A-to-Z Challenge Day Two: Books
I’ve written before here that my life has been defined by books. I thought that I could use this post to share some of the over five hundred books I own (apart from the thousands I have read) that have meant the most to me or have impacted my life in some way. I’ve managed to whittle it down to ten books.
I apologize in advance for the low quality of the pictures. I’m not a photographer, and I only have the camera on my iPhone.
Book One: The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams
Out of all of my books, this is my favorite. It’s easily Douglas Adams’ best work, and it’s funny. To give you a hint of the writing style, I’ll quote the first line: “It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on Earth has ever produced the expression ‘As pretty as an airport.'” I couldn’t recommend this book enough to fans of British humor and eccentric writing.
Book Two: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
It’s evident from the condition of this book that I’ve read it many times. Once I even read all four-hundred pages in a marathon seven hour session. As a fan of the movie, I couldn’t say no to the book it was based on, and it didn’t disappoint. Much of it is malarkey, but it gives a bit of an Island of Doctor Moreau vibe, but with science-y sounding jargon and dinosaurs.
Book Three: The Erasers by Alain Robbe-Grillet
The Erasers is a fine example of the “nouveau roman” school of writing, and one of the best books I have ever read. It’s ostensibly a murder/mystery story, but underlying that is a retelling of the ancient story Oedipus Rex. It is stylistically refreshing and exotic, which makes sense when you understand that Robbe-Grillet wrote a series of novels to underscore what was called “aesthetic fatigue” in novels and stories. The novel is densely packed and layered, and takes several readings to really get your mind around it. I’ll give you a revelation or two for free: at the exact halfway point of the novel, the protagonist, Wallas (who is investigating the murder of Daniel DuPont–heh–du pont = of the bridge) walks into a store and wants to buy an eraser. He can’t remember the brand name, but he remembers that the two middle letters are “di” and it may head had two letters before and two to three letters after (Oedipus). The second is this: A few people are discussing the murder of Daniel DuPont and a few lines later a man walks in with a riddle that starts: “What is the animal that in the morning…” I really love this book.
Book Four: The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov
I’ve written about Asimov in the past, so I won’t repeat myself here.
Book Five: The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide by Douglas Adams
Another Douglas Adams series of books makes the cut. This series of books is both hilarious, depressing, thoughtful, and fascinating. Adams’ unique writing style really shines in this series, as evidenced by perhaps the best sentence ever written: “They hung in the air much the same way bricks don’t.”
Book Six: Maus by Art Spiegelman
This story, based on the story of Spiegelman’s mother and father, is depressing. But not necessarily in a bad way. It is a brilliant recounting of the holocaust, and makes use of Nazi propaganda about Jews as inspiration for the art style. It is multifaceted, with a subplot of Art coming to terms with an identity that he didn’t understand before the interviews he conducted with his father. I highly recommend this book, even if it is hard to get through.
Book Seven: The Norton Shakespeare ed. by Stephen Greenblatt
This 3,400 page volume of Shakespeare closely resembles a cinder block. It’s full of historical information and notes about the plays and sonnets, and well as notes on Shakespeare’s life. It’s a vital companion for any Shakespearian.
Book Eight: Cosmos by Carl Sagan
Cosmos sparked my interest in science so many years ago. A compelling and informative read, Sagan is a master at communicating scientific concepts. A must-read.
Book Nine: Making Shapely Fiction by Jerome Stern
I recommend Making Shapely Fiction for writers of short stories and novels. It’s a very good manual for writing techniques, including time-tested ways of starting a story.
Book Ten: The Fantastic in Literature by Eric S. Rabkin
Eric S. Rabkin was one of the best professors that I ever had at the University of Michigan. This book, which forms the cornerstone of his class on Fantasy Literature, is the definitive book about fantasy. You can find videos about fantasy and science fiction by Rabkin all over youtube, which I highly recommend watching.
Well, dear readers, that brings me to the end. This list isn’t really representative of all of my tastes in books (both fiction and nonfiction) but it was a fun list to compose. If you have any that you’d like to recommend to me, please leave a comment! I’m always on the lookout for new books. I even have fancy new Kindle for ebooks because, well, I obviously don’t have enough things to read.