10 Books That Touched You

The joy of reading

The joy of reading

This morning on Facebook I saw a post from a friend which appears to be the latest ‘tag & share’ game. It is called ’10 Books That Touched You’, and it immediately captured my imagination as the list started writing itself in my head, and completed itself while I was out for my run.

Don’t tell anyone but one of my goals for 2014 (‘resolutions’ are recipes for failure) is to complete at least one new book a month and re-read a book every quarter. Anyway, here goes the list:

1. Kurt Vonnegut – Cat’s Cradle – my favorite Vonnegut book and one of my all-time faves. I have re-read this dozens of times and always discover something new.
2. Isaac Asimov – Foundation Trilogy – yes this is a cheat choosing all three books, but it is really essential reading for the sci-fi genre, but is much more than that.
3. Albert Camus – The Plague – an amazing tale of the human spirit in the face of crushing despair, and a very hopeful and positive take on the essence of existential philosophy.
4. Ray Bradbury – Fahrenheit 451 – although technically dated, the heart of this book is the character study of the interface of people and information and freedom.
5. Gabriel Garcia Marquez – 100 Years of Solitude – this sprawling tale of many generations of the Buendia family captured my imagination as a teen and never left. I have re-read a few times and always love it.
6. V. S. Naipaul – Guerillas – Naipaul was recommended to me by my 11th grade English teacher, Mr. McLellan who called him ‘the best living writer’. This book is not a happy, fun or easy read – yet it is incredibly compelling.
7. Kurt Vonnegut – Slaughterhouse 5 – for me this remains the essential war book, which tells you a lot about my views on war, violence and guns.
8. Jean-Paul Sartre – Nausea – pretty much the flip-side of The Plague, I remember reading this on vacation on Cape Cod in high school. The prototype of the bleak, negative, solitary existential story.
9. Sherwood Anderson – Winesburg, Ohio – Anderson (no relation) transports you to a small town just after the turn of the century. While there is a central character, the stories are told through the loneliness and despair that permeates the people of the town and the town itself.
10. As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner – Faulkner is an incredible master at constructing realistic portraits of the elements of his fictional south and those moving through it. The tale is dark and poignant, and the character voices and insights are just incredible.

Other choices would be Catch-22 by Joseph Heller and Ulysses by James Joyce. Catch-22 is another great WWII anti-hero story and is regularly hilarious, but it falls below Slaughterhouse 5 for me. And Joyce … well, I have only completely finished the book once in a deliberate front-to-back read, and read it in chunks other times … not enough to really qualify, although I adore it whenever I read it.

All of these books were initially read as physical books, but any reading in the past two decades was digital – so all of my most recent re-reads of these books was done on some sort of digital device. I have no particular love of physical books or magazines, and the minute I can keep my digital devices powered on during air travel is the end of physical media for me.

What about you? Do you have thoughts on these books, have favorites of your own? And what are your thoughts on digital versus physical books?

Oh, and I love the wild image of the huge book and cup of tea/coffee as you sit on the couch reading – it came from here.

9 thoughts on “10 Books That Touched You

      • The movie didn’t do the book justice, it was too big for one “short” film, not enough action for the big screen, too much philosophical/thinking by the characters that doesn’t translate well into a movie. Unfortunately the whole saga is a bit much, but I just have to get two more books and then I will start from the beginning and go to the end 🙂

  1. Alright, another one I’ll comment on.
    1) Heavily skewed toward high school readings, I notice. Curious.
    2) I’ve read 8 out of 10 (9 out of 12?). Tried Joyce, didn’t make it far, though I might try again on one my ambitious summer reading attempts. Most would make a top 50 list for me. Not sure about top 10, which is too hard to compile anyway.
    3) Specifics:
    Vonnegut, Camus, Marquez – all great choices
    Asimov – great first time, faded slightly as I learned more math and science.
    Sartre – liked No Exit better (do plays count here?). Likewise with Naipaul & Bend in the River, Bradbury & Martian Chronicles.
    4) I have a certain fondness for Catch 22 as it was one of the few books we had to read in high school that I really, really liked. A few, Shakespeare for example, I appreciated in retrospect. I admit I didn’t have a very positive attitude toward literature back then, but still… sophomore year was a major turn off.
    5) Still appreciate the physical book. May be convinced otherwise some day. Certainly lugging around “Infinite Jest” in my backpack these days is proving to be good exercise.

    • Good points, Paul!
      – Yes, heavy on stuff discovered in high school. I love many books I have read in the years since (Winesburg Ohio I didn’t finish until 2011), but unlike music I really have books that had an impact locked to within ~5 years.
      – Also, choosing 10? Totally random, and like anything else it is a useless list!
      – And why not Harry Potter? Reading that series aloud (and doing characters) is one of the great memories of my kids growing up.
      – BUT … I have re-read all of these. Vonnegut in particular is amazingly reflective of my own stage in life: some times I find it laugh-out-loud funny, other times not at all, still others sad or poignant or cynical and bitter.
      – Sartre … agree on No Exit, but since I have it in a collection and that is pretty much the only one I go back to, I don’t count that. Nausea I am slightly embarrassed as it is SO prototypical existential and reflective of being young – almost as bad as putting Ayn Rand on the list!
      – Asimov did more than fade for me – he crashed and burned. But then re-reading on a flight a few years (I’d forgotten my book and they had the trilogy in paperback at the airport) I saw past that and into the story and characters and enjoyed it again.
      – Bradbury – Martian Chronicles is better, but Fahrenheit 451 I always go back to first.
      – For Naipaul I like ‘A house for Mr. Biswas’ quite a bit and also Bend in the River, but Guerillas has a visceral feel and specific set of memories for me.

      I know I am *supposed* to care about physical things as someone with a closet full of records, hundreds of CDs, and three bookcases full of paper … but in all cases I abandoned the physical things as soon as possible. Ironically my kids are totally into the physical stuff, loving vinyl and CDs and printed books …

  2. Some nice choices there, for sure.

    I recently read Vonnegut’s “the Sirens of Titan”.. very underrated book with a truly fabulous ending.

  3. Yeah, I read Rand in college, too. At least I have the excuse that some super-smart chick recommended Atlas Shrugged to me. Decent stories, crappy philosophy.
    Interestingly, Vonnegut gives Sirens an “A”. I pretty much agree with all his self-assessments, except for this one I give a B or B+ for some good ideas. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_Vonnegut)
    My reading habits have shifted many, many times over the years, so I count high school as my “almost flunked English from reading too much sci-fi” phase. Any literature I might have inadvertently or intentionally read was likely a sci-fi or fantasy crossover. Now it’s completely flipped, mostly literature with some fantasy/sci fi mixed in. (Not counting nonfiction.)
    Potter is also great. By far the best kids book I’ve found. Really glad my “nonfiction-only” kid puts up with fiction at bedtime.

  4. Pingback: The Facebook ’10 Books That Stayed With You’ Meme Post | Running Around the Bend

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