Recently, a good friend of mine posted a Facebook status update saying he was "tagged" by a friend to list the "top ten books that have stayed with him and had the most influence on his life". He is not one to follow the norm and do things like this "just because" he was tagged, but I also know him to be a pretty vivacious reader, so it was not very surprising to me to see that he accepted the challenge. He listed ten books (well, nine books and a blog...) I found his list very interesting. Having gotten to know this fella pretty well over the past number of years, I will have to be honest, I didn't find anything in his list very "surprising", but reading over his cohesive list did prove to be pretty interesting / entertaining...
Of course, like any good Facebook meme, it requires the author to "tag" ten additional friends, asking them to complete the same task. I was one of the ten
victims names he tagged.
This meme also reminded me of something I posted here on The Life of a Father of Five - WAY BACK in 2007! The Horror in My Life (link) Well, I found it fitting that I would combine the Facebook meme, and (given the similar theme from the previous post) I thought it quite fitting that my reply become inspiration for a post here on the blog!
So, without further ado, here is my list of the "top ten books that have stayed with me and/or had the most influence on my life". I tried to keep them in somewhat a chronological order, and did my best to provide links for further info.
Ziggy and his Colors By Frans and Joyce Van Lamsweerde
Ziggy and his Music By Frans and Joyce Van Lamsweerde
Ziggy what Animals Say By Frans and Joyce Van Lamsweerde
I am clumping this three book set into one entry. These were among the first and most memorable of all the books my mom read to my sister and I as very young children. These books were written in 1968, and (as you may be able to tell from the covers alone) written around the time that would be the peak of the “Age of Aquarius”. Both the story content and illustrations were overly colorful, vivid, free and flowing, and have an overtly strong “hippy” vibe to them! When I look them over now as an adult I have to wonder if these delightful children’s stores were actually the result of an acid trip, and written on the journey back from the dark side of the moon. (Well, it WAS the 60's - right?)
Acid trip or no acid trip, the stories do make for wonderful (and memorable) children’s stores – as evident by the fact that they top off my list of Top Ten!
The premise in the first two (Colors and Music) is that Ziggy (the main character in the books, who sort of looks like the well-known Comic Strip character Ziggy, but seemingly has no real connection other than a coincidence) goes around collecting colors / sounds from the everyday environment around us - and later uses the collected colors / sounds to create paintings and a music box. I do not have much memory of "What Animals Say" - I think we may have lost or ruined the book as children.
I am pretty sure if you were to ask the Sister of the Father of Five if she remembers the books, not only would she say yes - she may even break the books out and show 'em to you!! If memory serves me correctly, the books ended up in her possession!
Children's Stories of the Bible from the Old and New Testaments
By Barbara Taylor Bradford.
Jeff (my friend who
tagged inspired me to do this) listed The Bible as one of his most inspirational books. He is a very spiritual fella (which is one of the things I admire about him). I too consider myself pretty “faithful” in my beliefs, but I am not as heavily vested in the literal interpretation of Bible as I am in the figurative interpretation of the concepts found within. (Apologies to those who are more “Scriptural”. I certainly respect your choices.)
That being said, the #2 book on my list of top ten inspirational / memorable is this book is Biblical in nature. My #2 book is a collection of Biblical stories of both the Old and New Testaments for children.
I no longer have the book, but recall it was inscribed as a gift from (I believe) my Uncle Greg and Aunt Marilyn. It was either a Baptismal gift, or a gift from my First Communion (suspect the former). I have fond and vivid memories of flipping through the pages and admiring the artwork, and hearing the familiar stories from the bible. A couple of the stories that immediately jump out at me are the story of Moses (and the picture of a baby in a basket being put in the Nile River), and the David and Goliath story (not sure if that was because of the namesake, or that I am a virtual Goliath myself?!?!)
While it is not “The Bible”, it is a favorite childhood collection of Biblical stories that make it into my “Top Ten”.
The Ghost of Dibble Hollow By May Nickerson Wallace, Orin Kincade (Illustrator)
As mentioned in the previous post “The Horror In My Life” (linked above), I have had a penchant for ghostly, and horrific fiction for as far back as I can remember. This was a book we picked up at a garage sale at my request. The book had me hooked from the image on the cover – although, the scariest part of the book IS the cover! For one reason or another, I have kept this book. I still have it in my box of childhood “treasures”. The Ghost of Dibble Hollow just may have been my “gateway” into a lifelong infatuation with macabre fiction!
A Night to Remember by Walter Lord
It’s not that this is an amazing book, or that I even really enjoyed it, but I have had a lifetime fascination with The Titanic.
Remember folks, when I read this book, the Titanic had yet to be found – and was really a story veiled with a lot of mystique.
My fascination with the Titanic was mostly with the thought that such a incredible ship (and it’s contents) lie silently at an unknown location at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean – refusing to give up it’s voiceless secrets.
The Dead Zone by Steven King
Here it is again…
This time, cropping up in my early teen years. This was a book I grabbed on a whim (having never heard of Steven King before reading this book) from the library to take along on a family road trip vacation. Quite honestly, I remember more about reading the book (and wanting to get back to reading the book) than I do of the actual vacation. It was one of the earliest “can’t put down” books for me – and (because I enjoyed it so much), it was the catalyst for my “decade long” run with Steven King.
The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank by Erma Bombeck.
I am pretty certain that this was one of the first books I ever checked out of the library in High School. I left my small K-8 school (and limited library geared for the younger kids) and was presented a whole new collection of books to choose from when I started attending the Academy of the Holy Angels as a 9th grader. It was (for me) one of the first “laugh out loud” books I had ever read. I remember going back and rereading paragraphs just to make myself laugh again and again. I suspect I found humor in this book having grown up in the suburban utopia of “Prestigious West Bloomington”!
The Grass is Always Greener was an eye opener for me. It demonstrated to me that there are books out there that are REALLY funny!! Humor has, and continues to be an very important aspect to my life!
The Nighttime Guy by Tony Kenrick
Why this book? I can’t be completely sure. I mean, who has ever heard of this book? Who has ever really heard of this author? Not many I suspect – but for some reason – this book (while I am certain wasn’t intended to) made me laugh out loud!
Much like Erma Bombeck’s “Grass is Greener” – there were a couple of scenes in the book that made me laugh so hard my sides ached – and I read them over and over again (finding them just as funny as the last time).
The memorable scenes all involved a supporting character (a young girl… maybe eight or nine) who was rude, crude, and borderline vulgar. For some strange reason, her antics REALLY made me laugh. I tried reading a couple of Kenrick’s other works, but none of them really struck a chord with me like '”The Nighttime Guy”
Frankenstein by Mary Shelly
Ahh… Mrs. Hanson…
My senior year English teacher.
Ya gotta give her a ton of credit. She put up with a lot. (And, by “a lot”, I mean me). She continued to try to reach me knowing full well that 99% of the reading assignments she gave me went… well… Unread.
Not only “unread”, but “UNASHAMEDLY unread” .
Yes, that is me bowing my head in shame and embarrassment.
Forgive me Mrs. Hanson, for I knew not what I was doing.
The names of numerous (unread) classic novels completely escape me now for having never read them - but not Frankenstein! I cannot be certain if it was the horror theme, or Ms. Hanson’s rebellious declaration that she was one of the last teachers in the State of Minnesota still teaching this book, but for whatever reason it was - I actually read it!
Not only did I read it, I THRIVED at this unit. I read every assignment, answered questions and actively participated in class. I read ahead of where we were supposed to be. I did well on the quizzes and test.
It was to be my most successful endeavor in her class! Thank you Mrs. Hanson!
You did it! You reached me through Frankenstein!
(Photo of Mrs. Hanson from the 1987 Academy of the Holy Angels yearbook)
It by Steven King
Come on… What horror fiction fan and Steven King enthusiast wouldn’t undertake this massive 1138 page lighthearted tale of an evil entity posing as a “happy dancing clown” living in the sewers of a small town preying upon the children??
Not this one!!
“When you're down here with us, you'll float too Georgie!”
This book had me lock, stock, and barrel – to the point I would be up at night, reading in the dark of my room (freaking myself out), and even got me scolded by a college professor for reading it during her class!
Announced to the whole class during lecture: “Mr. FOF, I know I can’t compete with Mr. King, but would you please put away the novel and at least attempt to listen to my lecture?” (true story!)
I hope you have all had the pleasure of creating scenes and imagery in your head of what you are reading about in a book. I know I do. In “It”, the kids are drawn to “The Barrens” (the gateway to Pennywise’s lair).
Well, as I read the book, the image that came to my mind was of a very real place not far from my home. I imagined The Barrens looked a lot like a large storm drain outlet that pours into Nine Mile Creek in Harrison Park (Bloomington, MN).
When “It” was finally made into a movie, and I got a chance to see it, I was completely freaked out by how similar the movie scene seemed to what I pictured in my head.
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Let’s see. Ghost stories, Steven King, horror movies, evil clowns, etc, etc, etc. And I had not read Bram Stoker’s Dracula before adulthood?? How this one slipped by me, I will never fully understand.
By this time I was working overnights at a 9-1-1 center. Between calls and during my downtime, I took to reading. I was planning on re-reading Frankenstein again, but was unable to locate my copy of it – so instead, I ran to the library. I wanted to find something similar to Frankenstein – so I thought to myself… Dracula! Why not Dracula? So I checked it out.
Have you ever read Bram Stoker’s original Dracula?
No, the movies, comic books, and “Scholastic” versions of the novel do NOT count.
I’m speaking of the Dracula novel as written in Bram Stokers own words!
A hidden love story.
Victorian era gothic settings.
Dracula started me down a long road of vampire fiction. Not the “Nü Vampire genre” (like one can find in “True Blood” (and all the other recently romanticized vampire stories) – but down the dark, evil, gothic, and violent vampire fiction.
I am also going to cheat by adding an 11th “bonus” entry – but this is not so much a “book” as a means of reading.
The Kindle By Amazon.
My Kindle has completely reinvigorated, revitalized and reinvented the way I read. Not only the WAY I read, but HOW MUCH I read too. I went from reading a fair amount as a boy, to reading little (if any) for personal leisure since graduating college. The “reading drought” continued for more than 10 years.
On a whim, I went out and bought both myself and The Mother of Five a simple e-ink Kindle Touch. I cannot even being to tell you how much this has changed my reading. I am averaging a novel a month now, am frequently prowling for new (bargain, discount, or free) content to add to my Kindle (I have over 300 books stored in my Kindle at the time I am writing this post), and have even dedicated a page on this blog to my Kindle reading habbits.
(Feel free to check it out by clicking on THIS LINK)