Have you noticed how books always lead to more books? A book cannot exist, like an island, all alone. There are the bookish influences, the biblio-genealogy, the future books propagated by the original book. One book that I love is Richard Wright's Black Boy--if you haven't read it, you should. Wright, hungry for knowledge, devours books, and his list is a good one: Gertrude Stein, H.L. Mencken, Zane Grey, Sinclair Lewis, Theodore Dreiser. Here is an excerpt from Black Boy on the opium-like dream of a reader:
The plots and stories in the novels did not interest me so much as the point of view revealed. I gave myself over to each novel without reserve, without trying to criticize it; it was enough for me to see and feel something different. Reading was like a drug, a dope. The novels created moods in which I lived for days.
That is a reader living in the fever-dream of books, a dream that will change him, change the way he sees the world and the people in it, and turn him into a writer.
Being a voracious, omnivorous reader, I can't imagine boiling it all down to favorites. The more I read the more I love, although like a lover in the throes of a brand-new affair, I don't like to waste my time--I don't like boring books, pointless books, or badly written books.
Who are my favorites? Richard Wright and Zora Neale Hurston (I can feel them fighting already; I love them both, why couldn't they get along?). Charlotte Bronte, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov. Toni Morrison, Louise Erdrich, Elizabeth Strout, Alice Munro, Andre Dubus, John Gardner, Anthony Trollope. Raymond Chandler and Rainer Maria Rilke. The only place they can all happily coexist is the curious ecosystem of my brain.
This is my 100th post, so I just thought I'd let myself go in a stream-of-consciousness monologue. Did I answer any non-burning questions?