Thursday, July 19, 2012

Favorite Books of James Larkin


Today's guest post is from a reader whose tastes roam through every genre and many books that defy classification.  Meet my husband, James Larkin.
This is a list of the best books I've ever read, in no particular order.  I made this list by quickly going through my library and being ruthless in the selection.  Undoubtedly, there are some important omissions.  I'm not so sure about mistaken inclusions.  I left out text books and so-called sacred writing (most of the books on this list are sacred to me).  

I included several books because of their "memory" to me, or, maybe more simply, what they meant to me at the time I read them.  I include many books by authors who have much more famous/successful works than the one I mention.  Tough nooglits.  

A quick note on noted short story writers.  I think all of them should be on the list, but I'll include a few at the end.  And maybe one or two authors will be included for their entire body of work.  Stephen King comes to mind for the body of work thing, although I'm way too much of a snob to have him on my list.  After all, he's sold one zillion books, so how good could he be? It goes without saying that you would do well to read any of these;  it'll feel like Disneyland on Acid, without leaving the farm.  

Again, no particular order, (the numbers are useful anyway):

1) The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom.  Ten Boom's family hid Anne Frank.  Life Lessons abound.

2) Pop: 1280 by Jim Thompson.  Jim's a soul mate.  Started reading this one weekend in Chicago and on Monday bought 3 more.  Carnage-o-plenty!

3) The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.  I hate to do this but the recommendation includes referencing his "other" work.  This is so much better.  Period.

4) Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut.  Trippy.  Pun optional.

5) Lord of the Flies by William Golding.  Never underestimate the power of stupid people in groups.  

6) Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow.  It was my first of Saul's books and I love him for it. 

7) Being There by Jerzy Kosinski.  He never uses 2 words when one will do.  

8) Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.  There are 2 kinds of readers in the world and if this isn't on your list you're the other kind.  

9) Ironweed by William Kennedy.  Sublime.  Time and place.  

10) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  Prolific authors should sometimes be put to work.  
11) The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.  This might break the sacred work category, but I reference it to this day.

12) The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera.  I will admit to reading this after seeing the movie.  It's on the very short list of Eastern-bloc writers who've made an impression on me.  

13) The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon.  Maybe more than most authors on this list, you should read something of Michael's before you read anything else.  You will be glad you did.  

14) Marathon Man by William Goldman.  William struck gold in Hollywood, but I don't hold it against him.  He actually wrote a sequel to Marathon, but I don't remember the name, even though I do remember the book.  It might have been called "Brothers", but don't quote me.  

15) I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb.  I read another of his long books, and I am currently reading a novella by Wally.  "This much is True" is an indictment.  

16) The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.  This book deserves a place on this list for what it meant to me while I read it and for the crime that Hollywood committed in the name of this book.  PLEASE skip the movie, it has nothing to do with the book.  

17) Animal Farm by George Orwell.  I am proud in all the wrong ways that I read this book in 6th grade and could tell you it was about politics even then, before the internet.  Again, never underestimate the power of stupid people...

18) Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck.  They should be read together.  

19) Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.  They should be read together.

20) The World According to Garp by John Irving.  This was a new kind of writing to me when I read it.  Early '80's.  The worm has turned. 

Short Story Authors, and Writers notable for the body of work, in no particular order:
Jim Thompson
Raymond Carver
P.K. Dick
Harry Crews 
Scott Cremer
Travis Cremer

Poets, in no particular order:
Richard Peabody.  Rich taught me that "slinging the words" was ok.  Because of that lesson, I am able to put myself on this list:
Jim Larkin.

My favorite author writes words with her deeds as well as her keyboard, and she is my lovely wife, Elaine L. Orr.  Elaine writes "cozy" mysteries" and has earned a living writing most of her life.  Her lessons are innumerable, but how to practice love is at the top of the list.  I wish I was taught the value of creativity and quirkiness early in life.  These aren't Elaine's words, but they could be: 
TEACH YOUR CHILDREN WELL*

*as near as I can find Graham Nash is the author of Teach Your Children, by Crosby, Stills and Nash.

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