I grew up with books. I haunted the Gadsden Public Library and I even ordered books by mail. I had recurring dreams where I was about to read a giant library. Books were knowledge and fun and I had a life long love affair with books. But, somewhere in my busy adulthood I lost the thread. I read internet bytes and pull up my phone and read some articles. I understand newspapers (which I devoured especially, the sports section) are pretty much dead as a real means of information. Except of course for online. But, I find myself reading on my Kindle Fire and that’s fine. I can just pull up a book and adjust the font and turn off or down the lights. Wonderful. Except, I rarely finish a book these days. I download them. I just don’t finish them. Especially fiction.
But, I wanted to list some of the books that have entertained and changed my life. Seems like a positive thing to do. I have often said that I don’t see how you form a world view if you never have or never do read. Thank God I read in my youth. One of the few things I did better as a young person than I do now.
Quick nod to some things that are not going to be listed below. Comic books: I loved comic books. From Archie to Batman to Little Lulu to Superman. Cowboy comics, horror comics, Mad Magazine, Creepy Magazine, Vampirilla Magazine. Fun stuff. But, here are just a few books that I remember as having an effect on the way I see the world.
Salem’s Lot: One of the earliest Stephen King novels and I think the first one that I read way back in the day. First published in 1975 I came across this one at the mall bookstore in Gadsden, Alabama. I loved horror novels, stories and movies. I asked the clerk if there was a good horror novel to choose from. He said “Well, lot’s of people are beginning to read this Stephen King guy.” The rest as they say is history. I’ve read Salem’s Lot around three times over the years. I’ve read the Dark Tower series two times and the final three books books in the series twice. The Stand twice, Dead Zone..twice. I would come to read everything Stephen King wrote. I remember feeling guilty once because I was trying to “live right” which is southern for Christian fundi and Stephen King used an awful lot of “cuss words.” Still, off and on I never could give him up. I’m too old to be a fanboy these days. I would love to shake his hand and thank him for all the entertainment over the years. But, I have no desire to stand in line at a book signing for hours or to spend a small fortune on a special edition signed and numbered for future sell on ebay.
Salem’s Lot: This novel is dated these days. The plot has boy meets girl, boy gets attacked by jealous boyfriend and in the end wins girl…temporarily at least. Those pesky walking dead folks make it hard to “keep” anything in this novel. I was living in Altoona, Alabama with my grandparents when this book came out. Altoona is a little coal mining town and once the boom ended in the early part of the 20th century it still kept going somehow. Anyway, the depictions of the meanness and the sweetness of a small New England town reminded me of small southern towns. One of the scariest and most heart breaking scenes I’ve read was at the grave of a young boy who was killed (although the townspeople didn’t know it quite yet) by the vampires. His daddy falls across the grave sobbing and it was and still is one of the most effective scenes in a book. Thankfully, the whole book wasn’t that intense. There’s a town dump “manager” who lives at the dump and shoots rats for fun. A city worker with a good heart and a wonderful local teacher. Great characters and a fun but somewhat gory story. These vampires don’t sparkle. Honorable mention has to go to Ann Rice and Interview With the Vampire. That one also stayed with me as a young person. Especially the young girl who was turned into a vampire at around 13 years old. Eternally young but old and wise in mind. Not a main character but that’s what a good story does. It takes you in and makes you think about characters as people and not just the “main” hero of the book.
Semi Tough 1972…Dan Jenkins: I read this some years after it first came out. Now you may have seen the mediocre movie they made of this one. Another one where the book far exceeds the movie. The movie tries to be cute and a little naughty. The book is politically incorrect and sexy, horny and vulgar. The main female in the movie is a cute actress named Jill Clayburgh. No offense and she is and was cute in her day. The main female in the book is out of this world incredible sexy, vulgar, beautiful, did I say incredible? The main male lead in the movie (correct me if I’m wrong since it’s an old movie now.) was Burt Reynolds. Handsome and glib and I understand he had his day. But, the guy in the book was horny and vulgar and over the top and hilarious and very, very politically and sexually and humorously incorrect. I have recently found this ebook on Amazon. I hope todays guardians of political correctness haven’t gotten ahold of it. I intend to download it again and see how it holds up. Why is it in my top two? It’s not. I’ve liked some books better. But, this one stayed with me. This one made me laugh out loud and offended my Christian sensibilities. But, it was funny and I was young and tended to follow my literature with a beer or several back then. So, now when I get back to it as a sober 59 year old adult will I still find it funny? I’ll let ya know.
People of the Lie 1983… M. Scott Peck
I came to this book at a time in my life when I was having young adult Dark Night of the Soul experiences when it came to religion. I was questioning if anybody with intelligence could believe in anything spiritual. I placed a lot of stock (always have if I’m honest about it) in education and letters after a persons name. So, here came a psychologist that actually took the concept of a spiritual reality seriously. Someone who wasn’t a preacher or a church goer who had to say and believe certain things. I had come to a place where I thought most intelligent people were atheist or agnostic and I was neither and I was troubled. People of the Lie tells of the authors experience with spiritual realty and evil as well as psychological illness. Truly a landmark book. I can’t remember a lot about it but I can remember it corrected my path a little. People could be intelligent and still have a spiritual belief. I didn’t have to give up. I don’t know if it still holds up. It’s one of those books that was there when I most needed it and maybe it’s like a childhood toy. Cherished and remembered but not to be gone back to. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll run across it again and find out.
Out on a Limb 1983...Shirley Maclaine
Now I know. Shirley has become a punch line in wacky town jokes to some. Break out the tin foil hats here she comes again. Queen of the Nile and consort of Pharaohs. Everybody knows that everyone who believes in reincarnation thinks they were Napoleon or Cleopatra. Except they don't. Read Professor Ian Stevenson 20 Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation. Jim B. Tucker University of Virginia Division of Perceptual Studies. But, back in the day when I was searching and for personal reasons that I want go into right now considering reincarnation. Here came Shirley. An actress and before the age of blogs and internet and 24-7 news was still new and ESPN was still in it's infancy. this person had dated stars and hung out with royalty. This was an actress who was well thought of. No matter what you might think of her now. Check out a movie called "John Gofarb Please Come Home." 1965. Nothing to do with spirituality but Shirley is really pretty and young and at the top of her game.
The Great Divorce 1945...C.S. Lewis
Imagine being in a dreary place and being so self righteous that you tell yourself your in heaven. In this story the narrator tells of a vacation from hell. The characters are taking a bus ride to the outskirts of a city. The city is actually heaven and the citizens of the city are trying to reach the people on the bus to tell them that if they can accept it. Grace is still available to them. Even in hell if they would just look up. But, of course they don't believe that. They don't even believe their in hell so why would they seek help? There are the self righteous preacher who says he knew all along that his harsh version of Christianity was the right one. So, he's certainly in heaven and sooner or later he will be elevated to the position his righteous life lived called for. It's an interesting book and it had an effect. I'm reading it slowly now on my Kindle having found it again in ebook format. This was a theme I had thought of as a young and even an older Christian. I just couldn't see God as ever failing. That's why the concept of fire and brimstone (apart from not sounding much like the Holy Spirit I pray too) ever really bothered me. Oblivion? Now, that's scary as hell. Pardon the pun. But, as long as I have "Me." then I have hope in spirit. Anyway, whatever your theological or spiritual thought. I recommend the concept of this one. It's thought provoking. I'm not trying to start an argument on theology. Whew, that sounds to much like trying to change peoples political opinion. Trust me. This is just my way of sharing some of the influences and books along my journey. I don't think one size fits all.
"I keep my visions to myself." ...Stevie Nicks.
Good advice. So, do I Stevie.