Every now and then my friends on Facebook get into this thing where they share the 10 music albums that shaped their taste in music. I’ve never been tagged in that game, which is just as well, seeing as how I couldn’t name 10 such albums.
Now if you were to ask me about my 10 favorite books of the modern era, I could do that. Actually, no. I couldn’t narrow the list to just 10. Rather than choosing my 10 favorites, here are a few of the books that I have enjoyed most.
“How to Make Good Pictures”: This came out in the film era long before digital photography was a phrase. The principles in this book remain valuable to anyone just beginning to learn how to use all those dials and buttons on a camera.
“The Best of Life”: This was the textbook in our photo editing class in college. If you want to see some of the best photojournalism of the 20th century, find this book.
“The Complete Chessplayer”: Another old book, this one by Fred Reinfeld. I found this while I was in high school and my friends and I were just learning the game. It gave me a jumpstart on the competition.
“One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich”: This short novel by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn can be read in a day. It’s based on the author’s own experience in a Stalin-era slave labor camp in Siberia. You won’t eat a bowl of soup the same way after reading this.
“Jurassic Park”: You’ve seen the movie. The book is a gazillion times better. Parts of it were so good, the people who made the second movie stole several scenes from it.
“Ohio River Navigation Charts, Huntington District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers”: I like maps. I don’t like GPS. Neither, I assume, do the tractor-trailer drivers whose GPS devices tell them Mount Union Road is a good shortcut between Barboursville and Lavalette.
“Life on the Mississippi”: This Mark Twain classic … that says it all.
“The Right Stuff”: This Tom Wolfe book introduced Chuck Yeager to the world. Reading it made me sad, though, because I realized I would never ever write anything even half this good.
“Accounting for Dummies”: My mother would have said there’s no accounting for dummies. Southern Ohio humor aside, this book helped me learn the basics of corporate financial statements. That came in handy for a person whose best years as a reporter were covering business.
To this list I would like to add any of a number of collections of essays and short stories by Isaac Asimov. I read a few of his novels, but the shorter works moved me more. One was called “Only a Trillion,” and it caused me to think of numbers and time in a different way. I can’t recall the names of others.
My final entry is not a book. It’s a short piece, but you need to read it for yourself if you want to understand the United States of America that was and is and should be: the Gettysburg Address.
I still have some of these books, and I get them out from time to time to enjoy them again. Some are lost.
Rarely does a snarky comment on the internet move me the way a good book does. A good book can change the way you see the world and the way you see yourself. If you have a particular favorite, let me know.