“Walden is the only book I own, although there are some others unclaimed on my shelves. Every man, I think, reads one book in his life, and this one is mine. It is not the best book I ever encountered, perhaps, but it is for me the handiest, and I keep it about me in much the same way one carries a handkerchief – for relief in moments of defluxion or despair.” (White in The New Yorker, May 23, 1953)
A friend recently invited me to be interviewed on a new literary site (info to come later). He asked me a bunch of questions about reading and writing. When thinking about the answers, I wanted to look back at books I own, but I couldn’t find many of them. Right now my books are scattered around the world, and I feel slightly unsettled because of this.
Some of my books are en route from Germany. Others are in Chicago, while others are in storage. I don’t like having them in three different places.
This got me thinking about beloved books and the above White quotation.
I would have to say that the most constant literary touchstone for me over the last 15 years has been Louise Glück’s First Four Books Of Poems.
Other books have moved me greatly and have shaped my writing and thinking more, but I find myself returning to the poems in this collection again and again like comfort food for thought.
So I wonder, what’s your “one book”?