Personal | Books From Alan's Private Library
If you really want to know somebody, take a look at the books they read ... look at their favorite list of movies ... and consider their top ten CDs. These are books out of my own personal library ... my favorites. You'll see a note from me on each book, often followed by a quote from another reader. If you're looking for a good book ... well, these are the ones I would recommend.
The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson (Modern Library Paperback Classics)
by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Brooks Atkinson (Editor), Mary Oliver (Intro)
This is a grand collection of Emerson's essays! Some of my all-time favorites like "Nature" ... "Self Reliance" ... "The Poet" ... once you start reading, it will be difficult to put this book down -- I promise. I was ingesting this stuff when I was 14 and 15 years old ... thanks to my Dad's wonderful way of introducing me to the best of the best ... first.. ~~Alan
"I was simmering, simmering, simmering. Emerson brought me to a boil." ~~Walt Whitman
Leaves of Grass
by Walt Whitman
One of the great innovative figures in American letters, Walt Whitman created a daringly new kind of poetry that became a major force in world literature. Leaves Of Grass is his one book. First published in 1855 with only twelve poems, it was greeted by Ralph Waldo Emerson as "the wonderful gift . . . the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed." Over the course of Whitman's life, the book reappeared in many versions, expanded and transformed as the author's experiences and the nation's history changed and grew. Whitman's ambition was to create something uniquely American. In that he succeeded. His poems have been woven into the very fabric of the American character ... from his solemn masterpieces "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" and "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" to the joyous freedom of "Song of Myself," "I Sing the Body Electric," and "Song of the Open Road," Whitman's work lives on ... an inspiration to the poets of later generations.
Lust for Life
by Irving Stone, Arving Stone
I was 19 years old when I first read this book ... in the garret of my parents house on Joyce Kilmer Avenue, in New Brunswick, New Jersey ... where I spent all my time ... "home" ... usually "on break" from my career pursuits in Los Angeles. This is a biographical novel, portraying the life of the Dutch painter, Vincent Van Gogh. For me, it was like living with Van Gogh ... sharing his mind-set and witnessing his inner frustrations and passions, first-hand. It's a wonderful read, full of insight and inspiration ... and a book that marks an important shift in my own understanding about "artistry" and the greater tests involved in properly pursuing it. Please! Read this book!
Lust for Life - The Movie!
Starring Kirk Douglas
And here's the movie! Kirk Douglas does Van Gogh like no one ever could ... this is truly a brilliant, brilliant performance by Kirk Douglas - certainly one of his best. The movie is nearly as good as the book, too -- and you know how rare that is, eh? If you love the book ... if you like Kirk Douglas ... if you admire Van Gogh ... or if you just enjoy a good story ... this movie should be in your library.
Travels With Charley : In Search of America
by John Steinbeck
It was summertime ... hot, lazy, humid summertime in New Jersey ... I was 15 years old ... laying on my bed, staring at the ceiling ... my Dad walked in, tossed a paperback book to me and said "I bought you something to read, Son." He was always aware of my frame of mind ... but he usually gave me non-fictional, more intense (and usually spiritual) stuff to read -- this time is was something full of fun and fantasy! Steinbeck is an amazing writer!! And this book marks a magical experience I had with him, his large black standard poodle, Charley, and the camper they traveled and explored America in, called "Rosinante." Not only did I get totally emmersed in the story, but I learned much about the fabric of America ... seeing what it was like living and working among migrant workers; traveling throughout the states; meeting the people that were actually living in America ... all for real ... exactly as it truly was ... in the early 1960s. If you want to get lost in another world, but one that's not so far away ... and one that teaches you by pointing at the greater truths in life ... you'll love reading this one.
by Henry David Thoreau
Wow. I first read this book when I was 18 years old ... and if you know what it's like being 18, then you know what an impression it left on my way of thinking. I'm still there. If Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson were alive today, they and I would have no problems hangin' out together. This links to the Commemorative Edition on the 150th Anniversary of Thoreau's stay on Walden Pond, featuring the definitive text of the landmark volume and extensive notes on Thoreau's life and times by an acclaimed biographer and critic. ~~Alan
"Walden is a plea for self reliance and political understanding by a writer eager to get his reader to see that political and personal freedom in a democracy is gained through self knowledge and a recognition of what the individual owes to himself and the political state he finds himself in. Thoreau warns against the powers of media, money and government to run over the individual. He counsels self-knowledge and civil disobedience. He also writes with clarity and humour and the book is one that re-pays an alert reader with much to think about. This is not an autobiography or a nature essay but a meditation on how to be your own person in a mechanized world." ~~A reader
I read these books in 1981-82. If you enjoy the Lord of the Rings, you'll definitely enjoy Narnia. This story didn't move me quite like Tolkien's did ... but, nonetheless, this work by C.S. Lewis is a wonderfully inspirational and captivating story! Also, since Lewis and Tolkien were good friends, it makes it that much more special. ~~Alan
"The Narnia Chronicles have been compared to the mega-hit Harry Potter books, though C.S. Lewis wrote them not only as enjoyable children's fiction but as a way to introduce Christian thought. C.S. Lewis was an Oxford scholar, an agnostic who became convinced that there WAS a god, and then became a Christian. Yet he infuses his beliefs gently into the Narnia books, and if you object to Christianity, you'd probably totally miss it in these books. If you object, in contrast, to Harry Potter, but want a good alternative, these books are just the ticket. The stories are written with delightful visual appeal, great imagination, and with that English tongue-in-cheek humor that makes it fun for adults to read these out loud and enjoy the jokes on two levels. These are true fairy tales and as such, never fail to please children year after year. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, in particular, is high adventure, with dragons, dwarves, a mighty Mouse, and a ship adventure, and it's my special favorite. The books emphasize the values of learning to struggle against temptation, of developing good and likeable character and the pain of growing up and having to leave the magical world of childhood behind. The books also hint at a need for spiritual growth. If you haven't read these, you are in for a treat. If you haven't read them to your kids, well, get a move on!" ~~Joanna Danema - Delaware USA
The Dragon Riders of Pern:
Dragonflight, Dragonquest, The White Dragon
by Anne McCaffrey
Man, these books really took me away when I first read them, way back in 1981. Much like Tolkien's work, McCaffrey has created a most captivating world to visit ... or to live in! Plus, writing her stories and living in the Irish countryside ... way out there in the sticks ... with a dozen cats and other critters ... Anne McCaffrey sounds like a really, really cool lady! ~~Alan
"Anne McCaffery has written a lot of stories in this series but these, the original three, stand as an astounding display of a frightening talent. How McCaffery can invent and describe a world in such explicit detail, as well as plot-lines that so enthrall that one is lost while reading, I will never know. Her 'Pern' is an incredible world, populated by the descendants of long-ago, Earth-originating, space farers stranded upon a Terra-like planet populated only by strange animals. Their bizarre history is only revealed in full in the third book, as the true interest of the stories is the planet's fight against thread, a deadly spore that rains upon the planet from time to time. The characters are fully developed and the plot twists enthralling. While it is more entertainment than psychologicaly insightful, it is an experience you can't help but walk away from shaken. I love these three books, regardless of the hit-or-miss value of her other stories. This, along with a few choice others, belongs next to Asimov's Foundation Trilogy in sci-fi history." ~~Jon Nelson from Madison, Wisconsin, USA, Earth, Milky Way. :)
The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings - Boxed Set
by J.R.R. Tolkien
Certainly my all-time-favorite story of all stories ... I've been writing songs about this wonderful tale ever since I first read these books, in 1971 -- see my 'Rings Project for living proof. ~~Alan
"Mild-mannered Oxford scholar John Ronald Reuel Tolkien had little inkling when he published The Hobbit; Or, There and Back Again in 1937 that, once hobbits were unleashed upon the world, there would be no turning back. Hobbits are, of course, small, furry creatures who love nothing better than a leisurely life quite free from adventure. But in that first novel and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the hobbits Bilbo and Frodo and their elfish friends get swept up into a mighty conflict with the dragon Smaug, the dark lord Sauron, the monstrous Gollum, the Cracks of Doom, and the awful power of the magical Ring. The four books' characters -- good and evil -- are recognizably human, and the realism is deepened by the magnificent detail of the vast parallel world Tolkien devised, inspired partly by his influential Anglo-Saxon scholarship and his Christian beliefs." ~~Tim Appelo