I was recently wasting some perfectly good time on Facebook, when I saw one of those ‘answer a question and pass it along’ things that bounce around there with incredible frequency. This one, however, seemed rather interesting. It asked participants to name ten books which have ‘stuck’ with you. They need not have changed your life or been classics, but rather ones that you’ve returned to either in terms of rereading or thinking about for one reason or another.
So, without further ado, here are my ten 1 in no particular order:
- The Prince – Machiavelli - The first political book I ever read and it blew me away as a 15 year old. In the intervening three decades I’ve always had a copy close by and it’s usually the first thing I download when I get a new electronic device.
- Othello – William Shakespeare – Again, something I was introduced to while I was a teenager but the character of Iago remains completely fascinating to me. His motives seem just out of reach and one feels there is an answer to why he does what he does if only you look closely enough. I simply never get tired of the story.
- Earth Abides – George Stewart – I didn’t like this book when I finished it but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I just kept turning it over in my mind until I realized that my discomfort with the story was due more to the fact that it refused to conform to my expectations. It’s now a favorite.
- The Plague Dogs – Robert Adams – A book I will probably never read again but continues to haunt me. We don’t really need fiction to tell us about the horrors we visit upon animals every day but this is excellent story telling. I’m no John Boehner but this book had me seriously weepy.
- The Problem from Hell – Samantha Power – An amazing account of American responses to genocide over (roughly) a century. Reading this does make it difficult to say that America is ‘exceptional’ when you see what sort of legal, rhetorical and military gymnastics we went through to prevent, stop or condemn genocide.
- The Norton Book of Classical Literature – Kind of cheating since this is a collection of works but there’s just so much here that resonated with me that I have to include the whole book.
- To Reign in Hell – Steven Brust – I suspect I like this book as much as I do because it has similar themes to Othello. It’s sufficiently different, contemporary and well written to justify it’s inclusion on this list however. I’ve probably read this book four times and thought about or referenced it too many times to count.
- The Art of War in the Western World – Archer Jones – Clearly written and comprehensive, I can think of few other introductions to warfare that could compare to this work by Jones. Simply brilliant and I can only say a number of his points and descriptions came to mind during my 20 years with the Army, helping me to better understand and put orders into context.
- War Letters – Andrew Carroll – While learning about strategy and looking at big arrows sweeping across a map is fun and can make every man a general, we must never forget that each one of those lines is made up of thousands of individual human beings. Andrew Carroll’s collection of letters from soldiers in Americas wars is simply awe-inspiring.
- Buddhism Without Beliefs – Stephen Batchelor – A slim volume which does an admirable job of reconciling core Buddhist beliefs with modern life. No need for a sky daddy, magic powers or inexplicable miracles.
- Didn’t I just write a polemic against top ten lists? Ah, well. I’ll hoist myself on my own petard later. ↩