My friend Stuart Levitan prompted this list by posting his Facebook list of “Books that mattered the most to me.” I gather such lists are a viral trend right now on the Internet, so a blogger, if anything, can be trendy.
However, I hope my list of BTMTMTM (also on FB) stands the test of time, much longer than any list-making fashion. For me, they already have.
Feel free to comment on my list or post your own list. And think about checking out these books. I’d also be happy to comment on specific books on my list, by request.
BTMTMTM, in the order they came to mind. Note the slashes for separate books by the same author:
Moby-Dick/ Tales, Poems and Other Writings (Ed. John Bryant) – Melville
The Idiot — Dostoevsky
American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman – F.O. Matthiessen
Dubliners — James Joyce
The Trial — Franz Kafka
Cloudsplitter / Continental Drift — Russell Banks
Lyrics 1962-1985 — Bob Dylan
News of the Universe: Poems of Twofold Consciousness — Ed. Robert Bly
Humboldt’s Gift — Saul Bellow
On God: An Uncommon Conversation — Norman Mailer and Michael Lennon
Mystery Train/The Old Weird America – Greil Marcus
The Arts Without Mystery – Denis Donoghue
Devil Sent the Rain: Music and Writing in Desperate America – Tom Piazza
Thanks to Stu for mentioning Dave Maraniss’ excellent and important book about the Vietnam War, They Marched into Sunlight on his list. While reading “They Marched” in January of 2004, I was afflicted with my auto-immune neuropathy. Note (in scan below) how my p. 143 and ensuing notations are written left-handed, cuz my right hand was in hell. It forced me to stop. I must finish it, soon.I’d also want to add Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Persig, Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, Daniel Martin by John Fowles and Independence Day by Richard Ford, and two by the superb literary critic Ihab Hassan: Selves at Risk & Radical Innocence.
Finally, I would include Susan Sontag’s essay collection, At the Same Time: Essays and Speeches, published in 2007, three years after her death.Because it’s the most recent book on my list that I happened to write a review of, here’s my review of At the Same Time. I believe the book is available in paperback now from Penguin.Regarding Sontag’s interesting quote on the back of her book (see below), I believe my “community of writers,” as listed here, includes slightly more dead than living writers.(Below) The back cover of the hardcover edition of Sontag’s At the Same Time.