You know how a project begets projects, each of which begets a project or two of its own? We recently got new basement carpeting. As installation day approached we needed to clear all furniture from the finished portion of the basement. And that meant clearing the bookshelves.
Took a good look and a deep breath and decided Everything Must Goooooooooo … Hauled a thousand or so books to my town’s Swap Shop, from whence they have a strong chance of migrating to good homes. I’m especially pleased with the fate of my castoff mysteries: a member of my writers’ group volunteered to take them to a state prison that badly wants books.
I was merciless. I’m the opposite of a pack rat, and where books are concerned I’ve never been a love-that-musty-smell guy. (Frankly, I believe anybody who hangs onto every book he’s ever read does so at least in part to show how smart he is; my toss-happy style may thus be a reverse snobbery routine.) Oh, and as I blogged awhile back, I am getting set to buy a Kindle, so I’m feeling impatient with all this infernal hardcopy.
Whatever the case, the criterion was simple: I’m keeping books only if there’s a strong chance I’ll read them again.
Which brings us to those that made the cut:
- Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove. My favorite novel, period. I read it every five years or so.
- John Irving’s The Cider House Rules. A close second.
- Don DeLillo’s White Noise. The definitive novel about late-Twentieth-century America – and that’s saying something, as the book predates the rise of the Internet.
- John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee novels. As I’ve blogged before, I’m reading these in order for the third time.
- Ed McBain’s Eighty-Seventh Precinct novels. This was a tough call. Will I really read all fifty-something of them again someday? Decided it’ll be a good project for my dotage.
- Richard Stark’s Parker novels.
- The Cold Six Thousand, by James Ellroy, and the books informally called his L.A. Quartet (The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, White Jazz).
- George V. Higgins’s The Friends of Eddie Coyle. Best mystery debut ever?
- The Complete Sherlock Holmes, by Conan Doyle of course.
- Maggot, by Robert Flanagan. A sentimental choice – he was my college writing prof. Good boot-camp novel, too.
On to nonfiction:
- The Last Lion, William Manchester’s two-volume (and, sadly, unfinished) biography of Winston Churchill.
- Shelby Foote’s three-volume Civil War history. I spent the better part of a year with this masterpiece (I’m a slow reader), and I already look forward to doing so again.
- Michael Herr’s Dispatches. My favorite Vietnam book.
That’s it! Bring on the Kindle.