Now, there are two ways to go about this and I leave the choice up to you (unlike that Frost guy, who, true to his ingrained sense of white, male superiority forced me to take the road less traveled by).
You can, of course, choose to talk about books that were truly meaningful experiences. These are the books you want people to know you’ve read because they make you look smart, thoughtful, or at least literate. There’s nothing wrong with this desire and I actually like hearing stories about these types of reading experiences.
For example, when I read Joan Didion’s Play It as It Lays, I wanted to stop being a writer. That book is a clinic in how to write a novel. Nothing extra. Real people. Every chapter ends the way a great book should, and then another one starts. Sure, it’s a depressing account of the loss of meaning in 1960s Hollywood, but it’s so depressing you forgive it.
Or I could talk about Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey. I’d never heard of the 109-page novella about freewill and bridge collapses until I read it. And then, I wanted there to be six more like it so I could teach an entire class titled “See, this is what novels about faith are supposed to look like.” Of course, I’d shorten that title, but whatever.
So feel free to drop down to the comments if option one is the way you’d like to respond. However, if you are feeling more daring, choose option two. Tell me about the books you’ve read that you wouldn’t normally bring up in conversation. Here, let me help.
I’ve read the novelization of the Mel Brooks' movie Spaceballs at least six times. It’s still funny. Ditto the novelization of John Hughes’ Some Kind of Wonderful. Only read that book if you want to a) feel good and b) revel in nostalgia (the good kind of nostalgia, not that kind that rewrites the history of, say, Native Americans to the point where they were happy to find the reservation).
There are of course other books I could list, but I’d rather you did. So pony up people and let’s hear about the books that moved you (or moved you to silence).
Michael Dean Clark holds a PhD in English from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and is an assistant professor of writing at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, California. Currently, he is taking a break from writing to hike Mt. Whitney and watch the NBA finals.