Trip Starkey is a book-loving English Literature student at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, TX. He helps with the book reviews over at The Literary Man Blog. He also has a poem published at Similar:Peaks::Poetry. And he can be found on Twitter.
As you can assume, the organizational skills of any 21-year-old college male are rarely up to the standards of normal, self-sustained adults. So as to not disappoint my mother, I have made it my utmost priority to neatly organize, stack, and shelve the hundreds of books in my apartment. A task that, at times, seems to be more than I can handle. This often results in mounds of books being sporadically placed across my floor.
When I began taking my studies seriously as a sophomore in college (arriving one year late to the party), I also began acquiring books somewhat frequently. Taking on the task of reviewing books for a blog only seemed to perpetuate my problem of acquisition. Now, entering my senior year of college, I have come to find myself walled in by books, praying each day that a fire does not break out in my apartment.
Scanning the towers of books on the floor next to my bed – most of which are poorly stacked, yielding to a heavy lean – I see some great titles that have served (and are continuing to serve) as guides to my own understanding of the world.
Note: I have a quirk. I tend to keep stacks with multiple genres near my bed, giving myself a variety of styles to choose from when I read. (Or, in other words, I don’t take care to arrange by any particular method).
The fiction I have favored lately includes the wonderfully brilliant novel Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (Picador, 2004), and the hell-spun short-story collection I Hate To See That Evening Sun Go Down by William Gay (Free Press, 2003). Robinson provides me with the spiritual guidance needed by any young person (religious or not), while Gay provides wildly entertaining gothic tales that never fail to disturb the peacefulness of sleep.
For nonfiction I have Kevin Young’s artfully crafted The Grey Album: On The Blackness of Blackness (Greywolf Press, 2012), which is a stunning delve into African American culture. It is a skillfully written study by one of my favorite working writers. I also have Zora Neale Hurston’s memoir Dust Tracks on a Road (Harper Perennial, 1942), which is a charming chronicle of her life as a storyteller growing up in the segregated, rural south.
As for poetry, I have been working my way through Frank Stanford’s haunting epic The Battlefield Where The Moon Says I Love You (Lost Roads Publishers, 2000). This 15,000-line poem is one of the most intriguing works I’ve read in the American canon. Written entirely without punctuation, it requires all brain function, and completely engrosses you as a reader. The other collection I have been ingesting is Bye-and-Bye: Selected Late Poems by Charles Wright (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011). A brilliant poet, Wright has been able to focus me as a young writer, helping me along with vibrant imagery and a fervent message.
Finally, I have a few light reads for entertainment. The first one is Who Killed John F. Kennedy by the ever-hilarious guys over at Despair, Inc (2013). The book takes the form of a Choose Your Own Adventure story, a favorite for children of the ’80s and ’90s. However, this detective story is rigged. It can only end in defeat. I have found myself laughing out loud on multiple occasions, and the book is very well made with great illustrations and plot. The other entertaining reading I have next to my bed is The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor (selected and edited by Sally Fitzgerald; Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1979). This collection of letters by one of my all-time favorite authors opens the door to all facets of O’Connor’s personality, and is a truly delightful read.
These books, along with others, make up the accumulation next to my bed, and each of them garnishes an ecstatic recommendation from me.
What must-reads can you recommend for this young reader/writer?