Graffitti on the Great Wall of China

Graffitti on the Great Wall of China

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Nerdiest Crime in Recorded History: books I’ve read so many times the covers are falling off.

Yeah, since this is my blog and I doubt many people are ever going to actually read it anyway, I figured I would do a super long post about my five favorite books. If you aren't a huge fan of reading, but are just DYING to know what else I think about, skip head to the other posts because thats basically all that this one is about. I love to read and have no idea what people do with their time if they never read. I don’t mean that in a "oh wow, look at me, I’m a literary genius" kind of way, I just mean I seriously can’t picture how you would pass the time if you never picked up a book. If you like to read here are some suggestions and if you don’t, well, you’re weird.

5. We the Living by Ayn Rand.

OK, lefty friends don’t freak out. I KNOW Ayn Rand is Spongebob Psychopants and that all the crazies in this country have picked her as their leader, but hear me out on this one. This was her first book, she said it is the closest to an autobiography that she would ever come. The plot line is kind of like a Soviet Union Gone with the Wind (minus the slavery and racism…and the hoop skirts). Oddly enough, the hero in this book is a man named Andre and he is the most devout socialist featured in any of Rand’s fiction, and he holds onto his ideals until the end.

Out of all her writing, this book has the fewest references to her nutjob politics, at the time of the writing she wasn’t such an extreme fanatic of capitalism. Unlike The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged, the characters in this book are very relatable and human. It reads more like a memoir than propaganda (which is basically what I consider her other works).

Overall as a writer, I have to give her credit for being able to present her theories/philosophies in a clear manner but this book is a real story, whereas her other novels are very two dimensional backdrops that she projects her nuttiness onto. But back to my original point, We the Living, is a really good book, lots of really vivid details and I would recommend it to everyone.

4. Any short story by Steven King, in particular, The Moving Finger.

Kind of a big jump from Rand to King, but to anyone that thinks King is just a paperback, bestseller lowest common denominator kind of author you are wrong. Personally, I think that King uses dialogue and voice better than any other writer I’ve ever read does. I don’t just mean his use of dialect (i.e. all the old men from Maine in his books that say a-yuh all the time) but the way that he is able to give each character, even in some of his huge novels like The Stand or The Dome, unique personalities and characteristics.

The Moving Finger is a story about a guy who hears a tapping noise in his bathroom. When he goes to investigate, he sees a finger poking out of his sink drain and it is moving around. He thinks he is going crazy and every time he tries to show someone the finger, it disappears but when he is alone the finger just keeps getting longer and longer with more and more knuckles. The end of this story is pretty gristly but you’ll have to read it yourself to find out what it is.

Doesn’t exactly sound like the best plot ever, but the way he wrote this story made this weird little idea of a finger poking up out of the sink drain scare the hell out of me. I’m twenty-four years old and I am not going to lie, sometimes when I take a bath or do the dishes I still push the bubbles out of the way so I can see the drain…you know, just in case. My point is, anyone that can make a grown adult afraid of a finger coming out of a drain is probably a pretty damn good writer.

3. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.

This story is one of the saddest and most beautiful stories that I have ever read. The story is about an immigrant family that moves to Chicago in the meatpacking district in the early 1900s. They really trust the system and think that if they work hard they will get the "American Dream". I guess when it came out Sinclair was hoping to show the American public how flawed the capitalist system was by showing how this industrious, immigrant family came to the US and got screwed over no matter how hard they tried to make it. The reaction he got though was that everyone learned how disgusting the meatpacking industry was and there were a lot of reforms made in order to make the food that was coming out of Chicago more safe for consumption. The meat stuff is pretty gross, but so is the meat industry today. What I loved about the book was the story of the family and this is one of the first books I ever read that made me really realize that I was a socialist.

2. East of Eden by John Steinbeck

For anyone that thinks they know this story based on the James Dean movie, the plot is so much bigger in the book. The first time I read this book I literally finished it and started it over immediately because it was that good. It is the story of two families and goes through multiple generations for both of them. There is such a intricate plot that there is no way that I could attempt to explain it in a blog post that is already getting to be too long. The Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck, like The Jungle, was another of the first books I read that made me start to really care about politics, but East of Eden is his best book if you are looking at it in terms of how enjoyable it is to read. It has a lot of biblical allegories in it, particularly Cain and Abel. If you haven’t read it and you like to read at all, you should definitely go read it.

So, my very favorite book ever is…

1.A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Francie Nolan, the main character, is a little girl that is born in Brooklyn around the turn of the century. The book details her life from her birth until she is about to go off to college. This book is the best example of American realism I’ve ever read. Smith doesn’t have any unexpected plot twists and the characters in the novel all lead regular lives and have regular jobs. It is just the story of a girl who is born poor, has a difficult but sometimes happy childhood, and then grows up. But it’s a beautiful story.

There is one part in the book where Francie and her brother Neely are talking about how Neely got drunk for the first time. I can’t remember the exact wording but Francie asks how he felt and he says something like it made me dizzy and like the world was spinning around me. Francie replies that if that is what drunk feels like, she got drunk once when she saw a tulip for the first time in a park down the street from her apartment. I mean, she says that the flower was so beautiful it made her feel drunk. Yeah, so that’s why this book is my all time favorite, that scene alone is probably the most beautiful thing I’ve ever read in my life.

I’m actually on my second copy of this book because the first one had been read so many times that the whole middle section would fall out every time you picked it. Side note, anyone who went to my high school after 2001 (the year I was in 9th grade) may not have gotten the opportunity to read this book. I liked it so much I literally stole it from the school library. Only time I have ever stolen anything in my life. I think that might be the nerdiest crime in all of recorded history.

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