The beginning of a new year inspires us to do strange things. We decide this is the year we'll start ironing our t-shirts or learning to distinguish Wagner from Bach; we set off into January with every expectation of evolving into better people by the time the year is out. However, the New Year's Resolution is a curious beast, and mid-January usually finds us wearing wrinkled shirts and listening to the Best of Journey.
I begin each year by resolving to read all the classic novels I've avoided in the past. With a pang of guilt, I remember that Don Quixote should do more than prop my door open, and with a shiver of terror, I tell myself that Russian novels won’t kill me. Then, poised on the edge of cracking open anything by Dostoevsky… I get distracted. As if on schedule, I discover a dusty Tom Robbins paperback behind the other books on my shelf, and I learn that The Brothers Karamazov makes a handy coaster.
This year, I’ve decided to ignore the Western canon and any list that claims to have isolated and ranked the 100 Greatest Books in the History of the Universe. These lists tend to be repetitive and unimaginative, insisting on the importance of the same classic novels while somehow managing to ignore entire genres of literature. Joyce's Ulysses is usually first, and you can be sure that Faulkner, Tolstoy, Fitzgerald and the like will appear somewhere down the line. While there is no doubt these authors are wonderful and important, they are not the only wonderful and important authors in existence.
I propose creating, not a list, but a limitless, unranked grouping (a blob, if you will) of books that entertain and inspire. In order to do this, I need you to tell me what you read. Since this request could easily result in a deluge of suggestions that stem from any mildly entertaining book you happened to pick up at any point in your life, I’ll add some parameters to narrow your options: tell me about a book that changed your life. Which book have you voluntarily read more than twice? If you were stranded on an island populated entirely by cannibals, which book would you read to distract yourself from your impending demise? Regardless of whether your answer is a graphic novel, a murder-mystery or the most esoteric, high-brow work of fiction ever produced, write it in a comment or send it to me in an email. This is the year we read what we love.