Bound to Last, Sean Manning, editor, DaCapo Press, 2010, 215 pp
This is the book that led to my first reading project of 2011. I first heard of Bound to Last because of a post on The Millions, where Susan Straight had an essay about the influence of Toni Morrison's Sula. Her words inspired me to read all the Susan Straight novels I'd missed. I sent a comment to Ms Straight and received a nice reply from her publicist pointing me to Bound to Last. It turned out that the post about Sula was excerpted straight from it.
The subtitle of this collection of essays is 30 Writers on Their Most Cherished Book. The writers include Chris Abani on Another Country by James Baldwin; Sigrid Nunez on Mythology by Edith Hamilton; Karen Joy Fowler on The Once and Future King by T H White; and many more. I was introduced to Victoria Patterson, whose first novel, This Vacant Paradise comes out in February, 2011. Karen Green, widow of David Foster Wallace, stunned me with her account of living through the first weeks after her husband's death by reading The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel.
Each essay is a memoir, a book talk, a story about the impact of a book on the writer's life. Cherished books range from The Bible through Les Miserables, The Stranger by Albert Camus, The Merck Manual to The Carpetbaggers and Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon. Almost every one of the thirty is impressive, entertaining or downright moving.
I got to thinking about what book I would call my most cherished. I decided that I have at least one for every decade of my life. It would make a good writing exercise for any voracious reader who also writes. Beyond being a celebration of the act of reading and of the physical book, as opposed to an ebook, Bound to Last summons readers to remember the books that influenced or even changed the trajectory of their lives.
What is your most cherished book?
(Bound to Last is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)