“I’ve Got Just the Book for You” – A Belated Tribute to Dad for Listless Thursday

The Time Traveler's Wife

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I barely looked up as we boarded the plane. As I had expected from my father’s rave review, Dreaming in Cuban was great, and I was hoping the novel’s ambiance would get me in the mood for vacation. Were we going to visit Grandpa in Florida or off to St. Barth for spring break? Or was it a completely different trip altogether? It’s hard to keep things straight when I think back on the countless times my dad has leant me a book of his. He’d start by asking me what kind of book I was in the mood for, then he’d take me over to a section of his beloved and extensive home library, which remains filled to the brim with first editions and signed copies of mint condition books. In the spirit of paying it forward and as a thank you to the many books that have broadened my perspective and helped me to think more deeply, more clearly, more expansively and more truly, I give you, some of my favorite books:

  1. The Time Traveler’s Wife – A love story for the ages, I think I might have to go ahead and call this my all time favorite book. I refuse to watch the movie, for fear that it will mar my personal and heartfelt connection with this book, which recounts the story of two people, destined to be together but fated to cross each other’s paths at the wrong points in time. To me, this was more tragic, bittersweet and sincere that even the age-old tale of Romeo and Juliet.
  2. A Gate at the Stairs – The plot didn’t get me, the narrator did. This contemporary tale of a college girl who leaves her father’s potato farm in Idaho to start at a big university has all the angst and aspiration of a typical coming of age story, but it’s so much better. The author finds ways to create a palpable, new and intriguing tension between the narrator’s emerging views and those of her parents versus the seemingly perfect couple she nanny’s for, who have just adopted a bi-racial baby.
  3. One Hundred Years of Solitude – This one took me a few tries to get into, but after my dad continued to persist that you just have to give in to magical realism, this novel grew wings. I really can’t describe the experience of being liberated by a book, once you’ve left all of your preconceptions at the door, but it changes you.
  4. The Sun Also Rises – While I do love the Hunter S. Thompson‘s restless, rebellious spirit, to me, Ernest Hemingway is the father of writing to make us read between the lines. His protagonist’s listless stint in Spain, where the novel is set, paints a perfect portrait of the romantic yet disappointing reality of 1920s extravagance and the culture of geniuses that came with it. By the way, if you haven’t already, please check out Woody Allen‘s Midnight in Paris. It will take you back to that time and all the idealistic cynicism that came with it.
  5. Fortress of SolitudeJonathan Lethem is without a doubt one of my favorite authors. His semi-autobiographical portrayal of a young, motherless white boy growing up in Brooklyn’s underbelly — just a few steps away from the now gentrified area I lived in 40 years later — is solid literary genius. I love this book and all the latent issues about race and class that subtly surface, but don’t detract from a sincere telling of a great story.
  6. Cat’s CradleKurt Vonnegut got my dad hooked on books. I loved the understated despair that Vonnegut so brilliantly and eloquently elicited in Slaughterhouse-Five, but Cat’s Cradle has a little more levity and dry sarcasm, which lends itself to a more enjoyable summer read.
  7. Sula – Yet another magical realist book, but this one has a bitingly acidic tinge of reality. Toni Morrison paints a different world of us with her works — one that is pretty horrible and desperate, but somehow familial, powerful and life-affirming.
  8. Outliers – I adore Malcolm Gladwell. In fact, I kind of want to be him, one day. I’ve always felt painted into a corner by the argument that everyone should pull themselves up by their bootstraps. This book rejects that statement, with fact after fact and interesting story after story, showing that success all comes down to a summation of where you’re from, what conditions you grow up in, who you know, what advantages you have…and so on and so forth. Plus, he says it takes you 10,000 hours of doing anything to be an expert. I like thinking of writing like that. Just have to put in my time.
  9. Kavelier and Clay – Michael Chabon is remarkable with words and though I have no particular affinity to 1940s America and the advent of superheroes and magicians, Chabon pulled me into his world and made it hard for me to escape.
  10. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime – For right or wrong, this book helped me to understand what it’s like to think differently from everyone else. The story, about a British boy with autism who wants to solve the murder of his neighbor’s dog, is brilliantly told with compassion and understanding for those who are all too often dismissed and misunderstood.

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This entry was published on June 23, 2011 at 12:00 pm. It’s filed under Inspiration, Listless Thursdays, The Engagement and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

8 thoughts on ““I’ve Got Just the Book for You” – A Belated Tribute to Dad for Listless Thursday

  1. I have just recently come back to devouring books after a long hiatus (school is to blame)! I have read the Time traveller’s Wife and I gotta say you made a good decision in not watching the movie, it was so horrible and dragging I stopped it halfway because I didn’t want to ruin a memory of a good book. I will have to read some of the ones you have listed here! Have you read “the Help”? It’s my recent favorite that got me obsessed with reading all over again!

    • I’m glad to hear the suspicions about the movie are on point. No, I haven’t read “The Help” but my mom and aunts are in love with it! I’ll have to check that one out. Thanks for the suggestion :)

  2. Good post! I’m blogging about experiences as Vonnegut’s biographer, incidentally, at “Writing Kurt Vonnegut” http://www.writingkurtvonnegut.com

    Best,

    Charles J. Shields
    And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life (Holt, November)

  3. Bill Sauer on said:

    Thanks so much. This is very, very sweet. I think that one of the most important duties of a parent is to encourage their children to read. Reading opens minds, saves lives, and allows one to be inspired by the wit and wisdom of the greatest minds of all time. I’m so glad the seed took root with you and Jon. You’ve done me proud.

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