Top Books and Top Movies

A class assignment in 503 asked for the top favorite books and movies. So it here it is for another audience. I notice that the movie list is a lot more variable than the book list. The book list is more stable than the movie list. I’ve seen so many movies it’s hard to remember the ones that really make an impression. It’s also a temperament thing. For books I often remember the place and time I was reading them, the connection is more emotional. For movies it’s less so.

Books

  1. Collected Poems by Wallace Stevens. I first really read Stevens in a poetry class at Yale with Harold Bloom, but I had admired him even in high school.
  2. Dispossessed by Ursula LeGuin. The SF novel that opened my eyes to gender issues and political anarchism. It gave me a sense that a social system could really be different than the one we inhabit.
  3. Finite and Infinite Games by James Carse. I read this in high school and remember referring to it while writing a summer school essay on George Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant.”
  4. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. I think I first plowed through this early in high school or late in junior high. The book that made me want to be a philosopher.
  5. Godel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter. I remember reading this book in the backseat of my mom’s car one summer evening around Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis, probably early high school.

Movies

  1. Blade Runner. I think I saw this on videotape during high school. I’m not sure if I was attracted by the movie or the Vangelis score.
  2. Brazil. Another biting satire that I remember watching with my high school friends. We all acknowledged that “we’re all in it together.”
  3. Network. Pure scene chewing anger, I love it.
  4. Bridge on the River Kwai. The hook that set me onto David Lean and the movie epic.
  5. Casablanca. The usual suspects. I saw this again over the holiday break and it astounds me how perfectly polished it is. A gem from the heart of the studio age.

I could easily add more books (Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell) or movies (anything by Powell and Pressburger), but here’s the list as of today.