What’s Your Favorite Book?

“Picking five favorite books is like picking the five body parts you’d most like not to lose.”

–Neil Gaiman

 

Seriously.

 

It’s hopeless.

For one thing, there’s the sheer number of books that are wonderful. People have been writing them for a long, long time you know.

The end result, if you read as much as I do, is an extremely high lifetime total of good reads. I have a lot of favorite books.

 

Then there’s this: a favorite book has to fit, and with books just as with clothes, sometimes the fit changes.

It changes depending on where you are both geographically and metaphysically–a beach vacation book is not the same as an “I’m questioning everything about my life right now” book.

It changes depending on mood. Do you need to be cheered up? Are you feeling nostalgic?

It changes depending on your age.

When the fit changes, the list changes.

 

But, in spite of the ever changing list, here are some of my favorites. Get comfortable–this will take a while.

 

Jane Austen: All of her novels.

All of them, but there is a particularly tender place in my heart for “Persuasion” and the quiet, duty-bound Anne Elliot.

I probably identify the most closely with the sort of unlikeable Emma Woodhouse from the book “Emma.” She’s smart, privileged, and things come easily to her, but she’s too much of a dilettante to really excel at any one thing. She thinks she knows everything, but discovers she really doesn’t know much at all.

 

Neil Gaiman: “American Gods” and “The Graveyard Book”

If you have a chance to listen to one of his books read aloud by him, grab it. He’s a great reader.

 

Mary Doria Russell: “The Sparrow”, and “Children of God”

These were recommended to me by my Mother. I have probably recommended them to more people than anything else I’ve ever read. They’re the kind of books that make you fall in love with every character, and wish you could inhabit their space. It must be a mixed blessing for the author–she has written several other books and I’ve enjoyed some of them, but I don’t think she will ever write another that will captivate me in the same way that “The Sparrow” did.

If forced at gunpoint to select a favorite book ever, it would probably be “The Sparrow.” Or all of Jane Austen. If forced at gunpoint to select a favorite, I’ll probably end up like the guy picking a favorite color at the end of “The Holy Grail.”

 

Anne Rice: “Interview with the Vampire” and “The Vampire Lestat”

Thanks to a former flame’s mother who loaned me her copy of “Interview” when I was a teenager, I’ve developed a lifelong love of all things vampire. These are vampires of the brooding but sexy variety.

 

Christopher Moore: “Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal”, and “A Dirty Job”

This writer can make me laugh. Really laugh. You’ve never laughed until you’ve laughed at the Sermon on the Mount. Is the line “blessed are the dumbfucks” sacrilegious? Because if it is, I don’t care. In addition to a comedy about the life of Jesus, Moore has also written funny books about vampires, demons, whales and Death. Christopher Moore made me want a Hellhound as a pet.

 

Stephen King: “The Stand”

This is one of those books I read as a teenager that resulted in a lot of lost sleep. How can you sleep when the world is about to end?!? I return to it now and then to see if it holds up. It does.

It’s not as scary as it used to be, but sometimes I get nostalgic for end times.

 

Charlaine Harris: all of those damned Sookie Stackhouse books.

It’s the vampire thing. Harris throws in shape-shifters and fairies just to make things interesting.

 

L. Frank Baum: all of the Oz books

In case of nostalgia.

 

Maud Hart Lovelace: all of the Betsy books

The Betsy books are about growing up, and learning to be who you are. Also to be re-read in case of nostalgia or mild depression.

 

George RR Martin: the Game of Thrones series.

A bit of a departure for me–I’m not usually much of a fan of the fantasy/dragony sci-fi stuff, but these are an exception. As viewers of the HBO series are learning, Martin is not afraid to throw a lot of characters at you, and he’s not afraid to kill them off, either. It’s a nice time for a red wedding.

 

Charlotte Brontë: “Jane Eyre”

Jane, Jane. Plain Jane. She captures the heart of her boss, and then runs away when it turns out he’s already married to the crazy lady locked in the attic. This is my favorite of all the Gothic classics. It somehow manages to be over the top and prosaic at the same time.

 

Bryce Courtenay: “The Power of One”

I re-read this whenever I need motivation. Peekay is a boy with a modest goal: he wants to be a champion. This is another one of those books that has made it challenging to read others by the same author. They are all a disappointment, because I can never love the characters in his other books more than I love Doc and Peekay.

 

David James Duncan: “The River Why” and “The Brothers K”

(Note to the author: please write another novel. Pleeeeeeeease.) It’s kind of funny–I tend to like books about baseball as a metaphor for life, but I don’t like baseball as a sport. Same thing with fishing, in “The River Why.” Pacific NW meets Eastern philosopy on a fishing trip and they play baseball together.

 

Margaret Mitchell: “Gone With The Wind”

I know, I know, but I’ve loved it since I was a kid. Rhett and Scarlett are classics.

 

J.R. Moehringer: “The Tender Bar”

I love the drinker’s memoir genre. Augusten Burroughs and Pete Hamill, I’m looking at you. I have probably read more memoirs of drinkers than anyone else you know. Is that a good thing?

 

Jeanette Walls: “The Glass Castle” and “Half Broke Horses

Disfunctional upbringings make for good reading! As a bonus, Jeanette Walls does her own reading in the audio versions of her books, and she’s a great reader.

 

Kevin Wilson: “The Family Fang”

Disfunctional performance artist family.

 

Lauren Beukes: “Zoo City” and “The Shining Girls”

In “Zoo City,” criminals get paired with critters and somehow bonded to them in such a way that they are dependent on each other. If the animal dies, the criminal gets violently taken up by a black shadow cloud thingy. It’s no bueno. On the plus side, the animalling bestows a magical gift on the person. In the case of the heroine of “Zoo City,” it’s the ability to track lost objects or people.

 

Lionel Shriver: “We Need to Talk About Kevin”

A book about the family of a school shooter, written from the point of view of his mother. The mother, ambivalent about having children, never likes her son. Is it her dislike that turns him into a sociopath or does she dislike him because he was born evil?

 

Cormac McCarthy: “The Road”

This is a hard book. Hard to read, hard to think about. It’s also one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read in spite of the near total lack of hope. Every word seems to be exactly in the right place.

 

 

OK, I have to stop. There are simply too many great books!

 

Go read one.

Now.

 

 

The Importance of Being Well Groomed

I saw a werewolf drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic’s
And his hair was perfect.
–Warren Zevon

 

It must take a lot of work for  werewolves to keep their hair looking perfect. Especially during the full moon, when all they want is to run amok and howl at the moon and such. Keeping the blood and gore  from getting their hair all matted and nasty must be such a challenge!

No one will ever compliment me on my perfect hair, but that’s OK. I have many other qualities that more than off-set my hair failure. (Hair Failure is also a good band name. I hope someone is keeping track.)I have trouble even remembering to brush mine before work. On the other hand,  I hardly ever get blood and gore in my hair, so hey! Bonus points for me!

 

There are only a few hit songs about werewolves, and  none of the others songs feature weres who (who, or that?) are  as urbane as Zevon’s Chinese-food eating, pina colada-swilling fiend with the perfect hair.

Monster grooming doesn’t get much attention in the Pop world. So little emphasis is placed on monster grooming once you get past Bride of Frankenstein.

 

That being said, if the werewolf in question looks anything like Alcide Herveaux from True Blood, then his hair doesn’t have to be perfectly groomed. In fact, I’d prefer that he not waste any time at all on combing it.  I’ll just stand right here and lick my non-werewolf chops, messy hair and all.

 

 

Alcide

 

His hair is perfect.

Even if he isn’t at Trader Vic’s.

 

Important side note:

What is not optional is excellent oral hygiene.

With a werewolf, you never know where that mouth has been, so  good brushing is especially crucial.

 

 

 

Hand in Hand

Don’t ask me to apologize
I won’t ask you to forgive me
If I’m gonna go down
You’re gonna come with me
Hand in hand.
–Elvis Costello

 

This doesn’t do much to explain my belief system unless I’m explaining through opposites. (Good band name, Explaining thru Opposites)

I’ve always secretly  wanted to be the sort of vindictive person who would get revenge on anyone who crossed me, but being a fundamentally decent person really got in the way of that. Singing along to this song lets me indulge my repressed vengeful side without adversely impacting my Karma.

 

I don’t need special quotations and songs  to explain what I believe, really.

It’s simple:

Pay attention, and don’t be a douche.

 

You’d think not being a douche would be the hard part, but for me it’s paying attention that is a challenge. I’m sure there are people out there who would argue that I don’t do a great job about not being an asshole either, but I’m MUCH worse at indulging my ethereal side and letting my mind be anywhere but in the present.

 

This is partly because I have a really good imagination, but it’s also the sign of someone who might get a wee bit over-analytical about things that either happened in the past or might happen at some point in the future. Neither of which are  all that helpful to me when I live in the present.  Which I try to do. Sometimes it can be fun to imagine, which is the lure, but other times it’s just overindulging the already dark corners of my brain too much and I really don’t need extra emphasis on what’s bad, possibly might become bad or what was bad in the past.

 

So I drag my brain back from wherever it wanders of to and remind myself that Now is the place to be.

Time to be.

Whatever.

Now.

 

 

P.S.

You know, I really don’t see why I can’t just hit people sometimes.

I don’t.

Hit them,  I mean.

But sometimes I really want to.

Not a punch in the face,

but a good, hard  body check would be soooo emotionally and physically satisfying if someone annoys me.

Just Hulk Smash someone into a wall.

BAM.

 

Maybe it’s time to check into taking hockey lessons….

They frown on body checking where I work.

Damn.