Monday, October 5, 2015

Books with staying power

I recently saw a Facebook request that was right up my alley:
List ten books that have stayed with you; don’t take more than a few minutes; don’t think too hard.  They don’t have to be great works, just books that have touched you. Post your list and keep it going.

I’m an avid reader, so this was fun for me. I whipped out a notepad and had no trouble coming up with ten books and could easily have kept going.

In the order they came to mind, here’s my list:
  • Watership Down: I must have read it not long after it was published in the US in the 70’s. The tale of a rabbit colony in search of a new home when their old one is in danger of destruction,  it’s an adventure story of the fight against tyranny and evil, all the more engaging with rabbits as the characters.
  • World According to Garp: I read this John Irving novel while on a sailing vacation and have a photo of me standing in the galley of our tiny sailboat in my nightgown, with book in hand. I couldn’t put it down. Yes, the movie was good, but not as memorable as the book.
  • The Women’s Room: This tale of a 1950’s housewife discovering there’s more to life than having a husband and a spotless home fueled a few heated debates at parties in the 70’s.  I vividly recall the wife of an acquaintance proclaiming as we discussed this book that any woman who was raped had somehow invited it.  I can’t recall ever being as incensed as I was that evening, and the resulting argument was long and loud.
  • Tears of Autumn: This Charles McCarry novel not only makes my top ten list but also ranks as the best spy novel I’ve ever read, and I’ve read plenty. 
  • The Camp of the Saints: Translated from the French, this book was recommended by my boss at the executive search firm where I worked during college. It was not an easy read, but the unforgettable story line depicting “… a setting wherein Third World mass immigration to France and the West leads to the destruction of Western civilization,” is eerily timely given today’s refugee situation.
  • The Once and Future King: This wasn’t the first book I read based on the King Arthur legend, but it’s the one that popped into my mind as I compiled my list. Just reminiscing about it makes me think of all the other King Arthur books I’ve read and loved though they’re not among my top ten. The first may have been Mary Stewart’s Crystal Cave, then Morte D ‘Arthur and Idylls of the King, both probably only enjoyable to a King Arthur fan like I am.  And then there was Mists of Avalon, a story told from a feminist perspective and just as engrossing as The Once and Future King.
  • The Tipping Point and Blink: Both of these non-fiction books by Malcolm Gladwell are fascinating reads, the first about how trends take hold and the second about how we think without thinking.
  • The Hobbit: Need I say more?
  • Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Types: Once I was trained in interpreting the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, this book was invaluable in enhancing my knowledge of personality traits and how they play out in day to day life.  I have found myself dipping into this book for over thirty years and recommending it to others.

Which books are on your list? This has been such an enjoyable trip down memory lane; I may have to compile a list of my top ten childhood books next. Limiting a lifetime of books to only ten just isn’t realistic.  Replace the qualifier “staying power” with enjoyable or entertaining, and my list would be never ending.