Here’s a really difficult exercise. Pick 5 books that represent the most formative years of your life. The only two that can’t be on your list are the bible and Catcher in the Rye.
Here are my 5 in chronological order.
1. Where the Wild Things Are. Maurice Sendaks’ timeless fantasy bed-time story that reads well any time of day, no matter the readers age. Instantly recognizable illustrations, both terrifying and comforting–a decidedly tough task. Hollywood is making it into a film. I’m sure they’ll screw it up.
2. Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas. Hunter S. Thompson at the height of his pharmaceutical madness. I remember sitting in the Atlanta Airport reading this and laughing hysterically out loud. I wanted to hang out with Hunter. His influence on me made me tap out my first book on an impossibly old Royal type-writer in my boxer shorts, wearing a fedora and smoking a cigarette using a cigarette holder. Poser.
“The only thing that really worried me was the ether. There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man in the depths of an ether binge. And I knew we’d get into that rotten stuff pretty soon.”
3. Tao Te Ching. I was a student at Georgia State University looking for the meaning of life. This gave me comfort for a while. I found this far more intriguing and meaningful than the bullshit slung by my philosophy professors.
4. Ninety-two in the Shade. A crazed road-trip through the lunatic fringe of Key West. A dirty trick goes awry and a deadly promise on a life is realized. This book made me want to be a writer, and it made me nervous. Thomas McGuane just blew me away. Still does.
5. The Theory & Practice of Rivers and New Poems. Jim Harrison–one eyed wonder from upstate Michigan can write. Here he waxes nostalgic about life and romance. Sure he wrote Legends of the Fall, but his lesser know work is his best. I loved Creatures That God Forgot to Invent. The Theory & Practice of Rivers and New Poems was given to me by my camera-man when I was a television director. Jim Harrison made me want to write well.
“One day standing in a river with my flyrod I’ll have the courage to admit my life. And you my loves, few as there have been, let’s lie and say it could never have been otherwise. So that: we may glide off in peace, not howling like orphans in this endless century of war.”
What are the five books that would be on your list?