My friend ADD tagged me to participate in My Ten Favorite Books – The Meme! In this regard, I do what I’m told.
I’ve been talking to [his friend] Aaron a lot about reading lately. He’s been building an incredible collection and even created a delightful, beautiful, and comfy-looking reading nook in his home.
Part of the reason I may not be reading a lot is that I need a comfortable place to do so. I used to have this wonderful recliner in the living room. I could sleep in it when I broke my rib in 2009. But my wife tossed it because the cats clawed it to raggedness. There’s a chair in the attic, but it would take a crane to get to it downstairs.
All this got me thinking about my own personal library, which is maybe a tenth the size it once was, but I kept all the essentials and these are my ten favorites. The individual photos are roughly in order of how much I adore them, but on any given day they might swap places on the list.
Books in my office surround me, save for the window at 8 o’clock and the door at five o’clock. The books to my right are my wife’s. The rest of them are mine.
I chose these based on the following criteria: – Quality of writing – The intellectual and/or entertainment value – The joy reading them gave and gives me – Their significance over time – The despair I would feel if I didn’t have them I tagged 10 friends. If you like, play along, preferably with photos of your own personal copies.
Based on these criteria, here we go, in no particular order.
The Nearly Complete Essential Hembeck Archives Omnibus by Fred Hembeck. Even before I met Fred, I enjoyed his illustrated musings in the Comics Buyer’s Guide (CBG). I met Fred in February 1980, when FantaCo, the comic book store I frequented in Albany, NY, had a signing of his second collection, Hembeck 1980.
Then I started working at FantaCo in May 1980, and I, as the mail order guy, shipped out the remaining five Hembeck magazines, plus the expanded first issue, initially published by Eclipse in the early 1980s.
Skip to 2008. Fred has compiled those seven issues, backup stories in Smilin’ Ed #1 and #4, plus a WHOLE lot more. I was in Saratoga Springs, helping Fred haul boxes of his tome to a comic book convention. It was then I received my signed copy.
Play The Game: The Book of Sports, edited by Mitchell V. Charney. It’s a 1931 book collection of stories from 1923 forward published in American Boy magazine, with articles by Red Grange, Grantland Rice, and writers I don’t know. I’ve had it since childhood, and I had a reason to pull it off the shelf as recently as September 2023.
Figuring Sh!t Out: Love, Laughter, Suicide, and Survival – Amy Biancolli (2015). Signed to me, my wife, and our daughter. About surviving the suicides in her life, including that of her husband, Christopher Ringwald. Chris had written A Day Apart: How Jews, Christians, and Muslims Find Faith, Freedom, and Joy on the Sabbath (2007); I have a copy signed to me. I got to hear him speak on the topic in my church, and I had some minor role in arranging that a few years before his tragic death.
The Sweeter the Juice: A Family Memoir in Black and White by Shirlee Taylor Haizlip. When I wrote a blog post making a passing reference in 2005 about it, I got an email from her! I wrote far more about the book in the 2008 follow-up post.
The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh. The Ninth Edition, which I believe is the last one, came out in 2007. It is a historical treasure trove of descriptions of shows I watched and others I had never heard of. Importantly, it had an index of performers, September schedules (back when fall season premieres mattered), and ratings. I have lots of reference books, notably for music, but this is the most readable.
Growing Up by Russell Baker. I read it several times in the 1990s. His essays in the New York Times I read regularly.
What is truth
Lying by Sissela Bok. I’ve stolen this Amazon review because it captures the book so well: “Sissela Bok challenges the reader to consider the effects of lying on the individual, relationships, and society. The author systematically covers the spectrum of lies from ‘little white lies’ to avoid an unwanted dinner invitation to the arguably moral lies required to survive in a totalitarian state – taking the reader step by step through a journey of increasingly complex moral questions. The book argues that lying, as it is often conducted in society, often lacks the moral basis of those few cases where it can be justified.”
How To Be An Antiracist (2019) by Ibram X. Kendi. As I noted here, I was taken by his owning up to his tacit misogyny, homophobia, and classism before he finally figured it out.
This is despite some apparent mismanagement, as reported in the Boston Globe:
“The numbers were staggering: nearly $55 million raised in just three years. And the ambitions were no less lofty. The Center for Antiracist Research, launched by celebrity author and activist Dr. Ibram X. Kendi at the height of the 2020 racial justice movement, strove to “solve [the] intractable racial issues of our time.”
“But… that dream has come crashing down, with more than half the center’s staff laid off, a new and far less ambitious vision revealed, and an inquiry launched by Boston University, which houses the center, into its culture and ‘grant management practices.'”
Everything on this list might or might not be on another iteration. But the one item has been on since I first read it in late 2011. Life Itself by Roger Ebert. As I wrote here, “I decided that, if I were ever to write my own autobiography – not that I necessarily would – it should be modeled on this book.”