Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Read This Book: The Road

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.


LeLe said...

I love this book so much.

Lauren Horsley said...

I have to admit I really struggled with this book. The writing was beautiful and subject matter fascinating, but it was so unbelievably depressing and I was at a time in my life where I couldn't take it. Every time I picked it up, I put it down wanting to blow my brains out. I'm usually not a sensitive reader - I don't read fluff and most topics don't get me down. But I could not finish this book.

However, after reading your recommendation, I may consider picking it up again. My life is moving in a much more positive direction and I think I could look past the dark tone and see the valuable message lying beneath.

Liz-a-nator said...

Whoa! When I read this book about a year ago, I always pictured the father as Viggo Mortenson! This is the first I've heard of the movie. I'm so awesome! I should be a casting director or something. Or a psychic. I think both require the same basic skills.

This book is a heart and gut wrencher. I think I need to re-read it in order to have a clear opinion of it...I think it's something you need to read more than once to fully understand and appreciate. Duly added to the ever-growing "Things to Read Over the 6-Week Break" list.

Professor Josh said...


Yes, the book is emotionally draining, and I certainly understand that we need to be in a safe emotional place before picking it up. As I recommend this book in the future, I'll add that disclaimer.

Stephanie said...

This was an amazing book, and I'm really glad you recommended it last year. I keep trying to tell Doug to read it, so I'll have to mention this blog post to him - increase the peer pressure a bit.

brandt said...

Professor Josh,

1,000,000,000,000% Yes EVERYONE should read this book. McCarthy completely gives a new and chilling (and realistic) look at desperation and human survival and does it much better than many of the cheesy "post-apocalyptic" literature out there.

I think it's such a good book because of McCarthy's style in this book. It looks at human condition at it's most instinctual level, and (accurately) shows what people will become when survival is at stake.

I found it bringing up a lot of questions even within my own faith. At what point is suffering through living *NOT* worth it? What is "hope"? At its core lie these fundamental questions that I feel we all have to ask ourselves, especially in our darkest hour of depression, in the foxholes of the heart with the mortars exploding all around and seemingly no light at the end of the tunnel.

Again, everyone must read this book!

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