This particular feature is still being figured out, but as I’ve done TV shows (Gilmore Girls, Twin Peaks) and books (‘Salem’s Lot), I thought I might try a song. When I’m not feeling particularly great, I listen to Bob Dylan – and there’s been a lot of Bob Dylan listening lately. Anyway, ‘Shelter from the Storm’ is one of my favorite songs of all time and I feel a little cheap using it, because there are so many interpretations of it – I feel like you could almost make any book fit. Here are seven of my favorite recommendations:
The Road by Cormac McCarthy. A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.
The Ice Storm by Rick Moody. The year is 1973. As a freak winter storm bears down on an exclusive, affluent suburb in Connecticut, cark skid out of control, men and women swap partners, and their children experiment with sex, drugs, and even suicide. Here two families, the Hoods and the Williamses, com face-to-face with the seething emotions behind the well-clipped lawns of their lives-in a novel widely hailed as a funny, acerbic, and moving hymn to a dazed and confused era of American life.
Bag of Bones by Stephen King. Four years after the sudden death of his wife, forty-year-old bestselling novelist Mike Noonan is still grieving. Unable to write, and plagued by vivid nightmares set at the western Maine summerhouse he calls Sara Laughs, Mike reluctantly returns to the lakeside getaway. There, he finds his beloved Yankee town held in the grip of a powerful millionaire, Max Devore, whose vindictive purpose is to take his three-year-old granddaughter, Kyra, away from her widowed young mother, Mattie. As Mike is drawn into Mattie and Kyra’s struggle, as he falls in love with both of them, he is also drawn into the mystery of Sara Laughs, now the site of ghostly visitations and escalating terrors. What are the forces that have been unleashed here—and what do they want of Mike Noonan?
Nickel Mountain by John Gardner. At the heart of John Gardner’s Nickel Mountain is an uncommon love story: when at 42, the obese, anxious and gentle Henry Soames marries seventeen-year-old Callie Wells who is pregnant with the child of a local boyit is much more than years which define the gulf between them. But the beauty of this novel is the gradual revelation of the bond that develops as this unlikely couple experiences courtship and marriage, the birth of a son, isolation, forgiveness, work, and death in a small Catskill community in the 1950s. The plot turns on tragic eventsthey might be accidents or they might be acts of willinvolving a cast of rural eccentrics tha includes a lonely amputee veteran, a religious hysteric (thought by some to be the devil himself) and an itinerant “Goat Lady.” Questions of guilt, innocence, and even murder are eclipsed by deeds of compassion, humility, and redemption, and ultimately by Henry Soames’ quiet discovery of grace.
All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld. Jake Whyte is living on her own in an old farmhouse on a craggy British island, a place of ceaseless rains and battering winds. Her disobedient collie, Dog, and a flock of sheep are her sole companions, which is how she wanted it to be. But every few nights something—or someone—picks off one of the sheep and sets off a new deep pulse of terror. There are foxes in the woods, a strange boy and a strange man, rumors of an obscure, formidable beast. But there is also Jake’s past—hidden thousands of miles away and years ago, held in the silences about her family and the scars that stripe her back—a past that threatens to break into the present. With exceptional artistry and empathy, All the Birds, Singing reveals an isolated life in all its struggles and stubborn hopes, unexpected beauty, and hard-won redemption.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead, subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity. She takes up the post of governess at Thornfield, falls in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman’s passionate search for a wider and richer life than Victorian society traditionally allowed.
Shotgun Lovesongs by Nikolas Butler. Hank, Leland, Kip and Ronny were all born and raised in the same Wisconsin town — Little Wing — and are now coming into their own (or not) as husbands and fathers. One of them never left, still farming the family’s land that’s been tilled for generations. Others did leave, went farther afield to make good, with varying degrees of success; as a rock star, commodities trader, rodeo stud. And seamlessly woven into their patchwork is Beth, whose presence among them—both then and now—fuels the kind of passion one comes to expect of love songs and rivalries.
Do you ever associate a book with a particular song? I know it’s not likely to be common, but it can’t be too unusual. Right?!