Sorry, I Don’t Have a Top 10 for Books

BooksOver the last few weeks I was asked on three separate occasions to list the 10 books that have stayed with me. I don’t have 10 books. Heck, I don’t have a single favorite book or author and hate when those questions come up in interviews.

I remain amazed at people who read and reread books to the point where they can quote lengthy passages. Similarly, there are those who can cite several works and authors who have influenced them as creators or just helping shape their worldview.

Although I have been reading all my life and continue to consume words regularly, I read to learn and be entertained. There’s always a new author to sample or new subject to read about so the concept of going back to old favorites is alien to me. Now that I am a teacher, I have to reread works and am reading them through an entirely different lens. It’s been an interesting process, especially as I have reread works I haven’t read since I was in high school such as Romeo & Juliet and The Great Gatsby. Life has prepared me to experience these books in new ways and it has certainly better prepared me to teach them. So, maybe I should reread some works – if I can ever catch up on the new stuff that tempts me.

As I writer, I have turned to other works to review material either for non-fiction or to get myself into a certain mindframe. For example, I would read from Aaron Sorkin West Wing scripts for some projects, psyching myself into being as thoughtful a writer with my characters. Over the summer, I reread some Arthur Conan Doyle each time I prepared to tackle Murder at Sorrow’s Nest.

And depending upon the circumstances, different works are recalled to guide me. During my middle and later years at DC Comics, I had taken to reading business books such as In Search of Excellence and Good to Great which helped me view my career and company through new eyes. When tackling fantasy, I think of the authors whose works I have enjoyed and so on.

But to limit myself to a top 10 list is just not possible. It could be I am not as deep a reader as I need to be or am consumed with the sense of completion (hence the tracking of my reading since 1997) in lieu of actual absorption of the content. Sure, I have favorite writers like Robert B. Parker, George R.R. Martin, and Roger Zelazny. Others I would follow regularly until I fell out of the habit (such as Brian Dooling) or their work stopped being compelling enough to follow (Stephen King, John Grisham, Stephen J. Cannell).

It could be that the very wide variety of works, subjects, and authors also makes such a list impossible. For whatever reason, I am flattered to be challenged in this way but cannot participate.

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