"Knowledge needs thought. It needs pause. It is especially sensual."
Azar Nafisi said this last spring in a talk she gave at my university on her book, "Reading Lolita in Tehran". I was in the front row, frantically scratching away at my notepad in the darkened audience. (Yes, I can't remember to carry my business cards with me, but I never leave home without a little notepad in which to scribble beautiful things.) In the spirit of her talk, she threw out a lot of quotes of Nabokov. My favorite one was:
"Curiosity is insubordination in it's purest form."
She also liked to quote Primo Levi:
"I started writing again," Levi said, "to join the community of mankind."
Finally, my all time favorite quote of the night is when Nafisi was asked by an audience member to reveal her favorite book.
"When it comes to books, I am very promiscuous," she laughed. The audience laughed with her. I wanted to hug her on the spot. If anything, I wanted to shake her hand and thank her for being so open, warm and real under the spotlight of the stage. She was a healthy reminder that academically-oriented sorts of people can still be people, too. Thank god for women like this.
Reading has always been a central theme in my life. When I was a kid, I learned rather quickly that if I had my nose in a book, then I would pretty much be left alone by the vast majority of adults in my life. Like all kids with a rough home life, reading became my great escape, my soma-pill, of sorts.
So, as promised, here are some of my favorite books. (As you will see, I'm all over the map.)
"Beach Music" by Pat Conroy
"The Prince of Tides" by Pat Conroy
"The Alchemist" by Paolo Coelho
"By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept" by Paolo Coelho
"Eleven Minutes" by Paulo Coelho (All of Coelho's books could be listed here.)
"The Dance of the Four Winds" by Alberto Villoldo
"The Ornament of the World" by Maria Rosa Menocal
"Orientalism" by Edward Said
"Reading Lolita in Tehran" by Azar Nafisi
"She's Come Undone" by Wally Lamb
"Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens
"Alice in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll
"The Four Agreements" by Miguel Ruiz (others are favorites as well)
"Memoirs of a Geisha" by Arthur Golden
"Nine Parts of Desire" by Geraldine Brooks
"The Red Tent" by Anita Diamant
"Fear of Flying" by Erica Jong (All of Jong's books are rich, wonderful, fascinating tales. Love her.)
"The World According to Garp" by John Irving (Irving is another American favorite.)
"A Widow for One Year" by John Irving
"A Guide for the Perplexed" by Moses Maimonides
"The Republic" and "Apology" by Plato
"Blowback" by Chalmers Johnson
"The Second Sex" by Simone de Beauvoir
"Nausea" by Jean-Paul Sartre
"The Stranger" by Albert Camus
"The Unbearable Lightness of Being" by Milan Kundera (all of the Kundera's work is incredible)
"Native Son" by Richard Wright
Finally, I am currently reading two books:
"Be Still and Get Going: A Jewish Meditation Practice for Real Life", by Alan Lew
"Dune" by Frank Herbert
I've started a little reading club with my rabbi friend. I have a feeling that the next several months will have me reading outside of my comfort zone(s). I'll let ya'll know how it goes.
Thanks again for everyone's reading suggestions. I'm heading to the store tomorrow!