15 Books

Since I’ve been so bad about posting regularly, I’ve decided that instead of writing a proper new entry, I’d post something short and sweet (or as close to short and sweet as I can manage). A few months ago, a friend of mine (and a fellow English major) named Allison tagged me in her Facebook note, “15 Books,” in which she listed 15 books which always stuck with her, and a little explanation as to why.

The note was of the chain-letter, tag!-you’re-it-now-pass-it-on variety, and the rules, loosely rephrased, are as follows: without taking too much time to think about it, list 15 books you’ve read that you’ll never forget, listing just the first 15 you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. I really enjoyed reading her list, and the lists of some of my friends and professors that I discovered as a result of reading Allison’s. At the time, I didn’t give any thought to creating a list of my own, but after nearly eight weeks of  solo travel, I’ve become even more hopelessly self-involved than I was before, so this exercise in self-reflection and remembrance seemed agreeably narcissistic and far easier than writing another full-length blog entry when I’d rather be out exploring.

Somewhere in the two months since I read Allison’s note, I’d forgotten the words, “books which have stuck with you,” and had substituted for them the phrase, “books which have changed your life,” and so when I first thought about doing this “assignment” for The Art of Reading (what does one do for blog titles? italicize? use quotation marks? hyperlink? nothing at all?) I found the idea rather daunting. Fifteen seemed a challenging number. I would have felt better about list as small as eight or as large (or larger) than 25. It seemed like then the divisions, the inclusions, the exclusions, etc. would have been much clearer and more easily explained. But then luckily tonight I actually checked her note before beginning my list and realized that it does not have to be 15 books that have changed my life, but only 15 books which have stuck with me, and so many books have stuck with me that I was no longer worried about not being able to come up with enough books of sufficient (or sufficiently equivalent) life-changing caliber.

But when I finished my list, easily within 15 minutes, and read it over, I realized that it didn’t make any difference whether it was a list of books which stuck with me, or of books which changed my life. All fifteen of these books have stuck with me, and all of them have changed my life. I guess it makes sense that the books which stay with you do tend to change your life, maybe just as a result of being always there within your mind.

In no particular order, then, and with little to no explanation (ask, if you want to know more), are 15 books which have stayed with me, 15 books which have, somehow or other, changed my life:

Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White. — The first book I ever bought for myself.

Slaughterhouse-5, by Kurt Vonnegut.

The Collected Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins.  — “dapple-dawn-drawn falcon” and “pitched past pitch of grief,” to cite just two of his phrases that I’ll never forget.

The Forbidden Zone, by Mary Borden. — The book that wrote my thesis.

A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, by Tom Stoppard. —  Humor and poignancy, absurdity and affection, such a beautiful, illuminating exploration of the question (one I ask far too often), “Why me?”

Relativity, by Albert Einstein.

The Bible – King James’ and children’s illustrated versions.

War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy.

Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters, by Annie Dillard. — The most recent book I’ve read to make this list, her writing has stuck with me throughout this trip.

The Second Sex, by Simone de Beauvoir.

Ariel, by Sylvia Plath.  —  Something in these poems taught me to breathe more deeply (so deeply that it hurts).

Macbeth, by William Shakespeare.

The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson.  — Dickinson’s poems tie my mind into knots and then release, from within, bindings I didn’t even know were there.

To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf.  — Every time I finish this novel I’m already looking forward to the next time I’ll read it.

So there it is, my 15 books. If you’ve read this, consider yourself tagged. I, for one, would love to know: what’s on your list?


12 thoughts on “15 Books

  1. My list, cheating a little bit!
    1. Ender’s Game 2. Harry Potter (just count all 7 as 1) 3. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle 4. Wuthering Heights 5. Don’t Let’s go to the Dogs Tonight 6. The Things They Carried 7. Lord of the Rings (again count the 3 as 1 … and include The Hobbit) 8. Mayor of Casterbridge 9. About a Boy 10. Winnie-the-Pooh 11. Water for Elephants 12. The Phantom Tollbooth 13. Hamlet 14. Wicked 15. The 13 & 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear

    no reasons here… I have homework!

  2. My list, cheating a little bit!
    1. Ender’s Game 2. Harry Potter (just count all 7 as 1) 3. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle 4. Wuthering Heights 5. Don’t Let’s go to the Dogs Tonight 6. The Things They Carried 7. Lord of the Rings (again count the 3 as 1 … and include The Hobbit) 8. Mayor of Casterbridge 9. About a Boy 10. Winnie-the-Pooh 11. Water for Elephants 12. The Phantom Tollbooth 13. Hamlet 14. Wicked 15. The 13 & 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear

    no reasons here… I have homework! I’ll give you my “why” sometime later…possibly in a less public forum.

    • Haha! I wonder how many books one could get if one only including trilogies/series. You could get the Dark Materials trilogy, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings…Swallows and Amazons, The Borrowers…even, if you had to, Twlight (I’ve seen people reading the Twilight books in at least six different languages now). The Phantom Tollbooth! Quite excellent. I’ll have to read some of the ones on your list. Hopefully you left them at home so I can raid your shelves when I get back!

  3. Maybe you’re the only one who reads my blog!! (well, I know that’s not EXACTLY true) but you are clearly my best commenter : )

  4. hmmm… marg, your book list is so respectable. here’s mine:

    1. Where the Red Fern Grows
    2. Jane Eyre
    3. Hamlet
    4. Their Eyes Were Watching God
    5. The Autobiography of Malcolm X
    6. The Kite Runner
    7. Men in the Sun
    8. The Qur’an
    9. Into the Wild
    10. The Stranger
    11. Little House on the Prairie series
    12. Pride and Prejudice
    13. The Collected Works of Mustafa Lutfi Al Manfaluti
    14. Mountains Beyond Mountains
    15. Pygmalion

  5. Is that “respectable” being launched at me in a damning tone of voice? ; ) Because your list is pretty darn respectable as well. I was happy to see Pygmalion on there! What a great play.

  6. 1)Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown – What an absolute classic. I found this while moving my folks out of their home and read it aloud – seriously brings back memories of learning how to read and trying to calm down before bedtime.
    2)Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Samuel Langhorne Clemens – This is a great book by itself, it doesn’t need the title ” The first Great American Novel” but it helps…
    3)1984 by George Orwell – You know how I am about privacy…
    4)Dune (the whole series?) by Frank Herbert
    5)Charolette’s Web by E.B. White
    6)The Great Gatsby by F. Scott. Fitzgerald – The prose is absolutely amazing. Every time I read this, I make sure no one is around so I can read it aloud. It is so lyrical and beautiful.
    7)All of the various short stories by H.P. Lovecraft
    8)A madman’s dreams of turing machines by Janna Levin
    9)Dubliners by James Joyce – I’m not sure if this really counts as “one book” but I really enjoy Araby, The Sisters, and the Dead.
    10)Here Everybody Comes by Clay Shirky – Multiple examples of the paradigm shift we’re in currently involving social networking and the internet.
    11)Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
    12)The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (The whole series?) by CS Lewis
    13)Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo
    14)The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (Okay include the whole series)
    15)Big Wall Climbing by John Long
    (16 – When Harlie Was One – worst book ever but we read a few pages per day at work and laughed at how insane it is)

  7. I’ll play this game, if only to continual prove I’ve read your blog.

    So…let’s see let’s see….

    1) Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (you don’t get to hog it all to yourself….even if you did introduce me to it) -Tom Stoppard
    2) Sherlock Holmes -Sir Arthur
    3) To Say Nothing of the Dog -Connie Willis
    4) The Great Train Robbery -Michael Crichton
    5) Lirael -Garth Nix
    6) On The Loose -Renny & Terry Russell
    7) House of Leaves -Mark Z. Danielewski
    8) A Song of Ice and Fire -George R. R. Martin
    9) Good Omens -Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett
    10) Shogun -James Clavell
    11) American Gods -Neil Gaiman
    12) The Baroque Cycle (because who couldn’t love half-cocked jack?) -Neal Stephenson.
    13) Parts of Les Mis (i.e. everything except the parts I skipped, like the 3rd retelling of waterloo. Save your insults, I don’t mind being a Philistine) -like anyone doesn’t know
    14) Book of the New Sun (trippy, trippy, trippy) -Gene Wolfe
    15) and….er….i feel like any books not mentioned here will fall off the shelves and smother me in my sleep…..actually not a bad way to go….better then the sky diving accident i have planned…okay, focusing…um Ah! those Just So Stories. They’re the antichrist to Biology’s dearest tenets yet they’re probably what got me into Biology in the first place. Oh delicious irony. -Rudyard Kipling
    16) The Cask of Amontillado (because that’s not a story I want to be smothered by) -That scary dude

    • Apparently I have to tell my blog I don’t want it to make smileys…I’ve told it, now let’s see if it listens.

      Lizzy would be so happy you’ve got “House of Leaves” on your list. Thanks for posting! I hope the books you didn’t list don’t fall on you from on high…and also that when you’re falling from on high, your parachute works properly. Every time, since skydiving seems to be something you’re making a habit of now!

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