December 30, 2011

26 Great Books You’ve Been Too Busy to Read.


Technology is awesome.

Between television, and texting and Twitter, we don’t even have to talk to each other anymore–let alone read a book. Don’t get me wrong, I love technology, and I do think it’s possible to use it mindfully.

Television seems to get better and worse every year. Friends are always telling me about great shows to which I reply “Yeah…I remember reading about that somewhere.” And I always  intend to check them out (but instead forget, get busy, and then usually watch three years down the road on Netflix.) Movies can be a great way to unwind, and definitely fuel my creativity. But when life is busy, curling up with a great book is the perfect anti-busy, especially in the wintertime. Go for a long snowy hike on a Sunday morning with the kids, curl up by the fire with a great book in the afternoon while they play. Perfect unplugged winter day.

Last year for my birthday my parents bought me a Nook. I love the idea of the Nook. Eco-friendly, less paper waste, instant gratification, books are cheaper, very portable, nice in the bathtub….and I do use it. Sometimes. But there’s something about a real book. The feel of the pages, the cracking of the spine when you open it for the first time, the smell of it—especially one from a used bookstore. I just can’t give that up.

If you’re making more time for books, here’s a list to get you started. Ten was too few…52 was too much. Here are 26 that I love, a new one every other week:

1. Leaves of Grass – Walt Whitman. Sure you’ve read it. Or have you? Maybe you remember some of it from high school or college. When was the last time you sat down and read a book of poetry cover to cover? “This is what you shall do…

2. Walden ~ Henry David Thoreau. I’ve read it at least once a year since I was 12. Usually in the fall, but it’s good whenever you’ve forgotten to live deliberately and suck the marrow out of life. If you’re up my way, I’ll show you a great spot to go skinny dipping at Walden pond.

3. Nine Stories ~ J.D. Salinger. There might come a week where you want something shorter to read. Good things come in small packages. (Great things in this case.)

4. Wuthering Heights ~Emily Bronte. Edward and Bella have nothing on Catherine and Heathcliff. Gorgeous and magical.

5. The Hobbit ~ J.R.R. Tolkein. Read it when I was eight, a few more times since. If you’ve never read it, engage your childish wonder and read it before the movie comes out.

6. Cathedral ~ Raymond Carver. Love Carver, poetry and prose. When he hit rock bottom with his drinking and clawed his way up towards sobriety, this was what he wrote next.

7. The Sun Also Rises ~ Ernest Hemingway. My favorite Hemingway. Actually, the only Hemingway I liked.

8. Stand Still Like the Hummingbird ~ Henry Miller. Stories and essays and autobiography and…well, if you are an artist you need to read it. If you are a writer, read it. If you are a human being (or even if you’re not) you should give it a read.

9. The Little Prince ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Some people read the Bible a little every day. I read The Little Prince. It’s only a children’s book in the sense that all of us still have the child we were inside us, and we’ve forgotten to listen to him or her. This is your Berlitz guide to understanding what you’ve forgotten.

10. Still Life with Woodpecker ~ Tom Robbins. It’s the anti-romantic comedy. The subtitle is “a sort-of love story.” I sort-of completely loved it.

11. A Room With A View ~ E.M. Forster. The opposite of Still Life, in the best possible way. Flawless. (Thanks to Merchant-Ivory, the movie is as good as the book. Watch it…after you finish the book.)

12. Blonde ~ Joyce Carol Oates. Marilyn Monroe is-it-fiction-is-it-a-biography goodness. Sad and lovely, like Marilyn.

13. The Children’s Book ~ A. S. Byatt. It’s a tough start, but keep at it. You won’t regret it.

14. Don Quioxte ~ Miguel De Cervantes. To dream the impossible dream…we all need to remember this. Don’t be intimidated, just dive into it and let yourself be delighted and inspired.

15. Fahrenheit 451 ~ Ray Bradbury. Get re-acquainted with your inner adolescent sci-fi nerd. (I know he or she is still in there.)

16. The Abstinence Teacher ~ Tom Perrotta. Tom Perrotta has a way with small town life: funny, frightening, and real.

17. The Jungle ~ Upton Sinclair. Everybody’s heard of somebody who read it and stopped eating meat. How about you? And follow it up with…

18. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle ~ Barbara Kingsolver. It’s not one of her novels, but definitely one of my favorites. It’s like being part of a great conversation with your favorite hippie aunt.

19. Cat’s Eye ~ Margaret Atwood. Great read for everyone who didn’t peak in high school. Which is to say, everyone.

20. The Great Gatsby ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald. You’ve probably read it before. Or were supposed to read it. Read it again. Follow it up with…

21. Complete Stories by Dorothy Parker. Just because.

22. On the Road ~ Jack Kerouac. Yeah, you have a copy. It’s a hipster materialist must-have. When was the last time you actually read it? Dig in. Get inspired.

23. Out of Africa ~ Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen.) Allow yourself to be transported. I’ve wanted to sit at the foot of the Ngong hills since the first time I read it. I’ll get there. (This is another case where the film makers actually captured the book, mainly due to Meryl Streep and Robert Redford.)

24. Lucky ~ Alice Sebold. What doesn’t kill us make us so much stronger.

25. Her Fearful Symmetry ~ Audrey Niffenegger. Ever wonder what it would be like to be a twin? A twin born to a twin? And live with romantic ghosts in London?

26. Great Expectations ~ Charles Dickens. One of the best-known, least-read books that you need to own.

What did I miss? Hate any of them? Love them? It was hard to stop at 26, but instead of me making a list of 260, add your favorites to the comments!


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