A good friend recently included me in one of those Facebook challenges ... you know the ones that are somewhat interesting, but fairly annoying? 

I thought this was a good one, though: to meet the challenge you were supposed to post the cover of a favorite book daily for seven days, and challenge seven other people to do the same. Trouble for me is that all of our possessions are packed away in a warehouse while the contractors finish up repairs to our home (had a little fire damage). 

I actually keep a row of my favorite books, from first to 20th or so on the top of my bookshelf. I do weird things like that. Just in case someone asks, “What’s your fourth most favorite book?” I could go right to my “favorite book” shelf and count them off. If it hadn’t been for the fire, I’d have been able to pull Nos. 1 through 7 down and take pictures and post them daily just like all the other Facebook challenge suckers did.

Still, it’s interesting to see what people are reading and what they recommend. So here are my top seven reads ... they’re amongst those that I re-read once in a while:

No. 1: William Saroyan’s “The Human Comedy.” It’s about dignity, good poor people, the long reach of war and the anguish it stirs, everyday people doing what they must and being their best according to the scale of the universe they live in ... It is written so simply and stirs so much thought and feeling. And the characters are so real. I wish I could write half so well.

No. 2: “Mink River” by Brian Doyle (and it’s spin-off, “The Plover”). We lost a great Western American author when we lost Brian Doyle. He knew exactly how to key in on characters and community. It’s about a small town on the coast of Oregon ... the town is the lead character. His other characters include a crow and a bear ... and people dealing with small town survival.

No. 3: “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” I’m 12, have highly offended my mom who grounds me to my room for a week ... and there’s this book in the room ... seriously, thanks Mom. Sure, it’s fun to mimic Ernest Hemingway’s writing ... because it’s such a thing of its own. Anyway, this book: good bad people; bad good people ... heroes, villains, and the melding of history and fiction.

No. 4: Kent Haruf’s “The Tie That Binds.” Before the more popular novels he wrote before his untimely death (“Eventide” and “Plainsong”) there was this book that exactly captured the struggle between the constraint necessary to plow a living off a section of the High Plains and the desire to cut loose. And I’m pretty sure I was either neighbors of or related to most of the characters.

No. 5: “The Song of the Lark” by Willa Cather. Again, small town characters ... how the concept of “home” can change or not change with time and distance. And the characters ... they’re real.

No. 6: Ready for this one? Owen Wister’s “The Virginian.” People write this book off as just another silly Western novel because producers based silly movies and TV shows off it. Did he romanticize the Western expansion? Yes. But he bared a whole lot of truths, too. You know how some people think Ayn Rand’s brand of libertarianism is some sort of truth and road map? No. It’s Owen Wister. I wish he were my talkative uncle (but that would make him 159 years old.)

No. 7: “Kidnapped” by Robert Louis Stevenson. Because it’s so much fun. And it’s so good at describing tribes and crazy families and dealing with every sort of challenge imaginable. No. Strike that. It’s just fun. When you’re tired of the endless grind, read “Kidnapped.”

What about you? What are your top choices? Share, if you like: smiller@appealdemocrat.com.



Ugh: Jokes that make Eddie and Jerry cringe:

– I saw an ad for burial plots and thought to myself, “this is the last thing I need.”

– Thanks for explaining the word “many” to me. It means a lot.

– Originally, I never planned on a brain transplant. But then I changed my mind.

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