Chacon’s 10 books to read before you die


Here are 10 books writer and Words on a Wire host Daniel Chacon recommends people read before they die.

Related: Award-winning writers team up in Texas to broadcast unique national showcase for creative writing

1. When My Brother Was an Aztec


Photo courtesy says this poetry collection by Natalie Diaz explores “the hardships of Native American life after colonization and Christianization. Diaz throws the reader right into the middle of drug and alcohol abuse, racism, and diabetes, proving the enduring effects of post-colonial traumatic stress disorder.”

Chacon: “An amazing collection of poems. Both makes me want to be a poet – because it’s so powerful – and to give up wanting to be a poet, since I may never write poems as poignant as hers.”

2. Heaven and Its Wonders and Hell


Photo courtesy of Amazon

A novel by Emanuel Swedenborg Amazon says, “gives the reader a detailed description of the afterlife. Swedenborg deals with God, heaven, hell, angels, spirits, and devils; and he addresses the issues of who is in heaven and hell.”

Chacon: “Wildly imaginative with a little bit of crazy mixed in. After reading this text it could change the way you see reality or uncover a reality you sensed had been there all along.”

3. Catch-22


Photo courtesy of

Joseph Heller’s World War II black comedy about a no-win situation and the absurdity of war.

Chacon: “It’s funny.”

4. The Sneetches


Photo courtesy of Digital Storytime

Chacon: “I read this book over and over when I was a kid. One of the first experiences I had wherein a book can pull me from reality and drop me into another world. Also it was Seuss’s statement on prejudice.”

5. The Mouse and The Motorcycle


Photo courtesy of

Beverly Cleary’s story of an adventurous mouse named Ralph who sees a boy’s toy mortorcycle and curiously wants to ride it.

Chacon: “There is a mouse that rides a mortorcycle! Need I say more?”

6. Any book by Jorge Luis Borges


Photo courtesy of

Borges is an Argentine short story writer and poet. Some of his works include “El Golem” “A New Refutation of Time” and “On Exactitude in Science“.

Chacon: “Ficions, poetry, nonfictions. Reading a book by Borges can simultaneously be about intellect and innocence.”

7. Jazz


courtesy of

Toni Morrison’s story of a door-to-door salesman, Joe Trace, who kills his teenage lover “burns with passion and obsession that leads to deep emotion and fears,” according to

Chacon: “My favorite novel by one of the greatest writers of our time. The language is like jazz and can take us anywhere, show us anything.”

8. Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid


Photo courtesy of Amazon

Douglas Hofestadter’s exploration of human intelligence.

Chacon: “Requires a lot of mental attention, but worth the ride, because once you enter into the into the thesis, you will see Bach and Escher and their strange loops of logic like never before.

9. View With a Grain of Sand


Poet Wislawa Szumborska takes a look at the darkness of the human condition as she expresses the sentiment of the Polish people under Soviet oppression.

Chacon: “She is one of the greatest poets in any language.”.

10. Flood Song


Photo courtesy of

Sherwin Bitsui refuses to identify solely with race. Flood Song incorporates American Landscape and culture.

Chacon: “A collection of poems wherein the language moves like water and music and the images pop out at you like phantoms. A first book by a young, brilliant, poet.”



3 thoughts on “Chacon’s 10 books to read before you die

  1. Thank you Helen Yip and Dan, reading the recommended books by authors I know is one of my anxiety producing activities. A dream of reaching for the ring on the merry-go-round at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk then missing the clowns mouth. It was such a whirr and such a frustration since I was too little to sit on the big horses on the edge by myself with my Tia Cira holding me. It was exciting at that age to just let go of the pole with one short little arm as the horses sped round and round. Now on those rare occasions when I have gone back I have reached the rings easily but rarely did I hit the Clowns Mouth. This sounds like a good title for something. So many rings so many misses but the clown keeps laughing.

Leave a Reply