Ironically, one of the gifts of cancer has been time, much of which I’ve used to read.

I’ve read more in the past 3 years than I had before in my entire adult life, even if you count all the books I was supposed to have read in college.

My Kindle has made pleasant the hours spent in hospitals, waiting rooms, transfusion chairs, “house-arrest” and, more recently, traveling to and from everywhere. Anyway, a remarkable new friend who I’ve come to know by email as a (long story) result of my medical adventures suggested that we exchange a list of books “that have moved and pleased us over the years.” I initially tried to come up with my ten all-time favorites, 5 fiction, 5 non-fiction. I couldn’t narrow it down, however, so the list quickly grew to 10 and 10, at which point I decided that I could include several more by excluding classics and great biographies, rationalizing that they would otherwise hog the lists. But upon looking over my expanded list, I was still not sure it identified my true favorites, and worried, too, that people would find my list unimpressive. So I came up with what I convinced myself was a sensible escape hatch:

I would forget about coming up with a definitive list of impressive all-time favorites and just list some books that have “moved and pleased” – and taught me.

Almost all were recommended by friends, which is how I choose the books I read. So I thought I’d share the list with old friends, as well as my new one, and ask them what’s on their lists.

Fiction

  • Blindness—Saramago
  • A Soldier of the Great War—Helprin
  • The Poisonwood Bible—Kingsolver
  • The Invisible Bridge—Orringer
  • The Son—Meyer
  • Shadow of the Wind—Ruiz Zafon
  • Love in the Time of Cholera—Garcia Marquez
  • Light in August—Faulkner
  • Tender is the Night—Fitzgerald
  • Anna Karenina—Tolstoy

Non Fiction

  • Flyboys—Bradley (Remarkably balanced account of the War in the Pacific, including the evolution of the Japanese military that perpetrated the well-known atrocities)
  • My Promised Land—Shavit (Ditto regarding the Israel/ Palestine conundrum)
  • The Looming Tower—Wright (Eye-opening history of the evolution of Islamic terrorism; gave me a new understanding of the world we live in and what we’re up against)
  • The Longest Day—Ryan (highlights the complexity of D-Day and the incredible bravery of the young soldiers who pulled it off)
  • The Earth Shall Weep—Wilson (Comprehensive account of the extermination of Native Americans from the east coast to the west)
  • Devil in the Grove—King (The often-forgotten horrors of government-perpetrated pre-Brown violent racism, and the development of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund)
  • The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace—Hobbs (Moving and enlightening bio of an extraordinary young black American rising from the Newark ghetto to Yale, and back)
  • The Devil in the White City—Larson (Entertaining and suspenseful tale of the legendary team that developed the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and the serial killings surrounding it)
  • No Ordinary Times and Team of Rivals—Kearns Goodwin (FDR and Lincoln – extraordinary portraits of the momentous eras in which they led and the personalities and leadership qualities that drove their success)

What books have “moved and pleased” you over the years?

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