The Ten Books That Have Stuck With Me

Facebook memes are usually the intellectual equivalent of getting gum stuck in your pubic hair, but any meme that’s about books is probably one that’s okay by me.

So, the meme has sometimes mutated to “ten of my favorite books,” but fuck that. Favorite isn’t that meaningful of a metric. I prefer the original meme I saw going around — books that “stayed with you.” Like a haunting ghost.

1.) Swan Song, Robert McCammon

It was Boy’s Life that made me want to be a writer, and it’s Mister Slaughter that disturbs me the most, but while a lot of folks love epic fantasy, I fell in love with epic horror reading Swan Song. Actually, Swan Song was my gateway into horror — to King, Koontz, Barker, Brite, and beyond. (Also, thanks to my wonderful sister, I have a copy of the illustrated first edition.)

2.) Blackburn, Bradley Denton

Forget Dexter. Go read Blackburn. How does a boy become a serial killer? It’s grim, hilarious, sad, scary, sweet, and back to grim again. It run laps around most other books and is some truly amazing writing. Denton’s a helluva prose-master, good as Lansdale.

3.) Beloved, Toni Morrison

Beloved is at first blush a horror novel. The horror of slavery. The ghost (real or imagined) of a dead child. Elegant, astounding work. (I actually got to meet the author when I was in college.)

4.) Ulysses, James Joyce

It’s a book so big you could use it to kill a man. It’s long and rambling and strange. It also contains playful, powerful prose and moments of mundane bullshit elevated to mythic horseshit. It’s an astounding read. A hard slog, but worth it if you can manage. Finnegan’s Wake is also a book that will stay with you, provided you don’t mind trying to read a book that may or may not just be a cuckoo idea virus scrawled madly onto paper.

5.) The Southern Reach Trilogy, Jeff VanderMeer

Talked about this one last week. Just shut up and go read it.

6.) Exquisite Corpse, Poppy Z. Brite

This book is super-gross. By which I mean — grisly, gory, sex with dead bodies. It’s also written with such beauty, and crafted with such love, that it’s an astounding achievement. A tough book. Worth every word. All of my Brite books are a gift. All her books are horror written in neon, blood, hairspray, lighter fluid, sex juice.

7.) The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood

It feels like we’re living in its prequel at times.

8.) Homicide: A Year On The Killing Streets, David Simon

If hard-ass journalism had a baby with Greek tragedy, you’d get this. This is also the book that effectively parented both the television shows Homicide and The Wire.

9.) The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien

Spare, tough like jerky, and a very personal look at Viet Nam and its soldiers.

10.) Pandemonium, Daryl Gregory

Is it even fair to call this a demonic possession book? I dunno. Whatever. It’s amazing. I remember reading this while on a plane (to Hawaii, I think), and it vacuumed this into my eyeballs and it buried its head under my skin like a tick.

Runners-up: Shining Girls (Lauren Beukes), Twelve-Fingered Boy (John Hornor Jacobs — actually, anything by JHJ), All the Rage (Courtney Summers), Heart-Shaped Box (Joe Hill), Dark Tower (Stephen King), Raven (Charles Grant), Sorrow Floats (Tim Sandlin), A Dirty Job (Christopher Moore), The Adventurist (Robert Young Pelton), Pecked to Death by Ducks (Tim Cahill), anything by Joe Lansdale, and probably a whole lot more I’m not remembering because dang, man, I gotta go to bed.

Your Turn

Give me 5 – 10 books that stayed with you.

Talk about why, if you can.

Go.