Friday, July 20, 2012

You Really Should Read...Fifty Personal Favorites

Not a list of the best of all time, not a grab bag of obscurities. Just 50 books I recommend to people and urge on them at various times for various reasons. All personal favorites, ranging from all time classics to award winners to respected titles to under-appreciated gems. No rhyme or reason here. But when people ask for a personal favorite of mine or something off the beaten track, these are the titles that spring to mind. These are the ones I buy in multiple copies so I can hand them to guests or use as fool-proof gifts. In other words,


Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (translated by Gregory Hays)

The True Confessions Of Charlotte Doyle by Avi

Peter Pan by JM Barrie

Wartime Lies by Louis Begley

Mapp And Lucia by EF Benson

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

True History Of The Kelly Gang by Peter Carey

In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin

My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell 

Night Flight by Antoine de Saint Exupery

The Siege of Krishnapur by JG Farrell

The Meadow by James Galvin

Black Jack by Leon Garfield

The Golden Age by Kenneth Grahame

Hunger by Knut Hamsun

Act One by Moss Hart

Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin

The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes

The Thin Red Line by James Jones

Blue Heaven by Joe Keenan

Kim by Rudyard Kipling

The Debt To Pleasure by John Lanchester

Slapboxing With Jesus by Victor LaValle

West With The Night by Beryl Markham

The Lighthouse At The End Of The World by Stephen Marlowe

So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell

Boy's Life by Robert McCammon

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

An Arrow's Flight by Mark Merlis

Tales From The South Pacific by James Michener

Martin Dressler: Tale of an American Dreamer by Stephen Millhauser

The Book of Job translated by Stephen Mitchell

Two Adolescents by Alberto Moravia

The Spyglass Tree /Train Guitar Whistle  by Albert Murray

The Last Grain Race by Eric Newby

Thunderhead by Mary O'Hara

At Swim, Two Boys by Jamie O'Neill

Edisto/Edisto Revisted by Padgett Powell

The Yearling by Margaret Rawlins

Red Mars/Green Mars/Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

Was by Geoff Ryman

Dusk and Other Stories by James Salter

The Human Comedy by James Saroyan 

The Rings Of Saturn by W.G. Sebald

A Bright Shining Lie by Neil Sheehan

Year of the King by Antony Sher

The Reason Why by Cecil Woodham Smith

Endless Love by Scott Spencer

Tristram Shandy by Lawrence Sterne

The Old Forest and Other Stories by Peter Taylor

The Palm-wine Drinker by Amos Tutuola

In The Blue Light of African Dreams by Paul Watkins

Sideswipe by Charles Willeford

This Boy's Life by Tobias Wolff

To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

You Really Should Read...Sci-Fi & Fantasy


I was asked by a friend to compile a list of the essential texts in sci-fi and fantasy and this was the very personal list I came up with, one that includes a chunk of fairy tales and mythology since so much of the genre springs from that same well.

1. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams

2. Watership Down by Richard Adams

3. The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Anderson (any edition that looks like it's for adults and not kids)

4. The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov (He kept adding to the Foundation series, but read the definitive trilogy first and then wait a while before reading more if you want)

5. I. Robot by Isaac Asimov

6. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

7. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

8. Peter Pan by JM Barrie (the full novel, obviously, not some picture book or abridged version)

9. Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges (learn Spanish first or, if you must, read it translated into English)

10. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

11. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

12. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

13. Tarzan Of The Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs

14. Arabian NIghts: The Marvels and Wonders Of The Thousand and One Nights by Richard Burton and edited by Jack Zipes (two volumes)

15. The Complete Cosmic Comics by Italo Calvino

16. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (the only one worth reading of his)

17. Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

18. Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clarke

19. Jonathan Strange And Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

20. The Norse Myths by Kevin Crossley-Holland

21. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

22. The First Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever by Stephen R. Donaldson (Lord Foul's Bane; The Illearth War; and The Power That Preserves)

23. Dangerous Visions edited by Harlan Ellison

24. To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer

25. Coraline by Neil Gaiman

26. Neuromancer by William Gibson

27. The Bible by God (Cheeky of me, no? But whether you're a believer or an atheist, you really must read the Bible at least once or you'll miss way too many references and allusions in the arts. So which versions should you read? There are hundreds if not thousands of translations of all or parts of the Bible in countless languages. In English, the King James Version in general; Thomas Jefferson's Bible for his take on the Gospels; the Five Books of Moses by Everett Fox; any translations by Stephen Mitchell, who has done Proverbs, the Book Of Job, his own Gospel According To Jesus and so on. And yes, you can skip the begats)

28. The Princess Bride by William Goldman

29. The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales edited by Jack Zipes

30. The Left Hand Of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

31. Mythology by Edith Hamilton

32. Stranger In A Strange Land by Robert Heinlein

33. Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin

34. Dune by Frank Herbert (really it's the only one you need to read)

35. The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

36. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

37. Just-So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

38. King Matt The First by Januzs Korzcak

39. The Blue Fairy Book edited by Andrew Lang

40. The Red Fairy Book edited by Andrew Lang

41. Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman

42. Le Morte d'Artur by Sir Thomas Malory

43. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44. A Song Of Ice And Fire by George RR Martin

45. The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey (original trilogy: Dragonflight, Dragon Quest, The White Dragon)

46. Martin Dressler: The Story Of An American Dreamer by Steven Millhauser

47. We Others: New and Selected Stories by Steven Millhauser

48. A Canticle For Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.

49. Winnie The Pooh by AA MIlne

50. The House At Pooh Corner by AA Milne

51. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

52. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov

53. Ringworld by Larry Niven

54. Animal Farm by George Orwell

55. 1984 by George Orwell

56. The Gormenghast Novels by Mervyn Peake

57. The Complete Short Stories of Edgar Allan Poe

58. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullmam

59. The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson (Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars)

60. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling

61. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

62. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

63. Abel's Island by William Steig

64. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

65. Dracula by Bram Stoker

66. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

67. The Lord Of The Rings by JRR Tolkien

68. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne