It’s an occupational hazard for library workers to have booklists so long it would take several lifetimes to read them all, but certain titles keep their place at the top of mine, regardless of whatever distracting new temptations I happen upon. Whether I keep coming back to re-read them, or just can’t seem to finish the whole thing, these five books stay on my “currently reading” shelves in my Goodreads and LibraryThing accounts (and in my livingroom). They’ll probably be there for awhile, too, so long as I keep bumping them for impulsive replacements, like I did Saturday when I picked up Tresspass: Living at the Edge of the Promised Land while shelving.
- Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
I’ve read at least a dozen books related to mythology that cite Campbell, and I love Bill Moyers’s Power of Myth interviews, but the bookmark in this one stays stuck somewhere early in the first chapter.
- A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn –
This essential history starts with the staggering incidents and statistics of early explorers’ Native American genocide, moves to the horrors of African slavery, then progresses into the violent roots of US class division and labor unrest, and before long gets me so upset, I shelve the book for a few months to process it all. Luckily, though, Mike Konopacki and Paul Buhle recently adapted Zinn’s work into a graphic novel called A People’s History of American Empire.
- And Her Soul Out of Nothing by Olena Kalytiak Davis
And Her Soul Out of Nothing is the perfect book of poetry. Davis writes strange, haunting verse that incorporates daily language with profound questions, and gorgeous poetric turns with confronatational statements. I could re-read “Another Underwater Conversation” every week for the rest of my life.
- The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry edited by Alan Kaufman
This volume includes Walt Whitman, Wanda Coleman, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Patti Smith, Eileen Myles, Joy Harjo, Alice Notley and more and more. And it’s almost 700 pages long, so six years later, I’m still not done yet.
- Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware
If this graphic novel doesn’t break your heart, you probably don’t have one. Not only is Ware the master of fantastically designed and colored layouts and intricate, vintage-inspired illustrations, but the story (which includes the Chicago World’s Fair and a superhero failure) of a self-conscious man in search of his father is to tender that sometimes I just have to put it down and walk away with my rotten little heart intact.