Before I begin, I need to note a special caveat. Numbers 11-14 would not normally be part of any collection of inspirational books under usual criteria, even though each book could have been a top five selection for me. However, had I placed them higher, I would have cheated the reader with what might be considered an unsatisfying or divisive move. I did not want that. Still, even adding these selections here is imperfect, but I want the reader to know just how important each one of these writings has meant to me in producing inspiration. These books may fall outside the scope of acclaim and popularity but at the same time, could not be excluded from my subjective list.
Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje
When I first read Running in the Family in college, I liked it. However, the ladies from my class gushed at Ondaatje’s prose and poetry with abandon. As I was the only guy in class, I made it my mission to discount Ondaatje’s writing at least a little and whenever possible. A year later, with no phantom reason to be contrary, I was simply blown away by this work. Ondaatje manages hilarity, poignancy, intensity, poetry, truth, memoir and photos in a book that breaks rules and makes me want to be a better writer. I guess I am gushing too.
The World Healing Book Birgitta Jonsdottir, Editor
Don’t bother looking for The World Healing Book, you are never going to find it in any store. It is a collection of poems and a few short essays that had been put together to promote peace after 9/11. It had works by The Dalai Lama, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, a number of international talents and me.
When I saw my name in the byline (on page 52) for the first time ever, I went slack jaw and got all misty. It was at that moment I realized I wanted to do nothing more than write. It was also the first time I had physical evidence that I was not as bad of a writer as I thought. I wrote every day for months after The World Healing Book had been published.
The moral of the story, keep submitting your stories.
Mind Games: A Guide to Inner Space by Masters and Houston
This book inspires a series of experiments/exercises that explore the nature and power of doing as an individual within a group. Yeah, not a great explanation. Sorry about that. As described on the back cover, “Mind Games is a how-to book of mental exercises for achieving altered states without the use of drugs or mysticism.” While in my twenties, with a trusted group of friends, this book was life-changing. Not only life-changing by the content of the book but because of the conversations that came up later.
Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary Fifth Edition from 1937
Yes, it is a dictionary. It is an old dictionary with personality before dictionaries stopped wanting to be creative. Here are a couple examples.
“Tahitian: One of the native Polynesians of Tahiti, a people noted for fine physique and intelligence…”
“Serene: …Shining with clear steady light.”
I love this old dictionary.
Erased by Jim Krusoe
Erased is the only book on this list that I have not yet read. I know. I know. I have a good reason. The book’s writer, Jim Krusoe, is the single most important writing teacher I have ever had. Jim’s writing is also excellent.
I felt he deserves a shout out for his ability to discuss story and craft, and inspire better writing. He consistently encourages and finds ways to see a particular writer, and his or her writing, as unique. He wants to help improve the writing without ever making a student (at least this student) wrong while pointing out new ways to explore style and story. I am not alone in this assessment. In Los Angeles, Jim has a well-deserved fan club of past students that still refer to him often. I simply cannot thank him enough. I recommend taking his classes at Santa Monica College.
For a list of Jim’s books visit, http://www.amazon.com/Jim-Krusoe/e/B001JS4V52/ref=sr_tc_img_2_0?qid=1282347987&sr=1-2-ent
And now for the top ten!
50-46 45-41 40-36 35-31 30-26 25-21 20-16 15-11 10-6 5-1