It seems to me that while a movie or TV show can move us, reconfirm our views about the world and our place in it, or show us something we’ve never seen before, only books are capable of defining (and in some case redefining) who we are. Movies can spark our imagination, but a great book can spark an entire thread of our personality. Perhaps that’s one of the biggest loses of people not reading — they simply wander around as blurry, poorly defined instances of who they should be? Not to put down movies really, but to me at least, a movie mostly plays out in front of your eyes and makes occasional forays into your head, and a book . . . well, a book lives nowhere else but in your head. Books are like punch cards for your soul.
When I started listing all the books in my head that had helped shape who I am there were a few surprises. Tolkien’s Middle Earth? The books were a captivating set of adventures when I first read them as an 8 year old, but surprisingly seemed to not leave much behind on that reading or in the many subsequent journeys there and back again. Whereas my copy of “The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes” indelibly etched into me a love of minutiae and logic problems. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be the best writing. C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, I’ve come to realize after re-reading as an adult with my son, were not especially well written. However, those stories definitely colored my view of justice, good vs. evil, and sacrifice — which continues probably to this day, despite my most decidedly atheistic world view. I wonder how C.S. Lewis would feel to know that I accepted the morality without needing to accept Aslan/Jesus as my personal savior?
As much for myself as anyone else, I thought I’d start writing some of this out and it seems to make sense to break it down by book. Well, except “by the book” in this case would be unbelievably tedious. So instead, some of these will be about a specific book and others will be about a selection or series of books from a specific author. For example, I’ve enjoyed many books by Kim Stanley Robinson, but his “Years of Rice and Salt” profoundly changed how I thought about the world. And while most of Robert Heinlein’s stories and books contributed to shaping my view of myself and the world in one way or another, “Farmers in the Sky” was pretty much just an enjoyable yarn. I have no idea how long these pieces will be, but I’m looking forward to going through the list below and knocking around in my own head and seeing what came from where 🙂 Hopefully this list will also be added to over time — other books will occur to me (usually something like “How the hell did I leave that one off?”), I’ll never stop reading, and I’m always looking for a story to toss my world on its head.
Things My Clone Should Read
No particular order to the order I’ll get to these in, other than perhaps roughly chronological based on when I first read them. As I complete the write-ups, I’ll be updating the lists of those I’ve written up and those I haven’t. Also, I have no pretension that these are “canon” for sci-fi or fantasy fans. These are merely my personal canon, if you will — the books and authors that are required to be read if you’re me I guess 🙂
For some of these, I’ll be including text from GoodReads reviews I’ve written, but these posts will focus much more on why and how the books had an impact on me, rather than being a review of the book or author.
Right now, these all link to Wikipedia entries, just on the off-chance you aren’t familiar with something and wanted to see what I’d be writing about. Except for maybe three of the lines below, I suspect that’s not going to be a problem.
- Edgar Allen Poe
- The Canon of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
- Foundation Series by Issac Asimov
- Robert Heinlein
- The Dark Tower series by Stephen King
- William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, Bruce Sterling
- Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson
- Ringworld by Larry Niven
- Gaea Trilogy by John Varley
- Hyperion Cantos (Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, The Rise of Endymion) by Dan Simmons
- Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold