I can say things like, “The other day when I was walking through the book store,” because I’m lucky enough to live in a town that still has actual book stores. Everyone should be that lucky. Unfortunately it seems that more and more book stores are closing down. But that discussion is for another time.
For now, I want to talk about a book I saw. A book I haven’t seen in about twenty years. Maniac Magee.
It was the first real book I can ever remember reading. And as I stood in Barnes and Noble holding this book I began to think back to other books that I haven’t picked up in a while. Books that may not make the New York Times Top 100 List or Amazon’s 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime, but nonetheless books that have influenced my life.
The following books are in the order that I recall reading them.
Manaic Magee by Jerry Spinelli
He loved almost everything about his life. But everything did not love him back. – Jerry Spinelli (Click to Tweet This)
As I mentioned above this is one of the first books I can ever recall reading. If you read the wikipedia page it will tell you this is a book about exploring themes of racism and homelessness. But that’s not what I remember. I remember a story about a boy who did the impossible.
I always wanted to be Maniac Magee as a kid, and part of me still does.
The Book of Positive Quotations by John Cook
Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. – Thomas A. Edison (Click to Tweet This)
My mother got me this book when I was a junior in high school. It was supposed to be a tool to help with all those college application essays and scholarships. It ended up being a way to pass the time during most of my high school classes.
I’d sit at my desk with the book on my lap, looking up enough to convince the teacher I was paying attention, and then I’d go back to reading quote after quote after quote. It turns out this is one of the greatest ways to find even more books to read.
Emerson’s Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson
It depends on the mood of the man, whether he shall see the sunset. – Ralph Waldo Emerson (Click to Tweet This)
My first experience of Emerson was in the quote book above. I noticed I was highlighting his quotes more than almost anyone else. So one day after school, in the great age of dial-up internet, I searched AOL for a man named Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Hours later the printer was out of ink and paper and I was lying on the floor reading essays. My mom came home and I remember her saying, “I can’t believe my son is reading Emerson.” Of course, I was reading Emerson, but not exactly understanding.
Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan
I drank coffee and read old books and waited for the year to end. – Richard Brautigan
My college professor once told me, “Reading Brautigan is like reading the phone book.” Part of me tends to agree. The other part of me gained a whole new perspective on storytelling and poetry. A slightly disjointed, crazy perspective, but perspective nonetheless.
P.S. Dear fisherman, this book doesn’t really have much to actually do with trout fishing.
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. – Rainer Maria Rilke
The letters that Rilke writes are truly heartfelt. Every poet should read this at least once in their lifetime (if not more).
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
Wisdom that a wise man attempts to impart always sounds like foolishness to someone else. – Hermann Hesse (Click to Tweet This)
I read Siddhartha years ago while on a Carnival cruise. I remember carrying that book around everywhere. In fact one night, around 2 a.m., I was sitting on the steps in one of the main lobbies and a middle aged Indian man walked by me. After seeing what I was reading he turned and said, “Everyone should read Siddhartha at least once in their lives.” Everyone should read something by Hermann Hesse for certain.
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point. – C.S. Lewis (Click to Tweet This)
This was the first book I read by C.S. Lewis. I started hearing a lot about him in college and one day I picked up the book and nearly read the whole thing on a bus ride around campus. It’s a quick read and will completely change your perspective on good and evil and it plays out in the world around you.
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself. – C.S. Lewis
While I’ve read a lot of books on this list more than once, I may have read this book 3-4 times.
The Philosopher and the Wolf by Mark Rowlands
Man measures itself in terms of what it has. But for a wolf it is being rather than having that is crucial. – Mark Rowlands (Click to Tweet This)
It’s hard for me to reliably say how good this book actually is. I read it after the loss of my first dog (Pace), and Mark Rowlands portrayal of the relationship he had with his wolf was just something I needed at the time.
I will say one thing though. To this day it is one of my most memorable reads, and I wrote more notes in the margin of this book than any other.
Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat
The caribou feeds the wolf, but it is the wolf that keeps the caribou strong. – Farley Mowat
So that’s it. These are the 10 books that don’t ever leave the night table by my bed. I’ve read these books more than any others, and I hope they have as great an impact on you as they have on me.