The Book Meme
This meme has intrigued me as it’s traveled among the blogs I read. And I’m honored to be tapped by The Unending Journey of the Wandering Author. The hard part is picking one book for each category … so I cheated and occasionally listed two or three.
1. One book that changed your life
So many books have affected me, changed me, made me think differently … so selecting just one is a near impossibility. But I got it down to three.
Johnny Got His Gun, by Dalton Trumbo. This was the first “grown-up” novel I read, when I was twelve. I’d exhausted the young adult section of our library — the Twain novels, Robert Louis Stevenson, the first few Little House on the Prairie books, and the rest that should be read before the teen years — so I moved rooms that summer. When OM saw me reading it, he suggested it might be too advanced for my age since the sex was more graphic than in Little Women; I replied it wasn’t, and he let me finish the book. Reading it in 1971, during the height of the Vietnam War, made an impact on my liberal-minded and antiwar development.
And the Band Played on, by Randy Shilts. This is one of the best, most comprehensive books written about the AIDS epidemic, and I think it was the one of the first. The book chronicles the first several years — individuals, medical research, politics. It’s frustrating to read about the politics of the medical profession and our government’s lack of interest in AIDS; makes you wonder where we’d be today if Reagan had acknowledged it. I saw the movie last week on Logo; I try to watch it at least once a year to remind me that AIDS is still an important, frightening issue in the world today.
Mr. Pine’s Purple House, by Leonard Kessler. How can a children’s book change you? Because it’s the first book I remember reading on my own, when I was five. I was a bookworm from that moment … and it reinforced my love of color everywhere. I still keep a copy on my bookshelf.
2. One book you've read more than once
I don’t reread many books; the stack of to-be-reads is just too tall.
I gave Dan a copy of The World According to Garp soon after we began dating. He had such a great time reading it, I grabbed my copy and read it with him. It was fun rediscovering why I loved the book and watching someone experience John Irving for the first time.
I sent a friend a copy of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley this summer, and I read it again to be ready for his post-read chat. I don’t think he’s yet cracked the spine; silly man. If you’ve never read the Ripley series, I recommend hitting your local independent bookstore today; few writers have Highsmith’s touch to make you cheer on a completely despicable, amoral person.
3. One book you'd want on a deserted island
The Best American Short Stories of the Century, edited by John Updike. Variety would be a necessity on a deserted island, so I think I’d be happiest with a short story collection. My copy of this collection has remained on my bedside table since I purchased it in 2000, and I have yet to grow tired of it.
4. One book that made you cry
One book? I bet one book every month makes me cry. But I read a book this summer that just looking at the cover brings back the pain and tears and, yes, deep love for the words and tales: Elissa Schappell’s Use Me, a collection of short stories about two friends, from their teens to their late thirties. One of the recurring plots is Evie dealing with her beloved father’s battle with and death from cancer. I read words that described exactly how I felt during my father’s illness and after his death; nothing has come closer to that pain. I read the stories with a washcloth clutched in my hand to soak up the tears. And I’m glad I read it. If I ever met Ms. Schappell, I may have to crawl in her lap and bawl.
5. One book that made you laugh
The Witty: East Is East, by T. Coraghessan Boyle, about a Japanese-American stowaway who jumps ship and ends up at a writer’s colony in coastal Georgia. This was my first introduction to Mr. Boyle, one of my favorite modern authors.
The Oh-so-close-to-home: Bridget Jones’s Diary, by Helen Fielding. I thought I was reading my own memoir — similar silliness, drama, klutziness, day-to-day life. I love the book. And the movie.
The Silly: Daddy’s Boy: A Son's Shocking Account of Life with a Famous Father, by Chris and Bob Elliott. An absurd, silly sendup of celeb-kid memoirs. My sister and I read the book at the same time, and we had many phone conversations reading our favorite passages, laughing so hard our mouths couldn’t form words. What can I say? I love Letterman, and thus I love Chris Elliott.
6. One book you wish had been written
A novel about the fortysomething single woman. The chicklit shelves have covered the thirtysomethings, so it’s time to move up and examine the next decade. Guess I should be writing it, shouldn’t I?
7. One book you wish you had written
The Stone Diaries, by Carol Shields. The story is wonderful and the structure is brilliant. Each chapter is written in a different style — first person, third person, as a letter, and so on. I wish I’d come up with that idea.
8. One book you wish had never been written
I know I should pick something harmful to society, such as anything written by Adolph Hitler or Bill O’Reilly … but I have to go with The DaVinci Code. Why? Because so many people read it and took the damn thing seriously. It’s a novel, people, not a well-researched book of nonfiction. I read another Dan Brown novel, and the grammatical errors drove me nuts; doesn’t he have a decent editor? And, yes, I’m a bookseller snob and thus am rarely interested in reading books that top of the bestseller lists.
9. One book you are currently reading
Talk Talk, by T. Coraghessan Boyle. I’m enjoying it so far. Oh, and did I mentioned that he signed my copy of the book?
10. One book you’ve been meaning to read
Special Topics in Calamity Physics, by Marisha Pessl. DJ Cayenne, one of my blog heroes, can’t stop writing about it (or her), so I need to pick up a copy and crack that spine soon.
11. Now tag five people
And my Bookstar boys:
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