I just found an interesting literary pursuit: The Birth Year Reading Challenge from Hotchpot Café. Participants find books published in the year of their birth and pledge to read them this year. If you're interested, hop over to Hotchpot Café, and then check out the NYT best-seller list for the very week you were born at Biblioz.com
After a bit of research, here's my list:
Matarese Circle—Robert Ludlum—Number one on the NYT best-seller list the week I was born. I've never read any Ludlum. Spy novels really aren't my genre. But it's very Cold War, the last gasps of which played a big role in my childhood.
Good as Gold—Joseph Heller—Number two on the NYT list the week of my birth. I read Catch 22 in the Czech Republic. I didn't exactly like it all. The profanity and "adult" material detracted from the experience for me. I couldn't keep track of all the characters or the timeline. Once I decided to stop trying to keep everything straight, however, I just melted into the insanity of it all: the bizarre, contradictory, implausible nature of war and life. Brilliant and powerful book, if not always to my taste. I'd liked to see how Good as Gold compares.
Sophie's Choice—William Styron. I haven't seen the movie, but the book's been on my "to read" list for a while. The effects of the Holocaust are far-reaching.
If on a Winter's Night a Traveler—Italo Calvino. Famous for being written in second person, and playing with the roles of reader and author, this book intrigues me. Like Catch 22, who knows if I'll actually like it, but I'm open. Goodreads.com describes it as a "triumphant response to the question of whether the art of fiction could survive the vast changes taking place in the communications technology of our world." In 1979? He's probably rolling in his grave now.
Hard Laughter—Anne Lamott. I'm just finishing up on her Bird by Bird; Some Instructions on Writing and Life. She has some clever lines and good advice (most of it more about mindset than actual skill development), but I find the book a little whiny. She talks on and on about how torturous it is to be a writer, until I'm kind of like, "why do you write, then?" I think that's just her brand of humor, though I can only take it in small doses. I'd like to see what her novels are like. This is her first published, and she talks about it a lot in Bird by Bird.