I recently dropped out of several committee assignments at school. One committee slot I preserved is the Book Challenge Committee. I get to read and review and defend any book that is challenged by a parent at school. After reading this guest post, I think Josh would be right at home on that committee with me and my colleagues. I'm excited to introduce his guest post on Compost Happens.Three Books I Couldn’t Put Down And What They Have In Common (or not)
by Josh Hanagarne, World’s Strongest Librarian
I’m constantly getting asked for lists of my favorite books. When I give them, people are often surprised by how scattered the lists are. There’s very little apparent rhyme or reason—it can be hard to draw connections between the books I love.
Let’s try to connect some dots. Here are three books I could not put down.
1. Lord Of The Flies by William Golding
You probably know the story. A large group of children are stranded on an island after a plane crash. They try to govern themselves for a while but it doesn’t go too well. Eventually they splinter into two groups—you could call them the “savages” and the “civilized.”
By the end of the book one group is actually trying to kill the other. Now remember, we’re talking about children here. This is why someone is always trying to remove Lord Of The Flies from library shelves. And I get it, to a point: this is nasty stuff.
And yet, I read this book every year. I’m not interested in the Cold War parallels or the lofty commentary on violence, our primitive instincts, the failure of governments, etc.
So…why? Why do I love it? I just do. I read it every year because I can’t figure out how not to.
2. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Again, this is one I read every single year. If there is a book with more hidden meaning out there, I haven’t found it. Lewis Carroll was a mathematician, a lover of riddles, a playful wordsmith, and a genius. It’s that simple.
I can flip to any page of this book at any time and find something new. Something that makes me say, “Hmm…” Or that makes me laugh out loud.
I love the art. I love the images. The characters are, for me, the most unforgettable and striking in all of literature.
The Caterpillar with the hookah. The White Rabbit. The Queen of Hearts. The Cheshire Cat. Just thinking about it again makes me smile and also makes my hair stand on end.
Oh, and this book was banned as well, in China. Seems they didn’t take kindly to talking animals. Representing animals as having human traits is a big no-no.
3. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Catch-22 sort of has a story, but that’s not the point at all. The experience of reading it is all that matters. I’ve never been so constantly surprised on every page. Or even in every paragraph. This book took a long time for Heller to write, and it shows in the craftsmanship.
I read it at least once a year because, again—I can’t figure out how not to. Catch-22 makes me feel good. It’s that simple.
It also happens to be the funniest thing I’ve ever read, with the possible exception of A Confederacy Of Dunces. But this is so hard to talk about coherently—I know as many people hate Catch-22 as those who love it. There are people who think it is the least funny thing they’ve ever read.
The story, as it were, is about a group of people during World War II. Seriously, that’s about it. But what a group of people! Catch-22 is satire personified. Every single character is an indictment of some ludicrous aspect of humanity, war, bureaucracy, and language.
The book is occasionally challenged on the grounds of inappropriate language or anti-war sentiment.
What We’ve Learned (or not)
The books I can’t figure out how to put down are usually:
Banned or challenged
More revealing the more I read them
Like a drug. If a book makes me feel good, I want it. I’m a sick man.
Good luck making sense of all this! But seriously, go read these books, for the first time, or just one more time.
Get Stronger, Get Smarter, Live Better…Every Day
About the Author: Josh Hanagarne is the twitchy giant behind World’s Strongest Librarian, a blog with advice about living with Tourette’s Syndrome, kettlebells, book recommendations, buying pants when you’re 6’8”, old-time strongman training, and much more. Please subscribe to Josh’s RSS Updates to stay in touch. He's bookmarked on my laptop; it's worth your time to visit his blog.