Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Listicles, Part 1: Ten Books That Stuck with Me

As a lazy-ass "blogger," the idea of listicles appeals to me. (You've all seen my "New Year, New Playlist" posts, right?) So when these things about ten books and fifteen movies that stuck with you started going around Facebook, I thought to myself, Now, there's a blog post I can write! In fact, that's TWO posts! Here, then, we have part one of two: ten books. Return next Wednesday for the fifteen movies!


1) Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
As if y'all didn't know this one was on the list.

2) House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski
In high school, I was--and remain--a devoted fan of POE's 2000 album Haunted. When I found out that she had written the songs in part as a collaboration with/response to her brother, Danielewski, I of course had to snatch up a copy of the corresponding book. It is dark, twisted, daring, and brilliant. It's the only book that has ever scared me so much that I couldn't sleep. And because it challenges what fiction is--and what it can/should be--it remains a title I love.

3) War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, Chris Hedges
Of all the ways to find a book. I spent a summer cramming in about two years' worth of books when I started working for the head of the Honors program at my last institution so I could familiarize myself with the things prospective students would face if they joined Honors, and this book, above all the others I consumed in those two months, challenged and changed me. While I still don't agree with warfare--something I won't delve into now because of its complexities--I do understand it better and have a great deal more respect for war makers, survivors, and reporters thanks to Hedges.

4) Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut
Speaking of war. This transcendent, outrageous, ridiculous novel discusses the consequences of warfare in a sideways kind of manner--Billy Pilgrim coming unstuck in time may seem fantastical to some, but ultimately, it's about one person disconnecting from the physical world after suffering hugely traumatic things. The firebombing of Dresden--an event that remains controversial to this day--takes center stage, and Vonnegut shakes you out of any complacency you may have harbored before delving between the covers.

5) The Return of the Native, Thomas Hardy
Is there anyone more depressing than Hardy? Maybe the Russian novelists, but having never read Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, or the others, I'm sticking with Hardy as my go-to downer. In my worst moments, I am Eustacia Vye embodied; in my best, I realize what a terrible role model she is. And at all times, I am ready to make a joke about Bonfire Night and/or the Reddleman.

6) The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
Oh, Fa(u)lkner. You tortured me at first, but by the time that someone compared me to Candace Compson last year, I was ready to take it as a compliment. Quentin (the man, not the niece) is a hell of a character, and Jason is the best terrible fictional person I've ever encountered. Forget the settings; forget the plot. This book is worth it just to experience the voices of these people.

7) The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
Yes, I know--what young female aspiring writer DOESN'T fall for Plath at some point? But it's more than that. It's the fact that the book is endlessly quotable ("I am. I am. I am.") and vividly rendered. It's the fact that Plath and her fictional alter-ego seem to understand things that we ourselves wish we could grasp. It's the fact that we've all wanted to completely make ourselves over at some point, but we're not all brave enough to send our clothes--those external signposts--flying into the sky like Esther does. She's not a perfect role model, by any means, and that's what makes her so appealing.

8) Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman
Whitman was a perfect human being. End of story.

9) Tuck Everlasting, Natalie Babbitt
I don't think I've ever encountered another children's book so beautifully written. Babbitt's words are well-chosen in a way that makes me viscerally jealous. The story itself is something adults and children alike should experience.

10) The Bridesmaids, Cherie Bennett
About a million years after I first read this book, I realized what an effect it had on me. It's the equivalent of a trashy romance novel for teens, and I love it so much that I'd happily read it again, if only I could find my copy (which has been packed away with the majority of my books).


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