This is my first post under the Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesdays lists. I’m jumping in late to the meme, this week’s offering is “books that make you think.”. This proved difficult at first, because I didn’t want to just list the obvious ones. Some of the cliche picks did slip in, but they became cliche in large part because they so effectively start conversations. And so, here is my list:
1. Fahrenheit 451. I mentioned this in an earlier post, about how I recently rethought this book. Ray Bradbury’s classic dystopian novel starts with the idea of censorship on its surface, but dig a little deeper to see how Bradbury looks at the way we comfort ourselves by insulating ourselves from each other.
2. To Kill a Mockingbird. Harper Lee’s only published work deserves all of its accolades.
3. Elements of Style. I constantly fail at perfecting grammar, so it seems odd to list this here, but this book first taught me the basic rules of how we put words together. I’d like to be cool and say you need to know the rules before you can break them. Regardless of whether that’s your intent or not, you need to know the rules just to play.
4. Gilead. Marilynne Robinson is such a careful practitioner of her craft, and practices such a simple economy of language, you can spend hours dissecting single sentences. This book encourages rumination.
5. Fast Food Nation. I struggle with my weight, and worry about keeping my son’s diet healthy. This book didn’t break me from eating fast food, but understanding how fast food is woven through our culture makes me more aware of my choices.
6. Please Kill Me. This oral history of the birth and co-opting of the Punk movement lays out how people find each other, form a subculture, and what happens when those outside the culture start cutting pieces off for themselves. It has some aspect of mystery to it, since this is a collection of the memories of damaged people. They still have axes to grind and demons they won’t face. At times it’s like listening to a splintered family who loved each other and can’t let the past go.
8. Leaves of Grass. Over a hundred years later, Walt Whitman’s poetry still speaks to what it means to be a human.
9. Will the Circle be Unbroken. Studs Terkel was going to make the list, he’s produced some of the most truly small “d” democratic books I’ve ever read. Everyone gets their say, and you as a reader take what you need from his books. Here, he looks at death, and how we process death and dying. One of the narratives, a doctor explaining how he learned to tell people their loved one had died, using as an example how he had to break the news to Studs his wife had died, took my breath away.
10. Bang the Drum Slowly. Mark Harris’s Henry Wiggen books are some of the finest American writing of the Twentieth Century. This one, the second in the series, contemplates dying and death. Here Henry’s catcher is dying, and the book follows their last season together. Bruce, the catcher, isn’t a saintly character by a long shot. Harris explores why we stay around in situations like that, what we are really giving each other and what we get from friendship like that.
My first top ten for Top Ten Tuesdays, I’m looking forward to your lists and thoughts.