Friday, October 13, 2023

Andy Young: The Best Ever (plus two)

By Andy Young

When I was growing up, 14 ears of corn cost a dollar.

The price was actually a dollar a dozen, but the farmer always threw in two extra ears just in case one of the others had a worm in it, which often happened back before genetic engineering and various pesticides sent those disgusting green wrigglers to wherever it is big watermelon seeds, tomatoes that taste like tomatoes, and other no-longer-existing agricultural products and byproducts of my childhood ended up disappearing to.

Those delicious ears of corn came to mind last week when some friends and I were discussing what we thought the best twelve books in history are.

I love being asked for my point of view on something, because I can’t give a wrong answer. It’s my opinion; ergo whatever my response, it is the correct one.

Picking the best dozen books out of the literally millions ever written is a tall order, even if the search is limited to works authored in one’s native tongue. In my case, that means English, since I am unable to fluently speak or read any other language.

But where to begin? I’ve always preferred non-fiction to made-up stories, and a significant percentage of what I’ve read over the years is baseball related. What about other genres, like children’s literature?

Two children’s books occupy space on my shelf. Go, Dog. Go! was a Christmas gift from my parents; my original copy still has my mom’s handwritten “Merry Christmas, Andy” in it. That particular book is truly the gift that keeps on giving; it had me convinced my oldest child was a prodigy, since he was reading it to me, verbatim, before he was 3 years old!

Unfortunately, an acquaintance who enjoyed destroying parental fantasies haughtily informed me my son wasn’t actually reading the words; rather, he was reciting them from memory, since they had been read to him so many times previously.

(Historical note: the person who destroyed my son’s chance to graduate from high school at age 12 and/or earn a Rhodes Scholarship is no longer a part of our lives.)

The title character in Sylvester and the Magic Pebble is an introspective and kind young donkey who likes collecting small stones of various shapes, sizes, and colors. To reveal anything else would spoil the story, which is as gripping and memorable as the message(s) it conveys are important. Go, Dog. Go! and Sylvester and the Magic Pebble are definitely two of the best dozen books ever written.

Holy cow! There’s no way anyone can ever describe the best twelve books of all time in just 600 words, so I guess I’ll have to just list them. In no particular order, the 10 best English language books ever, besides Go, Dog. Go! and Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, are:

Blue Highways, by William Least Heat Moon

Forward from This Moment, by Leonard Pitts, Jr.

The Glory of Their Times, by Lawrence Ritter

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Loose Balls, by Terry Pluto

Ball Four, by Jim Bouton and Leonard Shecter

The Lost Continent, by Bill Bryson

The Runaway Jury, by John Grisham

The Fifties, by David Halberstam

What I Know for Sure, by Oprah Winfrey

I’m also going to throw in Holes, by Louis Sachar, and The Gift of Nothing, by Patrick McDonnell, as bonuses. If that farmer was kind enough to add a couple of ears of corn to the bag, I can be equally generous by adding two literary additional gems to my booklist.

Those are, in my considered opinion, the best twelve (plus two) English-language books ever written.

Now let the discussion continue. <

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