Communication and Lasting Books

I recently listened to a podcast (I wish I could reference the source, too many good podcasts these days, Brian Koppelman I think) where an author cited, “Humans, by nature, our built to communicate.” The words ring true. Novelists. Tweeters. Movie directors. Script writers. Presenters, political and otherwise.

Of course, everybody talks, different places. Meet at coffee shops. Water cooler shop talk. Work place gossip. Welcoming hours at church. Restaurant rendezvous. Cell phone jabbering.

And there are, or course, many other means to communicate. Build bridges (the schematic had to be written out somewhere). Design products (some consider the curves on the iPhone a work of art). Painters. Code wranglers. If you think about it, it’s beautiful how we, as people, convey our ideas.

Writing, or any creativity venture, is a means to leave a piece of ourselves behind. When our time on this earth ends, what we say and chronicle is the only means to speak from beyond the grave. Yeah, I know Patrick Swayze made a little pottery with Demi Moore. Ditto. It’s been awhile since I popped that movie into the DVD player. As time goes by, what’s interesting is what content rises to the top, which begs the obvious question, “How do some works stand the test of time? Why are some lost, left on the cutting room floor?”

The Greeks wrote. It’s why we believe the Spartans were the greatest warriors to do battle in ancient times. Yet, what most folks overlook is that the Persian empire was vast. Their shadow cast darkness over civilization in most ways. Superior in both numbers and organization, the Persian empire may have had the superior force. Based on some economic metrics and size of an empire at the time, the Greeks mattered little. The Persians had bigger problems to solve. So, why do we think the Greeks were far superior and were the catalyst for the rise of modern society?

Well, the Persians didn’t have great story tellers. The Iliad and the Odyssey are what we remember. The Battle of Marathon? Compared to these works, it is only a footnote. Yeah, I know it was a battle that may have defined Western civilization, but tales and stories truly last forever.

Project Gutenberg is an organization that makes books out of copyright available to all. They should be around for eternity. If you are in the US, you can download any of these books and side load on your Kindle (Note, different countries have varying laws on copyright so read the fine print.

The top 20 books on Project Gutenberg:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Il Principe. English by Niccolò Machiavelli
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana by Vatsyayana
The Romance of Lust: A Classic Victorian erotic novel by Anonymous
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Our Story Book by Various
Experiments on the Spoilage of Tomato Ketchup by A. W. Bitting
Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
The Count of Monte Cristo, Illustrated by Alexandre Dumas
The Importance of Being Earnest: A Trivial Comedy for Serious People by Oscar Wilde
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Ulysses by James Joyce
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Japanese Homes and their Surroundings by Edward S. Morse
Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie

Now, most of these works are always in the top 20. Pride and Prejudice is usually numero uno on the list. And yes, sex sells. The Kama Sutra finds its way on the list too. Occasionally, we find one that sneaks into the top 20. This week, it’s Tomato Ketchup. If you look at the top 50, you’ll find the usual suspects: the Iliad, the Republic, Shakespeare, Jane Austin’s other works, Moby Dick, etc., You can find the entire list here.

Now, check out the current NY Times Top 20:

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman
Rushing Waters by Danielle Steel
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman Washington
Always a Cowboy by Linda Lael Miller
Sting by Sandra Brown
Fast and Loose by Fern Michaels
Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
Depraved Heart by Patricia Cornwell
A Scot in the Dark by Sarah MacLean
The Jealous Kind by James Lee Burke
Anti-Stepbrother by Tijan Tijan
Bullseye by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
The Nix by Nathan Hill
See Me by Nicholas Sparks

I ponder which of these books, if any, will be on the Guttenberg list in 75 years? What works, and their ideas, will live forever? Something to ponder.

Cliff Notes:

Check out the multiple NY Times Best Seller Lists.

And, of course, Project Gutenberg.