Top Ten Books and why...
I was asked by a friend on Facebook to come up with a "Top Ten" list of books. I decided to choose books that influenced me. And as others said, I probably would choose some other books if I was asked the question tomorrow. But, for now, here's my Top Ten:
Desert Solitaire, Ed Abbey. Lots of books have changed my life. But this one changed my life for the longest period of time. Why is it so good? First off, the writing. Nobody could write like Ed. And then there's the ideas. This is the first book I've ever read where I had so much substantial agreement with the author. I just found myself muttering out loud, "I agree" as I turned the pages.
A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold. This is a book I should have read long, long ago. It is musical in nature. Last summer, Joni and I took a trek to where this was written, "The Shack". Some first paragraphs in books are better than others. This book's first paragraph is legend. I challenge you to find the book and if you read only one paragraph, let it be the first one. By the way, that's me and Joni in front of the shack where Aldo wrote the book.
The Making of a Radical, a political autobiography, Scott Nearing. In many ways, Scott Nearing reminded me of my Grandfather. Scott and his wife Helen wrote the excellent "The Good Life" and were the inspiration for the 70's back to the land movement. I wish I had read Scott's book when I was in my 20's as it is a good primer on how to survive as a Radical. Specifically, it is okay to be a Radical and have a bit of financial security. For a Marxist, the guy knew how to save money.
Deer Hunting with Jesus, Dispatches from America's Class War, Joe Bageant. My God, this man could write. The tragedy is that he only wrote two books prior to his untimely death a few years ago. This book should go down as a Redneck Classic. Joe and I traded a few e-mails before he died. I wish I would have kept them, as they were as good as his books.
Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, John Dominic Crossan. Read this book and you will never see Jesus, nor Christianity, in the same light ever again. Jesus' mission was free healing and a shared meal.
The Grizzly, Enos Mills. You probably will never find this book, as I found it in the library of the old Nurses Dorm at the hospital I stayed at. Written in 1918, this book argued for the preservation of the California Grizzly Bear. The writing is excellent, influenced by John Muir. In fact, a serendipitous meeting on a beach in California got Enos pointed in right direction for his life's work. And what was that work? He established Rocky Mountain National Park.
Night, Elie Wiesel. This slim book describes the horror of the holocaust better than anybody else. The author survived it.
Mother Night, Kurt Vonnegut. My favorite Vonnegut book. Under-rated. In fact, I think I will read it again soon and see if I like it as much now in my fifties as I did in my twenties.
The Cider House Rules, John Irving. John Irving's best book. Forget Garp. Forget Owen Meaney. He put it all together with this one. In fact, there is no need to read another book by John Irving, he could never do better. Disclaimer, I find much of John Irving's books to be really narcissistic and boring. In many ways, John Irving's books epitomizes the worst of late 70's and 80's culture. However, The Cider House Rules was a wonderful exception.
Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, Hunter Thompson. This is a primer as to how political journalism should be done. Oh, how much fun it would be to follow a presidential campaign from the press bus. I'd love to do that, but, alas, who would give me the credentials?