The Austin Chronicle


Books We Love and a Few Books We Don't

January 7, 2000, Books

Mike Shea

1. A Star Called Henry: A Novel by Roddy Doyle
2. L.A. Requiem: A Novel by Robert Crais
3. Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation by John Phillip Santos
4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
5. Double Down: Reflections on Gambling and Loss by Frederick and Steven Barthelme
6. Apologizing to Dogs by Joe Coomer

1. Twilight at Mac's Place by Ross Thomas
2. Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times by Thomas Hauser
3. Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver
4. Strip Tease by Carl Hiaasen
5. Shot in the Heart by Mikal Gilmore
6. A Son of the Circus by John Irving
7. Smilla's Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg
8. The Woman Who Walked Into Doors by Roddy Doyle
9. Songdogs by Colum McCann
10. Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
11. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
12. The Sparrow by Maria Doria Russell
13. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Desert Island
1. Giles Goat Boy by John Barth
2. Alinsky's Diamond by Tom McHale.
3. The Glory & The Dream by William Manchester
4. The Unexpurgated Code by J.P. Donleavy
5. A Fan's Notes by Frederick Exley
6. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
7. The Barrytown Trilogy by Roddy Doyle
8. Five by Vonnegut (boxed set of Cat's Cradle, The Sirens of Titan, Slaughterhouse-Five, God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, Welcome to the Monkey House)
10. Anything by Robert B. Parker, Robert Crais, or Carl Hiaasen

I cheat. You know it. I know it. So sue me. But some books and authors simply demanded to be included. Lord knows I try to listen when a book makes demands. None of these books is perfect, but some seemed perfectly right at the time I held them in my hands. Maybe it was mere circumstance. A mood. Or the music I was listening to at the time. But when I thought of taking books to a desert island, this odd little collection, I decided to limit my choices to the very few books that I have revisited at least once that still brought a smile to my face. Most evoked a palpable sense of who and where I was when I first read them, whether it was the baby-faced high schooler devouring Vonnegut and savoring Barth or the twentysomething know-it-all reluctanctly accepting Manchester as a father's gift. The oddest book on the list is also the one I've read the most (though not necessarily the best on the list): Alinsky's Diamond by Tom McHale. Long out of print, it's a thoroughly lightweight, but fiendishly entertaining parable that is best describes itself: "For salvation, the good of man and forty thousand bucks, an expatriate alcoholic, a happy-go-lucky hooker, a pleasure-hungry pimp and an uptight abortionist follow an eccentric priest from France to Jerusalem to a terrifying realm of international intrigue on a wild crusade that explodes into the most devilish, devastating orgy of atonement of all time!" I dare you to find that at Barnes & Noble ...

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