Elster's World

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Hot Books Books Books

New Ed's Note: I have added a new category in italics below. Shame on me for forgetting it to begin with.

Ed’s Note: This post (actually started weeks ago) has not developed exactly how I wanted it to. The truth is, I’m having trouble with my recall. In other words, I’m struggling to remember the books I have read which were so important to me. At least, I’m having trouble remembering the semi-literate ones. Alas, I feel as though I can wait no more so this is what you are stuck with. Really though, I’m not a boor…

So blog buddy McAryeh tagged me to write about some of my favorite books - what I read, what books/authors have impacted me - the whole nine. As an aspiring (wanna be) author, how could I refuse?

A word of warning for all of you intellectuals out there who have come here looking to be impressed by the breadth of my literary prowess. I read for mostly for entertainment and escapism. After taxing my limited cerebral capabilities all day at work, do you really think that I want to try and understand the deeper meaning behind Waiting For Godot? If you are looking for books that will make you think, I’d make a beeline right back to A Whispering Soul. If you are looking for some darn good reads, keep it here:

Oh, and another thing. I don’t know who started this idea that every category needs a list of exactly three. Being the nonconformist that I am, I shall answer as my whim takes me.

Books that made me (for the lack of a better term) laugh out loud:
- Catch 22 (Joseph Heller)
- The Choirboys (Joseph Wambaugh)
- The early works of Carl Hiaasen

Catch 22 was actually something I read in high school for a paper. I am so glad I did. This is the literary equivalent of M*A*S*H or Hogan’s Heroes. I picked up Wambaugh early in my reading career when I was looking for good police stories and accidentally stumbled onto a book that was so funny it had me giggling like a 13 year old girl at a drunken slumber party. Think of Hiaasen as a poor man’s Dave Barry. He is a regular columnist for a Florida paper (and a staunch defender against the destruction of the Everglades by over development and sewage dumping) who also happens to write madcap novels which take place in one of my favorite states - Florida. Before they became slightly repetitive, these novels always made me laugh.

Books that scared the living, um, daylights out of me:
- Phantoms (Dean Koontz)
- It (Stephen King)

I read Phantoms when I was about eleven years old. Koontz set up the back-story beautifully. I remember the ending being a little disappointing but by that time I was too creeped out to care. Oh and for the record, I was eleven, and way too young to know that I should not be reading talent-less hacks like Koontz, so sue me.

If you have read It, and I assume many of you have, I really don’t need to explain this to you. The beauty of this book is that not only is it a scary read, Kind did a masterful job writing a nice “regular” story in there as well. In fact, these two books could probably go into the books I read which changed my life category (below) since they got me addicted to horror novel and, thus, my current fear of vampires.

My favorite crime fighters:
- Dave Robicheaux (James Lee Burke)
- Jack Reacher (Lee Child)
- Elvis Cole (Robert Crais)

About as different as three “heroes” can be, these characters have provided me with not only countless hours of entertainment, but actually inspired me to write and complete my own novel. To say that I liberally borrowed character traits from this list would be a giant understatement. Burke’s Robicheaux is a disgraced New Orleans cops and ex-boozer who struggles against the bottle as well as countless miscreants who inhabit his town of New Iberia, Louisiana. Robicheaux will always provide justice for what he believes is right, regardless of the collateral damage to himself and others. Extra point awarded to Burke himself, who writes about ugly topics with an unparalleled beauty. He has even been dubbed the William Faulkner of crime, no small praise. (Best of the Series: Black Cherry Blues)

Reacher is the other side of the spectrum. A former army MP, Reacher wants nothing more than to travel all of the United States and enjoy his life in anonymity. Of course, that would be boring. Reacher is brilliant and emotionless, a great warrior and an even better thinker. Child gets extra points for managing to take a seemingly one-dimensional character and giving him added layers of depth. (Best of the Series: Close call, but I will go with Tripwire)

Cole is a wise cracking, damaged Los Angeles PI who makes me laugh. Extra points to Crais because you can really see him grow as a writer in each book of the series. (Best of the Series: LA Requiem)

Books I read (as a kid) which impacted my life:
- Boy’s Life (Robert R McCammon)
- The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (J.R.R. Tolkien)
- I’m sure there are morew but damned if I can conjure them up.

From McCammon’s Boy’s Life foreward: “See, this is my opinion: we all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churned out, spanked out, washed out and combed out. We [are]…told to be responsible. To act our age. To grow up, for G-d’s sake…” This book is an ode to the magic inside of all of us. Besides being a great read, it was a lesson to me that I will never forget. Don’t let the child inside of you become completely swallowed up by the adult you become.

As for the Trilogy, what’s to say? People fall into two camps on this; they either love it or they hate it. I’m in the former camp. Sure the prose is stifling and the history of dwarves is about as relevant as daily events taking place on Saturn, but what a story. This is all about the journey. And you either loved the journey of Frodo and Samwise, and the corresponding adventures of the rest of the Fellowship or you didn’t. I, for one, did in a huge way. Major extra points to Peter Jackson for making the movie exactly as I imagined it when I was a kid. And when I re-read it in high school. And when I re-read it in college. And law school. And a few years ago. Etc.

My favorite Classics:
- To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
- Tom Sawyer - Rush. Haha, just joking, Mark Twain
- Oliver Twist/Bleak House/ - Charles Dickens

To Kill A Mockingbird was a classic great book great movie situation, which just makes you have faith in talented people. I could go on and on, but instead I’ll just say this: Free Boo Radley!!

Tom Sawyer is a good, quick and entertaining book. The funny thing is that I don’t love Twain. In fact I have started Huckleberry Finn no less than three times in my life and have put it down less than halfway through each time. Yet Sawyer, the ultimate bad kid with a good heart, is such an engaging character. Think a smarter, dirtier version of Bart Simpson. His good-natured mischief makes the book work.

Yes, Dickens is a tough read. I read somewhere that he got paid for his serials (most of his books were monthly installments in local papers) by the word and took full advantage of that. But the man told a good story.

Almost making the cut: The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexander Dumas.

Books I’d like to see published:
- Undertow – (the working title my novel) Elster
- McAryeh’s hopefully soon to be completed novel – McAryeh
- How I Made 100 Million Dollars and Gave It All To My Kids – Elster’s Dad

Sadly, this is the best I can do. But believe me it isn’t for lack of trying. I’m suffering from a major brain freeze on this topic. And it hurts me more than it hurts you. Anyways, happy reading.

Whoops - In my haste to get this out, I forgot a very important category - Best Post-Apocalyptic novels. Two winners here: The Stand by King and Swan Song by McCammon. If you are into the whole good humans struggle to survive against evil after a dread disease/nuclear holocaust pretty much destroys the world, then you must must my=ust read these two classics. I would say more but I missed the boat.


  • Nice!

    I used to love To Kill A Mockingbird.

    Really great list.

    By Blogger Sara, at 12:54 PM  

  • I second Sara. To Kill a Mockingbird is a great book. On another note, those horror books. Stephen King and Dean Koontz both being kings, in my oppinion. Both of those writers have an amazing talant of keeping you turning the page. Very nice. I'm impressed, even if you were worried about what people were going to read into this post.

    By Blogger Eshet Chayil, at 7:50 PM  

  • *talent :P

    By Blogger Eshet Chayil, at 7:51 PM  

  • Sara, Eishet - Thanks.

    By Blogger Elster, at 10:48 PM  

  • For Reacher, you forgot to mention that he never, ever loses a fight. But then again, he's a hero for a reason.

    By Anonymous aishel, at 11:56 PM  

  • This was well worth the wait. Not a Dickens fan, but great list! Looking forwarding to checking out some of the new (to me) names here...and Undertow...oh, and I had no patience for Waiting for Godot. Couldn't finish it, so for all I know they are still waiting for Godot...

    By Blogger MC Aryeh, at 7:10 AM  

  • Aishel - Yes, he never does lose a fight, unless he wants to. A truly great character.

    Mc - I read it for school - but to be honest, I couldn't tell if Godot ever showed up. I'm leaning towards no though.

    By Blogger Elster, at 9:15 AM  

  • Nobody asked me, but here's a book I'd like to see published:

    "The Comeback: Chad Pennington and the 2007 Super Bowl Champion New York Jets"

    By Blogger Joe Schick, at 12:54 PM  

  • I love that book. Who wrote it?

    By Blogger Elster, at 1:13 PM  

  • OOOPs I forgot a category

    By Blogger Elster, at 1:36 PM  

  • Why does everything with you men end up talking about sports? fech...

    By Blogger Eshet Chayil, at 3:45 PM  

  • Cause we really really really like sports.

    By Blogger Elster, at 4:05 PM  

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