Good Books

1
(c) Patrick Norton

A bunch of books.

Some books I’ve read worth reading:

Tender Buttons (Gertrude Stein)

Hope (Peter Vick)

The Making of a Poem (Strand & Boland)

Erasure (Percival Everett)

The People of Paper (Salvador Plascencia)

Gerald Locklin: New and Selected Poems

Duino Elegies (Rilke)

Dancing in Odessa (Ilya Kaminsky)

The Brothers Karamazov (Dostoevsky)

Consider the Lobster (DF Wallace)

The Rest is Noise (Alex Ross)

The Broom of the System (DF Wallace)

The Good Lord Bird (James McBride) — A fictional history of John Brown’s final few years leading to Harper’s Ferry, from the point of view of freed slave Henry “Onion” Shackleford. In hyper-comic vernacular, Shackleford works through his racial identity and a disingenuous gender deportment (posing as a girl), and struggles to confront the terrors of pre-civil war America and its inherent racism, religious hypocrisies, and abolitionist quest for civil justice. Here’s a link to my review of this book.

Hero with a Thousand Faces (Joseph Campbell)

Infinite Jest (DF Wallace) — There is a long history of encyclopedic novels D.F.W. is working within such as Moby-Dick, Gravity’s Rainbow, Ulysses. In terms of style, which is one of the more curious elements of the book, he has created his own in terms of consciousness with the effect that it links all the characters together. I think of it as a caricature of an alternate America stuck in a way of thinking that has been degraded by a preoccupation with “various entertainments,” drugs and nepotism. And then there is the Eschaton section, that is so fraught with eloquent satire, that I cannot begin to unpack it here in this short space. However, I will say that it moves the book into a higher, univeral dimension of meaning which is breathtaking.

The Big Sleep (Raymond Chandler)

White Oleander (Janet Fitch)

The Complete Minimal Poems (Aram Saroyan) — With a general knowledge of the history of poetry, an interest in how artists subtracted from painting and sculpture until their work was again relevant (Yves Klein, Joseph Albers, Mark Rothko, Donald Judd, etc.), and an appreciation for what led up to the Internet search term, a reader will enjoy each page of this book as a canvas, each word as a work of art in itself. Saroyan jumped the gun on Google and minimalist advertising with these brief poems, where so much depends upon one word, or one small set of words. This book is where his courage and artistic taste are well displayed on each clever page.

He was up to Ezra Pound’s task to “make it new,” as a master craftsman trailblazing new territory, seeing language in his own unique way, all with a sense of humor–and trust me awkwardness as these pithy pieces are read in person–THE challenge to all serious poets who seek to engage the page, culture, the world.

Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography (B Franklin)

Wise Blood (Flannery O’Connor)

Lolita (Nabokov)

A Confederacy of Dunces (JK Toole)

The Making of a Poem (Strand & Boland)

The Remains of the Day (Ishiguro)

A Farewell to Arms (Hemingway)

The Old Man and the Sea (Hemingway)

How to Write a Damn Good Novel (Frey)

On Becoming a Novelist (Gardner)

What Are People For? (Wendell Berry)

Moby-Dick (Herman Melville)

Ways of Seeing (John Berger)

The Anxiety of Influence (Bloom)

As a Driven Leaf (Milton Steinberg)

Healing the Shame that Binds You (John Bradshaw) — I read this at a critical time in my life, when I needed to identify and let go of debilitating (what Bradshaw calls) “toxic shame.” Bradshaw is painfully honest and surprisingly thorough in dealing with the tempests that plague us in modernity. If you want your life to remain status quo, then skip this, but if you need a change for the better and want to quit sweeping bad things under the rug, this is for you. However, I warn you that you will have to deal with the issues the book raises.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin (HB Stowe)

Crime and Punishment (F. Dostoyevsky) — Because that scene in the tavern at the beginning of the book is so vivid! I can still see the counter strewn with assorted vegetables, and see Raskolnikov lonely and upset–and I can see him with no other options, engaging the very talkative and polite Marmeladov in that endless conversation that–if I remember correctly–spans two very interesting chapters.

And this doesn’t even take into account the murder and Raskolnikov’s very evil, very human, and very flawed justification for it. What a terrific book from beginning to end.

My Name is Asher Lev (C. Potok) – This is Potok’s greatest novel, and its climax mixes modern Judaism, artistic integrity and Christianity all together to powerfully explore what happens when they all clash and tear apart a family and a community. Pure genius on paper. Not many books beside this one are must reads.

Howl and Other Poems (A. Ginsberg)

Wiener Werkstatte: Design in Vienna 1903-1932 (C. Brandstatter)

The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens (Vintage)

Dubliners (James Joyce)

A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man (James Joyce)

Notes From Underground (F. Dostoevksy)

Heart of Darkness (J. Conrad)

The Brothers Ashkenazi (I.J. Singer)

The Chosen (C. Potok)

Gone With the Wind (M. Mitchell)

A Moveable Feast (Hemingway)

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (F. Douglass)

The Mystery of Marriage (M. Mason) — This book is a Christian classic exploring what it takes to be an integral marriage partner. It pulls no punches delving into the joys and difficulties that entail harmonizing two disparate souls. Read it, live it, learn it, love it, pass it on. Kudos Mike Mason.

A Wild Sheep Chase (H. Murakami) — It is I guess, a lifestyle.

The Book of Genesis Illustrated (R. Crumb)

Don Quixote (M. Cervantes)

The Promise (C. Potok)

The Chief (D. Nasaw)

The Stranger (A. Camus)

The Good Earth (P. S. Buck)

Story (R. McKee)

The Collected Works of Isaac Bashevis Singer (I.B. Singer)

Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage (A. Munro)

The Creative Writing MFA Handbook (T. Kealey)

From Pitch to Publication (C. Blake)

Gimpel the Fool (I.B. Singer)

The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath)

The Lord of the Rings (Trilogy) (J.R.R. Tolkein)

Ulysses (James Joyce)

Gravity’s Rainbow (Thomas Pynchon)

In the Beginning (C. Potok)

Jitterbug Perfume (Tom Robbins)

The Chosen (C. Potok)

Danny the Champion of the World (Roald Dahl)

Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator (Roald Dahl)

Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis)

Tess of the D’Urbervilles (Thomas Hardy)

To Kill a Mockinbird (Harper Lee)

Seize the Day (Saul Bellow)

The Metamorphosis (Franz Kafka)

Lord of the Flies (W. Golding)

A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle)

Out of Solitude (Henri Nouwen)

Einstein: His Life and His Universe (W. Isaacson)

The Sun Also Rises (Hemingway)

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (G. Stein)

Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters (J.D. Salinger)

The Voice at 3:00 A.M. (Charles Simic)

A Separate Peace (J. Knowles)

Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe)

Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison)

McSweeney’s 15 (Dave Eggers)

Nine Stories (J.D. Salinger)

Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury) – Ray Bradbury had a shack or a garage or something in his back yard. It had four walls. Against each wall was a desk. On each desk was a typewriter. On each typewriter a different piece of writing was in the works. In the middle of this he had a swivel chair, so he could switch from project to project without missing a beat. And did he ever miss a beat? When I saw him speak at the 2009 LA Times Festival of Books, it was to a packed house, and he told the story of how he actually didn’t own a typewriter when he was writing Fahrenheit 451. He rented one at the basement library at UCLA for 10 cents an hour, just so he could type up the manuscript. Then to sell the novel he had to fill a backpack with mimeographed copies and on foot went from literary house to literary house trying to get the novel published. Kind of an inspirational fellow, eh? (read my review of Fahrenheit 451 here)

Melanctha (G. Stein)

Franny and Zooey (J.D. Salinger)

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (S.L. Clemens)

Gandhi’s Truth (Erik Erikson

The Sound and the Fury (W. Faulkner)

Still Life With Woodpecker (T. Robbins)

The Dharma Bums (Jack Kerouac)

The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)

The Way of the Heart (Henri Nouwen)

The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming (Lemony Snicket)

A Dictionary of the English Language (Samuel Johnson)

The Pawnbroker (E.L. Wallant)

The Art of Fiction (John Gardner)

The Secret of Nimh (R.C. O’Brien)

Divine Conspiracy (Dallas Willard)

The Maltese Falcon (Dashiell Hammett) – This guy is one of the great detective novelists of all time. Any more need be said?

Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates (Tom Robbins)

The Cost of Discipleship (D. Bonhoeffer)

Reading Like a Writer (F. Prose)

Gnomes (R. Poortvliet & W. Huygen)

On Writing Well (W. Zinsser)

My First Summer in the Sierra (John Muir) — John Muir takes us back to a pastoral existence as he ascends from Merced into The Yosemite. His insight into plants, animals, and human impact on beautiful Northern California has helped me appreciate Yosemite so very much more. He offers his own form of wisdom, comparing slow living and making the most of our time on earth, with the strange (from his perspective) activities of humans.

The journal entry style of this book may put some off, but the seasons and weather are an important part of this story, and this journal, though spit-shined prior to print, would half anyone else’s with its weight and acuity. Muir’s passion is contagious and his insight fascinating.

James and the Giant Peach (Roald Dahl)

The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis)

Steve Jobs (W. Isaacson) — I could not put this down. I was amazed at how much computers have impacted our world through the milieu of Apple vs Microsoft, and the middle class to-riches story of restless Steve Jobs. He was cruel, sensitive, a tyrannical leader and had a great sense of humor. So much of our Apple-infused culture took cues from his leadership. It is truly surprising. The author, Walter Isaacson is a masterful biographer in that he gets right down to what makes the subjects of his biographies successful. I’m a big fan not just of what interesting details he includes, but how he weeds out the boring and superfluous. His biography of Einstein is also wonderful as well.

Dylan: A Man Called Alias (R. Williams)

Independence Day (Richard Ford)

The Seven Storey Mountain (Thomas Merton)

The Death of Methuselah (I.B. Singer)

The Omnivore’s Dilemmna (Michael Pollan)

Psychotic Reactions and Carbeurator Dung (Lester Bangs)

Charles Dickens: The Last of the Great Men (G.K. Chesterton)

Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)

The Dada Painters and Poets: An Anthology (Robert Motherwell)

A Book of Surrealist Games (Alastair Brotchie)

Down and Out in Paris and London (George Orwell)

Becoming a Writer (D. Brande)

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (K. Vonnegut)

Imagine: How Creativity Works (J. Lehrer)

In Patagonia (B. Chatwin)

Isaac Bashevis Singer: An Album (ed. I. Stavans)

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