Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Book Challenge

Okay you (Jackson) Irish punk, I see your challenge, and it's late afternoon and I'm tired of being productive so I'll do it. Here are 10 books that I myself consider to be eye-opening, memorable and/or influential upon my thinking.

1. A History of God - by Karen Armstrong; The long, difficult, conflict riddled, and frustratingly non-straightforward history of Abrahamic monotheism turned out to be not what I thought it was when I first read this around 2003. Mind opening.

2. The Name Above The Title- by Frank Capra; Autobiography by a man who is still one of my favorite directors, covers Hollywood from the silent era to the 1970's, at times self serving, but full of great stories.

3. In the Beauty of the Lilies- by John Updike; My favorite novel, follows four generations of the Wilmot family from 1910 until around 1990, I see a little of myself in each of the protagonists. Teddy and Emily forever.

4. On Chesil Beach- by Ian McEwan; My favorite living novelist who is still writing novels, one of the things I love about McEwan is you never know if things are going to turn out all right for his characters or not, so this was a memorably frustrating, often upsetting read, one of the few times I can honestly say that I threw a book down in anger while reading it.

5. The Plot Against America- by Philip Roth; My favorite living novelist who is no longer writing novels. Roth covers many of the same themes over and over again, but this was the first book of his that I read so I'm having it represent him on this list. It's a kind of alternate history where Roth casts himself ages say 7-10 as the lead. I'd say he might have offended some of his real relatives with this book, but then I read other things he wrote and figure his family must have gotten used to it.

6. Specimen Days- by Michael Cunningham; My favorite living American novelist who is still writing novels. Really three novellas of vastly different genera types, all tied together through references to Walt Whitman and an ornamental bowl. Cunningham is a master of subtly weaving themes, images, and names around but never spelling out how they are suppose to fit together, dreamlike and eerie.

7. David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism- by Gregory A. Prince and William Robert Wright; I needed to include at least one book about Mormonism in this list, and this is a fascinating behind the scenes look at the McKay Presidency (1951-1970) taken largely from the extensive records kept by McKay's private secretary. Covers a very important transitional era for the Church, and one of my favorite Church presidents.

8. A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments- by David Foster Wallace; A complication from the authors witty non-fiction writing, his lengthy recounting of his first experience on a cruse ship is honestly one of the funniest things I've ever read.

9. The Death of the Liberal Class- by Christopher Hedges; A very sharp mind looks at how the American people routinely shoot themselves in the foot, and who loads the gun for them.

10. To Kill a Mockingbird- by Harper Lee; Because its just awesome. Ms. Lee said everything she needed to say in just one book and will be forever remembered for it, one of the rarest of accomplishments. If I ever have a son, his middle name will be Atticus.

I call out anyone whose interested to participate in this challenge.