In Writing

I was recently asked what my five favorite books are. Of course that’s impossible to decide.  My favorite books change from day to day and mood to mood.  As it it I am usually reading at least two at a time so I can have reading material for every whim.  (My now-ex-husband used to hate how many books I’d pack for a vacation, unsure of what I’d feel like reading for a full two weeks.  Perhaps if Kindles had been invented earlier our marriage might have been saved.  Err… perhaps not).

So, when trying to come up with a list, I tried to break it down:  what makes for a book I love?  What differentiates the passing flings of well-done chick-lit from the enduring love of a book that changes the way I look at the world?  As I was trying to come up with a list, I realized I have a core group of books I read more than once.  (I have a core group of movies like that too.  A post for another day).  In a way, these books form part of who I am.  When I crack their covers, I feel like I’m revisiting an old friend.  Here’s the list:

Nightfall by Isaac Asimov.  I am something of a sci-fi nerd, although I read less of it now in my old age, sticking instead with the comforts of the ones I discovered in my teens.  Nightfall is the story about an imaginary world with 5 stars where the inhabitants never know darkness.  Except every 2000 years all the suns align on one side of the planet and there are a few hours of night.  Everyone goes bonkers and civilization destroys itself.  Just an awesome concept and so well executed.  And not nearly as much of a downer as I’ve just made it seem.

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.  I have read this book maybe 10 times.  It’s the story of an ill-fated climb of Mt. Everest, which I happened to follow online with my first computer in 1996.  I’ve always aspired to be an adventurer, except I’m way too lazy and risk-averse.  So I read about adventures instead.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I know, I know.  It’s popular to be down on this book because it’s a little like the Celine Dion Titanic song of literature.  But it’s been uber-successful for a reason: it’s engaging.  The narrator is eminently likeable and inquires about the world in a way that feels very familiar and accessible to me.  Plus, it came along at a time when my marriage was falling apart, and it’s a book about what happens when a marriage falls apart.  So… yeah.  It was a dear friend at an important time.

All the Questions You Ever Wanted to Ask American Atheists With All The Answers.  This book absolutely rocked my world when I was 16 years old.  I’d long been questioning the religious instruction I was getting and this book introduced me to answers so logical they shifted the course of my life.  I’m sure better atheism books have been written, but this one has a special place in my heart as the one which taught me the questions I’d been wanting to ask.  I wouldn’t call myself an atheist anymore, but I did learn to pick and choose the spiritual beliefs that made sense to me in large part thanks to the inquiry I began when I first read (and re-read and read again) this book.

Lucifer’s Hammer by Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven.  Yep, another end-of-the-world book.  Nothing cheers me up like imagining what I might be if all social constraints were stripped away and the system reinvented afresh.  (I think I secretly harbor the fantasy that I’d be this generation’s George Washington).  This book is great fun and a trip into what life would be like in the weeks leading up to a giant comet slamming into the earth.  I’ve read this a gazillion times.  I always the part where the guy double-baggies important books and leaves them floating in a giant water tank so they’ll be safe and undiscovered.

Do you have books you love to re-read?


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