Every time I see these big lists of books that tend to pop up on the blogs of various book fiends -- the 100 greatest books! 1001 great books to read before you die! -- I tend to get a little hacked, because my favorites aren't on there. Also, these lists never include poetry or nonfiction or children's books. Well, those days are over.
Here's my list of the books and poems on my bookshelves, the ones that I'd push on you or any innocent bystander that looks as if she could use a good read. Then you guys can copy the list and then complain about the books I should have been reading.
The Odyssey -- Homer
The Iliad, though I tend to skim the extended battle scenes.
Parts of Beowulf. Though the other day I was reading the Seamus Heaney translation and kept falling asleep. My fault, not his.
Dante's Commedia -- all of it. I seem to prefer the Mandlebaum translation, though I like what Sayers did with the tetra rima thing.
Bits and parts of the Canterbury Tales, though not enough bits to say that I have actually finished it. But Chaucer's cool.
Right now a big stack of Elizabeth Bishop poems, esp. "Sandpiper," "The Armadillo," "The Fish," and "The Moose." But I have "The Great Poet Returns" by Mark Strand stuck to the wall right now.
Four Quartets – T.S. Eliot
American Indian Poetry
Living on Fire – Virginia Hamilton Adair. She was about 83 when they published this. I saw some of her poems in the New Yorker and just had to have this book.
No! It was Ants on the Melon I had to have. But where the hell is my copy? Ai!
Gang of Poets anthology. This book isn’t not available anywhere; it’s just a small book the local Gang of Poets fixed up from our readings at Paper Moone Books, back in the day. All my buddies are in it, and me too. I miss those days!
Vita Nuova – Dante. This is the skeleton for the novel I want to write someday.
Complete Works of the Gawain-Poet – John Gardner. I like The Pearl best.
Also he did Gilgamesh.
I read Piers Plowman. And I don’t intend to make that same mistake twice. Sweet Jesus! I’m sorry, Dr. Slater, but this book is narcolepsy between two covers!
Media – Euripides.
The 1919 edition of the Oxford Book of English Verse. I found this in one of the boxes that Grandpa Vance brought home from an auction. It got left in the rain, though. I set it out in the sun to dry, and it got me through high school. I later got an updated edition so I could turn the pages without fear of crumbling. The paper’s like onionskin now.
Poetry of the Victorian Period. In high school, I turned to this book often, loving the flowery diction of the Victorians, but also trying to seek out bits of unannotated poetry quoted in St. Elmo (below).
Dominic -- William Steig. I read it to my five-year-old daughter, editing on the fly, and she loves it. That dog is so filled with adventure and life.
Charlotte's Web -- EBW. Obviously.
His Dark Materials trilogy -- Philip Pullman. Especially love the world-building he does in Compass. I want to do that!
Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen – Garth Nix.
The Apple Stone – Nicholas Stuart Gray. Also The Seventh Swan. I never hear anything about this guy, but he was pretty good.
Speak – Laurie Halse Anderson. I got to tell Laurie, in person, that her books kick literary ass. She seemed to appreciate that.
A Girl Named Disaster – Nancy Farmer.
The Last Unicorn – Peter Beagle.
How the Mouse Deer Became King – Margueritte Harmon Bro.
Lyra’s Oxford – Philip Pullman. Stay tuned for The Book of Dust.
The Green Knowle books – L.M. Boston.
Any of the Magic books – Edward Eager. These books had me burning a low fever, yearning for magic, in my junior high years.
Homecoming – Cynthia Voigt.
Also, If She Hollers – Voigt.
Watership Down – Richard Adams.
The Darkangel trilogy – Meredith Ann Pierce. Awesome. Based on a dream recorded by Carl Jung.
The Babymouse books! Jennifer and Matt Holm. My girl and I like these a lot.
Essays and other stuff
Pretty much anything by E.B. White. During college I just devoured White essays by the bushelload. It did me good.
One Man’s Meat – E.B. White
The Points of My Compass – EBW
Those two are my favorite books of his essays, though technically I love ‘em all. Hey, if anybody has a copy of The Lady is Cold lying around that they don’t want, send it to me.
Anything by Thurber except for the stuff he wrote close to his death. My favorite collection is My World and Welcome To It.
Walden -- Thoreau. I like when he's in the canoe, playing the flute, and the fish swim to the top of the lake. This was EBW's favorite book.
Pygmalion – G.B. Shaw.
Best American Short Stories 1982 – collected by John Gardner. These stories illustrate what he thought good stories needed to do.
Maus – Art Spiegelman.
I like the Norton anthologies, except that I get so overwhelmed with the sheer number of stories in them that I can’t decide what to read and then I don’t read anything at all.
The Brothers Karamozov -- Dostky. I had such a crush on Alyosha, the first time (beyond my own Symphonians) that I'd developed a crush on a character from a book. But he's such a sweetheart!
Beloved -- Toni Morrison. Though I couldn't figure out that one stream-of-consciousness chapter.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I've read this one several times. After my semi-miscarriage (just a blighted ovum, said the docs, but I took it seriously), I read the whole trilogy straight through, over about four or five days. It helped.
St. Elmo -- Augusta Jane Evans. Sue me. This is the most flowery, antebellum Victorian novel you will ever lay eyes on. But this book was my big high school favorite. Oh, that romance just grabbed me.
The First Violin -- Jessie Fothergill. Another Victorian romance, this time about a young English singer and the noble first violinist.
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte. Read it outside of class.
Back When We Were Grownups – Anne Tyler. This woman can make these incredible characters, and I envy her skill. But not enough to actually write over 250 pages on my own characters, the way she does. Wimp.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon.
Earthsea trilogy PLUS Tehanu, Tales of Earthsea, and The Other Wind – LeGuin. Would that make it a hexology?
Also LeGuin's short-story collection, Unlocking the Air.
To the Lighthouse – Virginia Woolf. I keep not finishing it, but I keep starting it again, because something in me needs this book.
Lake Wobegon Days – Garrison Keillor.
The Dubliners – James Joyce.
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – JJ.
Kissing in Manhattan – David Schickler. Especially his story “The Smoker,” which appeared in maybe the O. Henry collection.
“Catface” – Arthur Bradford. It’s in one of the O. Henry story collections, early ‘90’s, I think. For God’s sake, go read it. Craziest damn story you'll see anywhere.
Truman -- David McCullough. I have read this big hunk of book through several times, and it is so worthwhile, both for the portrait of the man and for the writing. After I read this, I became a certified Trumanophile.
Birds of Missouri. I checkmark the birds I’ve spotted.
The Manual of Woody Landscape Plants – Michael Dirr. This is a horticultural bible. And the man really knows his stuff.
Missouri Wildflowers – Studied this since I was in fifth grade.
How to Grow Vegetables and Fruits by the Organic Method – J.I. Rodale. It’s old, but the information here is still very good.
The Rose Bible – Rayford Clayton Reddell. Luscious pics of roses (aka “garden porn”) as well as excellent care instructions and extensive rose history.
The New Organic Grower – Eliot Coleman. Even if you are not a small-acreage farmer, this is an excellent look at working with the soil and nature through good management and plant positive (as opposed to pest-negative) behaviors. Also info about raising greens and root vegetables through winter.
Mammals of Missouri – Charles Schwartz.
Steyermark’s Flora of Missouri – for the hardcore botanist. The MDC is coming out with a new, three-volume edition, but each volume takes about 15 years to compile.
Natural History of Raccoons – Doris MacClintock. I have to say I like her book better than Sterling North’s books.
The Well-Tempered Listener – Deems Taylor. A series of essays from his talks on music. Short and fun.
Score to Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concertos 1, 2, and 3. Because you really don’t appreciate all the work the pianist has put into these performances until you are racing through the score to keep up with the piano, flipping pages so fast that all those black notes become a blur.
Assorted essays by humanist psychologists Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers. Really interesting stuff.
The Discarded Image – C.S. Lewis. Great scholarship on the medieval way of thinking.
“Beat Zen, Square Zen, and Zen” – Alan Watts. That essay (published here as a pamphlet) put me on a Zen kick for a while in college.
The Power of Myth – Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell. Never saw the actual show this was based on, but what the hey, I have the book.
I wish that I could say that I love Santayana’s Life of Reason, but I can’t wrap my brain around it. I love Santayana, though, is that good enough?
Seven Roads to Hell – Donald Burgett. About Bastogne, where Grandpa Mike may have been stuck during WWII. Also wrote The Road to Arnhem, about Operation Market Garden and the Dutch Resistance (and Grandpa did for sure jump there).
Memories, Dreams, Reflections – Carl Jung. The man’s autobiography, parts of which are really … interesting.
Elements of Style by Bill Strunk and EBW. I used to have this memorized.
The Art of Fiction – John Gardner. Yes, this book really changed my life!
On Becoming a Novelist – John Gardner.
On Writers and Writing – Gardner again.
Writing Fiction – Janet Burroway. Though many of the stories she included are real downers.
Writing Poetry – Robert Wallace. One of Dr. Trowbridge’s poems are in here.
(I wish that I could say that I read Fowler’s Modern English Usage, but no. Though I'll give it a shot occasionally.)
Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott. Of course!
The Writing of Fiction – Edith Wharton.
Steering the Craft -- Ursula K. LeGuin. I like best her chapter on crowding and leaping.
Did I miss anything?