Now that I work as an author people ask me what books I’m reading and would recommend. That is a tall order. I think our reading choices are very personal. Besides I’m not a very good person to ask. I seem to fall in love with the book and author I am currently reading.
Right now I’m reading two books chosen by my two book groups: A Regular Guy by Mona Simpson, the sister of Steve Jobs, and Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948, by Madeleine Albright. I’m not sure if I’ll finish A Regular Guy – it is a poor excuse for a story about her brother. I liked his biography (see below) much better. Prague Winter, crammed with historical details, is definitely a must read. My real interest in it is how her Jewish family survived the holocaust.
My three favorite books in 2013 were:
11/22/63 by Stephen King. I never thought a Stephen King novel would top my list. I read his wonderful book On Writing, but steered clear of his gruesome novels. This book is not gruesome. It is about time travel and preventing the Kennedy assassination. The suspense, the love story, the history are totally believable. I couldn’t put it down.
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. Even though I find the character Steve Jobs someone I’d never want to meet personally – he was a little brusque to put it mildly – his story is incredibly uplifting and motivating. This man could make things happen that were not even possible. He had that kind of attitude. He’d tell his brilliant employees they could do something they totally believed they could not, and guess what? They ended up doing it. Since I grew up with computers – from the large ones that filled up huge rooms in the aerospace company where I worked, to the first cumbersome text editing systems I tested, and now to the marvels of the products Job’s created, this was definitely a book for me. I loved every word of it.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. I think Foer is totally original. He uses graphics, he writes about very smart precocious children, and his story about Oskar’s search for the lock that his father’s key opens after his father dies during the September 11 attack makes me cry. That Oskar is the narrator gives this book more poignancy. Sure it is clever, it is gimmicky, but why not? He’s a young author of the twenty-first century. And old as I am, I can still relate.
A few years ago. I was very taken by Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking, her story about her first year after her husband’s sudden death. I experienced magical thinking after my son died in 1999 – even though I never for a minute believed he would or could really come back to me. Didion’s book is raw, passionate, stunning. I believe nothing less should be expected in a memoir. She tells the truth and her inner thoughts and feelings. I only wish she had done the same in her memoir about her daughter’s death, Blue Nights.
Others books I gravitate to are about strong women. Even as a child I loved The Little Princess and The Secret Garden both by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Then as I got older I raided my parents’ bookshelves and read Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor and my favorite book of all time Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. Amber and Scarlett – both great names – were strong-willed feisty and outspoken women who fought endlessly and ruthlessly to get what they wanted. Other books on that list are Mrs. Dalloway and Lolita – Lolita mainly for the beauty of the writing although Lolita was a very strong-willed character. And, if you haven’t heard Jeremy Irons read the audio version, you’re really missing out.
One other book stands out on my list. It is the book I’d suggest everyone read: Remember Be Here Now by Ram Dass, in print since its initial release in 1977. It’s about spirituality, yoga and meditation. But the lasting message for me is live in the now: don’t look back, the past is over; it is little more than story, and don’t look ahead. The future doesn’t exist yet – except in your mind. Such a simple message yet so hard to achieve.
So whatever you read, just enjoy. Maybe you’ll also fall in love with the book you are reading now – until the next one comes along.