I have always enjoyed making lists. Often it’s for the appearance of organization amid the unkemptness of my mind which would prefer to roll up all of my to-dos and have-dones and should-I’s into a lumpy, shapeless ball and sit atop of it majestically while eating macaroni. But sometimes, faking that you have your life together (even if it’s only to yourself and your phone’s Memo app) can produce the best results. Thus, the lists persist.
When I was assigned this project, I glanced at my various book-holding mechanisms with no clue as to how I would summarize my collection until I remembered my love of lists (which, I admit, took much longer than one would probably expect).
THE ONES I WILL NEVER READ (or touch, other than to move):
Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
I think my exact wording to my mom was, “If I’m going to be an English major, if this is what I want to do with my life, I have to at least own Atlas Shrugged.” I own it.
Robert Newton Peck, A Day No Pigs Would Die
A friend from my early college days lent this one to me, and I admit, I did attempt to read it. On the plane to my hometown, Las Vegas. It was a two-hour flight and that book put me to sleep within the first two pages. I have not returned to it since nor returned it to him, because I never figured out how to tell him that his enthusiasm wasn’t enough to convince me to read it.
THE ONES I WILL ALWAYS RETURN TO:
Charles Bukowski, Love is a Dog from Hell
Bukowski’s raw, unforgiving language always causes me to come back and reread his poems. I remember letting a friend borrow it and his response being, “He talks about horse racing too much.” Though I agree with this sentiment, Bukowski’s obsession with such a passive hobby speaks to the sadness and alienation he suffered from.
Gwendolyn Brooks, Blacks
Unlike many of these books, Blacks was a recent addition to my collection. I was lucky enough to take a course on her at my university—lucky because I might have never found her otherwise, as she is (somehow) forgotten amongst discussions of poetry and literature. I have never spent so much energy on a single line of poetry before, and I loved every second, as the meanings in her words ebb and flow each time you read them. She is truly extraordinary.
Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions
No novel has made me laugh out loud so often while also causing me to ponder the absolute frivolousness of humanity. Vonnegut’s careful balance of cynicism and hopeful humor has placed and kept him at my Number One Author spot for years.
Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves
I often title a lot of books “The Most Influential One,” but House of Leaves took over my soul for the couple of months I spent poured over its contents. Sometimes, when casually reading, I tend to skim longer paragraphs and don’t worry myself over the spaces between each word. To get through this one, to enjoy everything it offers (and doesn’t offer), one must be patient. I cannot wait until I have enough free time to reread it, to make more notes, to get sucked in again.
THE ONES LOST (but definitely not forgotten, and pined for every day):
None of these are technically lost, but you get the idea.
Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange
George Orwell, 1984
Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
These four books, among a stack or two of others, are currently waiting for me in an unlabeled box in my parents’ garage. When I drove up to Bellingham from Las Vegas, I chose to leave some things behind and tried to only bring along books that I hadn’t yet read. I have always been a book lover, but I read these four during my first few years in high school and they had a lasting effect on me as a reader, a writer, and a searcher for all things innovative and strange and impactful.
Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Remember that friend I mentioned a while ago who gave me the farm novel? In return, I gave him my copy of one of my favorite books, one that builds up slowly but demands your full attention, one whose ending carved out my stomach and replaced it with a 20-pound weight that I carried for days, one whose movie adaptation actually does an incredible job of portraying. But, similarly to how I have grown apathetic regarding returning his book, he has with mine. My hope is that my friend has read it and is too attached to Kesey’s words to give it back. I know I would feel the same.
Eva Weidenfeld is a senior at Western Washington University. She will complete her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature with additional concentrations in Film Studies and Sociology in June of 2019. She is a reader for the 55th edition of WWU’s student-run Jeopardy Magazine. When she isn’t focusing on school work or editing gigs, you can find her at the local arthouse cinemas or somewhere scenic with a book (and a beer) in hand.