A few days ago, one of my students asked me what book he should definitely read before he dies, and can you guess which book came to mind first?
Hamlet by William Shakespeare?
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway?
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger?
Not even close.
Admittedly, I found myself a little suprised when without pausing to reflect, I blurted out, "Before you die, read The Road by Cormac McCarthy. When you finish it, read it again. Read it every few years. Read it. Read it. Read it. Better yet, memorize it." (I knew I loved this book, but I had no idea I was so fanatical about it.)
Now, some of you may be thinking, "What's The Road?" or "Cormac McWho?"
But trust me. The Road is, without a doubt, Cormac McCarthy's finest novel (and that's saying something). It's wonderfully minimalistic and painful, at times, in all the right ways. It offers a promise of beauty in a world full of horror and darkness, and it's absolutely gut-wrenching if you have children of your own.
Most of all, it's beautiful, and it's one of the few contemporary books that I'm 100% sure we'll still be reading centuries from now. This book's too important to let slide away into the draw of time. Humanity needs this story.
So read it.
And, incidentally, you should definitely read it before October 16th, 2009 because that's when the movie version starring Viggo Mortensen comes out. Who knows what Hollywood will do to this book? So you should read it before this story gets colored by the American cinematic machine.
Honestly, I'm not sure how I feel about the upcoming movie, but I do know that great stories exist to be told and told and told again. If the story is told well, then, I guess I should be pleased.
If you're interested, here's the movie trailer. Check it out.