8/29/13

10 Favorite Books of All Time . . .

No. I don't own this exact stack of books.
In a world of otherwise "throwaway" blog posts, the "favorites" and "countdown lists" are among my favorites. NOT because they are, well, throwaways but because they are, instead, a chance for me to force my brain in to rating and ranking and choosing things to call my "favorite."

The following is a list of my ten favorite books of all time. I love reading. Always have - hope I always will. I have two or three books going at any given time (not including the two or three I'm reading to/with my daughter) and I like to think that any book I give the time and energy to go cover-to-cover on are fantastic (in reality I've read some real crap over the years but I'm stubborn and dedicated) but I don't know if picking just ten books is really fair. To help me I set some criteria - I had to have read the book at least thrice and loaned/given away at least two copies of the book and I have to have told at least two dozen people they "had" to read each of these books. With that being said and established - my ten favorite books of all time.

10 - Thank You For Smoking, Christopher Buckley - Yes. A very funny movie that gave us Jason Reitman, filmmaker. BUT, before that, it was a book by the son of a conservative icon and it was the first book I ever read about working in public relations in Washington, DC. Inspired by the lead character, I agreed that real professionals did PR for tobacco, guns, and alcohol because people hate those industries. I would still take one of those jobs.

9 - The Big Over Easy, Jasper Fforde - Before movies like Hoodwinked and Shrek broke down fairy tales, Jasper Fforde made pulp fiction mastery tying to explore the real who dunnit of some of the biggest mysteries in fairy tales while building his own characters in the process. The whole series is great - this one got the ball rolling.

8 - Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage: Stories, Alice Munro - I swore to not include short story/essay collections but I could not leave this one off. Why? Back story: There was a Borders bookstore across the street from my office for years. I'd walk over every Tuesday and buy books, CDs, and DVDs on release day and there was one employee that I got to know and she would make suggestions for me and they were always really good. She BOUGHT this book for me. And I never picked up that what she was putting down was flirting. The stories inside mean a lot more when you realize you're an idiot at managing human relationships or attempts at them.

7 - The 48 Laws of Power, Robert Greene - This is more editing than authorship. Greene puts together the 48 keys to leadership (power) and puts them in an order that makes sense and uses other texts (Sun Tzu, etc.) to showcase each law and why it is important. I read it in graduate school. I re-read it six months ago. It is fantastic if you are looking to grow professionally, in a relationship, or in a quest to overtake a neighboring nation.

6 - You Are My I Love You, Maryann K. Cusimano - I have read to my child almost every day she has been alive. Some days more, some days left (between her mother and I we read over 1,000 books/stories to her in the first year of her life). This one is particularly special to me and I will actually choke up (even having read it 1,000 times) when I read "You are my saving grace." Parenting . . . with illustrations.

5 - Feast: Food to Celebrate Life, Nigella Lawson - Forget how friggin' hot Nigella Lawson is or that everything the woman says and does is at least a little sexy . . . the woman loves food (and I don't mean that in a critical way) and Feast was the first cookbook I ever bought (I own dozens) and read cover to cover like a novel because she writes in a way that encourages you to do so. SURE there are recipes in there but the context is far more important. This book made me love food in a healthy way . . . healthier.

4 - Dry, Augusten Burroughs - I loved Augusten before Running with Scissors (the book - I didn't care for the movie) even came out. He'd written some pieces for magazines I read and I loved his dark and brooding sense of humor. When I read Running with Scissors (his first autobiographical piece that ends where Dry picks up) it made me sad for him. Dry made me root for him again. It is about him bottoming out and getting sober while working in advertising. It is fantastic and smart and funny and blunt.

3 - Heft on Wheels: A Field Guide to Doing a 180, Mike Magnuson - There are very few books that I can say ever really inspired me. This is one. I read this book right around the time I started to get serious with my to-be wife. I'd read everything else Magnuson (a great man who's memoir "Lummox" is also fantastic say nothing of his fiction work which is superb) and it really hit home. I read it again about a year ago and it hit home way harder. If you've ever woken up one day and said "Man, my life has to change" and NOT started the change that day - read this book and try again tomorrow. It CAN be done.

2 - The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler - Ah. Chandler. My guy. I can not tell you how many times I've read "The Big Sleep" but I know that it is in the dozens and I know that it is a book that I will never not want to read again. Each character is so crisp and sharp and well built that you feel like you know them (and you hate them all accordingly). Confession - I wrote a book report about this one last year for a high school freshman and got a B. It was a b.s. grade. I deserved an A.

1 - The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson - Erik Larson is truly amazing. He writes "narrative non-fiction" which is, as a lazy explanation, taking a completely true story but wording it in a way that makes it sound almost made up. He doesn't just tell one story though - he gives full context to the moment and the character and he uses phrases like "This would later be very important." to remind you that these moments are all context. This book, I love them all, is my favorite because it parallels the 1893 World's Fair (an amazingly important thing in terms of invention, technology, gathering of the minds, etc. etc. etc.) and a serial killer who lived in Chicago during the exposition. If you read only ONE of these ten books - make it this one. You won't regret it.