Recently, I’ve found myself retreating into familiar books and music that make me feel good. These works I come back to again and again. They make me smile — and there’s creative value in returning to a source of inspiration. If a book or song or work of art got your creative juices flowing once, chances are that it will again. Often, you’ll discover something new you may not have noticed when you encountered the work the first time around.
Compiling a book list is tough. Depending on when you ask me, there might be some variance in my top selections. The music list is easier: Despite owning over 1,000 vinyl albums and tons of CDs, when it comes down to it I have rather narrow tastes in music.
I thought it might be fun to share lists of books, music, and anything else that makes you feel inspired. I’ll publish some here in the coming weeks and would like to include your entire list on www.stickyideas.com, my creativity Web site. So here goes.
“To Serve Them All My Days” by R.F. Delderfield. A young man returns from World War I and takes a job as a teacher in an English boarding school. What happens between the two World Wars is the backdrop for this wonderful story.
“Sarum” by Edward Rutherfurd. Sarum traces British history from the beginning through the eyes of five families in Salisbury. If you like family history, architecture, and great storytelling, I can’t recommend this book highly enough.
“The Most of P.G. Wodehouse” by P.G. Wodehouse. Like to laugh? Enjoy great writing? Hate finding an author you love who has only written one book? Try P.G. Wodehouse, my all-time favorite author. The short stories in this collection will introduce you to a cast of characters, including Jeeves, the butler by whom all other butlers are judged. The collection includes the single funniest short story ever written, “The Great Sermon Handicap.”
“The Once and Future King” by T.H. White. One to savor. The Arthurian legend is beautifully related by White. Read this one to your kids.
“Bleeding London” by Geoff Nicholson. Absurd characters and an even stranger plot make this one of the most interesting books I’ve read in a long time. He’s got a good selection of other titles I’m working my way through.
“English Journey” by J.B. Priestly. In 1933, Priestly took to the rails and buses on a trip through England. I took a similar trip mirroring the book 20 years ago. Much more enlightening than a week in London.
“The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss. The beginning of the environmental movement in a children’s book? Dr. Seuss wrote this in 1971, and he tells a wonderful story with serious undertones: Protect the earth at all costs.
“The Best American Sports Writing of the Century” edited by David Halbertam. If you want to find out what makes America tick, this is the place to start. With stories by Jimmy Breslin, Norman Mailer, Frank Deford, and Grantland Rice, this book is one my most cherished possessions. Whether you’re a sports fan or not, you’ll enjoy the writing.
“The Gormenghast Novels : ‘Titus Groan,’ ‘Gormenghast,’ ‘Titus Alone’ by Mervyn Peake. I haven’t actually read these, but my early mentor, Sean Dooley in London, suggested I read these books. I’ve tried over a dozen times and can’t do it. I made a promise to get through these some day. If any of you have, let me know your secret.
“The Great American Meatloaf Contest Cookbook” by yours truly and T.K. Woods. An epic tome about America’s No. 1 food hit the shelves in 1994. If you’ll buy 300,000 more, we’ll break even!
Mott the Hoople. Quite simply, the greatest rock band of all time. When I mention their name, I usually get blank stares. In the annals of rock, nobody did it better. Ian Hunter, whose song “Cleveland Rocks” is the musical lead-in for “The Drew Carey Show,” was their lead singer. Start with the album called “Mott.”
The Jam. The Jam were best at telling what was really going on in England during the late ’70s and early ’80s. Never heard of them? Try “In The City.”
The Boomtown Rats. I remember hearing their first album in ’77. Powerful stuff that still sounds great. If you haven’t heard of them, you may know their lead singer, Bob Geldof, one of the organizers of Live Aid. Try their first album, “The Boomtown Rats.”
Ultravox. Two lead singers over the band’s life, John Foxx and Midge Ure, neatly divide their existence into two periods. I’m a bit of a Foxx snob, but the later stuff is great, too. From the Foxx era, try “Systems Of Romance.” From the Ure era, “Vienna.”
The Alarm. You want passionate songs and big, booming anthems? Then you want The Alarm. I recently saw the latest version of The Alarm in Richmond, VA. Only 50 or so people showed up, but the band put on a show that was truly inspiring. You’d have thought they were playing to 50,000. Begin your Alarm journey with “Standards.”
Uriah Heep. Remember them? They’re still going strong. I get a monthly newsletter from them. Their fans are some of the most loyal in the world. I’m still listening to their live album from 1973. God, I’m old.
There you have it. I’ve bared my soul. I hope you’re thinking about your own list right now. Please send it to me at email@example.com, and let’s share some personal favorites.