into the swing of dedicating time for reading. But, I still have the list to reference when I am ready for a new-to-me book.

So, that leads me to tonight's blog entry, in no particular order, my 13 favorite (non-kids') books of all time (tucks away kids' books for future list):

  1. Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger - definitely one of my all-time favorites from my teenage years. I still have the tattered soft-cover version from when I first read it at 13. 
  2. Galapagos, Kurt Vonnegut - I carried a copy of this around for most of my senior year in high school. 
  3. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving - I picked it up at the airport because it was the only one on the list. I fell in love with it instantly, mostly because of the way the author describes Owen as pretty much screaming everything he says. So sweet and endearing. 
  4. Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck - Just hands down the best-written book I've ever read.  
  5. A Separate Peace, John Knowles - another favorite from high school. I fell in love with the idea of a boy like Finny, and the turn in the book absolutely shattered me. 
  6. A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway - Mrs. Melke in 11th grade English had us read this. I remember the line "and the earth moved" and wondering what in good heavens that could possibly mean. I found out later.  
  7. Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck - another Steinbeck classic, the story of George and Lennie's enduring friendship.  
  8. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey - I saw the movie first and loved the story. And then I read the book and loved it even more. 
  9. It, Stephen King - I have an entire bookshelf of nothing but Stephen King books, most first-edition. And this is hands down my favorite one. King's mastery in describing how we all fear something different, something deep, still sends chills down my spine. 
  10. Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut - I was really into Vonnegut in high school, y'all. And as much as I hate any TV shows or movies with time-line shifts, this still remains a favorite. 
  11. In Cold Blood, Truman Capote - engaging, horrifying and true. 
  12. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer - another non-fiction favorite.  
  13. The Road, Cormac McCarthy - dark, violent and suspenseful. This was another airport pick-up, and I read it straight through cover-to-cover on a flight from LaGuardia to DFW.  

What is YOUR favorite book?  What do you recommend I add to my list? 

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