Tuesday, September 04, 2007


I saw this last week (thanks Sirius):
OSLO, Sept. 6 (AP) - Nearly 60 years after Thor Heyerdahl sailed his Kon-Tiki balsa raft across the Pacific to prove a theory about ancient mariners, a team that includes his grandson plans to recreate the 101-day epic voyage - although the craft will have solar panels, a satellite navigation system and a link to the Internet.

In 1947, Heyerdahl and his team sailed a raft with the most basic of equipment 4,900 miles from Peru to Polynesia to demonstrate that prehistoric explorers may have migrated across vast stretches of ocean. Heyerdahl, who died at the age of 87 in 2002, documented the harrowing voyage in the best-selling book "Kon-Tiki" and in an Oscar-winning documentary film.

The article is from 2004 (here), but just seeing the name "Thor Heyerdahl" made me sit up, because Kon-Tiki was one of the most important books of my life.

I read Kon-Tiki when I was nine, and it made an absolutely huge impression me. It seemed like the biggest, most improbable adventure anyone could ever take, and the story itself was so exciting and well-written that I hung on every word.

When I saw this article, I had to tell Gloria about Kon-Tiki, and I recounted, in extreme detail, my favorite passage: the moment where a huge shark attacks the raft, and the crew is literally fighting it off with wooden paddles. It's still an incredibly vivid memory, even more than thirty-five years later.

I decided to re-read Kon-Tiki, and I'm glad I did, because the book is still as fresh as if it was written yesterday. It's still a great adventure tale, it's still full of excitement, and I can't wait until Eli 6.1 is old enough to read it.

Except for one thing: that passage with the shark isn't there. I know that I read other books by Heyerdahl after that--Ra, in particular--so maybe I'll still find it somewhere.

Thinking about Kon-Tiki made me think about the other books that I would consider most influential in my life--not influential in a long-term sense, necessarily, but in the moment. I decided to pick one book a decade.
1-10--Kon-Tiki (Thor Heyerdahl)
11-19--Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (Robert Pirsig)
20-29--One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
30-39--The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (Haruki Murakami)

A Confederacy of Dunces (John Kennedy Toole) would have been a very close second in my 20's, but One Hundred Years of Solitude might well be the best book ever written.

The last book was a difficult choice, because Murakami's Hard-Boiled Wonderland at the End of the Universe is also brilliant. Regardless, Murakami would definitely be the author of whatever I chose for that decade.

This decade, so far--no selection.

Site Meter