I saw this over at Shelley’s, and thought it sounded like a great question. “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.”
Bleak House & Nicholas Nickleby (Dickens) - Aside from it's wide-ranging story and amazing comedy, I remember Bleak House most because I hated it the first time I read it and loved it the second. Nicholas Nickleby I will always remember, if for nothing else, for the death of Smike which has got to be the saddest thing I have ever read, next to the finale of Sula. Sula! I should have put that on the list too.
Hopeful Monsters (Nicholas Mosely) - I have gone on and on about this remarkable meditation on social revolution, politics, science, the 20th century and love. It is so worth the admitted effort of reading it.
The Gold Bug Variations (Richard Powers) - This is brilliant. Mystery and love story. Science and music. Past and Present. Can't say enough about it. Sheila and I have read it enough times now that we can refer to scenes in shorthand, as though we were there when they happened. I think Sheila might have one more re-read than I.
For Kings and Planets - (Ethan Canin) - A beautiful story by a psychologically astute writer. I have read it multiple times and find myself thinking of the friendship that is at its center again and again.
Narcissus and Goldmund - (Herman Hesse) - It was hard to choose just one of Hesse's books since many of them hang around in my consciousness and serve as emotional touchstones.
The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas - (Gertrude Stein) - This book defined Paris as the city of the artist for me, and its conceit is really hilarious.
Crime and Punishment (Dostoevski) - This book ate me alive when I first read it. Dostoevski creates an incredible sick tension that infects the reader like a flu.
Cloud Street (Tim Winton) - This is a magical saga set in Australia. The characters have stuck with me like people I've met.
The Chosen (Chaim Potok) - It also was also tempting to put more Potok books on the list. This was the first I read and I have come back to it repeatedly.
The 1st book I read as an adolescent that had a sex scene in it - I don't remember the title or the author, but I sure remember reading that scene!
To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee) - This was assigned reading for school. I had my parents old pocket book copy (see picture above). I ruined the spine, I read it so many times.
The Microbe Hunters - (Paul de Kruif) - The book that introduced scientific research to me as a romantic pursuit. Clearly it made some impression.
All Creatures Great and Small (James Herriot) - I just loved Herriot's books when I was in High School. Such a different world than growing up in New York.
The Presentation of the Self in Everyday Life (Erving Goffman) - I don't know what brought this particular book to mind today, but it was very influential on my thinking as Goffman, a sociologist, presented social encounters with the perspetive and the language of theatre. I read it just once, in college, and still remember it. Time for a re-read.