A friend in Oz told me about this blog post, The Books That Changed Me. I don't know who this woman is other than what her descriptor says -- "named one of Oz's top 20 public intellectuals and Humanist of the Year 2011" -- but I liked her books, and I was inspired.
1. Anne of Green Gables - Lucy Maud Montgomery: This book kind of started it all -- this lifelong love affair with reading. I remember reading through it and dying to beat down Gilbert and have a bosom friend like Diana, and I sobbed about poor Matthew. And then I was hooked. I would be practically breathless wanting to get the next book in the series at Happy Booker in the Morris County Mall, and blabbering to my dad all about it. I reread it a few years ago when we bought it for the MG, and it stands the test of time. It also affirms my belief that most Canadians tend to be pretty cool, although in elementary school, I probably had no idea that Nova Scotia was actually in Canada.
2. The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger: So, whatever, I KNOW. It's a cliche, but nobody knows that the FIRST time they read it. My dad gave me his copy of this to read. It had a maroon cover and yellowed pages, and I read it in a few days in the hot upstairs room in Long Island. I WAS Holden Caulfield. Again, I had no idea that everyone else thought they were Holden Caulfield too. This made me want to be a writer.
3. The Great Gatsby -- F. Scott Fitzgerald: I swear that I have read more books than those on my junior year AP reading list, but put aside prejudices about this book being one of those 'forced to read' ones. To me, it's nearly perfect. I have read it multiple times, and there's always something new and beautiful. The language just. . . moves.
4. The Seven Storey Mountain - Thomas Merton: I wouldn't think that I had a lot in common with a monk, and to be honest, this sat on my shelf collecting dust for a while (having been gifted to me by someone that felt I needed a "spiritual awakening") until I saw some hipster dude on the NYC subway reading it. Merton gave up his life as a writer/intellectual to become a monk, and the self-deprecating, normal writing style made it attractive to me. So many "conversion" stories are written in that crazy ass 'can I get a witness' evangelical style, and I can't relate to it at all. This was a good book about a religious journey during the right time in mine.
5. Sexus: The Rosy Crucifixion 1 - Henry Miller: It's unfair to pick only one of the books in this trilogy since I read them all in one summer during college. Also, I know I'm supposed to hate Henry Miller because "ooooh, he's a misogynist...oooooh, he treats women like shit.....oooooh, bad feminist," but I don't care. The trilogy left such an imprint, much more so than either of his Tropics books. It reads like a narrative, and while most people focus on the crazy sex and his insane marriage, the struggle to be a writer is what I always remember and how it took him years of wading through shit to get to write. I wouldn't want his life (not now, anyway, it was different in 1995), but it's a fabulous life to read through.