Saw a link the other week for: Which Five Books Shaped Your Life?
(Harry Potter actor and I share a favorite book (#1) – are we destined for BFF-hood now?)
1. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
I know a lot of people think it’s this boring book about a guy and a fish, and it’s true, it’s a book about a guy and a fish. But it’s beautiful. It’s this quiet, slow, heartbreaking story of an old man reflecting on his life and accepting the inevitable end.* Or that’s what I always got. The fact that Santiago is ultimately alone makes the story even sadder. I was a teenager when I first read it and it made me think, “Holy crap, so I’m not immortal? Since when?”
*This is not a spoiler, Santiago does not die
2. Three by the Sea by Edward Marshall – my favorite when I was a kid, hands down
This book is smart and quirky and with a surprise twist. My local library had several copies of it, and my older bro and I always checked out every single copy (not sure why, but our mom didn’t mind, so we just ran with it). He bought it for me a couple years ago for Christmas and it still cracks me up, even 20+ years later.
3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck – wow, hello realism
I will admit that I grumbled through the first 100 pages, demanding “When the hell is something going to happen?” But then I got sucked in. This book is hit-you-in-the-gut painful. At times it’s uncomfortable to read. I didn’t expect a happy ending and Steinbeck didn’t disappoint. This book made me feel like I was plodding down the road, suffering with the Joads.
4. Working by Studs Terkel
This book was assigned reading for a college class. I’d never heard of it or even of Terkel. I thought, “How interesting can it be to read a bunch of interviews where people are talking about their jobs?” But this book was fascinating. It was like when you accidentally overhear an intimate conversation and you’re embarrassed because you weren’t supposed to hear. Some parts of “Working” were that raw and honest.
5. The White Album by Joan Didion
I actually didn’t read a lot when I was a teenager, other than what was assigned for school. So I went for years without reading a book for fun. I owned this book, although I’m not sure where it came from. I took it to work one day for something to read on breaks and I was fascinated by this woman talking about her mental problems and her lifestyle. I’d never read anything like this book before – there was something free and flowing and honest about the prose and I thought, “I want to write a book like this.”
^Whoa, okay weird, I was looking up Didion on Wikipedia and it says she was heavily influenced by Hemingway.
Hmm…I see a pattern in the books I love – honest, raw, surprising, sometimes even painful. One of my friends would describe it as “beautiful, but flawed.” I guess, for me, reading is more about making a connection to another person/place/time, than it is about escaping.