Yesterday I posited the idea that my home is where my head is. Frequently, my head is in a book, and I certainly inhabit a good book when I read it. The following list isn't random; these are books that have in some way influenced me or influenced my thinking, sometimes in small ways, sometimes tremendously. The order, however, is random and the list is far from complete. I've also tried not to duplicate books I've mentioned before.
Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges.
I've mentioned Borges on numerous occasions here. His essays and fiction were literally mindblowing to me as a teenager, and reshaped my thinking on the function and structure of the written word, and probably the idea of communication in general.
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.
Not a great piece of literature, but a really interesting story, and I tend to think of it as something of a companion piece to the film Pan's Labyrinth. But that's just the way my mind works.
The Mummy Market by Nancy Breslin.
The Court of the Stone Children by Eleanor Cameron.
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg.
The Long Secret by Louise Fitzhugh.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle.
The Golden Book of Fairy Tales by Adrienne Segur.
Let's hear it for children's literature. This list is not exhaustive by any means, but each one of these books made me sit up and say, "wow!" between the ages of 6 and 8.
The Russians by Hedrick Smith.
I read this the first time before I visited the USSR in 1984, and again when I returned. I haven't read it since the dissolution of the USSR, and probably should, but it is an excellent portrait of the Cold War era.
Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera.
It isn't just that Frida Kahlo lived a fascinating life, Hayden Herrera recounted it in a fascinating way. One of the best biographies I've read.
Unearthing Atlantis by Charles Pellegrino.
It's about archaeology and volcanoes and general destruction. Generally well-written, and accessible enough to be interesting. And, you know, volcanoes, which have always frightened me. I visit them anyway, but there is something primordially scary about them.
Landslides and Human Lives (Bergsturz und Menschleben) by Albert Heim.
Heim was a Swiss geologist who extensively researched and wrote about the Swiss Alps. While some of the book can be heavy going if you're not intimately acquainted with geology, the landslide accounts are highly readable. Really a good argument for why landslides need to be studied more, if all the people who have been crushed in them aren't argument enough.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman.
Gaiman is such a clever writer, and while this definitely falls into horror and fantasy, the larger themes of old gods like Loki battling the new gods of technology had greater social weight.
Man's Fate by Andre Malraux.
I first read it in college, and most recently on that very long flight to Puerto Rico. A fictional account of a failed communist revolution in China at the end of the 1920s, and the profound effects on the lives of those involved.
The Sound of the Mountain by Yasunari Kawabata
Masks by Fumiko Enchi
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
Out by Natsuo Kirino
While each of these novels is fascinating in its own right, they also each tell a social history of post-World War II Japan that I found especially interesting.
Go listen to some music: "If You Could Read My Mind" from the album Gord's Gold by Gordon Lightfoot.