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The book continues
The impending completion of my book makes me think about books that changed me.
I got the schedule from the publisher yesterday. The manuscript is due May 6th. Pre-sale begins in early September. For now we’re calling it Fortune’s Path. I have to finish two chapters a week to make the deadline. No sweat. Probably.
Now seems like a good time to create a list of books that changed me. (Plus lists are super-easy blog posts to write*.) Thinking about what these books did to me may help me think about what I hope my book does to the people who read it.
The list is in rough order of when I read them or when they were read to me.
A.A. Milne’s When We Were Very Young. The first book that made me happy, though it was probably my mother reading it to me more than the book.
Richard Adams’s The Tyger Voyage & Watership Down. More about my mother, a lover of beauty and spontaneous editor of scenes. She censored some passages of Watership Down to protect me.
Isaac Asimov’s Lucky Starr and the Pirates of the Astroids. It’s OK to love garbage.
George Orwell’s 1984. Even things you don’t understand can make you cry. I read it in fifth grade because I loved science fiction. Oops.
Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. 8th grade. Recommended by my English teacher. I’m re-reading it now, and it’s like I haven’t forgotten a line. More of “You don’t have to know what something means to be changed by it.”
Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha. You have to pay a lot of dues before you reach enlightenment. Maybe there’s an easier way. Hmmm, what could that be?
Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching. Like a new door in my mind opened and showed me something that had always been there that I couldn’t name. Reading the first line, “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao,” is one of my most vivid memories.
J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. Never read it again after you turn seventeen.
Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception. Still my working theory of the mind. “Death is perception without the hindrance of a body or an ego.” Amazing.
Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Not a good book, but fun. It’s better to be Jack than to read Jack.
Albert Camus’s The Plague. You don’t have to believe in God to be saved by good works. Very much how I feel about life.
Michel de Montaigne’s Essays. The work of a lifetime to read and understand. My model.
Donald Justice’s New and Selected Poems. Completely changed how I write for the better. God bless you, Mr. Justice.
Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society. School sucks but education is amazing. His vision of a better way is here with the internet. He’d hate AI, though. Fascist.
Homer’s The Odyssey. The ultimate super hero, free of psychological baggage, unbruised by suffering. We could use a little more heathen thinking sometimes.
William L. Shirer’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. The best book I’ve ever read. It all really happened to real people.
Zen Master Ryôkan’s Great Fool. “Raindrops on the Banana Leaves” may be the best poem ever written.
Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame. Vivid cruelty.Suffering does not have to redeem us, but it can be made beautiful.
Lucretius’s On the Nature of the Universe. More brave heathenism. What’s not to like about seeing with the eyes of scientist and writing with the courage of a poet?
So what do I want my book to do? I want it so show readers there’s another way, that success does not require power, that riches don’t require a lot of money, and that they can be happy at work and at home by giving in. Surender to win.