Hemmingway once wrote that “if you’re not reading, you’re dead.” Perhaps I’ve taken his words too seriously, but I’ve always ensured my immortality by keeping my bedside table well stocked with books. I read them all at once, from magazines to memoirs, autobiographies to zines.
Each book offers its pages, opening a point of entry into a life I never imagined. Along with Hemingway’s words, I’ve also been thinking about another quote from Claude Lévi-Strauss. Lévi-Strauss is credited with the saying “You are what you eat.” This maxium is actually a shortened version of his famous quote, “tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are.”
The books we read feed our brain, our souls, and our imagination. Recently, an old friend asked for my reading list, and I provided her with the titles I’m currently devouring. I decided to share these titles here because I do not like feasting alone:
1. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
I’ve been reading this book for a year now, twenty pages at a time in random moments when I crave deep and rich flavors formulated in excellent prose. The Fountainhead contains all the timeless and universal elements of story.
2. Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi.
I’m reading this book for three reasons: First, because it humbles me. If ever I feel sorry for myself, even for a minute, Levi’s true story of surviving the Holocaust continually astounds me with the perseverance of the soul. Second, I’m reading this book to sustain my feigning hunger for information about the Holocaust, a topic that has fascinated me since I was 18. Finally, I’m reading this book as research, since one of the characters in my novel survives Auschwitz.
3. Bodily Harm by Margaret Atwood
One day I’ll read everything this Canadian author and amazon has ever written.
4. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
Each time I re-read a book, I annotate the text with a different color pen and highlighter to see the layers of meaning I uncover with each read; my copy of Woolf’s classic essay looks like it got hit by a paintball gun. A must-read for every woman.
5. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Why didn’t this man write more?
6. Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
I’m reading Didion for the second time because I know I missed things the first time around. Didion’s collection of essays and anecdotes portray the spirit of a generation spindling out of control, unfurling into madness.
7. How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas by Daniel Bornstein
Read it and be inspired!
Crazy lil’ zine from New York printing press! Includes photo essay on “unspaces.”
9. The Beatles: A Biography by Hunter Davies
Of course, we all love the Beatles, but I’m seeking to fully grasp how one musical group could infect a generation.
10. Carnal Appetites: Food/Sex/Identities by Elspeth Probyn
I was introduced to this author while researching for my thesis, and I’ve been fascinated with her work ever since. Probyn talks about the symbolic underpinnings of appetite, asking, metaphorically speaking, what’s eating us?”
11. The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield
Redfield tells you everything you already know and expect to hear from a spiritual book—it’s just nice to have it affirmed.
12. The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer
A must-read in sexuality studies: Greer’s argument that a woman’s sexual liberation is integral to her escape from patriarchy fueled the sexual revolution of the 1970s.
13. Dune by Frank Herbert
Recommended by a friend, borrowed from another friend.
14. The Bus Driver Who Wanted to be God by Etgar Keret
I won this book at a poetry reading early this fall, and the amusing shorts within keep me smiling on rainy days.
15. Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Nietzche
After being force-fed Nietzche in grad school, I’m finally ready to revisit him at a more leisurely pace. In this landmark text, Nietzche articulates the very ideas at the core of modern thought, influencing theories of deconstructionism, existentialism, and phenomenology. Does anybody else find this text oddly Buddhist?
16. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
I saw the movie with Julia Roberts, and despite some poorly-written scenes and characters, the backbone of this story is compelling, so I thought I’d go to the source to learn more. This book is also research for my future work in the field of women’s food-writing!
17. How to see Yourself as you Really are by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Just watch one interview with the Dali Lama, and you’ll be hooked (may I suggest the Barbara Walters one)
18. The New Yorker
This magazine is the closest thing I have to a bible.
And last but not least….
19. Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein
I hesitate to call this a book of poetry, so instead I’ll call it a book of words. A book of words that could change your life. If you love language and you want to see how it bounces when unfurled, then may I introduce you to Gertrude Stein, the godmother of poetry.
Medusa is always hungry, so send me great titles!