Monday, February 8, 2010

On Salinger, Books, Etc.

My sister, Linda Peckel, recently did a blog post on her “Arts Enclave Blog” ( about some unbreakable rules for writers. The post was inspired by the death of J.D. Salinger, who was a genius at one of those rules--a distinctive writing style or voice. No one else wrote the way he did. (By the way, if you haven’t checked out Linda’s blog, I urge you to do so—not only because she’s my sister, but because she’s pursued writing in one form or another for decades and knows what of she speaks!)

I’m no novelist, but I do love reading fiction. It doesn’t even have to be great. One of my greatest pleasures in life is spending a Saturday or Sunday morning reading in bed with my dog curled up beside me. Bliss! Currently, I’m excited by the stack of books I have on my beside table and my Kindle—Pat Conroy’s South of Broad, John Irving’s Last Night in Twisted River, Cathleen Schine’s The Weissmans of Westport, Kathryn Sockett’s The Help, and the newest, Sarah Blake’s The Postmistress. So many books, so little time!

And if you'll indulge me a little bit more, here’s a list of some of my favorite books. I’m not saying they’re all classics or the best-written, but they’re books that have stayed with me throughout time:

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb
Straight Man by Richard Russo
One True Thing by Anna Quindlen
Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
The World According to Garp by John Irving
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Hunger Point by Jillian Medoff
About a Boy by Nick Hornby
Everything Changes by Jonathan Tropper
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Piccoult

Any favorites of your own to recommend?


Sheryl said...

Nancy, I agree that reading curled up in bed with your dog by your side is one of life's greatest pleasures. Thanks for the list. I just read This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper (I had not heard of him) and it made me cackle out loud. I definitely will read the one you recommend. My new favorite: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. Just amazing. And an old favorite - Barbara Kingsolver's Poisonwood Bible.

Peggy Bourjaily said...

What would I do without books?? I loved Franny and Zooey most out of Salinger's work. Will definitely check out your sister's site!

marthaandme said...

I loved The Lovely Bones. A Woman of Independent Means is one of my quirky favorites.

Christine said...

Books are just the best, needless to say. I have always preferred curling up in bed with a book to doing almost anything else! My son is becoming an avid reader now and it's wonderful to see him learn the pleasures of reading - so many other worlds contained in the pages of a book (or in a Kindle!).

Linda said...

Nancy read a lot of books my son was reading as he went through school, just so he'd have someone to talk about them with--books like My Sister's Keeper, and before that, the Harry Potters (I would not add them to the list.)
I would add a few others, though, Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, and Jitterbug Perfume, by Tom Robbins, who it utterly hilarious. I like Barbara Kingsolver too.

Nancy Monson said...

I named my dog Zoey (sic Zooey) after Salinger's book!

I enjoyed This Is Where I Leave You, too. I bought Everything Changes at Target a couple of years ago and didn't get around to reading it for months. When I did, I was hooked. Tropper writes from the male perspective so well and so engagingly. After Everything Changes, I quickly read all his other books and enjoyed them so much I wrote him a fan letter!

Alexandra Grabbe said...

Another vote for The Lovely Bones here. I also really enjoyed the discovery of a young writer named Sana Krasikov, whose first collection of short stories, One More Year, won her some incredible prize: $100,000, I think. She is now working on a novel.

Thanks for mentioning your sister's site. I will definitely check it out.

Judy Stock said...

Nancy- love your books list. Right off the top, read your #1 pick, Gone with the Wind when I was 14-years old.

and, like you, I love nothing more than hunkering down under a quilt with a big stack of magazines and non-fiction books. I can't remember when I last read fiction. But I do have a huge stack of non-fiction waiting for me.

Alisa Bowman said...

More recently I loved The Help. Not as recently To Kill a Mockingbird. The Alchemist is also a favorite.

Nancy Monson said...

To Kill a Mockingbird--of course! I forgot that one, and the movie too. Atticus Finch.

Harkening back to my childhood, I also loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Deborah Knox said...

I've been a fan of Salinger's for years and now I understand why!! Thank you for sharing this information and highlighting some of your other favorites. I find my inspiration coming from so many different sources and this blog is one I want to follow.

Meredith said...

The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender; Shot in the Heart by Mikal Gilmore; all the stories of Raymond Carver and of Tobias Wolff.
I have also discovered that I love listening to longer works in the car, on CD.

MyKidsEatSquid said...

I would add a Room with a View by Virginia Woolf--one of my all time favorites (and hey, a quick read). Frankenstein surprised me and became a favorite. The Jungle Books, much darker than most people realize and finally, not a book, but a poem I could read over and over again--Kubla Khan (I even have this crazy pop-up book of the poem).

Mary said...

Nancy, loved your list and have to agree that snuggling in bed with a good book and a dog is one of life's sweetest pleasures. I also remember how much I enjoyed curling up on the couch with my son, our legs entangled, as he read his book and I read mine. Now that he's all grown up and has left home, I settle for the dog.

Lots of favorites but To Kill a Mockingbird, Madame Bovary, yes ... A Tree Grows in Brooklyn ... and absolutely anything by Ann Tyler. As a teenager I found The Catcher in the Rye deliciously sinful.

Kris said...

Oh, books. I'm not much of a Salinger fan, but do have some favorites to add:
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, and The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.

Jennifer Margulis said...

Toni Morrison's Sula.

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Melanie McMinn said...

Any of Pat Conroy's books, but I'm with you on The Prince of Tides. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. And when I'm really down Heinlein's Time Enough For Love always helps.

Susan Johnston said...

I loved My Sister's Keeper and The Great Gatsby. To Kill a Mockingbird is another fave!

Katherine Lewis said...

Anything by Barbara Kingsolver or Margaret Atwood. My favorites (respectively) are the Bean Trees and Cat's Eye.

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