Tuesday, July 21, 2009

15 Books

My friend, Khai, sent out a note on Facebook with her top 15 books of all time. And since I spent a goodly amount of time responding (picking the books was easy; writing the blurbs took a while), I decided to turn it into a two-fer - a Facebook note and a blog post. If you'd like to play the game too (I think the Middle-Aged Woman is posting her list sometime this week...), I have included Khai's rules (not mine - I don't play by the rules) below.

[Khai's Rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you've read that stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. Tag 15 friends, including the originator, so your friends can see what books you chose. (To do this in Facebook, go to your Notes tab on your profile page, paste rules in a new note, cast your 15 picks, and tag people in the note - upper right hand side). These are the books I can read over and over and over again. I've read a lot of classics AND fluff books.]

Jim Styro's 15 Books:

The Bible (Various authors) - Yeah, I know...it's not an easy read. In fact, there are plenty of parts you could skip over - and I'm betting God wouldn't mind a bit. But there's nothing else quite like it. I prefer The Jerusalem Bible - but NIV or RSV are good too.

The World According to Garp (John Irving) - I love Irving...and this is still my favorite. His stories are rich, his characters are real. No American author in the second half of the Twentieth Century can equal the consistent quality of his novels.

M*A*S*H (Richard Hooker) - M*A*S*H is a phenomenon which I came upon in reverse order; TV show, film, then book. Each one has its unique value and charm. But I think so few people have read the book as compared to its video off-spring, that I feel the need to recommend it.

Slaughterhouse Five (Kurt Vonnegut) - I also love Vonnegut and it was either this or "Jailbird" (another wonderful book). But Slaughterhouse Five was the entryway for me to the rest of his stuff, so it gets the nod.

The Lord Of The Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien) - I guess this is a cheat - but it's a good cheat; three books for the price of one (choice). You don't have to love fantasy - you only have to love good writing and a good story to enjoy Tolkien. A reminder that every happy ending comes at a price.

Schindler's List (Thomas Keneally) - Keneally brings us both the horror of the Holocaust and a tale of unexpected redemption in the story of an unlikely savior. I have championed both the book and film since so many seem to have shied away thinking that the material is "too depressing". Neither life or this book is that simple; give them both a chance.

The Story Of Philosophy (Will Durant) - My life would be much poorer without having been exposed to some of the great thinkers of the ages through Durant's primer.

The Civil War (Shelby Foote) - If you don't care for history, then read Shelby Foote. A novelist takes on the greatest events in American history and brings them alive. If you've seen Ken Burns' documentary or read Michael Shaara's novels of the Civil War, you owe it to yourself to read Foote's three volumes.

Lonesome Dove (Larry McMurtry) - I would argue that this is the finest American novel of the second half of the Twentieth Century. No one book can cover all of what it means to be human - but this comes close.

Jurassic Park (Michael Crichton) - If you've only seen the film, you don't know the whole story. Crichton is an idea man - not always a great writer; but this book is a compelling page-turner - and it makes you think.

The Burden of Proof (Scott Turow) - I could never understand why Grisham got all the good press. Turow is a superior writer - and this is a great book which grapples with the complexity of relationships. (Which reminds me that I probably should have included something from John Updike - but I think Turow is more accessible.)

Catch 22 (Joseph Heller) - A tour de force. So funny and angry - full of horror, lunacy, despair - and a ray of hope. Too rich a diet for regular meals - but it sticks to your ribs.

The Complete Peanuts (Charles Schultz) - Watterson's "Compleat Calvin and Hobbes" is leaner and meaner. But Sparky is the original. The humanity is always shining through - even when it's a beagle.

The Beatles Recording Sessions: The Official Abbey Road Studio Session Notes
(Mark Lewisohn) - An absolutely indispensable historical record for anyone who loves music. Because anyone who loves music, loves the Beatles.

The Stand (Stephen King) - King is, arguably, the premiere storyteller of his generation. And this is his greatest story.

Perhaps some of your favorites are listed above - maybe it's all new to you. If you love a good book, I'm betting that you would enjoy nearly anything listed above. If you do decide to try one out that you've never read before, let me know how it goes.

Take care.


Anonymous said...

What a fun game! Many of your favorites are mine too. How did you limit the list to only 15?
I'm going to try to think of mine. If I can do it, I'll post about it.

Middle Aged Woman said...

You may be pleased, and possibly surprised, that Lonesome Dove, LOTR and Schindler's List are also on mine. Yes, I said Schindler's List. Thanks for the gentle (if numerous) nudges.

Sprite's Keeper said...

I see Garp and my nerves start shaking and I think of a post I have only three paragraphs in that is collecting dust because of BlogHer, the job, and potty training creating a trifecta on my life right now. I'm hoping to have some time on the plane to finish it, you know, when I'm not freaking out about being SO HIGH UP in the atmosphere..

Cathy said...

I'm actually shocked that I've read three of the books, Catch-22, The Stand, and The Lord of the Rings (so actually 5). I've taken to reading much more in the past year that I did in the past because I don't have school and homework and other distractions getting in my way. I just finished reading Pillars of the Earth and it might be my new favorite book. Have you ever read it?

Anonymous said...

Hello! I just posted my 15. We only have one in common. That's not to say I don't love many of your favs.

Jim Styro said...

Dedene: Glad you liked the idea - however I can't take credit. My friend, Khai, posted her 15 on Facebook. I will check on your list and leave a comment on your blog.

MAW: Somewhat surprised by Schindler's List - but not the others. Of course, the only people who I seem to hear offering uncomplimentary critiques of Schindler are those who have never read or seen it.

SK: Don't sweat the "He Read / She Read" thing. You're still 3 paragraphs ahead of me. Hope you enjoy BlogHer. I'm planning to get some writing done this weekend as well.

Cathy: I have not read Pillars of the Earth - but since you recommend it highly, I'm going to look into the matter.