Books That Took: 2014 Edition

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

This list went around in 2009, but somehow has resurrected again 2014. I’m sure it’s a way for the Facebook robots to know more about us. Thanks for everything… and nothing, Facebook!

I’m adding a few things I’ve read — and remembered! — since the initial list came out. You’ll see them right after the 2009 roll call.

 Facebook. July 19, 2009

Don’t take too long to think about it. Ten books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First 10 you can recall in no more than 10 minutes. Tag 10 friends, including me because I’m interested in seeing what books my friends choose.

 Terrie tagged me, and I promised to do this. It’s like, weeks, late… but here it is!

 1. True Notebooks by Mark Salzman. He’s my favourite author, and I’ve read all his books except for one (The Laughing Sutra is in my Book Debt pile… I know, some favourite! But he really is.) This is the most recent one he wrote, and the “play the one about the mom” story he describes in the book floors me every time I remember it. Ah, wonderful! I’m just glad I live on the same planet with this guy.

 2. Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume. As a kid, I’d been reading “chapter books” before this title, but this is first time in my reading experience that showed me that writers are trying to reach out to you, to speak to you – the “telepathy” that Stephen King described in his On Writing book. I pretty much read everything she wrote; her children’s books anyway. To this day, I’m still trying to write as directly as her when I have to write. (Like this note on Facebook. Wink!)

 3. Up The Organization by Robert Townsend. For this I say, thank you Andy Taylor! (Yes, of Duran Duran!) I’d seen this book laying around the bookshelves at home, and when Andy said this is his favourite book, well my teen self finally got around to reading it. And this book struck me the way Andy did, most likely – this book definitely influenced the way I communicate, how I approach people, how I deal with most anything. A lot of elements are outdated now (one chapter was about not being scared of computers “girls in the steno pool”), but the way Robert Townsend suggested we view the world remains true and universal.

 4. A Hat For The Queen from A Little Golden Book Eager Reader series. Hee, do they still make Little Golden Books? This book sticks with me because according to my tricky memory, it’s the lightning moment when I discovered I could read! How the words that I spoke matched the words I was viewing on the page. The only problem is, I seem to recall that this lightning moment happened when I was in Grade 2, or eight years old. Did I really learn to read that late? How did I survive Kinder to Grade 1?

 5. The People’s Almanac/The Book Of Lists by Irving Wallace et al. I devoured these informational books all throughout my childhood, and these books gave me a love for interesting facts and ideas, and how knowing them could expand your mind and open up the world. See, I don’t “know” everything – far from it. But learning about the little details of the world is so much fun and worth staying on the planet for.

 6. Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guides. Speaking of knowing “everything”… I used to buy his annual guides and discovered you could love movies in a whole new way, a way that allowed me to define what makes a film great, for myself. Truth be told, these reviews are a collective “tentpole” of my movie-going. (Terrie knows what this means. Or check it out in my old blog here.) And Leonard was so funny. I still crack up his review of “The Promise,” starring Stephen Collins and Kathleen Quinlan that went something like: “Boy meets girl. Boys falls in love with girl. Girl gets into accident. Boy thinks girl is dead. Girl is alive but has new face. Boy falls in love with same girl with new face. Viewer runs screaming from the room…”

 7. The Catcher In The Rye by JD Salinger. I think it’s mandated that every teenager read this and be blown away by it. Cue: Teen Angst. I picked this up from the St Scho library, thinking: I can read the important books. Kaya ko ‘to! And the first line taught me not to be afraid of the “big” books: “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like…” Hee! Big books are just like you and me! (Sorta.) Now of course, I think it’s such a WHINY book. Snap out of it, Holden Caulfield!

 8. The Road by Cormac McCarthy. One of the more recent books I read that hit me deep. Wow, I just bawled my eyes out reading this book. I tried to read McCarthy before, but it was just way above me. The Road though, is clear and direct, but punches a wallop. I remember pa na brownout at the some of the more heartbreaking parts of the book. Ugh, I think I bawled harder because of the power outage!

Ugh, I’m so daldal! I know I was supposed to write ten, but aren’t you exhausted me going on and on already? For the last two, I promise to be brief!

9. I Know This Much This True by Wally Lamb. For sure, the thickest book I ever managed to finish! And it had the best come-full-circle ending, that I didn’t see coming.

10. The Sweet Dreams series, but ONLY The Summer Jenny Fell In Love. Hee, I remember another lightning moment when I read these books (and I only read five of the hundreds out there): it was when my cynicism began! C’mon the senior football jock noticed the shy sophomore who is more beautiful than the head cheerleader — again?!? Ugh. Jenny though, gave me hope that familiar stories can still break through and seem fresh. Plus, Jenny and the boy she fell in love with were refreshingly ordinary types.

Whew! Got through it! Can’t wait to hear the books that “remain with you” y’all!

Back to 2014! In the end, I still think Up The Organization was the one that truly made an impact. Much of what is in it is how I frame my daily living. (“If you’re not here to do things excellently, then what are you doing here?”)

Here are the additional titles that also make it to the Great Karen Pantheon of Books:

11. On Writing by Stephen King. King’s mentioned up there, but this book makes you fall in love with writing, and want to do right by the art. 

12. The New York Times Manual of Style & Usage. Informative and hilarious. The editors were having fun when they decided to teach us a thing or two. (FYI — Blond = for guys. Blonde = for gals.) 

13. If You’re Talking To Me, Your Career Must be in Trouble by Joe Queenan. Discovered in the glory days of Movieline magazine, Joe interviewed celebs and was assigned to do deep dives on the most painful movie tropes. I continue to reach his benchmark on comic writing. (“Finally, a few weeks later, I sat through Armageddon, the film in which Bruce Willis and a bunch of roughneck oil drillers accept a temporary job on an asteroid hurtling toward planet Earth because the Texas economy is on the ropes, the benefits in outer space are better and Liv Tyler’s pouting makes them anxious to leave this solar system.“)

14. The Portable Dorothy Parker. “You could lead a horse to water, but you can’t lead a horticulture.”

15. The Devil In The White City by Erik Larson. The 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago led to ambitious architectural design by Daniel Burnham and possibly the world’s first serial killer in HH Holmes. Both stories are thrillingly re-told and a delight to read, and Larson gives us a special gift in making design planning more suspenseful than a murderer on the loose.