What’s on your bookshelf? What are you thinking of reading next?
You’ll never guess where I got a great list of book recommendations recently: Perkin’s Restaurant in Bloomington, MN! Yes, Perkin’s, home of the American-Flag-Flown-as-Advertising-Billboard and Pigs in a Blanket.
A couple dozen of us gathered in a back room of Perkin’s, set with tables for four, a gas fireplace, a dedicated waitress, and a pleasant wallpaper border simulating the spines of books on a bookshelf which, if real, would have been suspended about seven feet up the wall.
The breakfast event featured Charlie Quimby and Susan Cushman, honoring Quimby’s new book, Monument Road, and Cushman’s new post-retirement career as blogger (“See You After Work“) and editor. We attendees were asked to introduce ourselves with our name and connection to Carleton College (MN), and offering the title of a recent book that had changed the way we approach life.
Under the gun, many of us wiggled out of the assignment by naming the most recent book we’d read, a classic that jumped to mind, or perhaps a book that was supposed to challenge our behavior or world view (whether it did or not). The result was an intriguing assortment of fiction and non-fiction, biography, psychology, and social commentary. I can’t testify to any more than that; this list is random, but explicitly the off-the-cuff suggestions of a group of college alum who gathered early on a winter’s weekday at Perkin’s (the one on the frontage road, under the flag).
Most of these immediately appealed to me (and I’ve read three on the list already). I hope you’ll find something here, too. These are presented in no particular order, just as I noted them.
Monument Road by Charlie Quimby.
The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Provence by Martin Gayford.
Bernard Beruch: My own story by Bernard Baruch.
Neither Wolf nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder by Kent Nerburn (one in a series.)
The Round House by Louise Erdrich.
Mrs Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn.
The Summer Without Men by Siri Hustvedt.
A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan by Michael Kazin.
Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character by Jonathon Shay.
East of Eden by John Steinbeck.
The Broken Cord by Michael Dorris.
Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon.
Stop Without Quitting by Joseph Danysh
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (This was my contribution.)
Your comments on these books or suggestions for other titles–specifically that have altered your life–are most welcome.
3 responses to “Book Recommendations”
Why did the sense of an ending alter your life? Mine would be West with the Night. After reading this, I will go to Africa, read more books on Africa, and it has rekindled my adventurous flame. It has shed light on the beauty and mystery in the silence of being alone and the slippery slope which can lead to loneliness. There is such introspection in removing yourself. I’ve spent quite a bit of time pondering the man dying in the opening of the book. Even though she didn’t want to be there, what it meant to him to have human contact at that time and the feeling of detachment, how random characters in your life affect you and become more important and memorable when you are so far away from what you used to know. And the fact that she brought him comfort and a sense of delight by telling him a lie about an old acquaintance who finally was married. And of course I love her dog and her pet zebra…I love this book and am still not finished with it.
Ronda, thanks so much for the added book recommendation. You are my most reliable resource for book recommendations! The Sense of an Ending really didn’t change my life or outlook; it was just the first thing that came to mind. But it stood out for me because of its writing, its exceptional internal dialogue, and as a lesson in living a mindful life. The main (male) character is in the midst of a midlife crisis, brought on mostly by the fact that he has so little self-awareness, not to mention awareness of his wife or daughter. His relationships have been, like everything in his life, pretty much taken for granted. That’s as I recall the book, at least. Very good read.
The strange thing is I read it and I don’t remember it at all! I am trying to recall what “you just don’t understand” was about – something about someone’s mother…It’s sort of coming back to me… I’ll need to page through it again. That’s why I asked. 🙂