On The Porch

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I first read Herman Wouk’s THE WINDS OF WAR about 15 years ago, and I loved it.

I loved it so much that the minute I finished its 900 pages I picked up its sequel, WAR AND REMEMBRANCE, and polished off its 900 pages too.

But 15 years ago I was not yet hooked on World War II history or its literature; I had only been to Europe for work, which is to say I had not seen much, if anything, of Italy or France or Germany or England or Poland; I had not yet signed up for a class called simply “The Holocaust”; I was about to sign up for my first college French class, where I would stay for 4 years; 15 years ago I had not yet been to Auschwitz, nor had I read any of the 34 books on my shelf about Hitler’s rise to power, the Nazi machine, or accounts by Jewish survivors.  As I sit here this first of May 2015, re-reading one of my favorite sprawling sagas, I wonder, “How could I have loved this historical novel so much when I knew so little about what’s in it?”

Sitting here on the porch with my same old broken-in 15 year old copy of THE WINDS OF WAR, I realize it was this book — this very book — that set me on my path.  So often I hear someone say the words, “I don’t read,” and yet as I sit here I wonder:  what would I have studied, where would I have traveled, whom might I have not met, what books would I have bought instead, what would I have learned, who would I even be if I had not started right here?

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Tell me about a book that set you on your path.

14 thoughts on “On The Porch

  1. donnaeve

    Do you have, oh, about six months for me to tell you? In some ways, I believe every book I’ve ever read might have been THE BOOK, the catalyst for where I am today. I wish I could say it was something as sophisticated, complex, or as epic as WINDS. Having said that, I can speak with truthfulness and tell you if it was BASTARD OUT OF CAROLINA. If I ever wanted to write like someone, it was Dorothy Allison, after I read that book. I still do.

  2. amyg

    What a great question.

    In high school, after reading Fear of Flying & Women’s Room, I remember being simultaneously pissed off about womanhood and incredibly excited to be part of it. I still harbor this same conflict and still have the same drive to write with half the intellect and fire of Jong & French.

    1. Teri Post author

      Would you believe I did not read Fear of Flying until you recommended it? That’s how painfully far behind I am.

      (and of course it’s life-changing and incredible)

  3. Paul Lamb

    I don’t think I can put my finger on a single book that got me started. (Probably two high school teachers would get the credit/blame for that.) But I can tell you that I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read Philip Roth’s The Ghost Writer. (Easily 30 times!) It is masterful; I get the sense that every word, every bit of punctuation is exactly right. Plus, it’s about a writer. Plus it’s about a troubled father/son relationship. Time to read it again.

    Great post.

    1. Teri Post author

      Sometimes I think we are programmed to read the “old greats” like Shakespeare etc … to inspire us, and yet it’s whatever we read — like your Roth, which is incredible, one of my favorite books!! — that’s what inspires us. I’m sure there will be some who are appalled that Wouk inspires me, but do I care?

      Um. No.

  4. koehlerjoni

    When I was in high school, I read The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men. I loved the simple, straightforward language in these two books, and wished more than anything that I would some day be able to write like Steinbeck. As an adult, a book that had a profound effect on me was a children’s book by Karen Hesse called Out of the Dust. There was a point at the end of this little book that resonated with me so strongly that I cried. My tears felt like forgiveness, and they also felt like being forgiven. I really love books. Now I’m going to have to read The Winds of War.

  5. heatheryapks

    I’ve already read Mitch Albom’s For One More Day, and I think it’s amazing! For those who are interested in amazing tales of people, you should really check this out!

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