I love Oprah Magazine. I love it because where other magazines devote a small corner of a single page to books, Oprah devotes pages to books. Pages, that’s plural. The reviews are well thought out and written by actual readers. And, they are about real books – not the grocery store schlock other magazines feature in their “must read” sections. The magazine also gets celebrities to share books that made a difference to them. Folks from John Cusack to Amy Poehler to Colin Firth list five or six books that stayed with them, or made a difference in their life somehow. I am an avid reader, and I am always on the lookout for new material, so reading about other people’s favorite books is right up my alley. And c’mon… it’s fun knowing that you have the same favorite book as Kazuo Ishiguro.
Here are the books that have made a difference in my life. So far…
- A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving – I have been giving this book as a gift since I read it in high school. I adore this book. When I finished it I held it close to my body and sat there with it. I was sad it was over. It was one of the first times I remember really feeling loss at the end of a novel. From there I went on to read everything in Mr. Irving’s cannon and have not really been disappointed. He is a gifted writer. This is far and away his best work. Or at least one of them. It tells the story of a little boy (literally, little) who has a mouse like voice and who thinks he is the voice of god. Maybe he is. But you’ll have to read it to find out. Like all of Irving’s books, it’s filled with crazy characters, big moments, big laughs and small victories.
- The Omnivore’s Dilemma By Michael Pollan – This book changed the way I eat food, shop for food, and think about food. It is a well written, thoughtful and funny book. The author sets out to find the origin of his meals and quickly notices that it will be a lot harder than just going to the grocery store. The book covers three avenues of eating: fast food, cooking at home, and growing organic food. He doesn’t take sides and he covers every side. Fairly. If you haven’t read this book yet, put it on your list. It is a must read. It’s one of those books that has so much truth in it that you can’t not be changed by it.
- The Unbearable Lightness of Being By Milan Kundera – Little did I know when I read this book by the famous Czech author that I would one day live in his city. I have very distinct memories of reading this book. I was doing a show in college (I used to do live theater back in the day!) and my part was small. Really small. Like I had a scene … and that was it until act two. But that was fine with me because I had this book. I remember running down to the make-up room and grabbing my book. The book about two men, two women and a dog. And their lives during the Prague Spring. It influenced me more than I can say.
- The Man Who Quit Money By Mark Sundeen – This book is sitting next to me as I write this just waiting to be finished. I plan on devoting an entire post to it once I wrap my brain around it. The gist is this: One man gave up money and has lived free of it for the past thirteen years. He doesn’t take donations or beg and he isn’t crazy. He just doesn’t believe that money is worth what the rest of society says it is. He hasn’t earned, spent or taken a single dollar in thirteen years. Reading this book was a revelation for me. It was the first time I ever felt validated in my thoughts on work, spirituality, and money. It was the first time I felt proud of my life philosophy rather than scared and ashamed. I don’t place much value on money or the things that you can buy with it, and this book explains the reasons why I feel that way far more elegantly than I ever could. I don’t know if I could ever live the way Daniel Suelo does, or to the extent he does, but I am sure going to try.
- Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World By Haruki Murakami – It was really difficult for me to choose which one of Murakami’s wonderful novels to include here, so I decided to go with the first one I read. The book is one part detective novel, one part sci/fi novel and all parts Murakami. That means that time and space don’t mean what you think they mean. It means that you will meet some very interesting characters, and that you will most likely read beautiful paragraphs about food and music that will leave you wanting more. This book has shadowy creatures, sewers that hold secrets, libraries and much, much more. If you have never read Murakami, this book will give you a crash course. When I finished this book I went to the bookstore and brought home the next one. I haven’t quit reading him since. I adore him and his beautiful mind.
Also: Notes From a Small Island by Bill Bryson, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, My Life in France by Julia Child, Me: Stories of My Life by Katharine Hepburn, Lisey’s Story by Stephen King, and The BFG by Roald Dahl