There’s one thing you’ll notice about our picks – most of them star either Clint Eastwood or Kevin Costner. These are two actors who understand the rugged individualism, fast violence, and morality of the old West. So faster than you can draw your pistol, here are DaRK PaRTY’s picks for the Best Westerns Ever Made.
Synopsis: A retired outlaw named William Munny struggles to run a hog farm after the death of his wife. A young gunslinger makes him an offer to hunt down two cowboys who cut-up a prostitute in a saloon in Big Whiskey. Unable to resist the lure of easy money, Munny coaxes his old partner, Ned, to join him and the gunslinger. They get more than they bargained for when they run into Sheriff “Little Bill” Daggett who uses violent tactics to keep the peace in Big Whiskey.
Release Date: 1992
Big Name Stars: Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, and Richard Harris
Director: Clint Eastwood
Best Scene: A chilling scene where Munny stalks into the saloon after Little Bill and his posse has killed Ned and propped his dead body in a coffin outside the entrance. Little Bill is in the middle of a toast when slowly the entire saloon realizes that William Munny stands behind them with a loaded rifle. Munny asks: “Who owns this shithole? You, fat man, speak up.” The bar owner stutters and Munny tells the men around him to clear out and then he shoots him down in cold blood. Little Bill screams: “You just shot an unarmed man!” Munny stares at him and says: “Well, he should have armed himself if he’s gonna decorated his saloon with my dead friend.”
Best Line: “Hell, I even thought I was dead 'til I found out it was just that I was in
Weird Fact: Richard Harris was allegedly watching “High Plains Drifter” when Eastwood phoned to offer him a role in the film.
In a Nutshell: “Unforgiven” blurs the lines between good and bad by making the mass murdering William Munny a likable sort and Sheriff “Little Bill” Daggett as cold hearted and ruthless. One of the best Westerns ever made and deserving of its Best Picture Oscar in 1992.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Synopsis: The two leaders of the Hole-in-the-Wall gang are the visionary idea guy – Butch – and the man-of-action gunslinger, Sundance. When they rob one too many trains, a special posse is formed to track them down and bring them to justice.
Release Date: 1969
Big Name Stars: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Cloris Leachman
Director: George Roy Hill
Best Scene: Butch is losing his influence with his gang and is challenged to a knife fight by the enormous
Best Line: “Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?”
Weird Fact: Jack Lemmon was offered the role of Sundance, but turned it down because of a conflict with another movie.
In a Nutshell: This movie gets panned by many “critics” because of its light hand. But the key is watching the movie as a comedy (in a bumbling sort of way). It’s damn amusing even if it does a grave disservice to history.
Synopsis: A burned-out Union lieutenant named John Dunbar is assigned to an outpost on the western frontier after the Civil War. The post is deserted, except for a lone wolf.
Release Date: 1990
Big Name Stars: Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, and Graham Greene
Director: Kevin Costner
Best Scene: The buffalo hunting sequence when a herd of rampaging buffalo thunders across the prairie with dust billowing in the air and Kevin Costner as Lt. Dunbar rides over a ridge and his cowboy hat flies off his head. Riding his horse with the Sioux Indians they begin the hunt. A young Indian hunter wounds a buffalo, but falls off his horse. The buffalo rears up and charges at him.
Best Line: “Turned injun, didn't ya!”
Weird Fact: Graham Greene’s character, Kicking Bird, is the step-father of Stands With A Fist even though Mary McDonnell is older than Greene in real life.
In a Nutshell: “Dances With Wolves” is Costner’s best film and while it gets heavy on its criticism of manifest destiny, it is one of the most emotional and impactful westerns ever made.
Synopsis: A lone, unnamed gunfighter rides into the town of
Release Date: 1973
Big Name Stars: Clint Eastwood, Stacey Bridges
Director: Clint Eastwood
Best Scene: After riding into Lago – the townspeople gazing at him with fear in their eyes – watch the stranger enter the barber shop. The nervous barber slathers cream on the stranger’s whiskers and covers him with a white sheet. Three toughs from the saloon, bored, approach the stranger looking for trouble. They get it when they spin his chair and the stranger shoots all three of them – one of them falling back through the shop window.
Best Line: “You're going to look pretty silly with that knife sticking out of your ass.”
Weird Fact: The names on the tombstones in the Lago graveyard bear the names of directors that Eastwood had worked with in the passed including Don Siegel, Brian G. Hutton and Sergio Leone.
In a Nutshell: “High Plains Drifter” is all western and part ghost story. It’s the tale of a sheriff betrayed by the people he was hired to protect. Coming back from the dead, he gets his revenge on everybody.
Synopsis: A group of free grazing cattlemen end up in the town Harmonville and run into trouble with a corrupt lawman and the rich rancher he works for. The cattlemen don’t want trouble, but are pushed to the edge. And finally, the rancher murders one of them and severely wounds another. The two remaining cattlemen, Boss Spearman and Charley Waite, end up in a murderous showdown with the rancher and his minions. But not before Charley falls in love with Sue Barlow, the town’s doctor’s sister.
Release Date: 2003
Big Name Stars: Robert Duvall, Kevin Costner, Annette Bening
Director: Kevin Costner
Best Scene: In the open street of town, Charley and Boss face off against four bad guys. As they stand sizing each other up, Charley stalks toward the murderous, bowl-hatted
Best Line: “Men are gonna get killed here today, Sue, and I’m gonna kill them.”
Weird Fact: Costner gave up a role in “Kill Bill: Volume 1” to film “
In a Nutshell: “
Synopsis: A ruthless band of outlaws terrorize a Mexican village. The town fathers tire of the violence and decide to hire a group of gunmen to fight for them. They end up with seven gunslingers who decide to defend the village for various reasons. They train the village to fight off the gang of more than 100 bandits.
Release Date: 1960
Big Name Stars: Yul Brenner, James Coburn, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn and Eli Wallach
Director: John Sturges
Best Scene: When the bandits ride into the village to get food for the winter they are confronted – one by one – by the seven gunslingers. At first, the bandit leader, Calvera, seems more irritated than concerned by the boldness of these strangers. But then the shooting starts and he starts to see his men drop and his irritation turns to rage.
Best Line: “We deal in lead, friend.”
Weird Fact: This legendary western is a remake of the Japanese film “The Seven Samurai.”
In a Nutshell: Has there ever been a more star-studded western? The beauty of “The Magnificent Seven” is the direction of John Sturges who utilizes his all-star cast to perfection.
Synopsis: A group of old friends end up together in Silverado for various reasons. The town is in the hands of a corrupt sheriff and his men. Finally, the friend band together and fight the bad guys and bring peace and justice to Silverado
Release Date: 1985
Big Name Stars: Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Kevin Costner, Danny Glover, John Cleese, Brian Dennehy, Jeff Goldblum, Rosanna Arquette
Best Scene: It doesn’t get much better than the open two minute of this film. The camera drifts over the cramped and dirty confines of an old cabin – sunlight sluicing through the cracks in the walls. It’s dark inside and you can hear a crow squawk in the distance. A horse whinnies and then the door bursts open and a cowboy begins firing two guns. Emmett fires back, killing him. Then bullets tear through the walls followed by beams of sunlight. Emmett dives to the floor. He ends up killing three men – one of which falls through his roof. Emmett creeps outside of the small cabin and into a panoramic view of the mountains and canyons of the old West (see below).
Best Line: “We're gonna give you a fair trial, followed by a first class hanging.”
Weird Fact: Kevin Costner received one of the starring roles because director Kasdan ended up cutting all his scenes from the movie “The Big Chill.”
In a Nutshell: Another star-studded western. “Silverado” had a throwback flavor to it and helped revive the western for mainstream audiences.
Synopsis: A farmer who had his family murdered by Union soldiers joins a group of Confederate raiders during the Civil War. After the war ends, he travels west and becomes an outlaw. He seeks vengeance of those who killed his family, but even through his violent ways, Josey Wales yearns for peace.
Release Date: 1976
Big Name Stars: Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, John Vernon
Director: Clint Eastwood
Best Scene: Josey rides on a raft to the other side of the
Best Line: “Yeah, well, I always heard there were three kinds of suns in
Weird Fact: “Tonight Show” host Johnny Carson called “The Outlaw Josey Wales” the greatest western of all time.
In a Nutshell: “The Outlaw Josey Wales” was Eastwood’s coming of age as a director. The plot is often convoluted, but the consequence of violence that became a major theme in his future movie making gets its first try out here.
Synopsis: A preacher rides into a gold mining village in
Release Date: 1985
Big Name Stars: Clint Eastwood, Michael Moriarty, Carrie Snodgrass, Chris Penn
Director: Clint Eastwood
Best Scene: A young girl is recited a passage from the Bible to practice her reading as she sits in the kitchen with her mother. Horse and horsemen begin to ride into the village. The girl pauses and her mother urges her to continue reading. She recites a passage from “Revelations” about the fourth horseman of the Apocalypse – Death riding on a pale horse. As she says the words, the Preacher rides into view on a white horse.
Best Line: “Nothing like a good piece of hickory.”
Weird Fact: Eastwood pays homage to the movie “Shane” through “Pale Rider.” Many of the scenes and plotlines echo the older movie, including the end when the girl shouts “I love you” to the departing preacher.
In a Nutshell: Another ghost story and western combination by Eastwood. This one, however, is spiced with religious undertones that give the movie incredible depth and mystery.
Synopsis: Confederate soldier Ethan Edwards returns to
Release Date: 1956
Big Name Stars: John Wayne, Natalie Wood
Director: John Ford
Best Scene: A group of cowboys walk out of the fog and through a moor carrying rifles. Crickets chirp in the night as they slosh through the water. They come upon a cold campsite where the Indian kidnappers had recently been. Ethan, with a scowl, glares at the man next to him. “Any more orders, captain?” he says with disdain. “Yes,” the captain says. “We’ll keep on going.” They hear a bird and swing their guns into action, but it is a false alarm. “Well?” Ethan says. The captain, annoyed, says: “You want to quit, Ethan?” Ethan answers, “That’ll be the day” and stalks off.
Best Line: “Figure a man's only good for one oath at a time; I took mine to the Confederate States of
Weird Fact: John Wayne named his son Ethan in honor of his role as Ethan Edwards in the movie.
In a Nutshell: The western that all other westerns are compared to. It is that good. John Wayne as the racist old soldier turns in his finest performance ever.
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In the dead of night, in those chilling hours when trees scream and stillness suffocates, I awoke roughly at the dream of my own violent death.
It was one of those disconcerting nightmares.
I was in the suburbs – the woods – as terrorists attacked
And then it fired at me; bullets ripping up the turf.
I woke before the bullets struck me.
I lay in bed, heart thumping, in those long hours before dawn when being awake is a bad thing. It was the witching time when imagination takes shape and every sound and movement becomes your impending death.
It’s primal in the dead of night. Mortality feels real. Death – so often ignored – whispers terrible things.
And you’re afraid.
I can rationalize death. In fact, I probably ponder about death more than most people. It can be an awful thrill to sit and think about death. You can feel the change in your body – the slow panic as you realize that you will die. Death is frightening on such a biological level – living things don’t want to die and will fight – often violently – to remain alive.
It’s one of the reasons I don’t believe in god (in heaven or
If death was next – if the afterlife existed – then why wouldn’t we joyously celebrate death? Why wouldn’t a person’s funeral be as happy and mirthful as their birthdays? Is it because instinctively we understand that death is the end? Is it because the promise of an afterlife is nothing but a fairy tale to soften the harsh reality that is death?
I believe that when I die my body will rot and the being that I was will cease to exist – forever.
I have friends that find this belief troubling – and sad. I understand why they think so. Most of them are religious (on the surface anyway) and clutch at the biggest hope that a belief in god brings: eternal life. When they die, they think they will go somewhere else and meet up with their dead relatives and friends.
But isn’t that foolish? Isn’t it a lie?
Don’t all of us – every one of us – know deep down that death is an end? It’s why we mourn. It’s why we weep at funerals. It’s the reason why we fear disease and car wrecks on the freeway. It’s why we’re frightened when we wake up in the dead of night after dreaming about dying.
I do take comfort in a couple of things. One, I was dead before -- before I was born. I didn’t exist until my birth and when I die I will go back to that place or that state. I don’t remember it. So how bad can it really be? Two, death is normal. In fact, it is what we were born to do. It’s what makes life so damn precious.
By ignoring death or pretending that it’s a step to another dimension, aren’t we actually belittling life? Reducing it?
We shouldn’t take this short time we have for granted. We should recognize it for the beautiful and special gift that it is. And the first step in doing that is realizing that it is fleeting – and that it will eventually come to an end.
Death is final and can be scary – but only if you let be so.
Read the essay "The Undiscovered Country" here
Read the essay "The Undiscovered Country" here
Since 2001, DaRK PaRTY has kept a written record of the books we have consumed. Generally, we like our books prepared medium well (seasoned with bold spices) and served with sides dishes of roasted sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli. We also like crusty French bread smeared with butter and a large goblet of a
Our menu of books runs eclectic. For example, our fiction tastes go from classics like Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” to genre thrillers like “Echo Burning” by Lee Child to modern literature like Jennifer Haigh’s “Mrs. Kimble.”
But we also sample quite a bit of non-fiction, volumes of short stories and poetry, and lately we’ve sunk our teeth into graphic novels (fried and slathered with hot sauce).
Obviously we can only comment on the books that we digest, but here is an attempt to provide a tasty menu of the best books that we’ve eaten in the past six and a half years. We encourage readers to add their own recommendations for books that dazzled their taste buds.
The most difficult part of this exercise was narrowing down each category to only five books each.
APPETIZERS (GENRE NOVELS)
MAIN COURSE (CLASSICS)
SIDE DISH (CONTEMPORARY NOVELS)
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Billy Conway, musician and former drummer for Morphine and Treat Her Right: “The Philosophy of Civilization” by Albert Schweitzer. The title is a wee grandiose but it was written in a different cultural time that begged for answers. For one thing he observes that at a certain point after the printing press and wider dissemination of philosophical knowledge was available, the shamanesque nature of philosophy fell prey to endless critique of the other positions and the search for meaning was left unattended while we put faith in the academy of critique.... as if the meaning and purpose were there if one merely read enough. More importantly he digs deep into making the case that happiness and fulfillment occur through satisfying an innate inner urge to be helpful and worthy as a communal citizen. He argues that satisfying your own needs is not a way to achieve happiness, but rather that good ole feeling of doing something for somebody else is where our greatest good lies. Still learning from that book.
Tony Carrillo, cartoonist (F-Minus): The book that changed my view of comedy more than any other is “The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams. His perspective on the world was unlike anything I had ever read. When describing an army of spaceships about to destroy the Earth,
Laurie Foos, author (“Before Elvis There Was Nothing”): I wouldn't say this book changed my perspective on life, per se, but it certainly changed — irrevocably -- my perspective on literature. And that book is Nikolai Gogol's “The Nose.” The metaphor is brilliantly sustained, both funny and oddly moving in parts, and it taught me what metaphor could accomplish. It completely changed the way I thought about writing, and it's one I re-read once a year.
Judith Wilt, Boston College professor: Let me cite two books: Ayn Rand's “Atlas Shrugged” got me thinking about and fighting with its ideas in my late teens: how could I be so drawn in and yet so resistant? How could her world seem so seamless in the reading and so hard to credit as I looked at my actual world? And Charles Dickens's “Our Mutual Friend” made me commit to graduate student life -- a book read in my mid-twenties that got me out of the “high” vs. “popular” literature dichotomy I had brought from college life and made me feel there could be a place for me in the 'profession.'
Adian Moher, blogger (“A Dribble of Ink”): I hate to sound cliché, but I've got to go with J.R.R. Tolkien's “The Hobbit,” a classic of the genre and the single novel that really set me on the path towards Fantasy. “The Hobbit” helped me realize that sense of adventure that is lurking around any corner as long as you're willing to look for it and take a hold of it yourself.
Bilbo, as a Hobbit, was content to let life come to him, to laze away the days and aspire to nothing more than smoke his pipe weed, quaff some ale and relax. Now, this doesn't sound like a terrible life, in fact, it sounds rather tranquil and perfect, but Bilbo, through Gandalf's insistence, reached out beyond that life and found a whole other world of adventure that existed, just there for the taking.
I live in a place very similar to Hobbiton: a small, sleepy little place that is absolutely perfect for lazing away the days. But Bilbo taught me to look outside, to take a look at what else the world has to offer. Without Bilbo I wonder if perhaps I would have discovered my lust for travel, if I would have seen as much of the world as I have. Travel has taken hold of me and threatens never to let go as I keep looking for a dragon to plunder, a mountain to save and goblins to flee.
Now I just need to gather some good friends for the ride.
Gretchen Rubin, author and blogger (“The Happiness Project”): The first is Wayne Koestenbaum’s “Jackie Under My Skin.” It showed me that a biographer could tackle the study of a life in a completely idiosyncratic way. When I started to write my own biography of Winston Churchill, having read that book made me aware of the possibilities of breaking out of the standard chronological form.
Jess Myers, poet: There have been several books that changed my perspective on life after I read them. I often find myself imitating a style as I'm reading something new. David Sedaris' “Me Talk Pretty One Day” inspired me to change majors in college from vocal performance to creative writing. “To Kill a Mockingbird” (by Harper Lee) was the first book I ever loved and couldn't put down. I kind of skated through English classes before that and never really got much enjoyment out of the books that we were forced to read in junior high. That might have been the one that really opened my eyes to a lifetime of loving words. From there it was “Slaughterhouse Five” (by Kurt Vonnegut) and “East of Eden” and “The Grapes of Wrath” (by John Steinbeck) and there are a handful of women writers that I really enjoy for their wry humor and unique but sort of unfeminine perspectives: Dorothy Parker, Flannery O’Connor, and Joyce Carol Oates. I like the gritty dirty feminine voice.
Dave Zeltserman, blogger and author (“Bad Thoughts”): I don’t think any single book changed my perspective on life, although I’m sure the thousands of books I’ve read have had some influence on the way I look at things. The one book that probably had the biggest impact on my life since I’m now writing crime novels, was “I, the Jury” by Mickey Spillane, because that book got me hooked on crime fiction.
Kevin C. Fitzpatrick, author and president of the Dorothy Parker Society: This has to be “Here Is New York” by E.B. White. My friend gave it to me as a gift the year I moved to
Rebecca Traquair, poet: This is actually a conversation I've had with any number of people. The answers never cease to interest me. My most influential book is actually a slim volume of aphorisms by an American writer named Jean Toomer. It's called “Essentials” and was originally published in 1931.
Toomer's most famous book, “Cane,” made his reputation as a Harlem Renaissance writer, but his own spiritual questing led him away from that vein. He lost popularity, but he was true to himself. “Essentials” is a distillation of his ideas and ideals, a rejection of prevailing standards and classifications, an absolutely revolutionary book for his time and for ours. I found the book almost by accident while working on a university project, and this is one of the reasons I am a great believer in the happiness of accidents.
I can't quote directly some of the phrases that grabbed me so completely, as my copy is currently on extended loan to my friend Jadon (I have at least 4 of Jadon's books right now, so this is only fair). I can attempt to paraphrase though... “All our lives, we have been waiting for an event that will gloriously upset us. All our lives, we have been waiting to live.”
Reading “Essentials” gloriously upset my thinking, or at the very least, it gave me a framework for thoughts that I had been formulating but had not yet been able to put into words. More than any other book I have ever read, “Essentials” made me consider exactly what it means to be human, to be an individual, and to be part of something greater than oneself. It is well worth seeking out.
L. Kenyon, writer: When I was 22, I landed a terribly shitty job in a horribly shitty strip mall. I was interviewed by a man who had bad hair and small teeth. He'd driven an hour north from
For the first month I did everything by code, fearful of a few mentioned surprise visits from corporate. Then, as the days began to tick on and the hours grew longer, I broke. I went from rushing an occasional cigarette out the backdoor and rubbing myself down with soap afterward, to lighting up out front beside the window sale signs for Lung Power and C Vitamins. Weeks turned to months. I starting hauling my TV and Playstation in but a little while I gave up the hassle. Friends would come visit and hang around in the back room for hours but I was lonely. I was bored. I was miserable.
Then one afternoon I was doing laundry at my mother's when I noticed a box of books by the door. "Throwing them out," she said. "Why not burn them," I said. "Don't get smart," she said. I'd been avoiding just that for twenty-two years. As I stood there looking down into that box, I realized that I had never read a single book in its entirety.
I had not read "The Cat in the Hat" or even "Green Eggs and Ham." Did not would not read Vonnegut, Salinger, or any text in hand. I faked book reports with lame retorts and silly see-through lies. I'd watch the movie or cheat, and then fail with indignant surprise. No Shakespeare, no Poe, not even Tolkien or B. Potter, No Dick, No Jane, and magazines? Bah, couldn't be bothered.
A friend of mine, Jen, would visit me at home and shake her head saying things like, "I mean you're a smart guy, why don't you read?" "Why?" I'd ask setting down the controller and taking another hit from the bowl, "Why don't you read to me?" And it went on like this until that afternoon at my mother's. Boredom will make a man do strange things. In this case, it led to a whole new everything.
I bent and took the box with me. I brought it to work the next day and sifted through it. I pulled out “Insomnia” by Stephen King and set it down on the desk. I stared at the cover and sighed. "
considering I liked a handful of King book based movies (only but a handful mind you) and it was also a familiar name; it had been hiding the lower half of my mother's face for the greater part of my childhood.
A few hours passed and the book still sat on the desk untouched. So finally giving in with nothing to do and no visitors, I opened the first page. It's been almost eight years, and I've never stopped turning them. Thank you Mom.
I was fired a few months later. I was in the back room in blue jeans with my feet up on the desk and reading “The Catcher in the
Labels: Adian Moher, Billy Conway, books, Dave Zeltserman, Grechen Rubin, Jess Myers, Judith Wilt, Kevin Fitzpatrick, L Kenyon, Laurie Foos, Tony CarrilloStumbleUpon | Digg | del.icio.us | Reddit | Technorati | E-mail
R.A. Salvatore, best-selling fantasy author, co-founder 38 Studios: If we're talking about the work of other authors, it would have to be “The Hobbit” (by J.R.R. Tolkien). I read it during a blizzard in 1978 and it was the first time since my childhood that I actually read a book for enjoyment. School had all but beaten the love of reading out of me by that point, but Tolkien gave it back. That book made me want to read again, and eventually led me to write.
For my own work, “Mortalis,” the fourth book of my DemonWars series, changed my perspective, or rather, I was writing it while I was going through a great change of perspective. My brother, my best friend in the world, was dying of cancer while I was at work on that book, which happens to be about grief. It was very cathartic, for sure, but the truth is, I haven't even had the guts to go back and read it, these eight years later.
The story gets even more compelling for me, more introspective. With that book, I finally got to work with my dead friend, Keith Parkinson. I consider him to be one of the greatest artists the fantasy genre has ever known. The work he did on “Mortalis” touched me deeply, because I saw within Brother Francis, my brother, and the woman, Jilseponie, standing behind him very much resembles both my sister-in-law and my wife. The painting hangs in my office at 38 Studios and I can't look at it without thinking of my brother, about what he went through, about our discussions, knowing what was coming. Also, we lost Keith to cancer, way too young (he was around the same age as my brother when my brother died).
I can't look at that painting without being reminded of making the most of every day, because you just never know what's coming.
Elizabeth Miller, scholar and Dracula expert: I would have to say “Dracula” by Bram Stoker, published in 1897. It opened up for me an entirely new field of study and research. During the course of those activities, I have traveled widely, lectured at many universities and other venues, and met some fascinating people.
Nigel Patterson, president of the Elvis Information Network (EIN): “The Magic of Thinking Big” by David Schwartz. In my early 20’s I just couldn’t get enough of this book. I read it and re-read it several times. Its message of positive thinking and not limiting one’s self was just what I needed at the time and helped shape my thinking into something more balanced and forward focused.
Steve Almond, author of “(Not that You Asked) Rants, Exploits, and Obsessions”: “Slaughterhouse Five” (by Kurt Vonnegut). Good God, there's not a more seditious book you could read in this age of pointless, feelingless violence. It was like someone blew up some love dynamite in my skull.
Jessica Fox-Wilson, poet and blogger (“9 to 5 Poet”): The book that has changed my perspective the most was “The Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison. I was 16 when I read it, when my English teacher assigned it to me because I had already read the assigned "African American Literature" in our class at my last high school. This was the first book that really opened my eyes to the racial politics in the
Jeff Belanger, author and founder of GhostVillage: “Boy” by Roald Dahl -- the autobiography of his childhood. Roald Dahl is my literary hero. “Boy” taught me that there is a good story around every corner, under every rock, and certainly within every chocolate bar -- sometimes you just have to stand on your head to see it.
Dave H. Schleicher, blogger and author of “The Thief Maker”: I was required to read Toni Morrison's “Jazz” for an African American Literature course during my second year of college. It was the first bit of serious literary fiction that I took to task reading seriously. It opened my eyes to the fact that I didn't need to write just genre fiction. I could attempt something more artistic, more stylish, and more ambitious with my own writing. The book had a profoundly haunting effect on me because of the style in which it was written, and it opened my imagination to possibilities I hadn't previously considered.
Paul Sinclair, lead singer of Get the Led Out: It's an interesting question because until a few years ago I don't believe ANY book had ever changed my perspective on life.
This one truly fits the bill though, “The Power of Intention” by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer. I've always had an interest in self improvement and spirituality. I've also always been a real logic-driven person. My more science-minded approach to things has always prevented me from going too far down the religious path. In “The Power of Intention” Dr. Dyer sort of melds the two. With stories, humor and science (sometimes basic quantum physics, but don't be scared) he describes what I've come to believe are concrete laws in our universe. The way I view the world and go after achieving my goals has changed so dramatically for the positive I can't begin to explain. Some of the concepts in this book are fairly obvious, others not so. Maybe it's Dr. Dyer's humor? Maybe it's the balance of science and god? Or maybe it was just the right time in my life for me to hear it, but something clicked.
I'll just give one example of the kind of thing that really drew me in to this book. Dr. Dyer tells a story about a young woman driving on her way to work and approaches a toll booth. The toll taker says “Go on through, the man ahead of you paid your toll.” “There must be some mistake; I don't know that man," said the young woman very confused. The toll taker explained, “The man said to tell the next person that came through to have a nice day.” The woman was so moved by this random act of kindness that she decided she would do this same thing every day on her way to work, “after all it's only 25 cents.”
Dr. Dyer goes on to explain how acts of kindness raise endorphin levels in the body and in turn strengthen your immune system. Also, not only does this benefit the person receiving the act of kindness, but the person performing it and those observing it as well. You can see how far reaching this can be from one thoughtful, random act.
It's this kind of thinking where the age old “do unto others” mantra is proven to have real, quantifiable health benefits that had me wanting to delve even further. It's hard for me to write this without feeling like I'm coming off too new age. I'm a guy who's always looking for a witty, sarcastic punch line in every conversation. Life to me can seem at times like a series of SNL skits; particularly where religion and spirituality are concerned.
So, no, I haven't “found god.” No, I won't be taking flying lessons with no interest in learning to land... and no, I won't be found naked in a field preparing for the mother ship anytime soon. However, “The Power of Intention” is a good read and if you approach it with an open mind... who knows?
Knock Your Socks Off Books - Part 2
Labels: books, dave Schleicher, Elizabeth Miller, Harry Bliss, Jeff Belanger, Jessica Fox-Wilson, Nigel Patterson, Paul Sinclair, R.A. Salvatore, reading, Steve AlmondStumbleUpon | Digg | del.icio.us | Reddit | Technorati | E-mail