Continuing with the theme of reading, here is a list of books I have read.
Or, maybe more accurately, as sometimes is said– books I devoured. Meaning that: I fought sleep to read them / wished I could stay home and continue reading them instead of going to work / felt a genuine sense of loss when they ended / fervently relished every single second of being enmeshed in their fictions.
They are in no particular order, and chronologically speaking this list spans my whole life (whereas my previous post about the books I didn’t finish covered 2012 to present day).
Native Son by Richard Wright– when I was growing up, reading was not my thing. It was hard to find a book that kept my interest. Very hard, in fact. Especially compared with my older sister. The personification of a bookworm, she had read every Nancy Drew book, every mystery by Rex Stout, Agatha Christie, and P.D. James, along with countless others by the time she was– I’m not exactly sure, but a very young age. Thirteen tops. She had a subscription to The New Yorker magazine when she was 12 years old– back in the 80’s, when I’d say only about 1 in every 200 adults even knew what it was (nowadays it’s probably 1 in 10?), at least where we lived. Anyway, I felt very dumb compared to her. Then when I was 13 or so, in 9th grade, I was assigned Native Son in English class. It riveted me like a harrowing dream. I think I finished it in 2 days, which was a significant accomplishment for me. Such vivid writing and an intensely dramatic plot, plus he was clearly a master of suspense. I wonder if he ever wrote any mysteries or even horror, he definitely could have. I remember being literally on the edge of my chair at some points. It was awesome to be so carried away by a book. I remember feeling proud of myself for having read it. It was the first “adult book” I felt I had conquered. But this aside, it also is a fine piece of literature in its own right and I still feel grateful to Mr. Wright for writing it.
Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey– Luckily I was on vacation when I started reading this, because it was very hard to put down. Lot of stream of consciousness writing in it, which I guess people either love or hate. I really liked the way he did it. It felt contemporary and alive. I’ve since read criticism by people who consider themselves knowledgeable/ultra passionate about LA (where the book is set) who apparently think…I don’t remember exactly what their criticisms were but the gist of it was that it wasn’t a true LA book or something. There were some parts that someone might view as clichéd, I guess. It definitely wasn’t high literature, but it was so entertaining and readable that it felt like one of those books that is simply a gift to the reader. I loved it.
Snow by Orhan Pamuk– the first and only book that caused me to seriously consider calling in sick to work so that I could continue reading it.
Life of Pi by Yann Martel– Duh. Everyone loves this. Though I almost put it down early on. I remember thinking the first two chapters were not impressive…kind of sophomoric or trying too hard. But wo, soon enough, it gets good. Damn good. This book deserves all of the praise it’s gotten. The ending left me devastated to the point that I went around for a while asking everyone I knew if they had read it or not, because I really needed to discuss it with someone in order to process my thoughts & feelings about it….
Warrior Woman by Maxine Hong Kingston– This book blew my mind. I had never read anything like it. Several scenes and characters presented in it are still on my mind to this day, though I read it approximately twenty years ago.
The Passion by Jeanette Winterson– Brilliant. A masterpiece, and it goes down easy. Practically reads itself.
Tipping The Velvet by Sarah Waters– I did not expect to like this so much. The world she creates in this book is utterly dream-like. Surreal, frightening, hauntingly beautiful. I can still see in my mind the images I created for myself as I read it, of the characters and of certain settings. She is a very gifted writer and this book is devastatingly good.
Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes– How can a book that is so big, so heavy, and so laden with complicated Jungian theory be so irresistably readable? I don’t know. It’s magic. Wild woman magic.
White Oleander & Paint It Black by Janet Fitch– Two of my favorite books of all time. The smarminess and pulp of young adult fiction with the intelligence and artfulness of high literature that is very, very adult. These books were like literary crack to my brain.
The Beach by Alex Garland– I had been wanting to read this for a long time by the time I got my hands on it, and it did not disappoint. Big influence on me as a writer.
Moo & A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley– Quite simply, the woman was born to write novels.
The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin– A mysterious little gem of a novel. Has a haunting, timeless perfection to it. Really can’t put it into words. Reads like an illuminated text, but one that had been kept hidden for centuries.
Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil by John Berendt– This book is delicious. It is scrumptious. I challenge anyone to open it up and not dig into it like a plate of hot french toast smothered in butter and honey. With a nice strong shot of brandy to wash it down ;))))