Very kind requests from Tricia Laughlin Bloom, Ariadne Monfalcone, and Pete Cenedella for 10 books that left an impression. Not easy. Had to go with a BONUS one. In no particular order except non-fiction first.
- The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker (non-fiction) – Maybe the only author who can change my mind on a topic. In this case, he makes it very clear that we are not born a piece of malleable clay. A controversial subject handled intelligently and completely.
- We Came Naked and Barefoot: The Journey of Cabeza de Vaca across North America by Alex D. Krieger (non-fiction) – This dude leaves Spain with 600 people and…well, you think you had a bad couple of years? Thanks to Kirk Bromley for pointing me to this mad tale of shipwreck, thirst, starvation, mutilation, and finally victory. This is an unbelievable tale with an ending that is impossible, ridiculous, and TRUE.
- Consciousness Explained by Daniel Dennett (non-fiction) – “You” are distributed across your whole brain and your “moment” of thought is actually multiple moments across time. The whole notion of “you” is a narrative you tell yourself. Maybe I should break the joint in half next time. This book changed the way I see pretty much everything.
- Why Does the World Exist? by Jim Holt (non-fiction) – A sincere attempt to answer the hardest question of all: Why is there something rather than nothing? All kinds of theories are respectfully entertained. A joy.
- The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien (non-fictionish) – Another Tricia recommendation. I cried more times than I care to remember. I don’t think I really understood war until this.
- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter Thompson (non-fictionish) – Yes it’s hilarious, but it’s also a tragic meditation on the death of the hippie movement and the American Dream. His writing was so damn good I had trouble not attempting (and failing) to write like him for years afterwards.
- The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy (fiction) - Hyper-complex, gritty noir nihilism. Brilliant.
- Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey (fiction) – Tricia recommended this to me when we were first dating. I am not a huge jazz fan, but I like the literary equivalent, and this is it. Chapters behave like solos in an initially quiet book, then the turns between solos begin to shorten until they blend into one cacophonous moment that is simultaneously exciting and horrible. Not to be missed.
- Candide by Voltaire (fiction) – I read this short “satire” soon after September 11, 2001, and I didn’t laugh once. Candide’s education was paralleling mine (and those of many other Americans I’m sure) way too tightly. Not saying I enjoyed it. I am just saying it stuck with me, the same way you never forget your first bee sting.
- The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (fiction?) – BRING WOOD AND OIL!
- Moby Dick by Herman Melville (fiction) – This may be my favorite book of all time. Pretty convinced Melville was a hyper-intelligent space alien. It’s the only explanation for his ability to take any object in the world – a rope, a whale carcass, a mat – and inexhaustibly find layer upon layer upon layer of poetry in it. Melville also assured the writer in me that almost every rule of writing is nonsense. Moby Dick strays from the plot more than it follows it and the narrator tells us about stuff he could not know about unless he was omniscient. Melville taught me to throw all that crap out the porthole and just write well!
Can’t fully extend his arms; has a bunch of exposed wiring in his abs; walks and runs as if he has the droid equivalent of arthritis. And you say, well, he was put together by an eight-year-old. Yes, but a trip to the nearest Radio Shack would fix that. Also, I’m still waiting to hear the…
I took this picture of myself at the end of a day I spent in bed, scared and crying, feeling alone and hopeless and completely desperate.
This is the face of my mental illness. This is the face of my sadness when it is at its most inexplicable and its most pronounced.
I am not ashamed of it.
Thank you, Chris Gethard.
One of the first comedy albums I was ever given was “Reality… What A Concept.” I loved it. I loved “Mork & Mindy.” I even loved Robert Altman’s “Popeye.” Robin Williams meant a lot to me when I was a kid. I knew nothing of drug use or depression. It never occurred to me that comedians, these…