I’ve seen this meme (or ones like it) on Facebook, G+ and over at Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds. I like it. It means a bit more than “favorite,” because sometimes they are and sometimes they’re not.
1. Jack of Shadows by Roger Zelazny – Lots of firsts here. First Zelazny for me. First real run in with the anti-hero. And Morningstar was the first character I can remember making me ache with a sort of deep, helpless loneliness. “Almost. It’s always almost morning” breaks my heart every time.
2. The Bachman Books by Stephen King – In particular, “Rage” and “The Long Walk,” but mostly “The Long Walk.” These books came in early in my fascination with the human mind pushed to its limits, and what happens afterward.
3. IT by Stephen King – Like him or hate him, you can’t claim that King doesn’t have a way with memorable imagery. IT was probably too long, but it did a lot of things right. He captured childhood very well, both the energy and the isolation. IT itself evokes the fear of the unknown very well. And of course, poor Georgie. “We all float down here.”
4. Heinlein Juveniles – They sort of clump together in my mind. Not the storylines, but the experience of reading them. They definitely had a strong impact on me as a kid, some in what I now consider to be negative ways (Starship Troopers) and others in more positive ones (Have Space-suit, Will Travel).
5. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – Hopelessness. Totalitarianism. Fear of religion and government. Beautiful language. This book really has it all.
6. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – My first dystopia. This book helped me to learn that I have an existential horror of ignorance, particularly willful ignorance and destruction of knowledge. Montag’s impossible choice, to turn away from everything he knows or continue doing something he has realized is wrong, fascinates me.
7. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell – Truly a marvelously crafted book, and it plays into my fascination with distrust of authority. Other themes, such as doing the right thing even though it’s hopeless, also resonate with me.
8. Growing Up Weightless by John M. Ford – This book is beautifully written, and also deals intimately with a lot of the themes of childhood. Changing but being afraid to change. Strangely overlapping inclusion and isolation. The feeling that one’s parents are both vital but also alien. In addition, Ford’s consideration of the effects of extraterrestrial living on the everyday reality of life is exhaustive and fascinating.
9. Iron and Silk my Mark Salzman – The only memoir that I would say really “stuck with me.” Salzman’s story of his trip to China to teach English is fascinating. Salzman is an American who has studied Chinese and China, studied Chinese martial arts, and plays the cello. His frustrations with the bureaucracy, making friends, experiences of Chinese home life, and his studies with martial arts teachers paint a complex and living picture of life in China in the 1980s.
10. Stone Monkey: An Alternative, Chinese-Scientific, Reality by Bruce Holbrook – I partly fibbed in #9. There are memoir aspects of Stone Monkey. The value in this book wasn’t the specifics so much as the approach to thinking, and the concept of polar-completeness as an alternative to binary or extreme/spectrum thinking. It’s also interesting from the point of view of an outsider learning about another culture and way of thinking.