Five favorite books of all time, in no particular order.
100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: I think I first read this when I was 16, and it was one of those moments where you find yourself reading something that is exactly what you want, but you didn’t know that it actually existed. I’d never read anything so lush and dreamlike. It filled a need that I didn’t really know could be filled, and I think it actually changed how I saw the world around me. It put a voice in my head to name things and write about things in a way where everything seemed to have a greater value. Everything kind of glowed.
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman: I think I also read this (or parts of it) in high school. Again, it was unlike anything I’d ever read–unlike any poems I’d read or any spiritual texts I’d ever read, but it felt like both. And again, it felt like it was exactly what I needed at the time. It was comforting and intense and it made me want to write. It still makes me want to write every time I read it.
Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki: This was one of the first books that really turned me on to Buddhist thought and meditation. Again, I was somewhere in my teens. I’d meditated before, but this really gave me more insight into a type of thought to accompany the practice. I don’t know how many times I’ve re-read it.
Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman: This is a collection of 30 short stories (you could argue that they’re prose poems, and I think the book jacket actually calls it a novel), based around the idea of Albert Einstein working as a young patent clerk, falling asleep at his desk, and dreaming of worlds where time moves differently. It’s really, really gorgeous.
Blankets by Craig Thompson: I think this is the first graphic novel or comic book that I ever really read seriously. I’d tried others before, but couldn’t really get absorbed. With this one, my friend Dave Landsberger loaned it to me and one day I picked it up while I was standing at my kitchen table and I stood there and read about 30 of its 500 or so pages before I really knew what had happened. It was one of those experiences. I read the rest of it throughout that day and night. It’s beautiful.
Nick Vagnoni was born and raised in Key West, and currently teaches writing at Florida International University in Miami. He is a founding member of The Miami Poetry Collective, and his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Mid-American Review, Alimentum, Saw Palm, New CollAge, La Fovea, and The Florida Book Review, among others.