5 Important Books

Post Office by Charles Bukowski

This was my very first taste of Bukowski and I fell in love right then and there. It started me on a path of obsession, immersion and collection. There are more Bukowski books on my shelves than any other writer. I’ve read them all, some multiple times. I will keep collecting and keep reading until there is no more. Fortunately, Bukowski was quite prolific.

One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich
by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

This was my very first Russian book. It is responsible for my total obsession with Stalin era Soviet Union, particularly prison camps. Since I first read this book in high school, I have read countless others on the same subject. This book remains one of the simplest and the best fictional representation of Stalin-era labor camps. It perfectly encapsulates the circumstances that the author experienced. It’s a brilliant little book.

1984 by George Orwell

This spot is actually a tie with Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange for the same reasons, but I read this book first, so it wins. 1984 and A Clockwork Orange are two of the best and most complete science fiction universes ever created. 1984 is scarily built so much on reality (Stalin-era Soviet reality), that it hardly even seems like science fiction. It’s more science fact spread with a think layer of science fiction icing. Fascinating stuff. While I’m not a huge fan of the science fiction genre, this book expanded my reading scope and now I give it a chance.

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

Ah, to be me when I first read this again. To be so awestruck and full of wonder. To read words and concepts, half of which I didn’t really even understand yet, that just blew the little boundaries of my tiny primate mind. This book started me on a love affair with cosmology and astrophysics. If only I could do math, I might have actually gone into this field. It fascinates me so. Hawking and Sagan are my heroes.

The Republic by Plato

I read this book at a ridiculously young age and can barely remember the gist of it now. At the time, it was hugely influential on my tiny pea brain. What I took from this book was how people have always been and will always be people; that we’re all essentially the same, no matter what era we live in. Ideas are immortal. It was written by a man nearly 24oo years ago. Think about that for a moment–really let that sink in–twenty-four hundred years ago. That’s older than Jesus. I can hold words in my hand expressing opinions and philosophy that are older by thousands than I will ever be. I have a lovely leather-bound copy of this book. I’m tempted to read it again to see if Plato and I see eye to eye, but part of me doesn’t want to know. It’s enough that his words are immortal and living on my shelf. It’s enough that I see 2400 year old words and aspire to that myself someday. As a writer, there is no better fate than having your words outlive you.