OUR FAVORITE BOOKS by The SJM Editors
In this issue, we thought it would be fun for the editors to share some of their favorite books. In alphabetical order by editor, here is their offering, a concoction of genres, fiction, and non-fiction.
The Points of My Compass, Letters from the East, the West, the North, the South by E. B. White. As a writer, I’m struck nearly dumb in the presence of E. B. White’s talent. A master essayist, he wrote for The New Yorker for fifty years and is the ace chronicler of the crisp tale, all waistlines sucked in, the fat trimmed.
Act One, an Autobiography by Moss Hart. I thought I’d die laughing at Moss Hart’s often hilarious, often painfully embarrassing journey to becoming one of America’s most brilliant playwrights. If I had to outrun a house fire, I’d snatch this book from the shelf, just before I hit the door.
Growing Up by Russell Baker. My favorite reading is autobiography. Baker blends pathos and humor in a self-deflating honesty and folksy wit to tell us the story of his hard-bitten depression-era childhood. He shares his narrative with us as casual neighbors chewing the fat on his front porch, sharing a glass of iced tea and gnawing a fried chicken leg his wife whipped up. This irresistible memoir grabs one by the collar, and when it finally let go of mine, I dashed out for the sequel, The Good Times.
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett is my favorite historical novel. Rich detail makes me feel I’m right there with the day-to-day living challenges, the political and religious tensions, and best for me, the grueling step-by-step process of building a gothic cathedral in the 12th Century. Today when I step inside any cathedral in Europe, I get goosebumps remembering Tom the Builder from Pillars, who was able to construct something so magnificent, one stone block at a time, using only the primitive tools of the era.
Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner. I read this when I was sixteen. Chapter one, page one caused a freeze-frame moment that influences me to this day. The first sentence was eleven lines long! The following sentence was ten and wasn’t finished until five lines into the next page. I was smitten. Faulkner’s bold style appeals to my road-less-traveled creative side that questions the accepted norm.
The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson. Sheriff Walt Longmire’s series, of which The Cold Dish is the first, is set in northern Wyoming. I like Johnson’s realistic, unconventional characters as they spring to life in this mystery collection.
The Cove by Catherine Coulter begins Coulter’s series of modern suspense thrillers, known as the FBI series. Coulter is adept at not only the suspense genre, but she creates the quirky, down-to-earth characters that I like.
Out of the Mind, The Power of Being Creative by Ken Robinson. This non-fiction book explores creativity and indicates the importance of actively promoting it. The book is fascinating for what it reveals about how the brain works, what creativity means, and how to become more innovative.
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. Written like prose poetry, I kept a notebook by my side as I read and copied for reference incredibly beautiful words from this unforgettable story of love and betrayal, medicine and ordinary miracles, written by an American physician, author, Professor for the Theory and Practice of Medicine at Stanford University Medical School and Senior Associate Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine.
SARUM by Edward Rutherford. I lived with this historical saga for a month, at my bedside, coffee table, and even my dinner table, because I could not put it down. This historical fiction is written in a Micheneresque style and spans Neolithic times to 1985 with members of the same family tree, set in southern England.