When I asked COOP’s editor and founder, Jessica McKay, to discuss the books that have impacted her life, I fully (yet foolishly) expected titles on interior design, gardening, and food.
A quick scan of the five titles below shows just how wrong my thinking was.
“When I began narrowing down my list, I felt incredibly overwhelmed,” Jessica says. “I’m a person who loves a lot of stuff. More specifically, I’m someone who loves pop culture. And inevitably, as I started thinking about my list, the books assumed other meanings. My selected titles crossed over into music, art, television, and movies.”
On Life’s Many Lessons
The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
This is one of my favorite books. It’s surreal, funny, and reminds me how we’re just little nuggets in this overwhelmingly vast universe.
If you can get past the absurdity (which is the entire point), Adams also brings up some pretty important concepts. You have to ask the right question to get the right answer. Sometimes you randomly find yourself in very important roles and should try to do your best. And, most importantly, don’t panic.
The movie is not awesome, just in case you were thinking, “Yeah, I totally know that story.” Nope. You would be wrong. It’s actually a shame; the cast is pretty spot-on. Read the book. Then read the rest of the trilogy (in all five parts).
On Personal Growth
If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him! by Sheldon B. Kopp
This book is not for the faint of heart. It’s pretty heavy-handed at times and feels much more like a New Age textbook on psychology than a light-hearted bedtime read.
I read this in college and it hardly stayed with me. Recently, however, I decided to read it again. Partly because I loved the television series, Fringe, and the character of Peter (played by Joshua Jackson, also known for portraying the adorable Pacey from “Dawson’s Creek”) referenced it. And also because I really was looking to find a few answers to life’s many questions.
The conclusion is that only you can guide yourself through personal growth. In other words (and to tie-in some pop culture), “the force is with you, always.”
On Fitting In (Or Not)
The Cheese Monkeys by Chip Kidd
Chip Kidd is a famous graphic designer best known for his book covers. This is his first novel which is loosely based on his own experiences attending art school at a state university. Since I read this while taking art classes at New Mexico State University, it seems pretty clear why I found this relatable.
While it’s certainly not the most amazing book of all time, it is enjoyable and will feel familiar to anyone who didn’t quite fit in with the art school kids.
On Life’s Soundtrack
Songbook by Nick Hornby
I honestly feel like I have a soundtrack to my life, and it sort of freaks me out when I meet other people who don’t. All of my closest relationships have been with people who feel music is a powerful communication tool.
Nick Hornby is obviously a great writer (High Fidelity, About A Boy). But the way he curates his life playlist and relays its transformative powers is enviable.
While I may not echo the entire playlist, Rufus Wainwright’s cover of his father’s “One Man Guy” makes Hornby’s cut. And it’s easy to see why. All at once it is haunting, truthful, and strangely optimistic.
Bonus points: Listen to Loudon Wainwright’s “The Days That We Die.” It’s an observation on how sometimes it really is more important to be kind and forgiving than right.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Duh?! What woman didn’t imagine herself as the strong-willed heroine whose humor and stubbornness attracted the handsome Mr. Darcy? It’s high-brow chick lit. And I’m certainly not above a good romance from time to time.
Side note: I am easily entertained by most things zombie; however, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith is terrible. Steer clear of that shit.