There was a time in my life that I read for pizza. It was the most meaningless reward system in the world, but it worked. It was meaningless because I am pretty sure we went out for pizza once a week anyway and I would have been denied nothing. We were vegetarians, so it wasn’t even really for topping choice either because that was a fairly restrictive list too. The magic of being given your own (tiny) pizza is amazing though.
The reason I bring this up, is as per a previous post, one of the amazing treasures I’ve gotten to know this year recommended a book to me. It will probably not change the course of my life, but it was life changing. I will get to that shortly.
Further, I finished that book on December 7th which is a day I will live infinitely. Again, more on that later, probably tomorrow. Needless to say, I’ve been inspired to seek out more books. I am officially begging people to give me the name of books that have changed or shaped or supported them. In the meantime, I want to share my top 10 of all time. I am truly hoping to share my top 10 of 2014 next December. Please comment and offer me candidates.
Here are my top 10 with mild spoilers in the review/description, though I will intentionally not describe more than necessary to explain my love and opinions and hopefully leave you craving more.
- The Razor’s Edge – This is a story told from a distant 3rd person perspective that reveals pieces of people that are timeless. It is truly about a character that seems mentioned only in passing who finds and reveals some amazing information about ancient eastern philosophy, the importance of incorporating it and living it in a western way in the west during modern times. Though it paints a black and white photograph that is cracked and yellowed with age, the timelessness pours off the page.
- Atlas Shrugged – It’s about a train. Again, the author pins the piece to a time period, but I’ve always had trouble feeling that the book was anything but present. It felt present in time and space and overall atmosphere, most of the times. It is not about selfishness. It is not about selflessness. It is about personally motivated benevolence which is in opposition to the dictionary definition of both. Disregard the hype everyone else has given it.
- The Fountainhead – It’s about building. Timeless. This one is about independence and what it means and what it requires. There are hints of her other themes, but ultimately, if you read just the opening and closing scenes, you will understand that this is the picture she wants you to approach the book with and leave the book with. Her messages are often so heavy, that all she is attributed with is the core of her philosophy, but remember that she is a writer and has chosen her words and story arc very carefully.
- Anthem – It’s about a garbage man. This one is outside of time entirely. She posits a society that has degraded by abandoning individuality. This is about individuality, which is wholly different than independence.
- I, Robot – This is a collection of short stories about robots. Really, it is about the rules that govern humanity. The author uses robots as a vehicle to demonstrate rules because they do not veer from the rules. Neither do humans but we never believe that. By using robots like this, he actually helps you develop a deeper understanding of humanity
- The Early Ayn Rand – This is a collection of short stories and a play and discarded excerpts from novels. Some works are very well polished and others fairly lacking. When you read this, pay particular attention to “Red Pawn” and “Kira’s Viking.” I received this and a few other books by Ayn Rand as a present from my ex-wife. I have never told her this, but every time I considered leaving her, I reread “Red Pawn.” The day I gave up was the day that I followed that up by rereading “Kira’s Viking.” These are the two greatest love stories I have ever read. If you read nothing else on this list, I implore you to read “Kira’s Viking.” Numbers 2, 3 and 4 are written by the same author.
- Wizard’s First Rule – I watched the TV show first and was amazed by the actors and characters. The book is so much more. Again, this is the story of heroes from different walks of life, albeit in a purely fantastic world. Other than the fact that there is sex from the 2nd book on and true atrocities of war throughout the series that I wish children never needed to learn of, I would genuinely love to pass this on to my niece and my children one day. The characters and morality the author displays are so deep and moving. He invokes a love that is familiar but beyond understanding. The most important facet is that the central hero is only the central hero because he is charged with the purpose of seeking the truth and gifted at finding it. He is driven by a need to discover reality and if I could pass one thing on to the next generation that would be it.
- A Time To Kill – The movie brought me to tears. I am not a big hard man, but I am pretty sure that no other has. I never thought I could kill a man with no remorse, the book taught me otherwise. Morality is absolute, but at the same time, actions are not. Some are worse than what morality deems evil and some are just not to be judged on that scale at all.
- Ender’s Game – This book leaves the reader with a moral question. The author brilliantly ties up the story and leaves room for himself to continue into a series of books that I have not yet even considered looking at, yet at the same time, he leaves a question just sitting on the table. You can pick it up and play with the moral question or disregard it entirely and it is a great book either way. The movie is brilliant, but does not do it justice.
- 10 Little Indians – Yes, it has a less racist title. It also has a far more racist title that it was originally published as, but this is the name I knew it by. This book introduced me to the mystery genre and did a great job of taking me on the journey. Not her best work, but certainly among the easiest reads.
As I get to the end of this list I realize that I need to read more. Much more. I’ve known I wanted to expand my horizons, but listing it all out really makes me realize how narrow a margin I’ve been living in. So as I’ve been asking for a while now and even at the beginning of this post, please give me some recommendations. I think I’m going to start with The Great Gatsby next, but please send me some ideas.