10 Books that Have Never Left You – What are Your Ten?

IMG_20140906_140406A while back a friend–I think it was Kathleen–pinged me on FB to list ten books that have stayed with me over the years.   I know the challenge is to just list them without really thinking about it, but that’s not who I am. I over think everything. No, really. I know I do.

I’m challenging you to do the same. Whether it’s here as a comment or on FB.  I ended up with a dozen, because I can never follow the rules, well, not exactly.

But you only have to do ten.  Unless you want to do more.

~ o ~

This challenge provided me the perfect opportunity to think about two of my favorite things: books and me.

So the real question is what does it mean that a book, its story has stayed with me. I can remember many–I’ll even go as far as to say most–of the books I’ve read. That doesn’t imply that I can remember the title, because I have been known to buy books that are either already sitting on my shelf or that I’ve already read. [I love that Amazon tells me, umm, yeah, we see that you already own that book. With an implied: dumbass.]

Anyway, instead of pondering why books stay with me, I’m just going to list the books that have most influenced me, in my life and my writing.  And a short bit about why. Most of these I have read multiple times. That I’d go back and re-read a book, several of them many times, when there are so many good books available, says more than any theory I can provide as to why they stayed with me.

(1) Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

000download (2)I read this in high school and was enthralled with Mr. Vonnegut’s writing. But it was the idea behind the book that kept evolving in my head that made me love this book. The story is funny and sad at the same time. It gave me perspective, if that is possible in a sixteen year old, on man’s stupidity, man’s willingness to destroy everything around him in the eternal search for more/better/happiness. And it helped developed my style of handling authority. I will never forget the ending, the image of Man’s final act of giving the finger to You Know Who.

(2) Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

This is another one I read in high school, only this time I was scrunched down under the covers in a spooky, supposedly haunted house. Haunted, interestingly enough, by Mr. King, or so said Nettie, our housekeeper. But back to the novel… I had always loved scary movies, so this was a natural progression. Back then kids didn’t have TVs in their bedrooms. And in the living room, we only had three channels. We read books. But what impressed me about this book was how well, how easily Stephen King could get into my head. And scare the crap out of me. If you’ve read his better books (and there are some I sincerely do not like), you’ll understand what I mean. Since reading Salem’s Lot I have been an ardent fan of Stephen King.

(3) Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

You’ll see references to Practical Magic in my own novel, An Untold Want.  My story is nothing like the one told in Practical Magic, but it is the story that nudged me to write my novel. I love Alice Hoffman’s way of telling stories.

(4) The Odyssey by Homer

You’re thinking, finally something classical and meaningful. Yes, this book was so meaningful to me, so powerful that I ended up with a degree [one of three] in Classical Culture and the ability [sadly, a skill that has faded into oblivion] to read ancient Greek. How amazing is it that someone living 2500 years ago, without the use of a laptop, without even writing it down, created something so brilliant, so beautiful as the story of Odysseus and his efforts to return home? This book has everything. Action, intrigue, romance, betrayal, murder, magic. Everything.

(5) The Mystery of the Gingerbread House by Wylly Folk St. John

000downloadThis book would be considered pre-teen now; back then it was just a kid’s book.  I read it when I was nine, maybe ten. And it started my love of mysteries. The book blurb: “An abandoned baby. A locked trunk. A man called Finch. A stolen car ring. And a missing grandmother. Ronny and Greg Jameson didn’t realize that one girl could be so full of mystery. But that was before they met Evie Hollis.”  What inquisitive kid wouldn’t want to read it?

This book is so old, when in a nostalgic moment I looked for it on-line, it was out of print, but I did find a copy recently on eBay or some such site. Amazon now has some re-prints, though third-party vendors.

Wylly Folk St. John wrote the Southern version of Nancy Drew. And when I go back and read these books, it makes me realize that there is some of Ms. St. John’s style in my writing.  She even wrote one called The Secret of the Seven Crows.  If you’d like to read more about her, there’s a nice post here on WordPress:  Wylly Folk St. John -A Life In Words

(6) Shingebiss — unknown

This is not a novel, not even a full book, but I remember it so well from my childhood, from my mother reading it to me from a big book of fairy tales, that I went and found it in print.

Shingebiss is the story of perseverance and self-confidence, or at least that’s how I remember it. If you know anything of my history, you’ll know that it’s an interesting concept that my mother often read this to me.

The book blurb [a re-print]: “… this ancient Ojibwe story captures all the power of winter and all the courage of a small being who refuses to see winter as his enemy. This sacred story shows that those who follow the ways of Shingebiss will always have plenty to eat, no matter how hard the great wind of Winter Maker blows.”

(7) Small Gods by Terry Pratchett

How can you not love social statements encapsulated in humor? The main character is Brother Brutha.  If you haven’t read this book, you should. ‘Nuff said.

(8) The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

To be honest, I don’t even remember what the story is about, but I loved that it is a story within a story within a story. I loved the writing. I need to go back and read it again, for the third time.

(9) Light in August by William Faulkner

061281b0c8a0fdff169c9110.LAnother perseverance book, by one of my all time favorite authors. I love long complex sentences. Faulkner gives me something to chew on and has affected my writing style significantly.

“Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders.”

— William Faulkner, Light in August,”Chapter Six

(10) Throat by Peter Straub

A dark, intellectual thriller, it is the last in the Blue Rose trilogy. I read this one first, and then read the other two books, then re-read this one, several times. Like Stephen King, Peter Straub understands and expertly uses the mechanics of writing a dark story that gets in your head and burrows into the soft brain matter, taking root. That’s what makes it disturbing. Not that it’s a dark story. It’s disturbing because it makes you wonder, long after you’ve put it down.

(11) American Gods by Neil Gaiman

This is one of the books that I’ve read many times. I will say that if you aren’t versed in mythology it may not make any sense, or at best be difficult to understand. I love this book because of the layers and layers of complexity. I read it the first time because of the mythology. Read it again for depth of the story. It’s like one of those movies where every time you watch it you see something different.

(12) Imagica by Clive Barker

000567704Last listed, but certainly not least, is Imagica. Take the complexity and depth of Straub’s and Gaiman’s books, the in your head style of Stephen King, and add a lot of grizzly, disturbing horror to it, and you’ve got Clive Barker. Imagica is 900 pages of earth-based, dark, violent fantasy which questions everything we know about the universe. About “themes such as God, sex, love, gender and death.”

~ o ~

I could go on for days talking about books that have stayed with me, but this has become a long post, and I’m tired after a long week at my soul-sucking job. If you want more info on books I’ve read, you can check my Goodreads author page.

Or you can pick your own.

Character.Interview: Sinclair Clement

Name: Sinclair Clement

Gender: male
Age: 31
Home:  Queen Anne (off W Highland Dr), Seattle, Washington
Ancestry:  Irish (mother) / French/German (father)
Appearance: With fair skin, green eyes, and wavy, reddish-blonde hair, Sinclair gets his coloring from his mother. He’s fortunate that he gets his tall, lanky body from his father. He wears his hair collar length, and his lean face is clean-shaven. He has no visible tattoos or scars.
Favorite Color: Sky Blue
Typical Outfit: Sinclair’s fashion sense appears to be in a state of confusion, somewhere between college yuppie and Seattle grunge. His typical outfit consists of jeans [folded up at the ankle], an untucked button-down oxford style shirt [or a sweater], and a worn leather blazer, accompanied by Dr Martens or lace up leather ankle boots. He always wears long-sleeved shirts. But, if he’s feeling really relaxed, he’ll wear a t-shirt—-under an unbuttoned oxford under the blazer.

Today, I’m interviewing Sinclair Clement, the antagonist in my latest–yet to be named–novel. Thank you, Sinclair, for letting me pick your brain, for letting me allow potential reader to understand who you are.

[Sinclair smiles, blushes a bit]

So what do people call you?

Sinclair, or if they’re close friends, of which I have a few, they call me Sin.

My notes indicate that you live on Queen Anne. Do you like it there, what with all the old mansions and such?

I live with my parents. So don’t go getting any ideas that I actually can afford to live on Queen Anne.  

Were you born there?

Actually, no. Until my mo-mother became famous, we lived in a nice part of Renton near where my father works.

So your mother’s famous. How so?

You know that show Frasier? My mo-mo-mother is kind of like that. Sh-she’s a radio psychologist. For awhile it was just a local show, but then one of the LA stations picked it up and it went nation wide. You’ve probably heard of h-her. A-A-Amanda Yesler.

Yesler, as in Yesler Way?

You got it.

For those of you who don’t know Seattle history, in the mid-1800s Henry Yesler brought the first steam-powered sawmill to the region, allowing the Seattle area to dominate the lumber industry at the time.

So what’s it like to have a famous mother, famous in multiple ways?

[shrugs]

It’s okay.  

Wow, that was an enthusiastic response.

[shrugs again]

Okay, next question. What do you do for a living?

I teach at Seattle Central. While I’m finishing up my degree, my PhD in literature.

So what do you teach, and how did you decide on a degree in literature?

I mostly teach rudimentary literature classes. You know, the classes you have to take in order to graduate. I do have one class that’s sophomore level, a class in modern lit. We read and analyse really modern day authors, anyone from Margaret Atwood to Vonnegut. We even did a Stephen King short story. Heinlein’s probably my favorite. I find that young people can often relate to someone like Heinlein or King better than they can to Shakespeare or Faulkner.

You sound enthusiastic. I’m really glad to hear a teacher who’s excited about working, one who hasn’t burned out yet.

[smiles]

It’s okay.

So what made you pick literature for a degree?

It’s something I’m good at. I love to read. And I do a bit of writing.

[pauses]

I wasn’t supposed to be a literature major though. My father wanted me to be an engineer, like him, and my mo-mother wanted me to be a doctor, a medical doctor. But I suck at math, which pretty much eliminates both of those. Neither of them is too happy with me. My mo-mo-mother especially.

I don’t mean to be rude, but do you have a speech disorder? I notice you stumble on certain words.

Sorry. I hadn’t noticed. 

No problem. So, if I may ask, you said you’re working on your PhD. What’s you’re thesis in?

Dissertation. You do a thesis for your masters, a dissertation for your doctorate.

Oh, okay. Sorry. What’s your dissertation in?

No. I’m sorry. That was rude of me.

[Sinclair pulls at the cuffs of his shirt sleeves, pulling them down over his wrists]

I won’t give you the title because it sounds so pretentious, but it’s about the disparity between a book and its movie. About why and how screenplays can move so far from the origin of the written story.

Care to share some examples?

My favorite one, although when I talk about it in class I have to do a history lesson with my students before I explain it to them, is Howard Hawks’ production of To Have and Have Not. You know, the one with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Well, Hemingway wrote the story, but Hawks didn’t really like it the way Hemingway wrote it. So he used the title and most of the characters… and the beginning of the story, but brought in an out-of-print and financially-strapped William Faulkner to help write the screenplay. The movie is drastically different that the story. And Hemingway wrote it. Can you imagine telling Hemingway I don’t like the way you wrote it? Of course, Faulkner was certainly no slouch either. Imagine having Faulkner help write the screenplay for a novel you wrote.

[pauses, pulls at his cuffs again]

And of course there’s The Shining, the one with Jack Nicholson–at least most of my students know that one–which was a really, really bad production of King’s book by the same name.

Wow, I didn’t know that about To Have and Have Not.

[shrugs]

I have a lot of theories. Hence, my dissertation. Soon I’ll be the leading expert on why stuff like that happens. 

[smiles, then shrugs again]

As useful as that is.

May I ask if you have a girlfriend? 

 No, no one. There have been a few, a long while back. They didn’t last.

No one you’re interested in now, though?

Well, there’s someone I like, but she doesn’t know I’m alive.

I find that hard to believe, a good looking guy like you. I would think you’d have a girlfriend. Or three.

Sorry, but it’s true.

How did you meet her?

I haven’t yet. I’ve seen her at Pike Market. She has a stall there, reads spirit cards or something like that.

So why haven’t you approached her? Sorry, am I being too forward?

It’s okay. It’s just [pauses for a long time, as if gathering his thoughts] she’s so beautiful. And a bit mysterious. 

[pauses again]

I just know that she would find me wanting.

I think you should ask her out? Worst she can do is say no.

Sure.

I think I just got dismissed. [I smile to let him know I’m teasing.] So let’s do a couple of fun questions. If you were a tree, what tree would you be? 

[thinks for a moment]

Maybe a sequoia. Because they’re so big and imposing. 

Hang on. [I look it up on my phone.] It says here that sequoia trees symbolize long life and attaining your dreams.

Sure. If you say so.

[smiles]

I hope you’re right.

Okay, one more, and then I’ll let you go. If you were a rock star, who would you be. And why?

Kurt Cobain because he was a genius with the soul of a poet. He made profound statements while, at the same time, often poking fun. I love his music. Although his taste in women was crap. Maybe that’s why I can relate.

Care to elaborate on that last statement?

Nope.

You do look a bit like him, except way more clean cut. 

[Sinclair smiles]

One more question. I know I said that last time, but just one more. What smell do you associate with the kitchen from your childhood?

My father is the cook in the family, believe it or not. But even so, he’s not a good cook. So I’d have to say burnt toast. I always knew it was time to get up for school when I smelled burnt toast.

So I’m about to wrap this up. Is there anything you would like everyone to know about you, something I haven’t asked already?

Nah, I think you covered it pretty well.

So do you have any questions for me?

Why me? Why pick me?

Because you’re interesting. Don’t give me that look. You are interesting.

Sure. Keep telling yourself that.

Not the She’s Got Some Scary Sh*t in Her Head Part

Today’s WordPress Daily Prompt is A Bookish Choice: A literary-minded witch gives you a choice: with a flick of the wand, you can become either an obscure novelist whose work will be admired and studied by a select few for decades, or a popular paperback author whose books give pleasure to millions. Which do you choose?

First of all, I’ve know a few real witches in my time, been to the sabbats and such. I can just picture a couple of them in their faded jeans and t-shirts–no pointy hats allowed, except maybe for Halloween–making me that offer like it would be a huge decision to make. I suppose it could be difficult for the right person, but not for me. You see, I’ve already tasted the shiny red apple of the first choice. I already am an obscure author who has a small but loyal following. And as much as I’d love to be snooty about my work, I know that I won’t ever write true literary fiction. Didn’t you read my post? The one about how I just figured out that I write romance. Who knew? Apparently everyone, but me.

On top of all of that, my goal is to supplement my retirement income from my publishing, which means I need to sell sell sell.

And I like the idea–call me self-indulgent if you wish–of giving reading pleasure to millions of people. It totally strokes my ego. I absolutely want people to feel about me the way I feel about Stephen King. Ok, I admit that I don’t want to meet him, ever, because he’s got some scary shit in his head. But you know what I mean. I enjoy reading his books, can’t wait for the next one to come out. And I would love to know that someone felt that way about me. Umm, not the she’s got some scary shit in her head part. The I enjoyed reading her books part.

If that makes me shallow or lesser, then bite me!  Just kidding. I want you to read my books.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/a-bookish-choice/