Books That Move You

As we all know, literature can be a powerful force in our lives, beyond just the initial enjoyment of reading. Books not only make us think but they can make us laugh, inspire us to take action and teach us something new. Some stories can move us to tears because they are so touching (or in some cases, because they’re so badly written). Some books are so suspensful or downright scary that you have to sleep with the lights on. Once in a while, you’ll find an author or novel that manages to do all of these things and more.

Which books

… made you cry?
… made you laugh hysterically?
… scared the crap out of you?
… inspired you to try something new?
… made you feel outrage?

List your top picks in any or all of these categories — or come up with categories of your own to share. What books strike an emotional chord with you?

64 Responses

  1. And the Nominees Are…Books
    And the Nominees Are…

    Books that made me cry:
    (I read these when I was a kid… I can’t think of any that have made me cry recently)
    The Giving Tree (what am I talking about? This one still gets me.)
    The Yearling
    Where the Red Fern Grows
    The Bluest Eye (Toni Morrison… That’s the most recent one I can think of. I read it in high school and I still remember how the ending made me feel.)

    Books that made me laugh:
    — Most anything by David Sedaris
    Bridget Jones’s Diary and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
    — Jane Austen is a lovely, dry-witted riot… my favorite of her books is Emma.

    Books that scared me:
    House of Leaves (but just in that one part where the guy’s upstairs at the tattoo parlor… I did okay through the rest of it, and I don’t even know why that one part freaked me out so much)
    — I know there are definitely more… I’ll have to get back to you on this.

    Books that inspired me:
    The DaVinci Code inspired me to hate Dan Brown, so there’s that.

    Books that made me feel outrage:
    Quicksand and Passing by Nella Larsen
    The Marrow of Tradition by C.W. Chestnutt
    — Olaudah Equiano’s slave narrative

    There are probably more than this in each of these categories, and probably plenty of categories that I could add here, and I may come back and do so, but probably not. Because let’s face it — I’m lazy.

  2. yeahadd to the Outrage
    add to the Outrage list:
    Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

    funny? don’t remember
    sad? any Dickens thing
    Tuesdays with Morrie

    since my mind emptied out, my memory is out to lunch. So good of you to write these things down, jam, and in a public place for safety’s sake.

  3. More authors than titlesMade
    More authors than titles

    Made me cry? Tough one. Simply, sentences can make me cry, to say nothing of an entire book (or long distance phone commercials, Jimmy V, halftime speeches, etc). What springs to mind are the last paragraph of On The Road, the ending of For Whom The Bell Tolls, and several Carver stories.

    Made me laugh hysterically? ha, Well, Vonnegut for one. This made me laugh out loud pretty hard. McSweeney’s used to make me laugh until its predictibility outdid its wit.

    Scared the crap out of me? Easy: It by Stephen King. Harped on many of my already fears: bridges, basements, clowns with greedy smiles, bugs and bullies.

    Inspired me: If I read 3 consecutive words in a Kerouac book, that can be a short fuse for hours of productivity. As far as trying something new, I’m still waiting for the book that will encourage me to skydive. A book never got me to do something new but many have gotten me to really pursue in great depth things that i was already doing. The Shell Game, for instance, an account of a Yale oarsman trying out for the Olympic team, or the similar Assault on Lake Casitas, inspire me athletically (probably time to pick it up again). I’m reading The Spooky Art, by Mailer and that’s getting me moving on a few writing projects.

    Outrage, hm: mostly a book will instill outrage when it makes me realize I can’t write. That happens a lot when I read Kundera or Dostoeyevski, or Carver. In those cases the book will get bruised from being hurled against the wall.

  4. LivresWhich books … made

    Which books

    … made you cry?
    Ginsberg’s Kaddish (crying in my soul)

    … made you laugh hysterically?
    Catch-22 and The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (all five in the Trilogy)

    … scared the crap out of you?

    … inspired you to try something new?
    The Dharma Bums

    … made you feel outrage?
    Catcher in the Rye (I hate that book) and One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (I don’t hate this one)

  5. Add The Inferno from Dante’s
    Add The Inferno from Dante’s Divine Comedy to books that scared the crap out of me.

  6. Thanks Jam for hating Dan
    Thanks Jam for hating Dan Brown. That shit is such downgraded fucking nonsense. The only that could be worse is the Catholic Church’s response to it. Like you I am lazy. Here are a few books that make me laugh…most of any of Vonnegut’s title list, Douglas Adams “Hitchhiker’s” series, Eco’s novels (Which might make cry too) oh god Woody Allen’s books it could go on forever…and I’m lazy actually I’d rather be writing my stories then commenting on someone elses. “Big Sur” was probably enough to make me cry…

  7. A Few of MineI’m going to try
    A Few of Mine

    I’m going to try to think hard about the last time I actually had any of these physical responses to reading a book.

    Hmmm …

    Well, the last time I think a book made me cry was when I was in sixth grade. The book was “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes, a novel in the form of a journal supposedly kept by a mentally retarded man who gets a brain operation, becomes a genius, and then, to his horror, becomes retarded again. The moment towards the end of the book when his childish spelling errors suddenly begin to creep back into his writing, to me, was about the saddest thing in the world.

    Made me laugh? Well, I definitely remember being on a bus somewhere in some strange state reading “Side Effects” by Woody Allen, and it just killed me. I sat there laughing. Like really hard. A lot of people were giving me strange looks. He’s a very funny writer.

    Inspired me? I have to echo Firsty on this one: Kerouac is the master inspirator. Any book, poem or paragraph will usually do the job.

    Outrage, hmmm … well, I really have been obsessed with “The Cherry Orchard” by Chekhov lately. I’m not sure who exactly I feel outrage towards, since all the characters in the book are fairly likable (if tragic), but there’s something really horrible about the story it tells.

  8. Books Spring EmotionWell,
    Books Spring Emotion

    Well, then.

    I sniffled when I read “Falling Leaves: the true story of an unwanted Chinese daughter” however the woman does triumph in the end, so you stop crying.

    A book that made me laugh was a book called “He Died with a Falafel in His Hand” perhaps not a most literary work, but it was of roommates from hell, from Chilli-Pepper obsessed lager drinkers to roomates who died with, erm, falafels in their hand.

    Books that scared me included titles such as: “Transitional Mathematics” and “Windows 95” (sorry, but it’s true).

    “Generation X” by Doug Coupland inspired me to want to branch out, run off, go live on an adventure, and f*** the status quo. However, I was unable to do that, but at least I thought about it.

    The Subterraneans inspired me. I don’t know how, it just did. Well let’s just say life was really stream-of-consciousness and filled with artists and poetics at the time. Somehow when a book sort of seems similar to real life, it can kind of inspire you.

    Outrage? “Love thy Neighbour: A Story of War” by Peter Maass. Outrage, but in a good way. We all know war doth suck, but wben you get inspired to find ways to prevent them, say, that’s a good thing.

    I also was outraged by 1984. But in a sad, yet good way. Censorship does suck.

    So there you have it.

  9. “Flowers for Algernon”Holy
    “Flowers for Algernon”
    Holy crap, I read that too, and completely forgot about it.

  10. Nice — thanks for totally
    Nice — thanks for totally stealing my “cry” with The Giving Tree.

  11. Here’s the list!The last book
    Here’s the list!

    The last book that made me cry was A Home at the End of the World by Michael Cunningham.

    Laugh? I laughed my way through Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley books. How could one not laugh at a guy whose first impulse when faced with a problem is to kill someone and clean the mess up later? Also The Crying of Lot 49. Pynchon just tickles my sense of the absurd.

    Scare is an easy one. We by Yvgeny Zamyatin and the short story (I know, not technically a book but…) by Stephen King “The Boogeyman”. I still, fifteen years later, have to close every closet door in the house to sleep.

    I agree that Kerouac inspires; On the Road baby. And I can’t forget Even Cowgirls get the Blues by Tom Robbins. I read both when I was 11 or 12 and I wanted to grow up and be a hitchhiker.

    I can’t remember a book that outraged me, probably because I wouldn’t have finished it. The newspaper outrages me (all the mechanical errors) so I rarely read it anymore. I just read The Wind Done Gone and find myself outraged by Gone With the Wind, but this is in retrospect. I ate up that romantic hooey when I read it as a kid.

  12. Yes, there is a specific kind
    Yes, there is a specific kind of outrage that comes from reading a book that is absolutely brilliant. I find that I have to take several small breaks while reading books by these authors (Kundera specifically — holy fuck. But Nabokov does this to me as well), otherwise I wouldn’t be able to stand it.

  13. I found Even Cowgirls Get the
    I found Even Cowgirls Get the Blues when I was 11 or so… my grandmother had just moved to a new house, and it was in a box of books left in the basement. I think I was too young to understand it (though I remember that all the sex scenes had been underlined and annotated), but it made me want to hitchhike, too.

  14. “Flowers For Algernon”! That
    “Flowers For Algernon”! That was the first one that came to my mind, too. Wow, I read it at around the same age brooklyn said he read it, and I did cry. Also, I cried at the end of “Of Mice and Men.” Poor old Lenny. I was young when I read that, too. You want to hear something funny? My younger brother and I would pretend to be George and Lenny from “Of Mice and Men.” I was Lenny. I’m not that big, but I was bigger than my younger brother. We would make it have a happy ending somehow, but our cat still didn’t relish his role as the rabbit. Jesus, I can’t believe I’m admitting this.

    Both James Thurber and Robert Benchley made me laugh out loud to the point that people would stare at me.

  15. Moving BooksCry: “Mi planta
    Moving Books

    Cry: “Mi planta de naranja lima” and some book of the serie “Ocho primos” (Charlie dying while riding a horse)

    Laugh: “Getting even” that here was translated as “C

  16. Ah, tears of joy. Of course,
    Ah, tears of joy. Of course, Jamelah, how callous of me. Now what I want to know is, did you ever read that angst-ridden classic, Curious George Empathizes With A Goth?

  17. A whole mess of good onesHere
    A whole mess of good ones

    Here we go.

    Cry. I have to admit that books really don’t make me cry. Maybe I’m a cold-hearted bastard. But, they just don’t.

    Laugh hysterically. None. Sorry, but I think movies and stand up comedians do a better job. However, I recently read The Pugilist at Rest by Thom Jones and there is short story in it called The Black Lights that I audibly chuckled at. I think Vonnegut and Palahniuk are also sarcastically humerous.

    Scare the crap out of you. The Shining by Stephen King. Usually I don’t find him that scary, but The Shining is really scary. I remember reading a short story by Clive Barker called Midnight Meat Train that creeped me out. The Hot Zone by Richard Preston which is a factual account of ebola outbreaks is scary as hell. Ghost Story by Peter Straub has its moments.

    Inspire you. I swear, as I was reading Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, I wanted to be a mountain climber. But then as people started dying, I kind of gave up on that. A Moveable Feast by Hemingway made me want to move to some exotic locale and just hang with a bunch of expats, but I suppose this won’t happen. Damn.

    Outrage. WWII non-fiction books.

    Move you. The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara is fucking amazing. It’s the best Civil War novel. Period. I found Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse moving. Great Expectations by Dickens. Terrific. Slaughterhouse Five by Vonnegut is an absolute must read.

    So, if you haven’t read these — get to the damn bookstore. Stat.

  18. Hm..I remember like it was
    Hm..I remember like it was yesterday

    made you cry

    Geronimo’s Bones by Nasdijj. I referenced this book when reading it. I finished it and bought the other two books written by this guy. He packs an emotional wallop… I dare you try to read his stuff and not cry. Geronimo’s Bones is about child abuse and sometimes graphic. Easier to read is The Blood Runs Like a River Through My Dreams. Collection of stories and articles. Refences abuse but does not give details. It was an enjoyable read. I think this guy’s writing should be required reading for each member of the human race. Actually, he’s really good. Check him out.

    made you laugh hysterically
    OK… there was a Christmas book we traditionally read during the season, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever I still remember it and laugh just recalling the scenes. They turned it into a Christmas special starring Loretta Swit (Hot Lips from M.A.S.H.) and I don’t know why this is not still around. It is as much fun as A Christmas Story Check it out if you can find it anywhere.

    scared the crap out of you Dracula when I was teen kept me awake for days … while I was reading and after I had finsihed it and still knew everything was OK… and also The Exorcist scared the bejezuz out of me.

    inspired you to try something new In my early teens I read The Royal Road To Romance by Richard Halliburton. This wanderer wrote well, described far away places and adventures I wanted to have. I determined I would not settle down and live an ordinary life. Well, I didn’t.

    made you feel outrage Hmmm.. I’m not sure I have one for this. Books dealing with abuse make me angry (first one on my list did this). Leon Uris’s writings informed me regarding the horrors to the Jews and I read all his books I could get my hands on. As a teen, I figured I’d migrate to Israel and live on a kibbutz… I didn’t do that, but I learned a lot from his writings… also The Caine Mutiny and Mr. Roberts.

  19. Can’t Think of
    Can’t Think of Everything!

    This is a great question! Some of my answers are repetitions of others, but anyway:

    Cry: The Red Pony, by Steinbeck and others by Steinbeck that were heartbreakingly tragic on a grand scale. Also some Hemingway for the same reason. Also A Separate Peace by John Knowles.

    Laugh-Out-Loud: The only authors to ever make me laugh out loud were Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, and John Irving of course.

    Scared: Stephen King – ’nuff said.

    Inspired: I reiterate – anything Kerouac! Also, Catcher In The Rye. Life of Pi, Cold Mountain. All these inspire me to keep writing.

    Outrage: Any book published that has obviously bad writing, i.e. DaVinci Code etc. It outrages me to think that alot of this crap actually gets paid for and printed and people become filthy rich off it!

  20. Answer of 1 minute(for the
    Answer of 1 minute

    (for the list) –

    nice question !

    cry: some verses of Silvia Plath (sweet despair), various traces in Kerouac (melancholy, being soft, human, sensitive), Diane diPrima (for the hope, the beauty of what could (have)be(en)), haunting (and scaring and outraging): Upton Sinclair’s Jungle
    + dreamy: Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale and C.S. Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet (also because my father liked them), Tolkien (parts of LOTR)

    laugh: Matt Ruff, Carole Hill / Amanda-The Eleven Million Mile High Dancer, Pratchett’s Disc World Series, Ben Elton, John Irving, Brautigan, Tom Wolfe, WSB, Jonathan Lethem, The Milagro/Beanfield War, Hunter S. Thompson

    scare: Upton Sinclair (s.a.), Kafka; some aspects of Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris; parts of Naked Lunch when I was young (17); parts of Alice in Wonderland (the complete ed.) when I was a child; psychological transformations, states of suspense w/r to what existence / perception actually is. For me, House of Leaves is more funny … interesting in composition/style

    inspiring: The Beats, underlined those times of attempted liberation, and still sketching all sorts of hope and offering some colors for the road, vibes; Joyce for the freedom of motion in word interaction (Finnegans Wake), e. e. cummings, Ammons, Purdy, Bukowski (some relaxation)

    outraging (and crying): some of the Black / Latino writers (Neruda, Cortazar, Algarin) because of the desperate longing for life in a cruel world; Carver to Rollins.
    Other colors of rage:

  21. Random ListingsThe last book
    Random Listings

    The last book to produce tears (and I wept) was “Of Mice and Men”, and I also laughed every time Lenny said: “I get ta tend the rabbits.”

    I read “To Build a Fire” last night, and it put the fear of death in me, something about dying from extreme cold, and the descriptions of the man losing the sense of his body as it froze from the extremities inwards.

    Nothing like a good Hemingway short story to produce dispair, like The Capital of the World.

    “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking” by Whitman usually makes my soul leave my body.

    “The Story of the Eye” by George Bataille gets me in touch with thanatos.

    “The Story of O” appeals always to my prurient interests.

  22. Flowers for Algernon; so
    Flowers for Algernon; so that’s where the Homer-has-a-crayon-in-his-nasal cavity-that-makes-him-stupid-and-when-they-take-it-out-he-becomes-a genius Simpsons episodes came from. That show is so packed with pop-cultural reference, I don’t know how anybody could get them all.

    Have you seen that particular episode and is there anything other than the plot that makes a reference to the book?

  23. WellLots of books move me,

    Lots of books move me, probably too many to list here. Also it’s such an intense experience when you read a book that really hits you , it’s just such a private thing that nobody else is really going to feel the same way about it, (they can’t because they aren’t you) and if you try to share it you’ll just end up disappointed. (at least I always would, when I did) Some things just have to stay between you and your book.

    But inspiring, well, whenever I want to get in a writing mindset, I listen to the mp3 I have of Kerouac reading from Visions of Cody and On the Road (…and in Iowa now all the children are crying in the land where they let the children cry . . .) on the Steve allen show (I think you can find in on NPR, just search ‘Kerouac’) or another I downloaded of Ginsberg encanting the first 4 pages of Kaddish.(Learning to be mad, in a dream. What is this life . . . What came is gone forever, every time.)

    I can’t think of any books that made me cry, but that’s not surprising because I’m a boy, and boys don’t cry. There was even a movie about it. (And let me put this to rest once and for all; there have been, in the past, nasty rumours that I was seen misty eyed near the end of Field of Dreams, and again at the end of Braveheart. While factually true, it must be said that in the former case, the room where I watched the movie was very, very dusty, and in the latter case, I had been building my pain tolerance earlier in the day by spraying myself in the face with pepper spray. So there.)

    I feel outrage when read any honest history of American involvement in Mexico, Central, and South America. If you are prone to crying, these book while likely make you cry as well.

    The Memory of Fire Trilogy (Genesis, Faces & Masks, Century of Wind) by Eduardo Galeano, also his Open Veins of Latin America are good places to start. Silence on the Mountain by Daniel Wilkinson. Time among the Maya by Ronald Wright and Heart of the Sky by Peter Canby.

    I also tend to get outraged (well, kind of sad, actually) by environmental books; The End of Nature by Bill McKibben, Earth Odyssey by Mark Hertsgaard, Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner or Wallace Stegner writing about the West. When I read about Ed Abbey’s river trip through Glen Canyon just before the dam went up, and I think about it now under all that water, the room gets a little dusty.

    Dave Sedaris makes me laugh. Maybe not as much since Naked, but still, yeah, he’s funny. Naked and Holidays on Ice are still the best because they’re so angry. I mean, I’m glad he’s doing well for himself now, but his stories were better when his life was more screwed up.

  24. I vaguely remember that
    I vaguely remember that Simpsons episode but I can’t remember if there were any other references to Flowers for Algernon. But, you’re right, the Simpsons is chock-full of references to all kinds of stuff, so even if we don’t recognize one reference, we’ll get another one we do recognize sooner or later.

  25. I’ll just say this about the
    I’ll just say this about the Da Vinci code. Sure, it was written on about a fourth grade level, but it allowed me to discuss some intriguing theroies with people who ordinarily read only the “MTV’s the Real World Book” and wrestler Mankind’s biography.

  26. Inspired & LaughingWell 2
    Inspired & Laughing

    Well 2 out of five categories are what this wired man can relate to.

    The first, books that made me laugh hysterically, is easy — anything by Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. Whenever i want my sides split I hit my HST collection. There is also a book by Henry Miller called Quiet Days in Clichy which makes me laugh every time I go through it.

    The 2nd category I can relate to is the inspired one. Now I could fill up pages with books that have inspired me, a list that includes Siddhartha and really all of Hesse, also Henry Miller, anything by him, Jack Kerouac, that’s a no brainer, Andre Breton’s Nadja, Aristotle’s Poetics, Lew Welch’s Ring of Bone, Anais Nin’s Diaries, Alan Watts, Ryokan, Ikkyu, Basho’s Journey to the North, Rumi, Hafiz, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Burns, William Blake….I could be here all day.

  27. When I Was CoolSam Kashner’s
    When I Was Cool

    Sam Kashner’s account of the early days of the Naropa Institute’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics made me laugh out loud. I loved how he balanced his reverence for some of the most important minds of the 20th century with his disgust with everything from their personal hygiene to their drug use. Kashner’s story works well because he’s so understated, almost as much of a fly on the wall as the reader himself. He’s also honest; he doesn’t bullshit about his prowess as a poet or virtues as a man. Instead, he gives us a very complex portrait of a young, wide-eyed, sometimes anxious kid. He’s not into hero worship, which makes the book all the more compelling.

  28. Yeah the Dan Brown thing…I
    Yeah the Dan Brown thing…I admit at first I was the slightest bit intrigued, mostly because of the hoopla (the Catholic Church thing). But I read about 150 pages then just sort of threw it in a corner. Of course I’ve got to finish what I start, but I don’t know…this book just sort of deflated itself as I read on, and I can’t bring myself to pick it back up.

  29. Yeah… I actually had no
    Yeah… I actually had no desire whatsoever to read The DaVinci Code, but it just so happened that I was hanging out with some friends, and there was red wine involved, and somehow the conversation got into sexism in the Church, and I ended up taking the book home with me. I really tried to give it a fair reading, but I have such a low tolerance for bad writing that it was difficult. I will say that I ended up doing a little research into Dan Brown’s claims, but found that generally, they were as bad as his writing, so, to put it mildly, I’m not a fan.

  30. Sermons In StoneBooks in
    Sermons In Stone

    Books in babbling brooks; I’ve been going through a couple of my favorite Shakespeare plays since Jamelah started that thread a bit ago. Reread Neuromancer by William Gibson, yesterday, just for kicks. Found a really interesting contemporary Russian author named Victor Pelevin with whom I’ve been quite impressed. Think I’ll get my Don Quixote on, in honor of its 400th anniversary. I don’t know. I don’t even like reading all that much.

  31. Oh yeah, Richard Brautigan is
    Oh yeah, Richard Brautigan is really funny in a sly, sometimes wistful way.

  32. I never saw that Simpsons
    I never saw that Simpsons episode but I hope I get to see it sometime … any idea what it was called or how I can find it?

  33. Heheh Bill — good point. Is
    Heheh Bill — good point. Is that the one where Homer gets a crayon lodged in his brain and becomes too smart for his own good?

  34. Quick ListI can’t remember
    Quick List

    I can’t remember ever reading a book that moved me to tears. Close perhaps.

    Made Me Laugh – “Running With Scissors”, Augusten Burroughs and all Vonnegut. “Trout Fishing In America”, Richard Brautigan also.

    Scared the Crap Out of Me – “Lord of the Flies”, William Golding. Still not sure why.

    Inspired Me – “Women”, Charles Bukowski. Inspired me to try harder or quit philandering or both.

    Outrage – Easy. “In Retrospect”, Robert McNamara. ‘Best and brightest my ass’ … Didn’t get it. Still doesn’t.

  35. Foucault’s Pen… has been
    Foucault’s Pen… has been called the thinking man’s DaVinci Code. Dan has some ideas that probably would make sense if it wasn’t so dumbed down. Eco doesnt make the mistake of writing for an ideology — the whole thing with gnosis, free masons, etc. is a very complicated thing, not as simple as the church said this and thus the church is wrong… Both sides played into it… Orwell always maintained brevity is key, which I suppose if you are writing for a cause remains…brevity is impossible was Huxley’s code and reading point counter point brings that to mind — to make a non-biased decision regarding anything usually involves so much work it comes to just making a biased decision anyway.

  36. Inspiration, Tears and
    Inspiration, Tears and Laughter

    The books that most inspired me to write are:

    (in somewhat chronological order)

    Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
    Death Be Not Proud by that one guy
    The Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck…

    and for the more recent list:

    Hunger by Lan Samantha Chang
    The Bonesetter’s Daughter and the Kitchen God’s Wife both by Amy Tan. Also, Bukowski’s Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame, Hollywood, and Ham on Rye.

    It may be a strange coincidence but the books that inspired me to write are the same ones that made me cry.

    The last books I remember laughing out loud at were Bridget Jones’ Diary and The Edge of Reason.

    I’m more enraged by periodicals than books.

  37. Kundera! Gah! If me not
    Kundera! Gah! If me not being able to dig his meditative (ahem) genius is daft…

  38. The Difficulty of ReadingI
    The Difficulty of Reading

    I can’t recall a book that ever made me cry, though I once wept hysterically in front of a painting by Rubens in London’s National Gallery, it was called The Slaughter of the Innocent, and it brought back this memory from China of a peasant woman crawling on her hands and knees dragging a dead baby in a rucksack behind her, at the time I barely even batted an eyelid but years later in front of the painting I just lost it completely.

    Catch-22 made me laugh in the first several chapters but I stopped laughing after I had joined the Army and I realized he wasn’t joking. Then, perhaps out of desperation, I started laughing again.

    Certain chapters of Bill Bryson’s A Brief History of Nearly Everything, scared the bejeezus out of me — it took me several days to resign myself to the knowledge of a reality in which, without any warning whatsoever, a medium-sized asteroid can evaporate an entire city in less time than it takes to form a human thought.

    The collected writings of Italo Calvino have been greatly inspiring, especially in his Six Memos for the New Millenium.

    Finally, for a sense of outrage I need attempt nothing more than a brief perusal of the daily headlines… “everywhere evil triumphs,” etc. etc.

  39. I agree about _Foucault’s
    I agree about _Foucault’s Pendulum_. I read Dan Brown because someone swore to me it wasn’t the usual bestselling trash and I was gullible enough to keep hoping right up to the oh so predictable end. But Umberto is a master. His non-fiction is great too. Try _Five Moral Pieces_!

  40. Lucky you to have the juicy
    Lucky you to have the juicy bits annotated. I remember the thumbs. I can’t even say how many times I wished I had those when I was stranded in the rain.

  41. Through the wonders of Google
    Through the wonders of Google and people with too much time on their hands, all the info for that episode can be found here

  42. Those dusty rooms will get
    Those dusty rooms will get you every time — thanks for sharing your list, Jim. I’ll have to check some of these out.

  43. Racing to the store now, Dave
    Racing to the store now, Dave — excellent list. I think you’re holding out on us with the crying, though.

  44. Hey Mark — I noticed you
    Hey Mark — I noticed you listed Robert Burns — I’ve been talking about him (and haggis) a lot this week since his big day was on the 25th. Curious to know if reading his stuff inspires you to write in slang/dialect, etc.

    Great list!

  45. I read neuromancer a few
    I read neuromancer a few years ago because it was so hyped up. Man, I was disappointed. Lame.

  46. Yes as a matter of fact he
    Yes as a matter of fact he does Caryn, I have always made an attempt to replicate the sound, the true sound I hear coming at me in my daily life, the language of the American working man and woman, with a bit of Central American thrown in, or as my Latin brothers call it “Spanglish”, which I do speak quite fluently I must say, ya know nearly all the men on my job are from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico. I must say it’s a pleasure progressing with my Spanglish, especially getting the accent down.

    All I can say is that I try to write true to the language I use everyday and I bet Bobby Burns did too.

  47. scared: I knowSome
    scared: I know

    Some illustrated tale of Constancio C. Vigil that I read near 1976 where the personaje was a rat-rat in dark colours and not Mickey Mouse.

  48. Very cool, Mark — I think
    Very cool, Mark — I think you and Burns (as well as the others you mentioned) share a lot of the same energy and humor.


  49. Hi Arcadia! What do you find
    Hi Arcadia! What do you find disturbing about poetry? Curious to know …

  50. 5 Moral Pieces is the lost
    5 Moral Pieces is the lost dense Eco I’ve ever read. Theory of Semiotics is crazy. He borrows alot from the American pragmatish CS Peirce who outside of the University of Indiana is never read anymore. I take that back I had a communications course that mentioned Peirce vaguely and interpolated his thoughts with Eco’s and got everything all backwards. That is the problem with textbooks-always confusing shit. I think reading heavy books makes people more unhappy. Thats all at 25 I should starting a family or getting a career but I just keep thinking about new ideas to add to the plan. I’m in South Dakota so they think I am really odd. Oh Well…poop

  51. Zen LunaticsWhen I was 19 I
    Zen Lunatics

    When I was 19 I was destitute and desperate, working in a Crown books of all places, wanting to be a poet, mourning the death of a boyfriend who was a mountain man. I picked up a copy of Kerouac’s Dharma Bums, after reading around about Zen. It changed my life. I saw in Japhy Ryder my mountain man and all the good times we had; plus I saw an ideal of what i wanted — the simple life of tea, meditation, and poetry. (Oh, and physicality.)

    Within 9-12 months I was heading from the sterile suburbs of DC to the San Fransisco Bay, $40 and two bags, not knowing a soul. Hence began my journey. I took many detours but never forgot and now I am finally back in my little “hut” translating Japanese poetry and writing lots. Never been more content. Never thought a single and simple book would have such an impact: to inspire me to pursue what I felt deep down inside.

  52. Ah yes, the sidesplitting
    Ah yes, the sidesplitting wonder of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Sometimes I’d just read that book when I was sad because I knew it would make me laugh.

    Also, The Blood Runs Like a River Through My Dreams is shaping into an excellent read… I’ve very much enjoyed what little I’ve read of it so far. Beautiful writing, really, with a rhythm I can hear in the words.

  53. Cry, Ha-ha, Scared-crapless,
    Cry, Ha-ha, Scared-crapless, Etc.

    The suicide in Cat’s Cradle would make anyone a little sad.

    Academy of Dunces is so funny but a movie version’s never been made.

    Stephen King can scare the crap out of adolescents. So should The 9-11 Report out of everyone. Reading Oliver North’s book was scary because a convicted felon could cash in and make himself out to be a hero. What’s really scary is that neo-cons get whatever they want printed and folks buy scads of copies. It’s also outrageous.
    So is One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.
    Camus can inspire, e.g., The Fall, The Stranger; but he’s definitely an archetype. Thompson’s Hell’s Angels, Stone’s A Flag Before Sunrise and Heller’s Catch-22 are definitely archetypes, especially the last.

    For crystal-clear prose, Winesburg, Ohio is number one. Carter’s Elements of Metaphysics would be number two.

  54. Emotional Havoc…I don’t
    Emotional Havoc…

    I don’t know that I can put my favorite emotion-inspiring books into those categories, as more often than not they make me both cry and laugh and rage at the same time. Thus, I’ll just list the books which have the most profound emotional impact on me:

    1984 – George Orwell (I really love work with an apocalyptic feel. This work says something to me about what humans really are.)

    Brave New World – Aldous Huxley (A beautifully written horror story.)

    A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess (Hardly any explanation needed. If you don’t feel sympathy for the main character, you’re not human.)

    The Chosen – Chaim Potok (an amazing story about the struggle to become yourself)

    The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks (if you’ve never read anything by Banks, you’re missing out. The man does things with plot and characters that I couldn’t imagine…)

    A Grief Observed – C.S. Lewis (note that I am not a religious person; but I feel that Lewis has explained grief so accurately and accordingly with this work that I cannot help but salute it…)

    Howl and other Poems – Allen Ginsberg (not fiction, but should count, if you ask me)

  55. Books That Made Me
    Books That Made Me Feel…

    scared: as a child, I read some books hoping that them make me feel scared. so, I read “El pa

  56. Some books to addI’ve
    Some books to add

    I’ve certainly forgotten to mention books that made me feel outraged. we sometimes feel annoyed with wich that makes us enjoy too much. The same “Paradiso” of Jos

  57. There’s a Flowers for
    There’s a Flowers for Algernon movie where Jimmy Stewart plays the main character. I’m pretty sure it’s called “Charlie” but I’m not sure. Anyone who’s interested oughtta look it up on IMDB.

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