So, everyone who reads has that ultimate list of books that are important to them. I am no different. Here are five books which I absolutely love for varying reasons. But, as opposed to lengthy blog posts I’m prone to I want to keep this 1:00 AM post short and sweet. That means I’m going to depend on a little blind faith from you – the reader – to trust me when I say, these books are worth picking up. While they may not mean the same to you, they are all worth a good read.
Instead of summarizing each book, what I will do is tell you why each book is special to me. These are of no particular order, but all play a role in me being me.
#1 – “The book of Three” by Lloyd Alexander
The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander was the first book that told me, “you are going to be a writer.” This is the first in a five-book series of middle grade novels written in the 1950s and 60s and follows a young boy into manhood to find himself in a world of fantasy.
When I finished this book I cried for days because they were, at that time, my closest friends and I felt that they all departed. I’ve since read the series multiple times and to this day I credit this book and series as the foundation to my writing career.
On a side note, the author of the series died on one of my son’s birthdays, May 17.
#2 – “Love in the time of Cholera” by Gabriel García Márquez
This is an epic love story, but more importantly Gabriel García Márquez taught me not to give up. I first heard of this book while watching the movie “Serendipity” which is one of my favorite movies. That was a pivotal time for me in life as I was contemplating giving up on writing. It’s hard to think back to those days. They happened to be short-lived. I’d lost my job, was living in a small apartment, and had a recent break-up.
Part of what makes this book important to me was the perseverance of Florentino Ariza who despite a wealth of obstacles was impassioned to follow his true love. In many ways his love of music and his “one true” was a reminder for me throughout life when in those short moments I do think about giving up on my passions. I’m lucky that I have a reminder to stay optimistic.
#3 – “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens
I’ve had many moments in my life where I’ve obsessed over classics. One classic which I think about often is Great Expectations. From a love that can’t be had to an unknown benefactor, I’ve always loved the story. For me, the benefactor part was always an amazing thought. Someone or something out there that helps guide you through life. You know that person exists, but have no idea who it is. You know you have a path, one that is often nonsensical to you but you still follow it.
I had read this book in my early twenties, but it wasn’t until my mid twenties when I realized that everything I’d wanted in life I’d gotten. At the times I wanted things, I didn’t always see it, but my path, sometimes a curious one, always led me where I wanted to be. Even now, looking upon my career and life, I am living the life I wanted for me and my family. I don’t know how my winding road brought me here, but it has and I can’t help but wonder, which I often do, who that unknown benefactor is.
#4 – “Birds of Prey” by wilbur smith
I remember the first moment I came across the book, Birds of Prey. In fact, I remember it as well as any other moment in my life. The year was 1997 and I had just moved to Minneapolis from St. Croix, USVI. I was obsessed about writing historical fiction based on piracy and adventure. I saw Birds of Prey on the bookshelf, and picked it up on a whim, reading it for the next hour at the Barnes and Noble coffee shop while I sipped on hot tea. I bought the book and finished reading it by the next morning.
This book showed me that there was a writer who wrote exactly as I wished to write. He had the same style, interests, and everything. I felt as if the book was handed to me from a time traveler who said, “you wrote this.” In fact, I was so excited to have found the book that in the next two years I devoured all of Wilbur Smith’s books. To this day I consider Birds of Prey just as influential to me as The Book of Three and that is saying a lot.
#5 – “Sophie’s World” by Jostein Gaarder
Sophie’s World is a beautifully written novel about the history of philosophy. So, why was this book so important to me? Well, I was first introduced to this book by a short-lived love affair with a woman named Pernille from Denmark. It wasn’t until years later that I startled myself awake from a dream of Pernille handing me the book because she said I would never buy it on my own. The two of us then turned, arms locked to walk down a cobbled road in Copenhagen when I slipped and fell into the sea. The icy water startled me awake and my only thought was that of losing Sophie’s World. I think this book was important to me partly because of how long it pestered me until I finally read it. It was as if I NEEDED to read it. I’m glad I did.
Philosophy is one of those studies on life that we attack in pieces as we go through life. To read and discover philosophers through time helps me apply myself to the world around me and gave me perspective and almost a new freedom to think that I hadn’t previously known. Today, I use many of those themes when I go about making decisions.
Bonus Book – “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway
Why is this book important to me? For starters, The Old Man and the Sea seems to fit in with the theme of the lonely writer and at many times in my life that is how I’ve felt. The ocean, far out, alone, on a small boat surrounded only by water has curiously been something I’ve always craved. Likely, I will never experience this form of solitude, but I often think about the calm, quiet and entirety of the unknown that someone in that position must face.
Reading this book was the first time I felt as if I had been somewhere that I had never come close to. I felt the roll of gentle waves, the salty taste of the sea on my tongue, and the engulfing calm of thought. Really, when I need to find calm in my life, this is where I go. If I am stressed, need to take a breath, or just relax, I find myself closing my eyes and sitting alone in a small boat in the Gulf stream eating key lime pie and watching my pole for a Marlin to snag it. For some reason, this is my place.
To say these five are my only favorites would be a heavy burden. While it was easy to name these five in my top-list, there are dozens of others that could have easily fit into the top ten. I’d love to hear your favorite books and the reasons why they are so important to you.