Thursday, June 26, 2008

Always a catch

Author, documentary film maker and futurist Kevin Kelly posts about the world as it is now and as it may become at One of his blogs, reached through that URL, is Cool Tools, and there he recently listed books that changed his life.

He said, “Books still have the power to change lives. Which ones have changed yours?” I don't mean merely great books, or memorable ones, or favorite ones. I mean books that altered your behavior, changed your mind, redirected the course of your life. Books as levers.”

There are a number of books that would have to be on my list of most influential works -- Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk, Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway -- but if I had to pick just one, it would be Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.

It was published in 1961, my freshman year in high school, and I got my hands on it was through a retired librarian named Emma Huber, who first hooked me on reading when I was six and with whom I had become good friends, despite a difference in age of nearly four decades. If I am a book junkie, and I am, then Mrs. Huber was my first dealer. God bless her.

The book opened my eyes to the absurdity of life; I grew up in a rural community in Ohio in the 1950s and until Catch-22, I had no idea that the rest of the world was so different from what I knew or that adults were just muddling along, too, trying to figure it all out.

I have a copy of the book, my third since 1961, and I reread it every three or four years. If you have a favorite book that you haven't read for awhile, do so, and see how your perception of it might change when seen through the filter of advancing years.