Saturday, July 02, 2005


Rob tags me. Here are the rules.

Do you ever read those stuffy book lists you see circulating, like 'List your five most important books,' and think to yourself- no wonder these people are so damned boring. Some of the titles give me a damned headache, they are so dull. Knowing things is great, but fiction makes life bigger and better and in color.

So, in the proud spirit of anti-intellectualism (just kidding), I am going to offer you the five books I liked enough as a teen/young adult to read again as an adult.

In no particular order:

The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas. Okay, I read it before my teens but I thought I should mention it because it's such an awesome book, and I continued to reread it into my teens and adulthood. It has everything a young (and old) boy needs: action, adventure, swordfighting, political intrigue, an inescapable island prison, buried treasure, assumed identities, beautiful ladies with great, heaving bosoms, and of course, traitorous ex-friends getting their just comeuppance.

Welcome to the Monkey House, by Kurt Vonnegut. This was my first experience reading Vonnegut, and though my love of his novels has lessened somewhat as I've gotten older, my appreciation for this collection of highly imaginative, often bizarre, and unapologetically political short stories has only grown.

The Dark Knight Returns, by Frank Miller. This book did for comics what Leone did for Westerns. It recontextualized and redefined an entire American mythos. For good measure, it also has the Joker gassing David Letterman and his entire studio audience, a young female Robin, and Batman whupping Superman's ass. Dude. No, dude.

The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien. It's possible that no single subject, certainly no book, has had more computer code expended upon it, so I'll keep it short. Loved it as a kid because it had swords and monsters and ginormous battle scenes. Rereading it as an adult was, and continues to be, an infinitely richer experience. Also, swords and monsters and ginormous battle scenes still get me all upset. Favorite scene: Aragorn looks into the Palantir to declare himself to Sauron. The stones on that guy.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X, by Malcolm X with Alex Haley. Even though it's non-fiction, I still think this belongs on the short list for the Great American Novel, along with Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, and Invisible Man (like how I snuck four more entries on to my list?). In addition to being a massive reality check for this white boy, this book was an early catalyst for my interest in Islam. The Haj sequence, where Malcolm discovers true Islam on his pilgrimage to Mecca, and turns away from the exclusivist heterodoxy of the Nation of Islam, is as moving as anything I've ever read in literature.

If I may color outside the lines for a moment, here are a couple books I read as a very young kid, but still enjoy.

James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl. From the moment a giant rhinoceros shows up out of nowhere and eats James' parents, I was hooked. Of course, after I grew up, dropped acid, and had my own series of adventures with giant fruit and massive insects, I understood this book a lot better.

Fox in Socks, by Dr. Seuss. "When beetles fight these battles in a bottle with their paddles and the bottle's on a poodle and the poodle's eating noodles...they call this a muddle puddle tweetle poodle beetle noodle bottle paddle battle." I'm thirty-two years old and still have yet to make it through the entire book without a mistake.

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