On a gloomy day recently I straightened up my bookcase and the task led to some reflection on the great books — along with some of the great notions contained in them — that I have relegated to the top shelf over the years. For instance I was reminded in Thomas McGuane’s fine collection of essays called “Some Horses” that it is “not the duty of the horse to be a biofeedback mechanism for yearning humans.”
I suppose with some literary license that could be extended to burros/donkeys and dogs. But I digress . . .
Most astounding was a count of 18 books by Jim Harrison, and I suppose it is true that I am a fan. These books include, novels, collections of novellas, non-fiction essays, a memoir and two volumes of poetry. Harrison rose to prominence with his classic “Legends of the Fall,” which is the best story ever told in under 100 pages. Other Harrison favorites include the novella collections, “The Beast God Forgot to Invent,” “Julip,” “The Woman Lit by Fireflies,” and “The Summer He Didn’t Die,” each of which contains a Brown Dog story. And then there are the more recent “Returning to Earth” and “The English Major,” which I really enjoyed. His “The Raw and the Cooked” is as fine a collection of essays on food as has ever been published. Most of Harrison’s books have the trademark Russell Chatham painting on the cover.
Also on the top shelf are some books by Cormac McCarthy. I started reading McCarthy with his breakthrough “All the Pretty Horses,” and I found the other two books in his border trilogy, “The Crossing” and “Cities of the Plain” just as dense and compelling. More recently his more straight-forward “No Country for Old Men” and “The Road” have placed McCarthy among the best authors of our time. However, I don’t care for anything he wrote prior to the border trilogy. The film version of “The Road” is due in movie theaters in October.
Other top-shelf books: “Querencia” by Stephen Bodio; Animal Dreams” and “High Tide in Tucson” by Barbara Kingsolver, “Blood and Thunder” by Hampton Sides; “Keep the Change” by Thomas McGuane; “Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs” by Wallace Stegner; “The Rites of Autumn” by Dan O’Brien; “The VIllage Horse Doctor” by Ben K. Green; “This House of Sky” by Ivan Doig; “Essays of E.B. White”; “Make Prayers to the Raven” by Richard K. Nelson.
I keep these books on my top shelf because I find them worth re-reading from time to time. I’m writing about them because I think they are worth sharing.