Rules: List ten books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take but a few minutes, and don’t think too hard — they don’t have to be the “right” or “great” works, just the ones that have touched you.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I think I was 12 when I first read this, and I say "first" because this was an annual reread for many, many years after. I loved Jo; she was bright, adventurous, ungainly, funny, always putting her foot in her mouth, and a tomboy, as we used to say back then. How could I not love her? She was me.
Gentlemen's Agreement by Laura Z. Hobson. I read this as a teenager, and it forever changed my perception of … well, a few things. The book was written not long after WWII, and the story concerns anti-Semitism in America, but really it's about any type of prejudice and how that prejudice is enabled by nice people who disapprove but remain silent and how bigotry is more sublte than confrontational. It was my first real understanding of "silence equals consent." (It was also a multiple-award winning movie starring Gregory Peck, John Garfield, Celeste Holme, and a pre-teen Dean Stockwell, who won a special Golden Globe for his performance.)
Lord of the Rings It was a phenomenon among the nerd and pre-hippie crowd when I was in high school. I adored everything about it, as did all of my friends. There had been nothing like it before in our literary lives, and it fired our imaginations and fueled our desire for pure adventure and the intense camaraderie that brought with it.
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. He was a member of a climbing team ascending Everest when a deadly storm struck almost without notice. Many climbers died during that storm; he was one of the survivors. He was also a well-known sport/adventure writer, so his memoir about that particular climb is absolutely harrowing and opened up an ongoing fascination with Everest and the mythos/industry/reality surrounding those who ascend to the peak.
Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. I can't pick just one story. I can't. I also can't believe that it took me so long to actually get started reading Pratchett, despite the urging (nagging) of so many of you. Now it's the one imaginary world that I wish I could visit. If I ever have a billion dollars, I swear to the gods - big and small - that I will create a Disc World theme park that will blow Disney and his happy fairy tale park out of the cosmos.
Dispatches by Michael Herr. He was a war correspondent for Esquire when he covered the Viet Nam war. It was termed rock'n'roll journalism, gonzo journalism, and it's still considered one of the best non-fiction books ever written about war and the grunts who fight it. Devastating, exhilerating, wildly funny at times, heart breaking at others. Some of the people Herr wrote about ended up as composite characters in both Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket. It's also a paean to the war correspondents and war photographers who covered Viet Nam and had a love/hate relationship with the danger and the Romance that went with it. Must read.
Beautiful Joe by (Margaret) Marshall Saunders. I read this as a pre-teen, and it's never left me. It's the story of a horribly abused dog rescued by a large and kind family, and it's written as an autobiography from Joe's viewpoint. I just discovered on Wikipedia that it's based on a true story that took place not far from me here in Ontario, and there's a memorial park and museum to honor Beautiful Joe. I know my next road trip!
Twisted Tales from Shakespeare by Richard Armour. One of the funniest books I have ever read. Armour was a poet and Shakespeare scholar who turned out to be wicked funny. The "twisted tales" are short pseudo-scholarly essays on about 10 of Shakespeare's most famous plays - complete with footnotes. I'm laughing just thinking about this book. If you love word play and an affectionate skewering of the Bard, I highly recommend it. ("Would you name your child Peaseblossom, Mustardseed, or Cobweb? Would you really?") ("Hamlet stabs Polonius through the arras.")
The Road by Cormac McCarthy. So dark and so unforgettable. I keep rereading it trying to understand why anyone would fight to survive in such a world. I think the father is selfish rather than inspiring, and I'm a bit of masochist for rereading in the vain hope of suddenly discovering some spark of light in his survive-at-all-costs philosophy.
Trixie Belden by Julie Campbell. This is a series of books about a teenage girl and her friends & brothers who stumble onto mysteries. It was the alternative to the Nancy Drew series, and it was the one I was much more in tune with. Trixie had to do chores around the house, babysit her younger brother, do homework, all the stuff I had to do. They lived in a wooded area of the Hudson Valley and the woods were their playground; I grew up at the base of Rattlesnake Mountain, played mostly with boys (there were very few girls in my neighborhood and they preferred dolls), and we spent most of our free time tramping around the woods. I loved Trixie. Still do.