Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Thomas Buckley list

In January, 2004, jerks burned down my wife's and my house for the fun of it (the first of ten fires they started - they're doing 10-12 in federal prison now) We'd lived there 20 years and somewhere between two and three thousand books were burnt up. They were mostly mine because Jorunn, my wife, had most of hers in her Bowdoin College office. I had some other stashes, and good friends sent books, sometimes cartons ( special thanks to John Balaban, Peter Nabokov and the extraordinarily generous Will Devlin) and I started buying books with the insurance money. The big question has been: should I replace lost favorites or build a new library of new books? I've replaced a few essentials (Sailing Alone Around the World, Larousse Dictionairre Compact, The Platform Sutra) but have mostly bought new things that I had never read.
Today I looked around and chose five, one (sic.) from each of five categories. This means leaving some important categories out - maritime history, religious texts, art books, reference. Here's what I've ended up with - books I think are essential, relatively new reading:

Poetry: Gary Snyder's Mountains and Rivers Without End (1996) - the only replacement copy on the list (Maybe the first and so far only North American Buddhist Sutra)
Fiction: A tie (who says 5 is always 5?): William Kotzwinkle, The Bear Went Over the Mountain (1996) (har de har) and Chang rae Lee, A Gesture Life (1999) (oh boo hoo)
General non-fiction: E P Thompson, Witness Against the Beast: William Blake and the Moral Law (1993) (Discover your inner Muggletonian)
Cultural anthropology ( my field) : Carol Delaney , Abraham on Trial: The social legacy of Biblical Myth (I always suspected Freud didn't get Oedipus quite right)
American Indian Studies (my specialty) Daniel K Richter, Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America (2006) Nothing entirely new here, but a fine synthesis)

There you have it. Read these books, drink plenty of water, get enough sleep, be astonished once in awhile, and you'll probably reach enlightenment as soon as anyone else.

Tim Buckley


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