Tuesday, June 23, 2009

More books to remember

As promised, part two of books I've read that stayed in my life:

*A Flag for Sunrise, by Robert Stone. I read this in 1985, my junior year of college, when my political awareness was primarily focused on watching the cute guys playing hackeysack by the anti-apartheid shanties on the quad and attending the occasional beans and rice dinner sponsored by the Central American Solidarity Committee. This novel made me aware that the latter was about more than a free meal. I haven't re-read it, but I do occasionally look up passages to quote.

*Walden, by Henry David Thoreau. This one speaks for itself.

*Sophie's Choice, by William Styron. I'm glad I read this before I became a mother; I don't think I could manage it now. It haunts me still.

*Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver. I wish I had read this before I became a mother. My daughter was the same age as Ruth May when I read it. I cried for the better part of three days. Equally memorable for me, although not as emotional, was Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer.

*My favorite two treatises by William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience and On Pragmatism, can be found in most compilations of his writings. I consider myself a pragmatist.

*The Bonfire of the Vanities, by Tom Wolfe. I blame this novel for my continuing habit of mentally labeling any expensively-dressed, very thin blonde woman a "social x-ray." The book is far better than the movie (sorry Tom Hanks).

*The food books of Mort Rosenblum, in order of their deliciousness: Chocolate, Olives and A Goose in Toulouse. Where have you been lately, Mort? Enough of those state-of-journalism books that I have to buy for my husband. Write another foodie one, please!

*You are Your Child's First Teacher, by Rahima Baldwin Darcy. Inspired by the educational philosophies of Rudolf Steiner that led to the development of Waldorf schools, this was the most influential of the parenting books I read when my children were small.

*The Beast in the Garden, by David Baron. Starting with an incident in which a mountain lion killed a jogger in the foothills near Boulder, Dave does a brilliant job illustrating the difficulties that ensue as human habitat encroaches on the wild.

*The City of Joy, by Dominique Lapierre. This portrait of the poorest slums of Calcutta somehow manages to leave the reader feeling strangely uplifted and optimistic.

*Texas, by James Michener. The thing that stayed with me from this historical novel was Michener's description of the difference in settlement patterns of the Spanish and the Anglos. As he told it, the Spanish found their security in each other and built their homes close together around central plazas, while the Anglos found their security in isolation and generally preferred to settle as far as possible from each other. Daniel Boone was reported to have remarked that when he could see smoke from a neighbor's chimney, it was time to move. I've been wanting to further explore the implications of these patterns on modern land use and transportation systems.

*Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris. I'll never forget his anecdote about the guys in a French barber shop being perplexed at a photo of Jodie Foster carrying a baggie of dog poop on a beach -- hilarious!

*How Stella Got Her Groove Back, by Terry McMillan. This is not Literature, but in the depths of winter, whenever I'm tempted to fantasize about running off to a tropical island where some hot young hunk could bring me fizzy drinks and rub oil on my back all day, I remember what happened to the real Stella.

*The Constant Gardener, by John le Carre. The movie is really good, too.

*Home Economics, by Wendell Berry. I want to read this again.

I'm sure I'm forgetting some important unforgettable books, but there will not be a part 3, at least not anytime soon. I should do a list of great books I haven't read yet and start working through them.

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