According to poet and poetry guru Al Black, “It was difficult to choose six books that are my favorites, because tomorrow I would choose differently. I chose based upon how the books resonated with and within me and how they still resonate with and within me; the list comes the residue left in my gut and in my dreams.”
These are words that we think ring true for most of us.
What are your 6 favorite summer reads?
Transformations – Anne Sexton
I had read a poem or two of her work, but when I read ‘Transformations’ I came away shaking. Here were poems that saw beneath the superficiality of fairy tales and saw the truth of the tortured souls the main protagonists were and in knowing them I knew more about the people around me and myself. This book of poetry still has the ability to show me something new about Anne, other human beings and myself – I pick it up every few years and reread it.
At Play in the Fields of the Lord – Peter Matthieson
Peter Matthieson is an under-appreciated American author; all of his works are unique and compelling reads. I read ‘At Play in the Fields of the Lord’ at a time when I was going through major life changes and this novel spoke to me in ways that goes beyond the printed page. Great story and great questions.
Beware the movie made from the book was awful.
Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
Dear John , I wish I could of sat, shared a smoke, a cup of coffee and talked with you. Al
‘Tortilla Flat’ and ‘Cannery Row’ were small bits of revelation, but ‘Grapes of Wrath’ came down from Mount Sinai still crackling with thunder. The description of banks and corporations recreated me as a left-leaning humanist and Tom Joad’s, short soliloquy saying good bye to his mother, pushed me onto a path of social activism armed with only a shovel.
Narcissus and Goldmund – Hermann Hesse
I have read all of Hesse’s novels and poems. ‘Narcissus and Goldmund’ is small navel that can be read in one sitting it illustrates the duality that exists in each of us. This small novel helped me become painfully aware of my sensual & freedom seeking side and how it collides with my desire for contentment, peace and living a spiritual life. Precisely at that point of collision is where I am most alive. This book, as with most of Hesse’s books, is a story of the different major aspects of his personality personified in the characters of the story as they work through the questions they pose to one another. Great read.
Memories, Dreams and Reflections – C. G. Jung as told to Aniela Jaffe
I first became interested in Dr. Jung because of his close friendship with and mutual admiration of Hermann Hesse. Memories, Dreams and Reflections is Jung’s telling his life story, but not in a chronology; in this book I learned who C. G, Jung was and in knowing Jung I learned that I am not a chronology of events either, but rather a personification of my memories, dreams and reflections and that these may be more real now that when they occurred decades ago.
The Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
Ralph Ellison was a black writer of the mid-20th century who changed American literature’s perception of what a novel can do and be.
‘The Invisible Man’ tells a story of black man as he journeys through America; it is at once funny, harsh, sardonic and full of suspense. It is one of the masterpieces of 20th century American literature – this should be on every high school reading list.
Note from Al: I look back at my list and realize that Anne Sexton is the only woman writer on this list – I don’t know what this says of me, but I will take note and ponder why and maybe learn from it. A.B.