There’s a couple of book clubs I know of presenting books to read for January. One of the book clubs is hosted by our local independent bookseller, the other has spread widely online by a tweet from Duncan Jones, David Bowie’s son.

The Duncan Jones book offering is an older book, from the mid-80s, and sounds rather intense (which got my curiosity going). The book is Hawksmoor, by Peter Ackroyd. 

The summary I read intimidated me, which got my love of a challenge going, and now I’ve been trying to find a copy of the book which, according to the above local bookseller, is out of print (Dear Duncan Jones, did you notice the book is out of print before posting this widely online?).

Hawksmoor is one from David Bowie’s The Top 100 Books list he put together years ago. Further books in Duncan Jones online book club will come from his father’s not-remotely-light-weight list.

Apparently, someone named Nicholas Hawksmoor did exist: he was an English architect in the later 1600s, worked alongside Christopher Wren. 

(Weeks later, I’ve had no success finding Hawksmoor, so I tried The Clerkenwell Tales instead, also by Peter Ackroyd, a The Canterbury Tales-esque book with similar archetypes as characters. … Ehhh.)

Back to Hawksmoor.

The basic summary tells of Nicholas Dyer, the architect, who is building churches in London in the 1700s, but unknown to his colleagues, including his supervisor, Sir Christopher Wren, Dyer decides the building of each church requires a human sacrifice. A parallel story is set in present day, with Detective Nicholas Hawksmoor sleuthing about trying to determine why people are currently being strangled at each of these churches the architect Dyer had built long ago, with no evidence at all ever found. There is hint of dark supernatural forces gathering…

Suffice to say, not my style book, but if I can find a copy, I’ll give it a go. 

(Now that it’s too late to receive for book club deadline, I’ve found an affordable copy that is on the way from the U.K.)

The second book for book club reading, the one from our local bookseller, is called Good Morning, Midnight, by Lily Brooks-Dalton. It is her debut novel.

This book has parallel stories as well: one of an older astronomer who stays behind at his Arctic observatory in the midst of some unexplained global catastrophe that has all the other scientists hurriedly evacuate the Arctic — and then suddenly all communications channels on the planet go silent. While inventorying his resources, the lone astronomer discovers a small child that had been left behind in the chaos of the evacuation. The second story that the chapters go back and forth between, this setting in a space shuttle returning from a maiden fact-finding voyage around Jupiter, has the six astronauts eager to get home, only to find all contact with Earth is suddenly gone while they are still weeks/months away from Earth.

So far, about a third of the way through the book, I’ve been distracted by the thought of anyone leaving their child alone, forever, at an Arctic anything, this being completely implausible to me, although my husband suggested a parent might leave their child behind if they thought it was the one chance for them to survive…

I don’t know. Maybe the reasoning becomes more clear later in the book. 

(I also wonder how this book would go if the child were chatty or petulant or miserable, rather than the perfectly silent and content child Iris seems to be, so far…)

Lily Dalton-Brooks is a lovely writer. She got me thinking with the opening scene, her descriptions of primary color here and there rather than of the ice and cold of the Arctic winter. I’ve appreciated her choices of description in and of each setting and how well she builds the internal worlds of these loner-type humans faced with some heavy existential issues. This is also a book I’d not likely pick up for myself so I’m appreciating trying something new. 

Further thoughts when the book is finished.

On to booklists. I remember asking my older siblings when I was a teen for their lists of books they thought ought to be read. Only my sister replied. I read all the books from her list and loved the challenge, and opening of new worlds, of reading books I’d not choose for myself (especially then as a teenager). Among others, she had The Epic of Gilgamesh on her list, In Cold Blood, Truman Capote, and East of Eden, John Steinbeck (which made it onto my own, rather spontaneous, list below).

There have been several other book lists I’ve followed in the years since as reader, but after looking through and recognizing maybe ten books I’ve read on David Bowie’s Top 100 Books List, with only a few more I’ve even heard of, I do find David Bowie’s list way beyond my scope or interest. 

His list did get me thinking of books that I might put on a list, though — books throughout my life that have stuck with me, that have resonated deeply, touched me emotionally, or have powerful truths to tell. Others I’ve read over and over for whatever reason but usually just to re-immerse myself in the world of this particular time or place, these particular characters, this or that happening, this author’s mind. 

If I were thinking of books for only literary quality I’d have a different list. If I were to include some of my favorite research-oriented books I’ve discovered over the years (that have become a personal passion), the list would also be drastically different. Same with favorite escapist books — cotton candy books I call them. Pure fluff. Different list.

This list, though, is a few of the ones, writers and stories, that have lingered with me, that I’ve never forgotten…that now come to mind. 

(and there are more than I thought would be.) 

Most of these I first read as a teen to young adult, and usually have read more than once; a couple of these are from childhood. Only a few from recent years:

East of Eden, John Steinbeck

Call of the Wild, Jack London

Five Smooth Stones, Ann Fairbairn

Winter’s Tale, Mark Helprin

Jitterbug Perfume, Tom Robbins

The Gruesome Green Witch, Pat Coffin 

All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr

The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Alex Haley and Malcolm X

Cress Delahanty, Jessamyn West

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

My Antonia, Willa Cather

A Light in the Forest, Conrad Richter

Eastern Body, Western Mind:…, Anodea Judith

The Season of the Witch, James Leo Herlihy (not the more recent fantasy book)

The Gnostic Gospels, Elaine Pagels

Magic and Medicine of Plants, Robert Dolezal

Color, Victoria Finlay

The Disappearing Spoon:..., Sam Kean

The Tao of Physics, Fritjof Capra

Demian and Narcissus and Goldmund, Hermann Hesse

Mary Poppins, P.L. Travers

Little Men and The Eight Cousins, Louisa May Alcott

Arcadia, Lauren Groff

Euphoria, Lily King

Someone Knows My Name, Lawrence Hill

Sacred Geometry, Deciphering the Code, Stephen Skinner

Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes, Edith Hamilton

Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, H. R. Ellis Davidson

Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien

The Rose, Umberto Eco

The House of Spirits, Isabel Allende

The Rubyfruit Jungle, Rita Mae Brown

The Family of Man, Edward Steichen

The Tracker and other books, Tom Brown, Jr.

Beach Music and The Water is Wide, Pat Conroy

Peachtree Road, Anne Rivers Siddons

Watership Down, John Updike


Better get back to reading. Book club’s coming up.

What about you? What books have stuck with you for ages?

Views: 448

Comment by alsoknownas on January 26, 2018 at 11:01am

Working, Studs Terkel

Spoon River Anthology, Edgar Lee Masters

Letters From The Earth, Mark Twain

The Bible, Misc. people in sandals

Comment by Anna Herrington on January 26, 2018 at 11:07am

I do plan to check out any books I've not read yet.

And I've not read any of these, well, the Bible aside (it didn't linger... ; )). Thanks, aka ~

Comment by Ron Powell on January 26, 2018 at 11:34am

In the final analysis book lists are about the personal tastes and preferences of the people who take the time to compile the lists...

What makes a good or a great book list is not so much as what's in the list as what's in the person who makes the list...

Thanks for sharing your list and yourself.....

Comment by Anna Herrington on January 26, 2018 at 12:09pm

Ron, your comment is so true. I felt surprisingly vulnerable and exposed posting this one.... there are so many books and topics I have *not* read.

I do like seeing what others read, so thought I'd give it a go by sharing what books have stuck with me over the years. Thanks for stopping by ~

Comment by marshall bjohnson on January 26, 2018 at 1:48pm

Manchild in the Promiseland -Claude Brown

Down These Mean Streets -Piri Thomas

The Room-Hubert Selby Jr

A Place to Stand- Jimmy Santiago Baca

We’re All Doing Time- Bo Lozoff

Letters from the The Dhamma Brothers- Jerry Phillips

Panther Baby-Jamal Joseph

The Revolt of the Cockroach People- Oscar “Zeta’ Acosta

The Recovery Devotional Bible- ed. By Verne Becker

Comment by Rosigami on January 26, 2018 at 3:43pm

This was so interesting to read, Anna. I love your eclectic taste and willingness to try new things.
There are plenty on your list that I have read, and plenty I haven't. 
A Winter's Tale is one of my all-time favorite books. I've read it 4 or 5 times, I think. 

Here are just a few recent favorites of mine:

Wolf in White Van - John Darnielle

You Don't Have to Say You Love Me - Sherman Alexie (or anything else by Mr. Alexie, for that matter)

Wool - Hugh Howey 

Comment by cheshyre on January 26, 2018 at 9:50pm

There's still time to read the legendary "A Wrinkle In Time" before the movie comes out in March. Images the words painted still haunt me from my childhood.

People love lists!

Comment by Anna Herrington on January 27, 2018 at 9:48am

Good Morning ~

Such great comments and added books! Some I've not heard of but will, others I've read, others not yet  : )

Thanks for joining in ~

I added about 4 more books to the original list yesterday throughout the day.

As I wrote in the post, most of these I've read more than once, but a couple I added due to the experience around the reading, like Rubyfruit Jungle, which has lingered, I must admit!, but it is also so tied into a drive I took with my sister from Atlanta to Boston when I was 16 (I think) and my sister decided we'd read it out loud to each other on the way....she'd just been accepted to Harvard Grad. school and this trip marked her moving there, forever.  An unforgettable trip. An unforgettable book. I think we stopped reading it out loud somewhere north of Virginia as it got highly awkward...

I tried to pick a top 5 out of the list.... it keeps varying, but Five Smooth Stones is definitely one. First read around age 12, read at least once a decade since. Every human ought to read, imho, it is excellent.

Hermann Hesse's Demian would also be a top 5. Demian is nothing like Damian the evil kid or other dark tales... I can't count how many times I've read, but there's one point I still consider and take to heart, later in the book, where someone tells Demian to stop running after the 'light' in others, but to grow your own 'light' strong enough to radiate - that others will then be attracted to come to you.... I was hiding in a friend's basement from my then-meth-addicted first husband that week when I first read that passage. I am certain my then-future trajectory changed for the braver after reading that book the first time.

The Season of the Witch, by the author of Midnight Cowboy, I also read half a dozen times or more. Today I wonder if it is just of that time and place or whether I loved it due to family issues that mingled....but that story has lingered so long a while. Midnight Cowboy completely and wrongly, again imho, overshadowed this better book by Herlihy.

Tao of Physics I've read a couple times and it's lingered but it also is on the list partly due to the time while reading it first. My future husband turned me onto that book, we were hanging out in Cannon Beach, Oregon a lot, then, reading on the beach (it's Oregon, I was reading while in a warm jacket while hiding from the wind).

...and Rosi, same with me, re, Winter's Tale. At least 4 or 5 times. It was my top favorite book for years. 

A Wrinkle in Time! One my friends all loved while I couldn't get into any of that series that deeply, although I read them all...such a beloved classic for so many. I was gaga for Lewis Carroll as a kid reader, instead, Alice in Wonderland I ought to have added up there, as well, but not sure if it lingered due to my own reading or it's just in our collective culture's mind so thoroughly.

The Disappearing Spoon I added as I couldn't stop reading it! and haven't forgotten since. It's about the periodic table and history and elements - and so engrossing a read - who knew? 

The Gruesome Green Witch I wore out as a kid, eventually bought another copy in the past decade just to have. Out of print, weird and appealing book. Like a Narnia closet, a Hobbit world, and a beautiful Wicked Witch villain. All written in green type. Excellent illustrations, also all green. What I would have given as a kid for my closet to have a back door to another world...

And for today's Lewis Carroll birthday I also add:  The Jabberwocky. I memorized this poem backwards and forwards as a kid and then annoyingly recited it wherever I thought there might be an audience... sadly, I learned reciting this at school was less a path to glory than a path to eternal ridicule... but I was so proud... I still wonder about that 8 year old I was.

Thanks for coming by ~

Comment by koshersalaami on January 27, 2018 at 9:54am

Jabberwocky brings back memories. It's the name of the summer camp for people with cerebral palsy and Downs Syndrome that J went to. Every year the old English woman who founded camp read it aloud. One year one of the campers with Downs Syndrome did and she did a great job. Camp's on Martha's Vineyard. 

Comment by Anna Herrington on January 27, 2018 at 10:04am

I think I remember reading something about that camp you wrote awhile back...

Great name. and poem. And I see how it's a great camp name, too. wait. Martha's Vineyard?! That's also where I've heard it, I think, an old friend whose parents had a house there (now gone) and they'd sail around, work in summers, knew everyone on the island... maybe my friend even worked there long ago? but I'd have to ask to make sure of that one...

Anyway. A inspired writer with a wild mind, that Lewis Carroll. Jabberwocky is certainly an original.

(I don't know much about Carroll, but rather think I don't want to know, at this point.... I hate finding out a song I love was written by a creeper or abusive or druggie... no doubt, Carroll had to have been a bit weird.)


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