I’ve been thinking about books the last couple of days, and I thought I’d mention a few that I like. I wouldn’t necessarily say these are my favorites or the greatest of all time…though a couple of them would fit into both categories…they’re just books I’ve read that I liked, and I thought I’d throw them out there.
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
Amazon Link: http://tinyurl.com/bxcgx
I’ve never been a huge fan of Westerns, when it comes to books. I like the movie genre, and I like the television genre. For some reason, though, I never could quite connect with the literary genre that inspires both movies and television. That is, until I picked up this Pulitzer Prize novel by McMurtry (currently hot due to his screenplay for Brokeback Mountain). Not only is this the best Western I have ever read, it is one of the best books I’ve ever read — period. Not quite a saga, not quite an adventure yarn, the characters in this book spring to life, grab you by the scruff of the neck and don’t let you go until the ride is over. McMurtry creates characters that are hard to forget, and I have not forgotten Gus or Call or Newt or Blue Duck or Laurie in the nearly 20 years since I read this book. Neither will you.
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Amazon Link: http://tinyurl.com/bakwu
I’d be hard-pressed to identify a book that better represents that tenuous passage from boyhood to manhood. Those odd questions that come up…the strange situations that must be reconciled even if they’re not fully understood, the realization that things will never be the same — that it’s impossible to return to childhood once the threshold to the adult world is crossed…Holden Caulfield observes the world with a cynicism ignored by adults before J.D. Salinger forced the world to look at some of the open sores in American society and culture. This book is important for so many reasons. Well-written and engrossing, this book influenced books, movies (think Rebel Without A Cause, and culture in general. An astute observer might have predicted the roiling decade of the 60s after closing the covers on Catcher in the Rye.
The Secrets of Harry Bright by Joseph Wambaugh
Amazon Link: http://tinyurl.com/a5mgz
The Secrets of Harry Bright transcends the cop book genre in which Joseph Wambaugh found so much success of the years. The book centers around a cop whose son is killed in the PSA aircrash that occurred in San Diego back in the 1970s, who is called to the California desert to investigate the murder of another man’s son, forcing him to deal with all those demons seething just beneath the veneer he presents to others. Solid read.
The Word for World is Forest by Ursula K. LeGuin
Amazon Link: http://tinyurl.com/7g7pg
It may be necessary to visit the library to find a copy of this book, but the trip is well worth one’s time. This is LeGuin’s transcendent novel — where she writes a masterpiece that cannot be bounded by the genre in which it is categorized. The greatest thing about the novel is the simplicity with which she communicates the themes of human arrogance, ignorance, and realization. Winner of both the Hugo and Nebula awards, one could do a whole lot worse that to pick up this short book and read it through some Saturday afternoon.
Neuromancer by William Gibson
Amazon Link: http://tinyurl.com/897b4
Simply the most important Science Fiction novel of the last 40 years. There would be no Matrix if not for this book. Gibson completely revolutionized Science Fiction and introduced the masses to the sub-genre of Cyberpunk. That, in itself, would be enough to make this an important book, but the ripple of influence Neuromancer and Gibson have brought to literature, movies, and television make this a book that should be read by anyone interested in pop culture at all. This is the book from which all the current cliches in Science Fiction came.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Amazon Link: http://tinyurl.com/avtje
If someone is only going to write one book in their lifetime, this is the one to have written. Not because it won the Pulitzer Prize, not because it was made into an Academy Award wining film, not because it’s still in print after 40 years — but, because this book is what fiction is all about: Humanity. I closed this book and cried.
If you haven’t read these books, yet, any one of them is worth the effort. If you do read them, I hope you enjoy them as much as I did (and still do).