When people discover that I am a writer they inevitably start asking me if I have read one book or another that they particularly enjoyed. I sometimes respond with a joke: I don’t read ‘em; I just write ‘em. Unfortunately, there is a kernel of truth in every joke and I think a lot of people would be appalled if they knew how unread I really am. Of course, I am not completely illiterate. I have actually read all of the following at least once:
Les Miserable by Victor Hugo. I’m not a big fan of the classics, but once you get into them, you learn a lot about what it means to be a human being.
Hunt for the Red October by Tom Clancy. Clancy’s first and best book.
Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh. This poetic book about the horror of the Vietnam war from the perspective of the North Vietnamese will break your heart. War is hell for everyone.
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. The religious Right reads the bible. The sane Right reads Ayn Rand.
Rumor of War by Phillip Caputo. Tom Clancy writes great genre. Caputo writes great literature, which tells us about the human condition.
Something of Value by Robert Rourk. Hemingway was a phony, but Rourk depicts graphic violence so convincingly that you know he was there, fighting the Mau Mau in Kenya. Yet, he leaves us with a moral.
The Stranger by Albert Camus. I read this book when I was 20 and again when I was 40. The first time, I thought it was about nihilism. The second time I thought it was about love, the only thing that matters in life. A Nepalese sherpa explained this book to me during a climb up Mt. Rainier.