As published in the Red Rock News
Most readers have a favorite book. It is the book that you return to over and over through the years. It is the book you always recommend. It has captured your imagination right from the start. Each time you reread it, it offers you both the warm glow of familiarity and something new. The characters and ideas have had a lasting influence on you since the first moment you cracked open the cover. The affection and attachment you have for the book outlasts and outshines all other books.
There are actually two books that hold their place as my Favorite Books. One is fiction and the other nonfiction. Each has profoundly influenced me and each time I reread them I return to the wonder of that first time.
The first is Frank Herbert’s unparalleled science fiction tale, “Dune.” First published in August of 1965, my Dad read it and conversations offered me the gift of my father’s view of the world and his interest in mine.
I was 14 when I first read it and no other book since has captivated me like the story of Paul Atreides who became known as Muad’dib. Truly a lifetime of pleasure from one book! Set in the far distant future where knowledge of ancient Earth is all but lost, it is the story of a space spanning empire that is driven by a mysterious substance known as mélange, commonly called Spice. It is found on only one planet in all the universe, Arrakis, a harsh desert planet also known as Dune.
Spice gives the Spacing Guild the ability to bend space, and that allows interstellar travel because it shrinks time. And yet, it also extends years of life to its users. Paul finds himself straddling the politics of the empire and the culture of the native Fremen, the desert dwellers of Dune. His use of the Spice transforms him, and he becomes not only the Fremen messiah, but he unleashes a firestorm upon the empire that changes everything for thousands of years.
The characters and complex themes of “Dune” have influenced me since the first time I read it. The rich mix of politics, science and mysticism is unparalleled. I have reread it at least every decade, as well as the sequels Herbert and his son wrote. But none of them have been as thoroughly satisfying and captivating as the original book. Each rereading pulls me back into the place, the culture, and the mystery that is Dune.
My nonfiction favorite is an architectural treatise. Written by Christopher Alexander and a cadre of architects, “A Pattern Language” not only influenced how I designed my home 24 years ago, but it also made me look at all spaces from the macro level – city wide – to the micro level –within my own living space – in entirely new ways. It has illuminated for me remarkably humane patterns of living.
Reading the book, I was made aware of how much environment influences us in our daily lives, as much as our daily lives influence the environment through patterns of building, behavior, and our interactions with others. Now, moving around a city or town, or within a house has become a very different experience. I look at everything through this new lens.
Consider the pattern of “sleeping in public.” Given that we spend a quarter to a third of our lives asleep, often the urge to sleep is not just at home at night. We see those who sleep in public as vagrants and suspicious and in so doing, we create a divide between us all. The authors urge that we create spaces that allow sleeping in public which then establishes a social compact between us. It states that when I sleep, I can expect to be unmolested, and when you do the same, you also can expect to be safe. We are then in deeper relationship with one another. Throughout the hundreds of patterns defined in the book, this sense of deep interrelationship between dwellers in cities, neighborhoods, or homes is clarified, encouraged, and celebrated.
Both books, “Dune” and “A Pattern Language,” speak to the depth of interrelationships. Despite being nothing like each other, they have both managed to stimulate this idea within me. They have influenced and colored how I look at the entire world.
But Favorite Books are not to be kept to oneself! Whenever I share my Favorite Books, I also ask what that person’s Favorite Books are. I am then exposed to many remarkable new titles, ideas, and characters, and have gained some insight into the mind of the person recommending them. So, tell me, what is your Favorite Book?
Sedona Public Library
Column for Sept. 10, 2021
Written by David Keeber, President, Friends of the Sedona Library
Library News appears each Friday in the Red Rock News.