I thought I would start a series of posts about things I like. No – stuff I dig. Yeah, groovy, man. There are a lot of lists out there in the world, and I suppose I should do my part to contribute to the conversation. Making lists is how I make a living, after all.
“Stuff I Dig” will be a casual series of lists that I’ll post over time. I’m not into the idea of presenting a top 5 or 10 list of the things that you absolutely must do/see/experience/read/use. Everyone’s mileage varies and I don’t want to deal in absolutes. I just want to give you lists of things that I dig, and maybe prompt you to think about the same in your world.
So, let’s start with some books, eh? Here are five books that have had an impact in my life:
- “Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus” by Mary Shelley. I don’t recall how old I was when I first read “Frankenstein”, but I know that I had seen a few movies by that, or similar, name before getting the book in my hands. Writing in the epistolary form is quite challenging and I think Shelley nailed it. I’m not really a book collector, but I will admit that I have three different editions of “Frankenstein” sitting on the shelf. My favorite is an annotated version that is extensively marked up in pencil and ink from the days when I studied the book in college.
- “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James. This is one of the best ghost stories I’ve ever read. Of course, I’m telling you it’s a ghost story, because I think it is. You could read it and come away with another conclusion (maybe the governess was insane). I don’t think James ever meant for the reader to really know. So if you’re into the whole “I’m not really sure how that ended” kind of thing, this book is for you.
- “The Shining” by Stephen King. Like the majority of books on this meager list, “The Shining” has been analyzed to death. I’m not here to do that. I just think this books rocks. It was the first book I read that gave me nightmares. I had fallen asleep on a chair during a hot summer day, sitting in front of a box fan while reading my copy of the book. It was the bright yellow, movie poster tie-in edition with the creepy, warped face of Danny. My father came up behind me and placed a hand on my shoulder. I don’t think he knew that I was asleep and that I was having a rather disturbing dream inspired by what I had been reading that day. Three things happened: 1) my legs kicked out and knocked over the box fan; 2) I fell out of the chair; and 3) I tossed the book in the air, knocking dear old dad in the nose. Yeah, it’s a good book.
- “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” by Mark Haddon. I came across this book after my wife had finished reading it for a book club. There was a time in my life, albeit brief, that I very seriously considered a career in mental health, and I am very often attracted to stories that involve people with a disability (real or perceived). “Incident” manages to tell a story full of mystery and adventure through the eyes and words of a teenage boy on the autism spectrum. It took me a few pages to settle into the rhythm of the language, but once I did, I was hooked.
- “On Writing” by Stephen King. This is certainly among the most influential books on the topic of writing to come out in years. I have a few others I can recommend (just ask), but I always put this one at the top of that pile. If you can, get a copy of the audio book. Hearing King read it makes it even better.
So, there it is, the first in the Things I Dig series. It was really difficult to get down to this list of five considering all of the books that I have loved over the years. Here’s a quick list of honorable mentions and runner’s up: “Elmer Gantry” by Sinclair Lewis, “Ghost Story” by Peter Straub, “The Great and Secret Show” by Clive Barker, “The Shock of the Fall” by Nathan Filer, and “A is for Angelica” by Iain Broome.