Hello, LitKicks. This week you’re stuck with me. Let’s have a kegger.
Okay, just kidding. But only because I’m too lazy to figure out the logistics of such a thing.
Anyway, fellow bibliophiles, I have been thinking about books lately. I know this seems obvious, so to be more specific, I was thinking about books themselves, those bound paper things sitting on my shelves. I love my books, and I read some of them over and over until they are falling apart, but even though I have so many (and could someday be in danger of being overrun with them), I have a hard time parting ways with them. I understand the convenience of audio books and e-books (and am in agreement with Levi, even if he was maybe wrong about Kindle that they should come in a reasonably-priced format) but there is something, something wonderful, about the tactile pleasure of turning pages, about the beauty of rows of books lined up on shelves, that means I will always be surrounded by them.
I spent some time tonight just looking at my shelves. This isn’t an odd occurrence; I do it pretty regularly. Just looking at the titles and thinking about what each one means to me: this one I’ve read, this one I loved, this one I should finish someday, this one I should give away because it’s obviously not getting any love here, that sort of thing. And in my survey of my collection, I thought of the books that I love the most, the ones that (along with my dog) I would save if my house were on fire. Here are five:
1. Immortality – Milan Kundera
I have read this book once a year for the past three years, and I’m due to read it again (it makes for good autumn reading, so I’ll get to it when the leaves get serious about changing colors). I’ve written about why this book is my once-a-year pick here, and I’m not sure I should try to think up another way of writing it, so you can just read that, I guess. But if you don’t, suffice it to say that this book is so good it hurts.
2. The Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner
I first encountered this book in a survey course of American literature and read it because I had to write a paper about it. I could see as I was reading it that it was a wonderful book, but I don’t think I ever got around to appreciating it until I read it again a few years later, when I thought something along the lines of “Damn, Bill.”
Complex and tragic and woven with a rhythm of the South, it’s a beautiful book. And sure, there are others by Faulkner that I love too, but this one catches in my throat like a gasp.
3. The Fact of a Doorframe – Adrienne Rich
This is an incredibly obvious pick for me, so much so that I almost left it off the list because I’m not even sure what’s left for me to write about it. But if I’m being honest, then of course I would take this book with me, this book that’s falling apart, this book that’s full of underlining and margin notes, because I’ve turned to it, written in it, written about it, turned its lines over and over in my head so much, so often, that it’s like a diary.
4. Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair – Pablo Neruda
Yes, I’ve already mentioned this in another post. For one thing, I’m on a bit of a Neruda kick lately (which is not a bad kick to be on, by the way), and for another thing, if I only had five books because they were all I could save from my hypothetical fire, then it’s a pretty good idea to make sure that this is one of them. It’s rather delicious.
5. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
This is another one I’ve written about before (in fact, I think I’ve written about all of these at one point or another). Aside from the fact that, as I wrote, the opening lines are sexy, it’s just one of those books that’s so insanely well-written that I’m kind of in awe of it. Of course, there’s always Pale Fire, too… picking only five books is hard.