What books have stayed with you through the years?
If you’re a reader—and I have good reason to believe that you are—then there are certain books that hold particular importance to you, that have earned a place in your personal literary pantheon.
A book in this category might have found you at an especially receptive or vulnerable or curious time in your life. Perhaps it’s a book that awakened you to the transformative and transporting power of fiction, to the way that you can sink into a comfortable chair and disappear into a novel, emerging hours later, blinking and awestruck at the once-familiar world that surrounds you, now remade in subtle but undeniable ways, just as you yourself have been. Chances are that there’s a book that you’ve recommended over and over again, or maybe only once or twice because you understand that only the right kind of reader will appreciate it the way that you do. Maybe you even snatch up every copy of that book when you find one on the clearance shelf in the secondhand bookstore so you’ll have it on hand to give away when that ideal reader appears in your life.
Marginalia, which is what I call this section of Read Write Repeat, is about those special books, and my relationship to books, what they mean to me and what they’ve done for me and to me. If you’ve subscribed to Read Write Repeat, then you’re already subscribed to Marginalia. You can change this here, if you’d like, or subscribe to other topics within Read Write Repeat.
Here's a metaphorical stack of books that made an indelible impression on me when I first read them. These are some of those books that I grab up at Half Price Books whenever I spot them and keep them “in stock” to give away. I expect I’ll spend some time talking about each of these books in future posts, but for now, this is just an extemporaneous emptying out of my book memory, presented roughly in the order in which I read them, from my earliest favorite book—Frederick—to the most recent novel that left me awestruck.
Frederick - Leo Lionni
Dandelion Wine - Ray Bradbury
Franny and Zooey - JD Salinger
The Sound and the Fury - William Faulkner
Dubliners - James Joyce
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead - Tom Stoppard
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love - Raymond Carver
Winesburg Ohio - Sherwood Anderson
Waiting for Godot - Samuel Beckett
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - Robert Pirsig
Plainsong - Kent Haruf
The Things They Carried - Tim O'Brien
The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Muriel Barbery
Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy
Tenth of December - George Saunders
The Art of the Lathe - BH Fairchild
The Book of Men - Dorianne Laux
Bel Canto - Ann Patchett
Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace
The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake
Lincoln in the Bardo - George Saunders
Night Boat to Tangier - Kevin Barry