“Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures” 
~ Jessamyn West

“A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.”
~ Franz Kafka

From an early age, I talked to books.  And they talked back.  This dialogue represented my initial foray into the practice and experience of learning, assimilation, stimulation and distillation.  I began to “mark up” the books that I read (I still do!); I underlined, asterisked, made notes in the margins, highlighted, dog-eared furiously.  I layered my own thoughts and responses on top of the primary text.  I asked questions, drew conclusions, disagreed vehemently with the author’s points, exclaimed passionately in agreement.  There was no end to the churning that took place in my mind as I delved deeper and deeper into the world of the book.

When I read and mark up the text I use my hand in a different way than I do my eyes. The information is presented to me first through sight; it is then sifted through, analyzed, and interrogated through writing ~ not a sense, but as a discrete action, representative of an effort that extends beyond that of vision.  This is my “processor;” this method dictates the limit of my “processing speed.”  I can only assimilate the information in bits, as I unravel each line of text and translate it into something meaningful through my dialogic interaction with it.

To impose order on these selections presented me with several options. I could arrange the list by: year of publication, geography, genre, field of inquiry, the chronology of my own reading, or according to some sort of hierarchical order of preference. But none of these seemed appropriate to the task nor aligned with my intentions.

So here they are, beloved books and authors, in some semblance of order, sometimes. But mostly just materialized out of a vast chain of associations, hazy remembrances, vivid recall, and psychological imprint. These books and authors have inspired, surprised, amused, angered, depressed, and enlightened me. They have all moved me in way or another ~ and sometimes, in many directions all at once….

*I am extremely fond of poetry and short stories, but there are far more poems, poets, and short story titles to list on this page, so pardon the exclusion of most of them here. In addition, many of my books and reading journals are housed in a storage unit at the moment, so this list is of necessity fragmentary and loose.*

Michel de Montaigne, Essays

W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk

Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844

Friedrich Nietzsche

Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish & Madness and Civilization

Malcolm X, “The Ballot or The Bullet” & The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley

David Harvey, Social Justice and the City & The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground & The Brothers Karamazov

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams

Langston Hughes

Robert Hayden

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Henry James

Kazuo Ishigiro

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, What is Property? an Inquiry into the Principle of Right and of Government

Emma Goldman, Anarchism and Other Essays & Living My Life

Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse & A Room of One’s Own

Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook

Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Disturbances in the Field

Alice Koller, An Unknown Woman: A Journey to Self-Discovery

May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude

Noam Chomsky, Manufactured Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media

Ntozake Shange, For Colored Girls who have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf

George Lamming, In the Castle of My Skin & The Pleasures of Exile

J.M. Coetzee

Wendell Berry

Yusef Komunyakaa

Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States

Rebecca Solnit

Dr. Seuss

Shel Silverstein

Elizabeth Alexander

Elizabeth Bishop

Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire

Jonathan Lethem, The Fortress of Solitude

Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition

Gayl Jones, Corregidora

Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

Wallace Stevens

Flannery O’Connor

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Elizabeth Bishop

Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

Emily Dickinson

Annie Proulx, The Shipping News

Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness

Raymond Williams, Culture & Society: 1780-1950

Hazel Carby, Reconstructing Womanhood

Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness

Phillip Brian Harper, Framing the Margins: the Social Logic of Postmodern Culture

Shulamith Firestone, The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution

Germaine Greer, The Female Eunuch

Angela Davis, Women Race & Class

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

George Orwell, 1984 & A Collection of Essays

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

Yaa Ngasi, Homegoing

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life

Toni Morrison, Sula & Beloved

Sylvia Plath

Anne Sexton

Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

Gwendolyn Brooks

Angela Davis

Anthony Doerr, The Shell Collector

Brian Evenson, The Wavering Knife

Haruki Murakami

Yusef Kumunyakaa

Harriet Doerr, Stones for Ibarra

Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

Keri Hulme, Bone People

John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany

James Baldwin

Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex

Tony Kushner, Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes

Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections

sonia sanchez, homegirls and handgrenades

David Foster Wallace, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again

© Rachel Rosekind, PhD, MLIS