Most Influential Books

Following up on a meme that was started by Tyler Cowen, “The Ten Books that influenced me the most.”

The list is heavy on the fiction and light on the non-fiction.  Partly that’s because the most influential books were the books I read when I was younger, but also that’s partly because narrative has always played a strong role in my life.  I’ve read a number of books on philosophy, politics, and economics and while some have been enormously educational (Nozick, Hayek, Mises, Aristotle, Plat, etc…) they haven’t had as visceral an impact on my day-to-day existence.  Books that changed the way I thought about my life and my work, or profoundly affected the way I live my life… those are the most influential books I’ve ever read. In no particular order:

The Lion in Winter, by James Goldman

Henry II: The day those stout hearts band together is the day that pigs get wings.
Eleanor: There’ll be pork in the treetops come morning.

I love this play. The language crackles, the characters are enormous and the drama fantastic. Like most people, I saw the movie first and for me, Peter O’Toole and Katherine Hepburn will always and forever be Henry and Eleanor.  This was the first play in which I realized that every single word was precious. (As much as we lionize Shakespeare, most of the Bard’s work improves with judicious editing.) Every motion, every breath the actors take is important on the stage. Every glance and every touch means something.

Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand

Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction. When money ceases to become the means by which men deal with one another, then men become the tools of other men. Blood, whips and guns–or dollars. Take your choice–there is no other.

Atlas Shrugged is my intellectual lodestone. Or maybe that should be dead-weight?  Fountainhead? Whatever, it’s a big giant brick. It’s also a masterpiece in every sense of the word, compelling, difficult, complex, agonizing, confounding, enlightening and fabulously gigantic.

Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre by Keith Johnstone

In the park we’ll notice the ducks squablling but not how carefully they’ll keep their distances when they are not.

The book is a philosophical and pedagogical mess (and Spolin’s books are probably better introductions to theatrical improvisation) but Johnstone’s section on status is priceless. This book completely changed the way I approached the craft of acting and had an enormous effect on my directorial style as well. If you’re at all interested in theater, read this book.

Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.

An odd choice for “influential,” I know.  I read it in high school, over a rainy weekend on the Florida Gulf coast. My best friend read The Fountainhead during the same weekend. We kept telling each other, “You’ve got to read this book.” Influential because of the extraordinary language and breathtaking writing. Influential because it’s a story of obsession and love and a desperate confusion of the two. I was in the middle of a desperate sort of obsessive and un-requited love and Lolita rocked me. It would be a few years before I was finally able to finally unravel my own obsessions and set them aside, but Lolita was the book that warned me to start.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, By Mark Twain

Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.

This is the first “real” book I ever read by myself.  When I was eight, my mother and I started by reading chapters aloud to each other. After the first few chapters, the pace was too slow and I asked if I could go read and finish it by myself. Later, as a freshman in high school, this was the first book in which I recognized theme and subtext.

Silver Age of Marvel Comics, by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko et. al.

It’s clobberin’ time!

My stepfather collected comics when he was a kid.  As a result, I grew up with an enormous chest full of early Marvel comicbooks.  Fantastic four #1, Daredevil #1, Spider Man #1, Iron-Man #1, Doc Strange #1, Nick Fury and the howling Commandos, Thor, Hulk, the Avengers, the X-men… I had all them all. And I read and re-read them and then read them all again. It’s odd to describe them as influential, but they certainly were. I identified with the alienation and angst that drove so many of Marvel’s heroes and saw in their cartoonish and silly struggles a metaphor for my own life.

Economics in One Lesson, by Henry Hazlitt

The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.

Essentially a retelling of Bastiat’s essay on the Seen and the Unseen, Hazlitt’s little book taught me to think about economics and public policy in a completely new way. The lesson is simple and direct and almost entirely ignored in modern policy. The book is available as a PDF from the Foundation for Economic Education.

A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking

… a particle of spin 1 is like an arrow: it looks different from different directions. Only if one turns it round a complete revolution (360 degrees) does the particle look the same. A particle of spin 2 is like a double-headed arrow: it look the same if one turns it round half a revolution (180 degrees)… there are particles that do not look the same if one turns them through just one revolution: you have to turn them through two complete revolutions! Such particles are said to have spin ½

It took me two times through before I thought I understood all of it. It took me another two times through before I realized I didn’t. It’s not the best book on advanced physics or the origins of the universe, but it’s the first one I read. Hawking changed the way I thought about physics and science. I do remember that I once developed a partial solution to the unified field theory in the shower. I can’t remember all of it, but I do remember that it involved rethinking relative acceleration and position and treating light as a fixed reference…. I once spent a day rambling about it to a physics grad student. He was exceedingly polite.

A Room With a View by E. M. Forester

I only wish poets would say this, too: love is of the body; not the body, but of the body. Ah! the misery that would be saved if we confessed that! Ah! for a little directness to liberate the soul! Your soul, dear Lucy! I hate the word now, because of all the cant with which superstition has wrapped it round. But we have souls. I cannot say how they came nor whither they go, but we have them, and I see you ruining yours. I cannot bear it. It is again the darkness creeping in; it is hell.

I’ve been in love with this story ever since I first saw the Merchant-Ivory film adaptation. The book has a quiet grace that fills my heart; it’s full of tender moments and surprising passion. This book fills me with hope and promise. When I close it–each time and every time–there’s a smile on face and sense of wonder and hope in my heart, “… by the side of the everlasting Why there is a Yes–a transitory yes if you will, but a Yes.”

Early Autumn by Robert B. Parker

…he doesn’t really know how to be a good man, so he goes for the simple rules that someone else told him. It’s easier than thinking, and safer. The other way, you have to decide for yourself.

Funny. Charming. Disarmingly spare. Parker’s Spenser was my first literary role-model. I recognized very early (I began reading this series when I was 13 or 14) that the core of Spenser’s character was not violence or mystery but integrity and honesty. Parker’s hero has been derided as a cardboard cutout, flat and dull–and he often is. But it’s rare to find a character in modern fiction driven by an authentic commitment to principles.

Spenser isn’t a simple fantasy (although he is often fantastical) of unwavering commitment to an abstract code of honor, he’s a man committed to making principles work in a messy, complicated, often difficult world. The novels are at their best when they explore the moments that Spenser’s principles compromise him and make him vulnerable. Early Autumn is the most thorough exploration of those principles.

Rebranding Books

HT to Kottke.org and Your Monkey Called for these classics, rebranded as if they were published today (my favorites):

Then: The Wealth of Nations
Now: Invisible Hands: The Mysterious Market Forces That Control Our Lives and How to Profit from Them

Then: Walden
Now: Camping with Myself: Two Years in American Tuscany

Then: The Prince
Now: The Prince (Foreword by Oprah Winfrey)

Then: Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica
Now: Why Do Apples Fall Down and Not Up? Answers From The Cutting Edge of Physics

Then: Little Women
Now: Concord 01742

Then: The Art of War
Now: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Strategy Guide

Then: Cinderella
Now: How to Escape Being Bullied Without Once Standing Up for Yourself

Some of my own:

Then: The Fountainhead
Now: Terrorism, Integrity, and Date Rape: How Modern Culture Debases Everyone

Then: The Lord of the Rings
Now: Little People, Big World

Then: Goodnight Moon
Now: OCD: Finding Rest in Repetition

Then: The Illiad
Now: Terrorism, Integrity, and Date Rape: How Modern Culture Debases Everyone

Add yours!

Favorite Novels

Shawn put up his top ten books list, and I was so impressed at his ability to actually pick ten, I thought I’d have a go. In the end, I couldn’t pick ten. There are so many wonderful books that could make the list, I just couldn’t decide where to draw the line.

Does Huckleberry Finn make the cut? What about It, or the Harry Potter series?The Watchmen is very, very good. So is Like Water for Chocolate and The Time-Travelers Wife. I loved The Stand, and Charlotte’s Web made me cry and cry and cry. The Fountainhead was first and I check for news of the latest in The Song of Ice and Fire almost daily. There are just so many good books, picking ten is too hard.

But picking the five was easy. These are the ones I return to year after year. They’re the books I’ve read and re-read and re-read again and again. They’re the books that have meant something to me, the ones that changed the way I look at the world around me.

1) A Room With a View by E. M. Forester

I only wish poets would say this, too: love is of the body; not the body, but of the body. Ah! the misery that would be saved if we confessed that! Ah! for a little directness to liberate the soul! Your soul, dear Lucy! I hate the word now, because of all the cant with which superstition has wrapped it round. But we have souls. I cannot say how they came nor whither they go, but we have them, and I see you ruining yours. I cannot bear it. It is again the darkness creeping in; it is hell.

I thought about these rankings for a long time, and this book is in the right spot; It’s my favorite. I’ve been in love with this story ever since I first saw the Merchant-Ivory film adaptation. The book has a quiet grace that fills my heart; it’s full of tender moments and surprising passion. This book fills me with hope and promise. When I close it–each time and every time–there’s a smile on face and sense of wonder and hope in my heart, “… by the side of the everlasting Why there is a Yes–a transitory yes if you will, but a Yes.”

2) Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction. When money ceases to become the means by which men deal with one another, then men become the tools of other men. Blood, whips and guns–or dollars. Take your choice–there is no other.

If A Room With a View is my romantic touchstone, the book that speaks most directly to my heart, then Atlas Shrugged is my intellectual lodestone. It’s a masterpiece in every sense of the word, compelling, difficult, complex, agonizing, confounding, enlightening and fabulously gigantic.

3) Early Autumn by Robert B. Parker

I said, ‘Name’s Spenser, with an S, like the poet. I’m in the Boston book.’ I stepped through the door and closed it. Then I opened it again and stuck my head back into the hall. ‘Under Tough,’ I said.

But he doesn’t really know how to be a good man, so he goes for the simple rules that someone else told him. It’s easier than thinking, and safer. The other way, you have to decide for yourself.

Funny. Charming. Disarmingly spare. Parker’s Spenser was my first literary role-model. I recognized very early (I began reading this series when I was 13 or 14) that the core of Spenser’s character was not violence or mystery but integrity and honesty. Parker’s hero has been derided as a cardboard cutout, flat and dull–and he often is. But it’s rare to find a character in modern fiction driven by an authentic commitment to principles.

Spenser isn’t a simple fantasy (although he is often fantastical) of unwavering commitment to an abstract code of honor, he’s a man committed to making principles work in a messy, complicated, often difficult world. The novels are at their best when they explore the moments that Spenser’s principles compromise him and make him vulnerable. Early Autumn is the most thorough exploration of those principles.

4) Possession by A. S. Byatt

They took to silence.

They touched each other without comment and without progression. A hand on a hand, a clothed arm, resting on an arm. An ankle overlapping an ankle, as they sat on a beach, and not removed.

One night they fell asleep, side by side, on Maud’s bed, where they had been sharing a glass of Calvados. He slept curled against her back, a dark comma against her pale elegant phrase.

They did not speak of this, but silently negotiated another such night. It was important to both of them that the touching should not proceed to any kind of fierceness or deliberate embrace. They felt that in some way this stately peacefulness of unacknowledged contact gave back their sense of their separate lives inside their separate skins. Speech, the kind of speech they knew, would have undone it.

On days when the sea-mist closed them in a sudden milk-white cocoon with no perspectives they lay lazily together all day behind heavy white lace curtains on the white bed, not stirring, not speaking.

Neither was sure how much, or what, all this meant to the other. Neither dared ask.

Like A Room With a View, Possession is a beautiful and lyric story of love. At its heart, Possession is about the way that love can change our world; it’s about how love can render our world more beautiful, more lyrical and more moving than we had imagined. It’s about the possibility of a love that can possess us completely and allow us to step through fear, distance, circumstance and time. It’s about how our love creates its own story–a story that is as powerful, as passionate and as extraordinary as any story found in history or poetry.

5) To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Daylight… in my mind, the night faded. it was daytime and the neighbourhood was busy. Miss Stephanie Crawford crossed the street to tell the latest to Miss Rachel. Miss Maudie bent over her azaleas. it was summertime, and two children scampered down the sidewalk towards a man approaching in the distance. The man waved, and the children raced each other to him.

It was still summertime, and the children came closer. A boy trudged down the sidewalk dragging a fishing-pole behind him. A man stood waiting with his hands on his hips. Summertime, and his children played in the front yard with their friend, enacting a strange little drama of their own invention.

It was fall, and his children fought on the sidewalk in front of Mrs Dubose’s. The boy helped his sister to her feet, and they made their way home. Fall, and his children trotted to and fro around the corner, the day’s woes and triumphs on their faces. They stopped at an oak tree, delighted, puzzled, apprehensive.

Winter, and his children shivered at the front gate, silhouetted against a blazing house. Winter, and a man walked into the street, dropped his glasses, and shot a dog.

Summer, and he watched his children’s heart break. Autumn again, and Boo’s children needed him.

This is the Great American Novel. Harper Lee’s book is a tale of innocence lost and of justice delayed too long. It uncovers the evil of prejudice and the ugliness of ignorance. It is also a heartrendingly beautiful story of growth and redemption.

Most of us read this book as children, assigned it in school. That’s where I first read it. If you haven’t read it again since, do. As a child, you play in the yard with Scout and Jem and you feel safe when Atticus is home. You run with the children through the streets, and you sneak with them into the courthouse, excited and flush with danger. Your heart fills with pride when Atticus takes aim and shoots the dog.

As an adult, you watch with Atticus as the children play and their fragility terrifies you. You dread the courthouse and you feel flush with the heavy weight of the heat as you watch Tom’s life slip away. You heart sinks with the despair and resignation as Atticus drops his glasses and kills a poor, infected animal.

Whatever

About a week ago, I stumbled across Whatever, John Scalzi’s blog. It’s my new favorite. I’ve been reading and sifting through back posts with the same gusto that I normally reserve for James Lileks.

I even went out and bought two of Scalzi’s novels: Old Man’s War and The Ghost Brigades. I finished the first in two days and am eagerly working through the second. They’re great fun. The first is a love letter to Robert Heinlein; it’s essentially a less pedantic and much funnier rewrite of Starship Troopers. The second is a sequel to the first. It’s good too.

Every so often, my perspective engine runs down a little and my sense of my relationship with the universe degrades. The world seems unduly oppressive and unfair, every thing’s a trial, there’s not enough money in the bank, the kids are whiny, the car’s a mess, the beer’s not cold, etc… etc…. A couple of weeks ago, my perspective had seriously down-shifted. I’d gone from “Relatively-Appreciative-And-Happy” right through “Tired-And-A-Little-Crabby” all the way down to “Consumed-With-Irritation-At-The-Injustice-Of-It-All-And-Taking-It-Out-On-Idiot-Blockbuster-Employees” when I happened across Scalzi’s site and his post, “Being Poor.” My perspective was immediately reset to “Deeply-Appreciative-Of-How-Wonderful-My-Life-Is-And-How-Lucky-I-Am.”

It’s a great post and well worth reading:

http://www.scalzi.com/whatever/003704.html

Cookbooks!

Inspired by Megan McArdle’s recommendations, I decided to put up a post about some of my favorite cookbooks. (I know I haven’t done much food-blogging in the past few weeks, but our digital camera took an untimely fall a couple of months ago. And a recipe without a photo is like creme brulée without the hard sugar crust. Speaking of which, I finally bought a propane torch! If I can get serviceable photos off my new cell phone, I’ll do a brulée post soon.)

On to the cookbooks.

1) Joy of Cooking

This has been a staple in my family’s kitchens for a long time. I love it. It’s packed with basic techniques, and canonical recipes for just about any dish you can imagine. It’s a great reference and a great place to find inspiration. I like Betty Crocker, but I prefer The Joy. Every kitchen needs a “go-to” cookbook for the basics, and this is mine.

2) The Professional Chef

I know this one is a stretch for the home cook, but I love it. It’s the core textbook used at the Culinary Institute of America. It’s not just a collection of recipes, it’s a textbook on how to cook. There’s no great prose, but there is a wealth of information. (Most of the recipes are designed for a professional kitchen, so I use them as guides only. I don’t often make soup to serve 20.)

3) The Larousse Gastronomique

The definitive reference cookbook. It’s literally an encyclopedia. Entries are arranged alphabetically, going from (in my older 1988 edition) abaisse to zuppa Inglese. (a sheet of rolled-out pastry and sponge cake soaked in Kirsch.) The new edition has expanded coverage of world cuisine but the focus is still on French and continental cooking.

4) The Sauce Bible

It’s, well, it’s the sauce Bible. It’s also another book intended for a professional audience. Like The Professional Chef, the recipes are designed for professional kitchens and the quantities can be… large. But I wanted it for technique, history, and culinary education and it delivers on each of those.

5) The Splendid Table

This is my favorite non-reference cookbook. It’s a culinary tour through Northern Italy. This is one to get for the recipes. From a grand Tortellini pie, to a simple pasta with balsamic vinegar, to a Brodetto that continues to amaze me, this is a fabulous cookbook. Kaspar has a wonderful style, and this is a great one to read too. Just a great book.

6) My Mexico

This is a new cookbook, given to me by my wonderful friends, Adam and Elina, as a wedding present. I still haven’t gotten though all of it, this is a cookbook to read. It’s just great food-writing. Some of the recipes (like the one for banana vinegar) can be a little daunting, but I think they’ll be well worth the effort. I haven’t tried to make the banana vinegar yet because I’m sure Jamie won’t be pleased with me leaving 4 pounds of bananas to rot in a bowl for 3 weeks….


7) ?????

I have a bunch of other good cookbooks, but none others that I’m sure are truly great cookbooks. And in some cases, I really like my cookbooks, but I’d love to see more. That’s particularly true when it comes to styles of food. For exampe, I have Creole Feast, and it’s great. The recipes are fantastic. But there are no photos, and there’s very little on technique or history. Truly great cookbooks give you recipes, teach you the history of the dish, and bring you into someone else’s kitchen to see it made. I love Creole Feast, but I don’t think it’s the definitive New Orleans cookbook. I’m still looking for that.

There are other great cookbooks I’m searching for. For example, I haven’t yet found the ultimate Thai cookbook, or the great New Mexican cookbook. I haven’t found the perfect English cookbook either. Ok… so some searches may take longer than others. But I’m still searching, and that’s where the fun is.

Cookbooks are great because they’re read and re-read. They’re books you thumb through again and again. They’re books that are used, and if they’re good, used often. My favorite fiction is dog-eared. But my favorite cookbooks are worn, beaten, and broken.

A great cookbook has torn pages, pages that stick together, pages that are stained with the recipe they describe. The jackets are loose and the spine is broken Often intentionally; a cookbook should lay flat on the counter! In some of my cookbooks I know where my favorite recipes are because the book falls open naturally to those pages.

What are your favorite cookbooks? Have a recommendation?


Books, books, and more books

I got this meme from the Philosophy Blog.

Directions:
1. Bold what you have read.
2. Italicize what you started but couldn’t finish.
3. Add the books that should be on the list, but aren’t.
4. Add lots of comments.

OK, so I added those last two rules. How can you have The Silmarillion and The Hobbit on the list but not include The Lord of the Rings? It’s absurd. I added a bunch. A short line of asterisks follows my additions.

Possession (Beautiful, gorgeous, moving, lyrical… I love it)

The Lord of the Rings (Tolkein created a genre. Aside from Homer, how many authors can claim that?)

Harry Potter (1-7) (I’m still sad it’s over.)

The Wheel of Time (The author died last month, so the end of the series is in some doubt.)

To Kill a Mockingbird (The greatest American novel ever written.)

The Great Gatsby (I read it in school with predictable results; I hated it.)

A Room with a View (One of my all-time favorites. Truth! Beauty! Love!)

The Princess Bride (Wonderful. Funny and heart warming and intelligent.)

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (It’s the standard bearer for libertarian fiction. I think that says it all — both the good and the bad.)

Smilla’s Sense of Snow (I really like this, despite it’s rather weird ending.)

Animal Farm

Gone With the Wind (I’ve never seen the movie either.)

Lord of the Flies (This is one of those books that I’m sure I’ve read, but I can’t remember actually reading it…)

A Passage to India

Heart of Darkness (watching Apocalypse Now doesn’t count)

The World According to Garp

The Cider House Rules

A Prayer for Owen Meany (I loved Garp, and I finished The Cider House Rules, but Owen left me cold.)

Stranger in a Strange Land

The Stand (The ending sucks, but the journey is amazing.)

It (Freaky clowns scare the beejepus out of me.)

Carrie

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Monty Python in book form.)

On the Beach

The Sun Also Rises

Women in Love (For a long time I really wanted to like D. H. Lawrence; I don’t.)

The Trial (Another school assignment. I rarely finished those… even when I liked the book)

As I Lay Dying (School strikes again)

The Tin Drum (School strikes again)

The Tropic of Cancer (as with Lawrence, I really wanted to like Miller.)

Fahrenheit 451

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret (Judy Bloom rocks)

Naked Lunch (“I can think of at least two things wrong with that title.”)

The Big Sleep (Another author that created a genre.)

The Maltese Falcon

Never Let Me Go (I liked it… very soft and VERY creepy, but moving.)

Remains of the Day

The Red Badge of Courage (I know I read it, but it was so long ago…)

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

The Hunt for Red October (It’s better than the movie, and the movie is great.)

The Dark Knight (Batman like he’s meant to be.)

Watchmen (Gotta love Rorschach)

Invisible Man (I was 14. I thought it was science fiction. I should pick it up again.)

Uncle Tom’s Cabin (I know, I know…)

The Stranger (Existentialists don’t make for easy reading.)

Bonfire of the Vanities (Ugh… I thought it was irritating)

The Right Stuff (I love it.)

Things Fall Apart

The Way of All Flesh (I bet it’s not as sexy as I hope…)

The Wizard of Oz (Saw the movie)

Little Women (I’m a guy.)

Tom Sawyer (I read it when I was eight or nine… something about Becky and Tom in that cave excited me.)

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Wow. Maybe it’s tie with To Kill a Mockingbird.)

Charlotte’s Web (I read it maybe 12 times. Cried every time.)

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (I HATED this book. I’m using the word “hate” here.)

James and the Giant Peach (the bugs creeped me out)

Mrs. Frisby and The Rats of Nimh

The Little House Books (I’m a guy.)

Remembrance of Things Past (I’ve never tacked Proust, should I?)

Tom Jones (It’s not unusual…)

The Wings of the Dove

Brideshead Revisited

Candide

The Hound of the Baskervilles

*****************************

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (What? Who?)

Anna Karenina (Ugh.)

Crime and Punishment (I hated it. I’ve never liked Tolstoy or Dostoevsky even a little bit. Chekov, I liked. He was funny.)

Catch-22 (One of my all-time favorite, laugh-out loud funny books.)

One Hundred Years of Solitude

Wuthering Heights

The Silmarillion (It’s like a SNL skit that goes on WAY too long.)

Life of Pi: a novel

The Name of the Rose (It’s a hard slog, but it’s very good.)

Don Quixote

Moby Dick (Sad, I know. Call me uncouth.)

Ulysses (I didn’t understand it, but I read it!)

Madame Bovary

The Odyssey

Pride and Prejudice (I always get this, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility confused)

Jane Eyre

A Tale of Two Cities

The Brothers Karamazov

Guns, Germs, and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies

War and Peace (Nobody’s actually finished it. Nope. You’re lying.)

Vanity Fair (no, not the magazine)

The Time Traveler’s Wife (A beautiful, moving, tender book.)

The Iliad

Emma (See Pride and Prejudice, above)

The Blind Assassin

The Kite Runner (Wrenching)

Mrs. Dalloway (Who?)

Great Expectations (Nobody should ever read this. Even for school.)

American Gods (Overrated)

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (How can it not be overrated?)

Atlas Shrugged (What can I say?)

Reading Lolita in Tehran: a memoir in books

Memoirs of a Geisha

Middlesex

Quicksilver

Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West (It got tiring, and let’s face it. We all know how it ends.)

The Canterbury Tales (Who’s read ALL of them? What’s the point? My high school English teacher only did the bawdy tales. It led to a classroom discussion on oral sex–at which point the school chaplain walked in. Good times…)

The Historian: a novel

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Love in the Time of Cholera

Brave New World

The Fountainhead

Foucault’s Pendulum (It’s literally impossible to read all of it.)

Middlemarch

Frankenstein (not as good as you hope it is)

The Count of Monte Cristo (What a book!)

Dracula

A Clockwork Orange (saw the movie though…)

Anansi Boys

The Once and Future King

The Grapes of Wrath (Assigning books like this in school is why people don’t read.)

The Poisonwood Bible: a novel (I’m a guy)

1984 (Orwell was a stud)

Angels & Demons (It’s really not good.)

The Da Vinci Code (This isn’t good either.)

The Inferno

The Satanic Verses

Sense and Sensibility (Which one is this again?)

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Mansfield Park

One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (I read this when I was 12. Freaked me out.)

To the Lighthouse

Tess of the D’Urbervilles

Oliver Twist

Gulliver’s Travels

Les Misérables (I can’t believe I read the whole thing…)

The Corrections

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (Not as good as it keeps promising)

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (I’m intrigued)

Dune (The first is great, they get progressively worse very quickly)

The Prince (It’s not as evil as people want you to think)

The Sound and the Fury

Angela’s Ashes: a memoir

The God of Small Things

A People’s History of the United States: 1492-present (Awful, awful book.)

Cryptonomicon (what about the Necronomicon?)

Neverwhere

A Confederacy of Dunces

A Short History of Nearly Everything

Dubliners

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Beloved (Oy. Is there anything more irritating?)

Slaughterhouse-five

The Scarlet Letter

Eats, Shoots & Leaves (I didnt Finnish because i no possession the book]

The Mists of Avalon

Oryx and Crake : a novel

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

Cloud Atlas (I’m reading it right now. Slow going though…)

The Confusion

Lolita (One of my favorites. Creepy, but the language is great.)

Persuasion

Northanger Abbey

The Catcher in the Rye (I hated it.)

On the Road

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

The Man Who Laughs (Still trying to find a translation)

Freakonomics: a Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an Inquiry into Values

The Aeneid

Watership Down (Bunnies!)

Gravity’s Rainbow

The Hobbit

In Cold Blood : A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences

White Teeth

Treasure Island

David Copperfield

The Three Musketeers