Books that make you, books that break you

  • May. 11th, 2009 at 10:50 AM
crypto: (sarah looks ahead)
Seen around: This can be a quick one. Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you've read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.

Kathy Acker, Empire of the Senseless
Los Bros Hernandez, Love and Rockets
China Miéville, Perdido Street Station
George Eliot, Middlemarch
Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep
Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
William Gibson, Neuromancer
Grant Morrison/various artists, Doom Patrol
Banana Yoshimoto, Kitchen
Don DeLillo, White Noise
Dennis Cooper, Try
Nella Larsen, Quicksand & Passing
Samuel Delany, Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand
Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49
Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook

I usually don't like book memes (at least the 'check off how many of these you've read' ones), but this one felt more personal and introspective. Looking at the list, I'm struck by how many of these I read in my late teens to early/mid-20s -- basically, all of them except for Miéville and Murakami, which came later, and DeLillo, which I remember reading when I was still in high school.

And they're not necessarily my favorite books, or my "stranded on a desert island" list, though some are. They're basically the books that I was unprepared for, books that jarred or jolted me into something, some place, someone different. The process of first reading them marked a "before and after" dividing line for me, in my sense of the world, of writing, of myself. So it's somewhat bittersweet to see how often that happened when I was younger, how rarely it happens now.