I read some …. But not like most folks.  I don’t read a whole lot of modern-day authors… I’ve tried, but I just can’t seem to get in the swing of the Nora Roberts group … or Patterson, or Harry Potter…. No apologies, no excuses…I just don’t.  I do, however, read.  The list below is just a sample in no particular order at all … and by no means complete….. I start with John Steinbeck because his work is really the first serious literature I ever got hooked into and then I go on from there….

East of Eden – John Steinbeck

Pastures of Heaven – John Steinbeck

Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

These four books came to me in college.  Professor Dorothy Anderson was teaching a class in oral interpretation, in which she assigned us one author to use as a final project.  I selected John Steinbeck and have not been the same since.  Here’s a bit about each of them… and by the way, I’ve read more than these four, but these are my favorites all the way.

EAST OF EDEN – the story of the Trask family and how they grew from an eastern pre-Civil War family into an industrious family in California… and how along the way they met extreme blind success, deep anger, hollow disappointment, and some sharp realizations about free will.  There are interesting characters, both male and female – the patriarch of the family and his two sons, the estranged mother of the two sons and her rather interesting handicap, the family down the road with their large ethnic tendencies … and there are some scenes to evoke laughter (particularly when the Trask men learn to run an automobile from a guy named JOE), to bring thought (the family manservant and his circle of elders learning about the Bible), and the machinations of one rather amoral establishment.  I have read the book enough to have worn one out and have bought another.

PASTURES OF HEAVEN – not so much a novel as it is a collection of stories about the characters that live there – a lonely old man free of his parents, a child with artistic flair, a man who finds homeschooling more than just schooling … so many interesting folks.  This one, too, has been replaced just recently.

GRAPES OF WRATH – Yes, that one.  The Okies, the threat of organized labor, the dustbowl of the 1930s.  It’s all there, and it sings to me every time I read it.   The Joad family might have been my family had the Swedes gone south to Oklahoma instead of the prairies of the Red River of the North – the same bad breaks, the same subsistent existence….

OF MICE AND MEN.  Lenny the lesser.  Rabbit hutches and dreams and dogs and swamping out the bunkhouse owned by uppity ranchers and sexy wives.  Taking care of the disabled, from old dogs to even Lenny the lesser.

And now some other authors….

GRAND OPENING – John Hassler

Here’s a small town.  Here’s a new grocery store and the people who have moved from the big city to get back to the land and enjoy a neighborhood… and some of the trials therein.  John Hassler wrote some of his stuff right here in the town where I live, which makes it all that much more alive.

HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY –  Douglas Adams

The goofiest book, probably ever.  Do you want to travel through space on a towel?  Do you want to taste a pangalactic gargle blaster?  Do you want to see Earth II?  Do you think the earth can be developed and designed by mice?  When in a silly mood, here you are.

THE GREAT AMERICAN BASEBALL CARD FLIPPING, TRADING AND BUBBLE GUM BOOK  – Brendan Boyd and Fred Harris

I am a baseball fan.  Top to bottom, side to side.  I am at best a fair weather football fan, can’t tell you many of the rules about hockey…. But baseball?  You got me, pal.

This book is so unique.  It discusses collecting baseball cards before baseball card collecting was a money-making proposition – in other words, it discusses baseball cards the way me and my friends did it … cussing out getting the same card 25 times in one year.  Not getting the one card you need.  Ever.  Never.  Seeing what the cards look like and how they change every year.  This book has molded some of my writing style, especially when I write nostalgia type things.  There’s a hilarious section on NON Hall of Fame players that is a riot to read.  So, when spring training starts, I get out my copy of TGABCFTBGB and go to it.

IT – Stephen King

Going to reunions can be real bummer.  The people are so very likable, but there’s always that one character who screws things up for you and always has, ever since elementary school.  Ride you bike down the hill, explore the sewers, get the old gang together to discuss an old curse, and how to get it removed.

CHRISTINE – Stephen King

If Jack Nicholson had been a car in the SHINING, he would have been CHRISTINE.  CHRISTINE is a 1957 Plymouth… black, finned – one of those great 1950s road boats that we associate with James Dean and Thunder Road and punks.  However, Christine herself is not under the control of those who own her…. In fact, you can reverse that.  Christine is jealous, vengeful, and not the least squeamish about taking things into her own hands.

THURBER’S DOGS – James Thurber

This is a collection of James Thurber’s short stories.  I didn’t care for Thurber at first, but his kind of wit grew on me – he’s sort of a prototype Garrison Keillor, talking about his childhood in Ohio, where the characters included shoe throwers, moping dogs, and house servants who just didn’t get their English right.  I particularly enjoy his spoof of a detective radio show in which all the characters are animals – See the dog as the detective.  See the frog who owns the pool hall who talks with great impediment (BUNG WUNG SCRANG TO DENG! – and yes within the story, the frog makes perfect sense…..).  An enjoyable read – one story a night works well… but you sure can do more than that if your wit craves it.

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