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My Desk Books

October 15, 2008

On my writing desk are some books. Stacked up like bricks right in front of me and my keyboard, this is my super-secret-special library. People who check out the downstairs bookcase wont find these titles. They are my favorite books and I keep them close to where I write for use as references if I need them. The books are all quite different from each other, but they all have a certain lyrical beauty, a way of placing words into gorgeous form as if mixed colors on a canvas, and stories that keep me interested forever. They are each written in prose I wish I could write and I have no hesitation flipping any of them open to read a few random paragraphs whenever I find myself stranded at the keyboard, unsure of where to go next. They always help. The hard part is closing the book up again and getting back to my own thing.

These books give me inspiration. They are certainly not your standard list of favorite books, but they work for me and that’s all that counts in my lone, selfish goal to be a better writer. My feeling is this: surround yourself with beauty, then let it soak into your pores.

I’ve heard you can’t write an original story anymore. These are the same fools who say you can’t write an original song anymore. I don’t believe it for a second. That’s like saying you can’t have an original baby anymore because there are so many people already in the world. Each baby, each story, each song is inherently different because of two keys things: the giver and the taker. It’s all about perspective and we’ve each got a different one.

The giver is the writer or the musician or the baby itself. By putting out into the world what they have to offer, they are the givers. The taker is the reader, the listener, the random people sitting in cafés watching other people go about their lives. By taking in what the givers give them, they are the takers.

All of us are both givers and takers. And we all enjoy that unique perspective, a truly special set of experiences which help define us. We have our own senses, memories, ideas, family, friends, stories, priorities, and dreams. You read one of those books below and you hate it. I read it and I am consumed with appreciation for it. You listen to The Cure and love every note. I listen to The Cure and can’t turn it off quickly enough.

What I’m throwing out there is we’re each built in a crazy way and though we have so many similarities, we have many, many more differences. And that’s what gives me a seed of hope. Seeking to find, explore, and magnify what makes me different than you. That’s my goal as a writer: to write the original line, the rhythmic, musical phrase, the single most important word for that very moment. And then find a way to do it over and over again every time until it paints the complete picture that was probably there all along. That’s how I see it anyway and it can’t hurt to try.


Peace Like a River – Lief Enger
The Sky, The Stars, The Wilderness
– Rick Bass
The Shadow of The Wind –
Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Dharma Bums –
Jack Kerouac
Bluesman –
Andre Dubus III
The River Why –
David James Duncan
The Secret History –
Donna Tartt

(If anyone reads this…what are your “desk books”?)

One Comment leave one →
  1. japhy99 permalink
    October 17, 2008 5:32 pm

    Sadly, I don’t have any books on my desk. But here at work I do have desk movies — DVDs I’ll pop in when I need a break or inspiration, watch a few scenes, get back to work.

    The Departed, Heaven, Magnolia, Usual Suspects, Shawshank Redemption, Hero, Glengarry GlenRoss, Lost in Translation, Ghost Dog, Traffic, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon…

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