I've begun participating in Swap-bot, a website that arranges swaps of ecclectic things, like poems on postcards, or, in this case, letters listing your ten favorite books. There are swaps that appeal to people who do scrapbooking and other "crafty" things. I read about it on the Artful Quilter's Web Ring. It's great for people who enjoy getting mail -- real snail mail even from strangers but with expected sort of things, I'm in the midst of getting poems on postcards, supposed to get a total of five, and I've got four so far. A fascinating variety! Also, of course, I had to send five which I did. Who sends to who is efficiently arranged by the Swap-bot genies.
So the current one that I've just prepared is a list of my ten "favorite" books -- a true impossibility. But I complied ten [sort of] with notes on why. Here they are:
Lord of the Rings, and The Hobbit. The perfect epic fantasy; so engrossing I read the whole thing aloud to my daughters --something like 1700 pages -- not once but twice. We loved the movies too, but with caveats, of course, because no movie can equal our imaginative vision.
Mary Oliver's poems. She's been called simplistic, but she's also won the Pulitzer Prize and is the most purchased poet in the America -- because she looks at nature with a clear and sympathetic but not saccharine view.
View With a Grain of Sand, the only collection I've read of Wislawa Szyborska's poetry. A Nobel prize winner, this Polish woman has a wicked sense of humor, a deep sense of humanity, a clear, European view of politics.
Huckleberry Finn and Moby Dick -- the two candidates I put forward for Great American Novel. Very different, totally American, breathtakingly brilliant accomplishments in their different ways.
I Ching, Chinese ancient Book of Changes, to me the best of all wisdom books. I do not use it for prediction, I go to it at least weekly for it's balanced Taoist philosophy filtered through Confucius and Richard Wilhelm -- other translations seem shallow or pretentious, Wilhelm is poetic, if dated in some ways.
When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chodron -- and all the rest of her slender books based on her Buddhist point of view but without the jargon, just good sense and eternal verities. I thank Gary Hill for telling me to read her. I now tell all sorts of other people to read her.
Any book by Michael Pissell, a French "adventurer" who loves and understands Tibetan culture better than any other non-Tibetan I've ever read. I heard him speak and his knowledge and passion are wonderful.
Brother Karamazov which is my candidate for greatest novel ever written; but it get juggled against Don Quxiote. Totally different, of course, one darkly serious, the other sunny with a satiric bite.
Finally a choice more contemporary and popular: Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods because it starts out fall-off-your-chair funny, and then gives us a picture of the Appalachain Trail and the through hikers who are a breed apart, I wish I'd become a serious walker early in life -- I would have loved to do the Trail.
There are probably a hundred other books I could add to the list; this is what came to mind in response to the Swat-bot challenge. It will be interesting to read the two lists that will be sent to me. I suspect it will be less ecclectic -- but then I could be wrong. It's never wise to prejudge others.
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