Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday Listicles: Books! Books! Books!

I haven't participated in Stasha’s Monday Listicles in a loooong loooong time. But this week's topic is near and dear to my heart, so I had to jump in. This week, Stasha herself asked us to write a list about... books.  

That's it: Books! Anything about books.  So... Easy - I love books!

Also? Not so easy - I love books - so I can think of 10,000 things to say about them, how can I narrow that down to ten.

And is this a list of MY favorite books? My kids' favorite books? Books I've really enjoyed, even if they're trashy? Or books I think are IMPORTANT?  Or... or... (Yes, I AM capable of over-complicating anything, thank you.)

In the end? I decided to go with, simply: 10 books that I love. (Even though it is guaranteed that as soon as I hit the publish button on this post I will hit myself upside the head with a "Oy! How could I have left THAT book off the list!) So without further ado:

Varda's List of Ten Books That I Love (or are important to me in some way) in no particular order:

1.  Just Above My Head, by James Baldwin

This last novel of his is, in my opinion, vastly underrated, and one of my favorite novels. It's gloriously shaggy. And it has one of my favorite 1st lines: "The damn'd blood burst..."

 2.  No Place On Earth by Christa Wolf

One that I can guarantee 99.9% of you have never heard of. The first line: "The wicked spoor left in time’s wake as it flees us."

3.  An American Childhood by Annie Dillard

I love Annie Dillard. She is one of my very favorite writers on the planet. I once found hardcover copies of this book on cheap remainder somewhere and bought 5 so I could give them away to friends.

4.  A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin.
These were favorite books of mine as a child (then a trilogy, now a longer series) and still are wondrous tales. Ursula Le Guin is an amazing writer.

5.  White Noise by Don Delillo

No description really necessary. Much lauded. A wonderful novel. Unfortunately the first Delillo I ever read, and nothing else ever measured up.

6.  Wave Without a Shore by 

Wave Without A Shore, so this must be one of her favorites too.

And now, some important books written by writers who are all on the autism spectrum. How important these are to me is hard to explain, except to say I read them all when Jacob was young and much less expressive of his thoughts and feelings than he is now, when once I feared I would never catch even a glimpse into his inner life.

Now, he is nowhere near as articulate as these folks - all adults with aspergers and thus not with Jake's specific language processing issues - but still, every day I am moving closer and closer to him. It is wonderful, and deeply appreciated.

But when I read these books, Jake was still so much a cypher to me. Hearing these authors talk about their experiences as autistic children in the confusing and cacophonous world has been invaluable to my early burgeoning understandings of my son: 

7.  Songs of the Gorilla Nation by Dawn Prince-Hughes

This is a beautiful and important book about autism, written by an autist who became a primatologist and began to understand people though gorillas. Incredible writing.

8.  Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's by John Elder Robison

Wonderful and richly detailed memoir of John Elder Robison's life both before and after his diagnosis of Asperger's. And much of his life takes places in Amherst, my old college town!

9.  Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet

Another wonderful memoir by an autistic author. Daniel is a math savant with major synesthesia who has memorized Pi to an amazing length.


10. Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin

The mother of all autism memoirs. Temple is probably the most well known autists on the planet, and she is an amazing woman.  I met her once, and remember her asking the person standing next to me if he preferred her to look at or listen to him because she was having trouble doing both.

OK, I'm done - let's call it a night!  What are some of YOUR favorite books?


  1. what a great list - full of books I don't know, which I love - it's like I've found a treasure box and can now rummage through to my heart's content. Have been meaning to read the Temple Grandin book for a while, actually, so your comment will force me to amazon-land (and yes, thanks, I'd much rather use an independent bookstore BUT THERE AREN"T ANY HERE). sigh. sob. sob.

  2. What a lovely list. There are many I have not read yet, but I am really interested to read Songs of the gorilla nation. Think that will be the first to tick off. Thank you for sharing these!!

  3. Lots of books I've never read but I love love love Ursula Leguin, can you believe she's still alive and writing? What a living legend. I love the Earthsea series, and science fiction lures me in too, especially the old stuff.

    1. I actually saw her read last year at the 92nd St Y. She was so tiny they had to put a box behind the podium for her to stand on. But boy was she powerful once she started to speak. LOVED her.

  4. I have not read ANY of these. and so? this is being bookmarked for when I need a new book! Plus, I have heard that Annie Dillard is amazing, so it's about time I jump on that.

    1. Katie - you will love Annie Dillard. The book I mentioned here plus her first book "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" are my favorites. Her writing is just luminous.

  5. I think I will try An American Childhood first.



  6. I have not read any of your fave books -- and that is awesome! kinda like discovering a new friend I'd like to meet. Thanks.

  7. Ursala Le Guin is unbeatable. I'm very jealous you got to meet her. I'll have to check out CJ Cherryh's blog.
    Great picks.


I am so sorry to have to turn word verification back on, but the spam-bots have found me - yikes!