Top 10 Tuesday on a Wednesday? We’ve been slammed hard with a giant workload at STAHR, which in the end is a good thing! But it’s sort of derailed our publishing schedule. We will get on top of that next week, promise.
For now, let’s get into a Top 10. Directly across from my writing desk there are not one but TWO bookshelves rife with classics, graphic novels, YA serials and everything in between. Now, to somehow figure out my favorites…
NOTE: These two shelves (somehow) do not represent my entire library or my entire reading history, and also some of the books are behind other books, rendering them invisible, so these are only the books whose spines I can read.
10. “Empire Falls” by Richard Russo
Maybe it has to do with the fact that I finished it just a couple months ago, or maybe it’s that I read the book in Turks and Caicos and it brings back relaxing, tropical memories. Mostly though, it’s that Russo’s novel is an absolute pleasure to read, and the glowing reviews that pepper it’s opening pages echo that fact: it’s just a good book. Yes, they closing chapters get pretty intense, but for the most part this is a long, small-scale novel about people dealing with life in a small town. You’ve got your bored teens, your divorced parents, your struggling business owners. Doesn’t sound like my cup of tea actually, and it maybe it dosn’t sound like yours, but give “Empire Falls” at least a hundred pages, and if you aren’t absolutely delighted with every turn of the page, then my bad.
9. “Watchmen” by Alan Moore
Considering “The Dark Knight Returns” is nowhere to be seen on my shelf, Alan Moore’s epic graphic novel has little competition, and in truth it probably would have won either way. While the works aren’t at all comparable, #9 and #10 do share the same level of immersion. It’s not exactly “joyous” reading, but “Watchmen” has your brain working overtime on almost every panel. I am not huge into comics but I think it’s safe to say there is real nothing else like “Watchmen” in the canon. Do yourself a favor and read through the first chapter and it’s faux-autobiography epilogue. It might not be your cup of tea but…wait why am I on this tea kick all of the sudden?
8. “The Boarder Trilogy” by Cormac McCarthy
That’s right, I’ve got all three boarder novels in one volume! Hard to top all that grim, poetic landscape description and slick cowboy dialogue. “All the Pretty Horses” trumps “Catcher In the Rye” as ultimate boy coming of age in the face of the cruel real world novel, and it’s followup “The Crossing,” despite being almost an exact replica, is even better (read the opening section, about 140 pages…unreal how good it is). Unfortunately “City of the Plains” is kind of a stretch, though I haven’t given it the attention it deserves.
7. “Everworld” by KA Applegate
It’s hard to say which I enjoy more, “Animorphs” or “Everworld,” but considering Ani got a solo review last week, let’s give some attention to KA’s followup series. A bit more mature but still very much in the YA range, “Everworld” takes the culture and religion of a dozen ancient peoples and pits their gods against one another in a battle to control Everworld, which is currently under the regime of an alien god who snacks on other gods for dinner. The fantasy aspect of “Everworld” is spot on, but what makes it so good are the characters. Not only are they interesting, flawed characters with dark secrets, but they don’t like each other. The five human characters traveling Everworld rarely get along, though KA manages to keep conversations from devolving into annoying arguments. It’s a refreshing change of pace, considering how often teenagers are suddenly sucked into other worlds and hit it off with each other immediately.
6. “The Short Stories of F Scott Fitzgerald” by F Scott Fitzgerald
This is a thick volume containing 30+ of Scott’s best. Francis was an expert of short fiction and each story is both entertaining and beautifully composed. Favorites include “The Ice Palace,” “The Offshore Pirate,” “Winter Dreams” and “Babylon Revisited.” Every good bookshelf deserves at least one F Scott book (mine has like 6) and this one is perfect.
5. “Calvin & Hobbes” by Bill Watterson
Between “It’s A Jungle Out There,” “The Days Are Just Packed,” “It’s A Magical World” and “There’s Treasure Everywhere,” I think I have about every Calvin and Hobbes strip ever written. Lucky me! These comics hold up, and unlike today’s newspaper strips (do they still exist?) Calvin and Hobbes are actually FUNNY. Like, laugh out loud funny. Crazy!
4. “Jurassic Park” by Michael Crichton
As far as genre fiction goes, Crichton is the master, and “Jurassic Park” is Crichton at his best. Wow, what a roller coaster of a book! “JP” takes its time building up, establishing a scientific foundation which is interesting reading in itself, but once the power goes out, BAM! You are in for the adventure of a life time. The film is in top 3 all time, but believe it or not, the book is actually better, and quite different. If you haven’t read this book I definitely advise taking it with you to the beach this summer. Should only take two trips max.
3. “Live From New York” by Saturday Night Live
If you are an SNL fan this book is a must. Even if you aren’t, it’s an easy, interesting read. The book is composed entirely from quotes from SNL members from the 70s to the early 2000s, when the book came out. The stories from 30 Rock, as you might imagine, are insane, and it’s cool to have no narrative intrusion, just getting the dirt right from the mouths of those who were there in it.
2. “Bambi” by Felix Salten
Haha! Ok so I realized pretty early on this wasn’t a straight top 10, really just 10 interesting books I own. None is more interesting than “Bambi” (well I guess #1 is…). I read “Bambi,” believe it or not, in like the 10th grade, of my own free will. And boy am I glad I did. Whoever decided this little book would make a good Disney movie was on some next level shit. “Bambi” is a brutal read. Not only are the woods a wild, unforgiving place, but the personalities Salten develops for his animal characters–who, like in the movie, rarely speak–are truly disturbing in how believable they are. A particularly gruesome scene comes when Bambi watches from a wounded fox taunt a hunting dog who awaits his master to catch up and shoot the fox. The fox, and soon all the birds in the forest, call the dog a traitor until the dog can’t handle it anymore and rips the fox’s throat out. DISNEY EXEC #2: “How about instead of killing the fox, the dog and the fox do a duet, and then fall in love?” DISNEY EXEC #2: “But of course!”
1. “Blood Meridian” by Cormac McCarthy
“Blood Meridian” gets the nod for a few reasons, despite Cormac already making the list and so many of my favorites not appearing (Junot Diaz, Lolita, Godzilla). First, I’ve never read a denser book than “Blood Meridian.” I got it for Christmas and just reading the first sentence I knew I was in for something special. This is a fairly slender book that somehow weighs a thousand pounds. Secondly, Cormac is a brilliant writer. The descriptions and easy exchanges of dialogue make you wonder why any other author has ever tried to write. In most areas of art it’s hard to call something a classic until many years have passed and the creator has died. “Blood Meridian” has been firmly entrenched in the American literary canon since Cormac pounded out the final period. Lastly, and most importantly, through some strange confluence of events, “Blood Meridian,” on my bookshelf, is currently entrenched between two volumes of the “Pretty Little Liars” serial. I don’t think these books have ever come in contact with one another and I felt attention must be brought to the fact.