Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

“Sticky” Books

My friend, Nancy S. Thompson, challenged me on Facebook the other day. The challenge? Name ten books that have stayed with me through the years, without overthinking.

Of course, I’m not big on doing this sort of thing on Facebook. To me, Facebook is  best used for posting funny pictures, and sitting back and making witty comments on other people’s posts. Also, I am big on overthinking, so to the blog it goes. Here’s my list, which will not make it to ten. These are in no particular order, except maybe the first one:

1. Salem’s Lot, Stephen King. I read this when I was about ten years old, a critical time in my life when I was stepping into that nether world between ‘kid’ and ‘teen’. It didn’t exactly make me say “I want to be a writer when I grow up!” but it was part of the fuel that burned so brightly when my sixth grade teacher struck a particular spark a few months later. King in general has been a huge influence on me, and this was the one that started it for me. It’s still my favorite vampire book.

2. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving. This one may actually be my favorite book of all-time, and I’m not good at picking favorites of anything! It’s definitely my favorite Irving book. It’s a great story full of unique characters, and Irving hadn’t quite gotten so hung up on delivering lectures in literature yet. The book is thought-provoking, frequently funny, and still makes me tear up. There, I admitted it.

3. Ever Since Darwin, Stephen Jay Gould. I first ‘discovered’ Gould while leafing through Natural History magazines at a summer job. When the new issues would come in, the first thing I went to was Gould’s column, This View of Life. Gould was a brilliant scientist who wrote about science, evolution, Darwin, and life. He did this in a way that was intelligent without being pretentious, and never talked down to his audience. Gould’s essays could seem to wander off topic, yet he always wrote with a point, and those things that seemed to have nothing to do with the topic at hand always made sense in the end. He was a writer I very much admired, and very much wanted to be like.

4. Arctic Dreams, Barry Lopez. Someone loaned me this book many years ago and I loved it so much, I had to buy it myself. This is a beautifully-written account of an inhospitable (for many of us) world, an excellent account of its people and its wildlife, and how land and climate shapes life. This is the sort of writing I aspire to, but, sadly, don’t reach.

5. Hamlet, William Shakespeare. It’s got everything you want in literature–Great language! Humor! Treachery! Revenge! Hamlet is one of the most maddening characters in literature–you want to grab him by his tunic and slap him around and yell, “Stop dithering and get on with it already!”  You want to run him through for what he does to the hapless Ophelia, not to mention the ill-fated Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Yet that maddening element of his personality–his inability to make up his mind when face with a huge decision–is what makes him relatable. After all, killing a king is not something you should rush into. Sadly, his desire to be certain leads to a pretty big body count of (mostly) innocent victims. My favorite Shakespeare.

OK, I’m done, well short of ten, but that’s okay. Now, I had considered trying to turn this into a meme or whatever, but I’m too lazy for that, and I don’t want to burden anyone by tagging them. So I’ll ask: How about you? What books have stuck with you through the years? Feel free to list them below, or make your own post (and link it in the comments). Have a great weekend, all!

12 Responses

  1. It's funny you list Salem's Lot. I'm using that as a book my non-vampire character is reading (and the story scares him) before he's actually introduced to his future love interest – a vampire! Haha!!

    These are at the top of my head, which apparently can't hold all that much at one time (haha!), otherwise it would take me hours to come up with a more reflective one!:

    The Stand – Stephen King
    Lightning – Dean Koontz
    To Kill a Mockingbird – Lee Harper
    Twilight – Stephenie Meyer
    Sweet Savage Love – Rosemary Rogers
    The Flame and the Flower – Kathleen Woodiwiss

    Okay, I guess that's all my head held for the moment! 🙂

  2. Oh, my heck! You read that when you were 10? Salem's Lot scared the crap out of me. I had to give up Stephen King when I was widowed because I couldn't be the mother of two young children and be too afraid to walk down the hall at night.

    I did this on FB too. It was fun.

  3. A great list, and you've also given me a few things to check out.

    I have a hard time listing only ten. I started making a list off the top of my head and came up with 25 books in just a few seconds of thought, lol! (And I'm sure I'm missing some…)

    But here's the top ten:

    * Stranger in a Strange Land — Robert Heinlein
    * Lord of the Rings — JRR Tolkien
    * Dune — Frank Herbert
    * The Stand — Stephen King
    * Foundation — Isaac Asimov
    * In Cold Blood — Truman Capote
    * Cosmos — Carl Sagan
    * Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance — Robert Pirsig
    * The World According to Garp — John Irving
    * Mario Puzo — The Godfather

    And then the 15 other honorable-mentions:

    Farenheit 451 — Ray Bradbury
    Ringworld — Larry Niven
    Gorky Park — Martin Cruz Smith
    Raymond Chandler — The Big Sleep
    To Kill a Mockingbird — Harper Lee
    One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest — Ken Kesey
    Shogun — James Clavell
    Atlas Shrugged — Ayn Rand
    Lord of the Flies — William Goldring
    The Call of the Wild — Jack London
    The Maltese Falcon — Dashiel Hammett
    Animal Farm — George Orwell
    Catch-22 — Joseph Heller
    Slaughterhouse Five — Kurt Vonnegut
    A Clockwork Orange — Anthony Burgess
    The Hunt for Red October — Tom Clancy

    Even as a kid I was a voracious reader and each of these books has influenced me greatly, and have definitely stuck with me. Many of them have been read multiple times — that's how I pulled the top ten out — they were the ones that have been read the most.

  4. Great list, and I love that King tops it! I like a number of books on Chris's list too. I think Blatty's The Exorcist would top my list. Not because I think it's the best, but because it was the first horror novel that really scared me (this was early 70s, pre-King & Koontz – yes, I'm that old). I think Blatty launched mainstream horror with that book, followed by The Other and The Amityville Horror.

  5. You got halfway to the mark, so good work! Picking favourites is always hard. I'm half asleep, so I won't think too hard right now, but the first two books that come to mind as my 'sticky' books would have to be 'Jenny Angel' by Margret Wild and Anne Spudvilas and 'Dragon Rider' by Cornelia Funke. I think the best books I've read so far have been in the past year or two and are still too fresh in my mind to know if they're 'sticky' or not. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, JeffO! I believe the saying is that there is a method in the madness where Hamlet is concerned. Have a nice day 🙂

  6. Great list, Chris, thanks for sharing. There are a number of ones on your list that would be on mine if I had kept on going. Some high impact stuff, for sure.

  7. The Exorcist is a great book–and the movie is pretty darn scary, too. I actually grew up not too far from Amityville. And we did make a 'pilgrimage' at least once to gawk at the house, I confess.

  8. Thanks, Bonnee. Method, yes, but a hell of a lot of collateral damage! I think I started 'Dragon Rider' once, but never really got into it. Hadn't heard of the other. Thanks for sharing!

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