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Topic: Top 5 Essential Books

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Nanaki

1. Posted:

Pretty simple idea, list out your top 5 essential books (a series counts as 1) of all time, and a bit about them.

I'll start:
1) The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan: This is an epic fantasy series that I've read ever since I was 8 - think fantasy/magic mixed with LOTR. I'm currently going through my 3rd read-though of this series in anticipation for book 12 (the final book!) which is out this October.

2) The Dark Tower by Stephen King: Truly, this is one of the most imaginative reads I have ever come across. To best describe it would be a surreal, detached, western cowboy tale that meets the real world. A 7-book series that I loved from start to finish.

3) The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger: Probably one of the most well-known books of all time, and such an entertaining read. Thought provoking, moving, and funny - truly worthwhile.

4) The Sharpe Series by Bernard Cornwell: Set in the early 1900's, this series is about a soldier in the British army, Richard Sharpe. A great set of war books that are a bit tongue-and-cheek - popularly known for its TV adaptation with Sean Bean.

5) The Timetraveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger: An amazing read and one I very nearly didn't bother reading because I didn't think it would be my 'thing'. It turned out to be the only book I've ever gotten tears from reading. The story is fantastic, unique, and incredibly gripping.

Well, those are my 5, what are yours?

Edited on by Nanaki

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Philip_J_Reed

2. Posted:

No offense intended Nanaki, but The Time Traveler's Wife was one of the most disappointing books I've ever read! Again, not meant as an insult; I respect that different people have different tastes, but it was a shock to see that there.

1) Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon: a huge, confusing, frustrating romp through World War II and beyond...the first time you read it. The second time (and all subsequent times) it's much easier to keep straight, and you'll find one of the smartest, most complicated comedies of all time. Brilliant characters, heartbreaking moments of real emotion, and excellent songs. (Yes, songs!)

2) Ulysses by James Joyce: Only Joyce could take something as mundane as one day in the life of a guy who sells newspaper ad-space and combine it with the grandiose tale of Homer's Odyssey. Each chapter is written in a different style, and maps on to a major character or event in The Odyssey. Remarkably well-handled, and surprisingly funny.

3) Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov: A very strange book, but one of the best I've ever read. Certainly one of the most unique as well. It takes the form of a poem written by the fictional poet John Shade, with an introduction and annotations by his obsessed commentator who knew him in real life, and keeps trying to interpret Shade's autobiographical poem as being about his own imagined history. Brilliant stuff.

4) The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford: Quite possibly the perfect novel. It's an excellent mix of tragedy and comedy that predates most popular examples of the form by about a hundred years. It's also a much funnier attempt than you'd imagine. It's narrated by a not-so-bright American who only half-understands what happened between himself, his wife, and two British contemporaries of theirs. One of the rare examples of the reader knowing more than the character who is telling the story!

5) The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne: A massive comic-epic that I re-read periodically and always discover new great moments in. It's the autobiography of the main character, but he finds himself to be a little more conversational than he probably should be, and ends up digressing and talking about everybody apart from himself. (He isn't even born until something like volume three.) It's probably the best written out-and-out farce in all of literature, and that's not something I could ever say lightly.

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Nanaki

3. Posted:

Chicken+Brutus wrote:

No offense intended Nanaki, but The Time Traveler's Wife was one of the most disappointing books I've ever read! Again, not meant as an insult; I respect that different people have different tastes, but it was a shock to see that there.

None taken, whatsoever. I suppose it must be one of those people either love or hate. For me, it was the first time reading outside of a genre I was comfortable with, and I was so hooked that I finished it in a couple of sittings. I suppose I'm quite easy to entertain - I've never truly disliked a book I've read, and I've gotten through a fair few as of late!

Chicken+Brutus wrote:

4) The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford: Quite possibly the perfect novel. It's an excellent mix of tragedy and comedy that predates most popular examples of the form by about a hundred years. It's also a much funnier attempt than you'd imagine. It's narrated by a not-so-bright American who only half-understands what happened between himself, his wife, and two British contemporaries of theirs. One of the rare examples of the reader knowing more than the character who is telling the story!

I think I'll look this one up after I've finished the Bond books (not overly impressed with them - a bit, goofy at times).

Edited on by Nanaki

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greyelephant

4. Posted:

I hope I remember some of the authors, but it's been a while on some of these books.

1. The Hitchhickers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams: I got this book from my father in law right before I was married to his daughter. I can't tell you how much enjoyment I got from this book. If you've seen the movie, trust me, it only gives it moderate justice. This book is so full of small bits of humor that some might just fly over your head. A must read for anyone who enjoys humor.

2. Legend of Drizzt - R.A. Salvator: Seriously this is one of the best series of fantasy books I've ever read. If you love stories about Elves, Dark Elves, Dwarfs, and Orcs, you'll love this series. Heroes and villians galore. I can't wait until Oct. for the next book in line.

3. The Guardian - Angus Wells: This book was very well written with enough of just about everything to tickle your fancy. Once again you're venturing into the world of fantasy where swords meet magic. Love, fighting, and adventure are all here for whoever decides to take the time and read it.

4. Star Wars The New Jedi Order- Various Authors: If you're a fan of Star Wars, you will absolutley love this series. It's around 9-10 books with only a few duds here and there. Star by Star is the highlight of the series. The last book was a bit of a let down, but still the series is overall worth the time to read.

5. 10 Apples up on Top - Dr. Seus: It starts out fast with a couple of animals balancing apples up on their heads to only hit it into a higher gear once a third animal is introduced into the story. I won't give away the ending, but I will tell you this. All three animals will eventually get to 10 apples balancing on top of their heads. What happens after that is up to you to find out. ;)

Edited on by greyelephant

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Philip_J_Reed

5. Posted:

Nanaki wrote:

I suppose it must be one of those people either love or hate. For me, it was the first time reading outside of a genre I was comfortable with, and I was so hooked that I finished it in a couple of sittings. I suppose I'm quite easy to entertain - I've never truly disliked a book I've read, and I've gotten through a fair few as of late!

Yeah, I think it is a love it / hate it book. I think my friends (those of us who read anyway) are about equally split on both sides. I'm glad you enjoyed it though. When I say that it's one of the most disappointing I've ever read...well...there's still a lot of books I haven't read. ;)

You've definitely got a respectable list there, though. I'm a huge literature guy, so if you ever want to swap book suggestions in the future, I'd be all over that.

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greyelephant

6. Posted:

I can't belive that I almost forgot this one.

Book of Marvels - Richard Halliburton: This is non-fiction. Theres actually two (that I know of) to this series. The Occident and The Orient. I prefer the latter a bit more simply because there's things in there that I've never heard of. Both though are true gems that shouldn't be passed. In a brief sentence or two, here's what they're about.

Richard Halliburton is a Historian and I often thought of him as Indiana Jones. He goes to countries and explores some of the marvels that belong there. You'll travel through all sorts of areas and learn about what makes them special. The photos he took are truly amazing and make you feel like you're actually there. From outposts to forgotten cities, this book was a wonderful read that I found myself glued to. The way he writes is wonderful and so inviting. It's like he's actually your teacher taking you along on a journey. I wish I could give it more credit then what I know I am, but seriously, if you ever come across this book, don't hesistate to read it. I promise that you won't be dissapointed.

Edited on by greyelephant

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Firkraag

7. Posted:

The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks: What can I say, when the zombie apocalypse eventually does occur i'll be ready for it. Hopefully so will many of you as well, or it will become pretty lonely as the sole survivor.

World War Z: an oral history of the zombie war by Max Brooks: Chronicles the events of the great zombie war from the eyes of an survivor. Book takes place 10 years after the final blow had been struck to the zombies and follows Max Brooks as he goes around the world interviewing survivors having them re-tell their story and place in the war.

There he goes, Firkraag. One of God's own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die. - My VGscore

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Ren

8. Posted:

Like movies and music I really don't like to do the Top 5 kind of thing but I'll name some stuff I've liked alot that comes to mind first.

Wind Up Bird Chronicle - Haruki Murakami : a very strange metphysical kind of thing that is a sort of lonely look at a guys relationship and life changes, mixed with a strange power, plus a fair bit of dense history, mixed with a look at changing modern life in Japan. Very good book.
Parable of the Sower - Octavia E. Butler : An amazing and gruesome near future tale by one of the only Black Woman Sci-Fi writers. A sort of torn near future with crazed religious fanatics in politics tearing the Americas apart at the same time povert does so. A young woman manages to survive by creating her own religion of sorts and taking out on her own to survive in a really awful world when her hometown is overtaken by the brutal, violent survivalists that rule many cities there. A powerful, if difficult book to read. Has a sequel thats almost more brutal to read but also good.
Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston : a Classic by renowned writer/ anthropologist Hurston about life in the south aroung the turn of the century. Great, conscise writing, was always my favorite, style wise.
Anything by Sherman Alexie is pretty great, some are collections of poetry, which show why his mastery of concise, beautiful storytelling works the way it does in novel form. Try "Flight" or "The Toughest Indian in the World". His words are quick, funny and beautiful. you won't be dissapointed.
thats what I can think of right now. Thanks for the suggestions, too, everyone.
Oh, and I read the Time Travelers Wife too, and I agree it's kind of a love it/ hate it thing. I really liked it for the most part, but I didn't know what to expect at all, so it was a nice, exciting read. If I'd heard from the people who are all about it first I might have been dissapointed. I live in Chicago, too, so some of the city references get a little cheesy and pretentious after a while, but still it's a great fun read; I'm easy to please, once you get me reading at all, but I'm very picky about what I read in the first place so I won't just read anything.

Edited on by Ren

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Wiiloveit

9. Posted:

The TV guide, the... oh no wait. That's all I got.

It's Wiiloveit, not WiiLoveIt. So there. Wanna play online? E-mail me: billy at wiiloveit dot com
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Nanaki

10. Posted:

Chicken+Brutus wrote:

Nanaki wrote:

I suppose it must be one of those people either love or hate. For me, it was the first time reading outside of a genre I was comfortable with, and I was so hooked that I finished it in a couple of sittings. I suppose I'm quite easy to entertain - I've never truly disliked a book I've read, and I've gotten through a fair few as of late!

Yeah, I think it is a love it / hate it book. I think my friends (those of us who read anyway) are about equally split on both sides. I'm glad you enjoyed it though. When I say that it's one of the most disappointing I've ever read...well...there's still a lot of books I haven't read. ;)

You've definitely got a respectable list there, though. I'm a huge literature guy, so if you ever want to swap book suggestions in the future, I'd be all over that.

Sure thing. I love reading - I try to get at last 15 hours in a week - it's my vice in life.

You ever heard of a book called 'Carter Beats the Devil'? Another of those reads that I took a chance on and was pleasantly surprised. To be lazy, I'll cite a review:

Independent on Sunday wrote:

'Here is a book - a first novel, no less - to blow you away. It seeks to stun and maze and deceive and, always, to entertain...it works on every level' -- Guardian 'An electrifying mystery tour from the turn of the 20th century to the end of the roaring twenties...[it] casts a spell that is sly, intoxicating, deceitful and enduring. Savour its every page' -- Independent 'A quirky life story that transmutes into a John Buchan thriller...Engaging, comical and, yes, magical, this is a sure-fire contender for the debut novel of the year'

Nanaki

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Adam

11. Posted:

You guys have some good tastes! A few books listed I plan to read eventually, especially some of Chicken Brutus's. I've been meaning to read Thomas Pynchon and more Nabokov (only read Lolita, which was good, but over-hyped, I think).

Anyone use LibraryThing? It's a good way for obsessive people like myself to keep track of their books and also to find people with similar tastes and get some recommendations. I'm on it at http://www.librarything.com/profile/adam-paul.

1) The Box Man by Kobo Abe -- The story of a man who lives in a box, never taking it off... supposedly. At turns whimsical and lighthearted (one of the first chapters is instructions on making a box), at other times very thought-provoking and disorienting (you eventually can't even be sure if the narrator who began the story is the same person writing at the end), this is my absolute favorite novel of all time. Abe is unfortunately an under appreciated author in the west. I could probably name all five "essential books" for my list from his oeuvre, but that would be boring to everyone else, so I won't. ;)

2) The Road by Cormac McCarthy -- Soon to be a film (and looking to be quite a good one at that), this novel takes that stripped down, minimalistic and violent style from his earlier No Country for Old Men and transposes it from 1980's rural Texas to a post-apocalyptic world that is quite simply about a man and his son following a road. It's very disturbing at times, but that unrelenting love for "the boy" in stark contrast with the horrors around him makes you want to read on about "the man" and his son. I need to read this again soon.

3) Snow by Orhan Pamuk -- A poet returns from Germany to his homeland of Turkey, a place which still hasn't decided if it is Muslim or secular, and is thrust into the center of a military coup in a city enclosed and barricaded by snow that prevents vehicles from leaving or any communication with the outside world. It's quite a poetic idea how the snow is used, creating this microcosm of Turkey as different factions tear each other apart over whether women should be required to wear head scarves or not. I was tempted to list Black Book, also by Pamuk, instead, but while it is more interesting at times, it is also very, very slow.

4) Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino -- I have read no other book like this. It is comprised of short, usually one-page chapters where Marco Polo describes to Kublai Khan the various cities of his empire, except that (and the Khan knows this) Marco is clearly making up everything. Each chapter is like a prose poem, describing cities that could not possibly exist, and the whole book can be read in a sitting.

5) Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie -- I really struggled to finish this one, but I'm glad I did. Sometimes I would wake up with the impression that a little Rushdie fairy visited my room at night and added more pages of digressions into the book, but that is also part of what's so interesting about his writing. The narrator really comes to life, and the story is a beautifully formed allegory for India. My only complaint aside from the digressions occasionally becoming tiresome is that the titular characters of the book are involved for such a short time and then almost forgotten for most of the book. It was a bit disappointing to have such a huge concept hinted at -- children born with bizarre magic powers at the moment of India's independence. Very interesting book despite my uncertain feelings about its place in my top 5.

Edited on by Adam

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Objection

12. Posted:

I'll start with one and update later.
#1 "Train Man" (The novel version) A romance told through forum posts? You better believe it, and you better believe you'll start caring and even rooting for the protagonist otaku to somehow pull it off.
#2 "The Hobbit" I couldn't get into reading LOTR but I actually rather enjoyed this one, especially the Gollum scene.

Edited on by Objection

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Nanaki

13. Posted:

Objection_Blaster wrote:

I'll start with one and update later.
#1 "Train Man" (The novel version) A romance told through forum posts? You better believe it, and you better believe you'll start caring and even rooting for the protagonist otaku to somehow pull it off.

My, what a pretty avatar you have... ;)

__adam wrote:

5) Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie -- I really struggled to finish this one, but I'm glad I did. Sometimes I would wake up with the impression that a little Rushdie fairy visited my room at night and added more pages of digressions into the book, but that is also part of what's so interesting about his writing. The narrator really comes to life, and the story is a beautifully formed allegory for India. My only complaint aside from the digressions occasionally becoming tiresome is that the titular characters of the book are involved for such a short time and then almost forgotten for most of the book. It was a bit disappointing to have such a huge concept hinted at -- children born with bizarre magic powers at the moment of India's independence. Very interesting book despite my uncertain feelings about its place in my top 5.

That was a fantastic book! I loved the story, but I found his writing style different (and harder to read) than most authors; using English colloquialisms pronounced in an Indian accent - very hard to understand! His imagination is fantastic though; 'knees and nose, nose and knees' - love it! Did you know that it's going to be made into a film?

Edited on by Nanaki

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Adam

14. Posted:

Yes, I have heard that! I am a bit skeptical, though. Not only is it a very lengthy book, but he also has a writing style that I don't see how it would translate into film. Most of the book is just Saleem talking, but a film that is 75% voice over would be boring, and I wonder how they'll capture the digressive nature of the book. My fingers are crossed, though. I haven't seen anything else Deepa Mehta has directed, so I don't know what to expect.

I found the book hard to read, too. I actually heard him speak about a year ago, and he speaks almost exactly like he writes, but it was easier to follow in person. He is an awesome speaker. I didn't know what to expect going in -- thought it might be a lecture almost -- but it was basically stand-up comedy and we laughed more than we did for Jerry Seinfeld.

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Philip_J_Reed

15. Posted:

You've got some great taste, Adam.

Regarding Nabokov, Lolita is obviously his most famous, but it's not his best. (It DOES improve significantly on re-reads though.) Pale Fire is a masterpiece, and Despair is LOADS of fun, so I'd recommend either of those without question.

For Pynchon...start with either Vineland or The Crying of Lot 49. Lot 49 is more famous, but Vineland is a much gentler introduction (and his references are much more modern, as the book takes place in the mid 1980s).

For Calvino, I've read The Baron in the Trees, and If On a Winter's Night a Traveler. I should pick up Invisible Cities; I'd be more than happy to read something else by him.

And Rushdie: I've only read The Satanic Verses, which I have been meaning to pick up again, as I felt it lost a lot of steam toward the end, and I'd like to re-evaluate that opinion.

Do you write at all, by any chance?

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Adam

16. Posted:

Invisible Cities overshadows most of Calvino's other work, to me. I haven't read it all though, and what I have was good -- just not on par.

I started reading Satanic Verses, but school got in the way. From what I read, it seems to be on par with Midnight's Children. I've been meaning to get back to it soon now. I'm taking a year off from school before going for my graduate degree, and I've already probably read more books than I did throughout college, including those read for class. :)

As for my writing, if you mean creatively, not really. It has something I have wanted to do ever since I read my first Weekly Reader book as a kid, but aside from a short-lived interest in poetry a couple years ago (which produced some good stuff, but a mixed bag overall) and music (the lyrics of which I don't put much effort into), I haven't done much. I still tell myself over and over: One day!

I'm going to school for English and work in the university's Writing Center, so I am constantly writing or at least involved with others' writing. I'm still not sure what I will do after getting my masters, whether I want to teach writing or if I just want to write -- maybe both. Journalism seems like it would be tough to get into, and my university didn't offer a program in it, so I am completely inexperienced there.

Edited on by Adam

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theblackdragon

17. Posted:

I've only got one that's really 'essential' (everything else is subjective, lol): The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. You've probably seen one of the movies before, or took a look at Gankutsuou, or maybe you had to read it in English class? Don't let that turn you off of the original novel. After having seen that terrible movie that came out a while back and remembering I'd read two different abridged versions already, I decided to pick up an unabridged copy to see what everyone had really butchered, and I was surprised at all that had been twisted and left out. The man filled the novel with meticulous detail to create an amazing web of character interactions and then manages to tie up every single loose end possible, and as an epic tale of revenge and/or poetic justice (in some spots), it makes for an incredibly satisfying read overall. It's not light reading, but it is definitely worth it.

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AlexSays

18. Posted:

theblackdragon wrote:

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

This is a good one.
I'm not a big reader though so my book recommendations are few and far between.
There are a couple more I liked though..

  • White Fang by Jack London
  • Call of the Wild by Jack London
  • Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

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Digiki

19. Posted:

I'm not really the "reading" type.

My faves are:

The Hobbit, and The Cat in the Hat

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EsnelPla

20. Posted:

Chicken+Brutus wrote:

5) The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne: A massive comic-epic that I re-read periodically and always discover new great moments in. It's the autobiography of the main character, but he finds himself to be a little more conversational than he probably should be, and ends up digressing and talking about everybody apart from himself. (He isn't even born until something like volume three.) It's probably the best written out-and-out farce in all of literature, and that's not something I could ever say lightly.

Whoo, I've got to give it to you. I know a lot of folks for whom reading Tristam Shandy was a pain in the ass, and the thought of re-reading it would roll their eyes to the back of their heads.

But I digress, here's five. No order. And come to me in another week and I'll give you five more, haha.

Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy, or really any of his books.
The Violent Bear It Away, Flannery O'Connor
Light in August, William Faulkner
East of Eden, John Steinbeck
Let It Come Down, Paul Bowles

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