Friday, November 25, 2011

A meme - 10 most influential books

I try to avoid memes; this one caught my attention because I realized that the 10 most influential books in my life are not the most well-written books I've ever read, nor are they necessarily books I'd force into the hands of anyone asking for 'a good book.' This list consists of the styles or voices that got stuck in my consciousness and acted as a model (or at least a base) for the way I learned to write. I read three of them before I turned 12, four of them in my mid to late teens and three in my late 20s. I've read better and more impressive works than these, but this particular 10 made the most impact on me as a whole.

Most of the authors listed here wouldn't stay in a room with each other voluntarily, so be it. And I'm indifferent to their moral character or politics. Who cares? James Dickey was by all accounts a dreadful human being, but an extraordinarily original poet when he wanted to be. And I don't want to hang out at any political action committee PJ O'Rourke would endorse, but I'd gladly buy him a beer if he'd teach me to be as sharp and snarky as he managed in his prime.

Only a few of these books rest in my shelves at home; most have done their job and left their influence and don't need to be revisited. It's a weird list, take from it what you wish. And feel free to follow the meme.

1. The Collected Poems of Primo Levi

2. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

3. Dispatches - Michael Herr

4. The Grapes of Wrath- John Steinbeck

5. Holidays in Hell- PJ O'Rourke

6. The Illustrated Man - Ray Bradbury

7. Dubliners - James Joyce

8. Metropolitan Life - Fran Leibowitz

9. Night- Elie Wiesel

10. The Whole Motion - Collected poems of James Dickey

Honorable Mentions: Darkness Visible by William Styron, Nobody's Perfect by Anthony Lane, Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, Goodbye to Berlin, Christopher Isherwood, the collected short stories of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, the collected poems of Alden Nowlan and Theodore Roethke, Songs of the Doomed by Hunter S. Thompson and 30+ years of Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury.

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