Monday, January 04, 2010

A Year of Books

This is the part of the blog where Ethan comes out and makes comments about all of the books he read last year. If you are feeling very nerdy, bored, or masochistic you may want to read all of his comments. If you want to skip that crap and get to the point you may go to the end where Ethan will list his "must-reads" and "must-avoids."


1. The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
2. Salome, by Oscar Wilde
3. The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde
4. De Profundis, by Oscar Wilde

Being a Wilde-lover, I can hardly be expected to make objective unbiased comments on his works. However, it is my opinion that every literary person should read these four. Picture, of course, is a classic; and a better and more tragic rendering of original sin I have never encountered.
De Profundis was written while Wilde was in prison, and we see a much humbler and in many ways much more profound Wilde than previously. He says some of the most beautiful, profound things about Christ I have seen in a while.
Importance is, of course, the classic of stage wit; Salome contains some wonderful prose poetry (also a play, I don't know how speakable it is, but it's a great read).

5. Poems, Poems in Prose, and a Fairy Tale, by Oscar Wilde
6. Anecdotes and Sayings of Oscar Wilde, by Oscar Wilde et al.
7. The Critic as Artist, by Oscar Wilde
Also brilliant stuff, of course, though less essential. Critic is esoteric almost, though not quite, to the point of unintelligebility. I loved it.


8. The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie
Massive, surreal, brilliant novel from one of the world's best living authors.

9. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart
The type of book I read for a somewhat guilty pleasure, about rich kids at a private school. Suprprisingly intelligent for its genre.

10. This Side of Paradise, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The second out of a projected many times I read this. The novel that proved to me that college students haven't changed in 90 years.

11. The Roots of African-American Drama
For American lit class. It covered the early period, back before African-American writing was filled with self-important pretentious whining.

12. The Adventures of Hucklberry Finn, by Mark Twain
Also for class. Approximately the seventy-nine millionth reading for me. Still wonderful.

13. Reading Like a Writer, by Francine Prose [Reading for Class]
Was only assigned the first few chapters; I've been meaning to go back and read the rest. Very interesting book which shows one how to do exactly what the title implies.

14. The Writer's Book of Days, by Judy Reeves
15. Creating The Accomplished Image [Partly read, for class]
16. The People's Bible Commentary: Romans
17. Wheelock's Latin
18. God's No and God's Yes, by CFW Walther [half-read, for
class]
More books for various classes. All hold some merit in their specific field; nothing incredibly remarkable.


19. The Urth of the New Sun, by Gene Wolfe
The one-volume sequel to the four-volume Book of the New Sun, it's utterly brilliant, though you have to read the first four books first.

20. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, by Joan Aiken
I heard this described somewhere as "whimsical without being sentimental." Somewhat along the lines of "A Series of Unfortunate Events," but better.

21. The Abolition of Man, by C.S. Lewis
One of those books where Lewis takes 100 pages and changes your entire life.

22. Manalive, by G.K. Chesterton
See 21, with Chesterton's name instead of Lewis's. Brilliant little novel.

23. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
Lost some of its punch for having seen most of this done in novels like 1984. Some brilliant passages, and Burgess is a very good and interesting writer.

24. Magic For Beginners, by Kelly Link
One of my favorite collections of short stories ever. Magic realism with a vengeance. The title story alone is worth the price of admission.

25. The Charwoman's Shadow, by Lord Dunsany
Replaced "The King of Elfland's Daughter" as my favorite Dunsany. If you like lyrical prose and faerie-tale-esque fantasy, read this book. (If you can find it.)

26. One More For The Road, by Ray Bradbury
A not particularly impressive collection of Bradbury shorts, though it has a few gems of brilliance.

27. Sailing to Byzantium, by Robert Silverberg
Another old favorite. Silverberg is at his best writing novellas, and these five are some of his best novellas.

28. The Halfling and Other Stories, by Leigh Brackett
An interesting, often superbly done, collection of short stories by the writer of "The Empire Strikes Back."

29. Our Town, by Thornton Wilder
I rather liked this play, against all expectation.

30. Figures of Earth, by James Branch Cabell
Wonderful satire of Arthurian type heroism, by another master of prose.

31. The Man Who Came to Dinner, by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman
32. The Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller
Of these two plays, the first one is rather funny and I was proud of myself for catching most of the 30s cultural references, and the second one, while powerful, was rather a failure.

33. The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch
Somewhat like a cross between "Ocean's 11" and a standard urban adventure fantasy, but freshly written and with good characters and story. A literary Big Mac with fries.

34. Coffee at Luke's, edited by Jennifer Cruisie
People writing intellectually about the series "Gilmore Girls," which, yes, I watch. The writing on that show is brilliant. Shut up.

35. Nine Stories, by J.D. Salinger
I hated it for the first half, then fell more and more in love through the second. When I reread it I expect to love the whole thing.

36. The Crucible, by Arthur Miller
Better than Salesman.

37. The Fabulous Tom Mix, by Olive Stokes Mix [half-read, research purposes]
An excellent book for information on the very beginning of the silent film era, and one of the first ever movie stars.

38. Nightside the Long Sun, by Gene Wolfe
50. Lake of the Long Sun, by Gene Wolfe
51. Calde of the Long Sun, by Gene Wolfe
52. Exodus From the Long Sun, by Gene Wolfe
The Book of the Long Sun is not quite as satisfying as New Sun books, but being Gene Wolfe is still fairly brilliant.

39. Who is Mark Twain? by Mark Twain
A new collection of unfinished and unpublished Twain. There's some pretty funny stuff here.

40. The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman
Fairly typical Gaiman, but there are a lot of cool and subtle things to it that one might miss if one was not careful. It grows on one after one has read it, too.

41. Raise High The Roof Beams, Carpenters and Seymour, An Introduction, by J.D. Salinger
Brilliant. Became my favorite Salinger until I read "Franny and Zooey."

42. Dutchman, Amiri Baraka
That whiny pretentious boring African-American drama I was talking about? A pretty good example of such.


43. Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller
A wonderful collection of essays on Christianity in the postmodern world. Miller isn't Lutheran, but he has some excellent thoughts.

44. Smoke, by Ivan Turgenev
45. Fathers and Sons, by Ivan Turgenev
46. First Love, by Ivan Turgenev
If anything, I liked "Smoke" much more than "Fathers and Sons," though the latter is a much more famous novel. Didn't really like Turgenev in general, though.

47. The Name Above the Title, by Frank Capra
Capra, who made (often wrote or co-wrote and directed) films like "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," "Lost Horizon," and "It's a Wonderful Life," writes a brilliant biography. It's worth reading for anyone interested in movies or writing, or just looking for a big, entertaining book.

48. The Story of Film, by Mark Cousins
For nerds only, but for nerds it's heaven. All of the film history you'll need in one place.

49. A Sentimental Journey, by Laurence Sterne
Not as utterly brilliant as Tristram Shandy, but worth reading--and at 150 pages, about 1/8th of the length of TS.

53. Heroes of the Valley, by Jonathan Stroud
54. The Last Siege, by Jonathan Stroud
The first book is invented-world fantasy, the second a real-world story about British school kids with no particular fantasy element (though set in an old castle). Both were well-written and solid stories; I was impressed with Stroud by the time I was done.

55. To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis
Wonderfully funny time-travel novel. The action takes place largely in the Victorian era. If those two categories sound at all attractive, it is recommended.

56. Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book, by Walker Percy
A book about why, when we know so much about things like atoms and what stars are made of and everything else there is to know, humans know so very little about ourselves.

57. Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today, by John Kleinig [Partly read; book klub]
A decently readable book of Lutheran theology for the layman.

58. Storeys from the Old Hotel, by Gene Wolfe
59. The Wolfe Archipelago, by Gene Wolfe
I don't think Wolfe is as comfortable in the short form as he is writing multi-volume novels, but there is good stuff here, especially in the Archipelago.

60. Calculating God, by Robert J. Sawyer
What happens when an atheist sci-fi writer attempts to posit God. Besides a couple of utterly ridiculously drawn Southern Baptist wacko characters, Sawyer makes an even-handed attempt, but he ultimately fails at writing either good theoretical theology or an entertaining novel.

61. Rude Mechanicals, by Kage Baker
62. Black Projects, White Knights, by Kage Baker
63. Gods and Pawns, by Kage Baker
64. Dark Mondays, by Kage Baker
Of these three story collections, the first two are worth reading if you've read the rest of Bakers Company novels; the final one is non-Company, and has some pretty good stuff.

65. Questions of Truth, by John Polkinghorne and Nicholas Beale
Two Anglican scientists argue that the theory of evolution is in no way incompatible with religion. After reading, I am inclined to agree on this broad point, even if I disagree on a lot of their sub-points.

66. Lake Wobegon Summer 1956, by Garrison Keillor
Good, fun book, if dirty in places.

67. Carry On Jeeves, by PG Wodehouse
It's Jeeves. What more can I say?

68. Either You're In Or You're In The Way, by Noah and Logan Miller
Utterly cool non-fiction book about two brothers who started with literally no money and no experience, and made an award-winning movie.

69. A City in Winter, by Mark Helprin
70. The Veil of Snows, by Mark Helprin
71. Swan Lake, by Mark Helprin
This trilogy of dreamlike fantasy has unexpected teeth. Its elegance provides a welcome break from the hectic nature of real life.

72. Believer Beware, edited by Jeff Sharlet et. al.
A collection of essays "from the edge of religion." Worth reading for anyone interested in the postmodern religious scene.

73. The Merchant of Venice, by Shakespeare
75. Richard III, by Shakespeare
76. Othello, by Shakespeare
80. The Tempest, by Shakespeare
82. King Lear, by Shakespeare
84. Sonnets, by William Shakespeare
90. The Taming of the Shrew, by Shakespeare
95. Much Ado About Nothing, by Shakespeare
The stuff we read for Shakespeare class. For wonderful examples of how to run a play and how to write in English and insights into human nature, I recommend any of them. For good entertainment, I reccomend Merchant, RIII, Tempest, Lear, Sonnets, Taming, and the scenes in Much Ado with Benedick and Beatrice.


74. Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan
Being forced to read the whole thing for class, I discovered that after the first 50 pages (as far as I'd gotten on previous attempts) it gets much better.

77. Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe
Eh.

78. The Laramie Project, by Moises Kaufman et al
79. Oedipus Rex, by Sophocles
81. Proof, by David Auburn
83. Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett
The four plays we read for Playwriting class, except Oedipus was for Lit Crit. Godot was amazing, if you like surrealism. Laramie Project, about the brutal murder of a gay man in Wyoming, I found interesting stylistically and very moving emotionally.

85. The Broadview Anthology of British Literature, the Restoration through 1800
Eh.

86. Winter's Tales, by Isak Dinesen
Dinesen, the author of the short story "Babbette's Feast," is wonderful. That's all I will be able to say without going on for pages.

87. Franny and Zooey, by JD Salinger
This became my favorite Salinger. Everything else he wrote is now officially better than "Catcher in the Rye."

88. The Controversy Between the Puritans and the Stage, by Elbert Thompson
Very interesting book, read for research-paper purposes.

89. Lost Worlds, by Clark Ashton Smith
A 30s pulp writer along the lines of RE Howard (Conan), Smith's quality wildly varies. He's worth reading just for the bizzare stuff he comes up with.

91. The Norton Anthology of Literary Criticism, various authors
Oh my head hurts.

92. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
A fictional correspondence between a London author and inhabitants of the only English territory occupied during World War II, taking place just after the war, the characters are so honest, charming, and witty that it made me want to be there or at least be English.

93. Peace, by Gene Wolfe
Again, it's Wolfe, and again his utter brilliance shines through. Many people think this is his best novel.

94. Great Joy, by Kate DiCamillo
Okay, so it's a picture book. But the illustrations are beautiful and because it's DiCamillo writing the text said text is touching and beautiful in its own right.

96. Waverely, by Sir Walter Scott
Ugh. Scott stretches two hundred pages' worth of story, prose skill, and cleverness over about six hundred pages.

97. Reading the OED, by Ammon Shea
Awesome book about a guy who read the entire Oxford English Dictionary over the course of a year. He pulls out the best forgotten words. "Onmotomania" is my favorite.

98. Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld
Fun YA alternate history steampunk.

99. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, by Philip Jose Farmer
100. The Fabulous Riverboat, by Philip Jose Farmer
The first half of the SF classic Riverworld series. Good fun, especially if you like history.

101. How I Live Now, by Meg Rosoff
Sort of post-apocalyptic YA novel. I liked it.

102. Nova Swing, by M. John Harrison
The follow-up to Harrison's "Light," which I read last year, could have been shorter but its surreal glory is not lessened for that.

103. Anecdotes of Destiny, by Isak Dinesen
This collection contains "Babette's Feast," and while none of the other stories match it, they are all very good as well.

104. The Screwtape Letters, by CS Lewis
See "Abolition of Man."

105. The Owl Service, by Alan Garner
Interesting forgotten YA fantasy. The writing style is nearly perfect, very subtle, and the Celtic roots are used brilliantly.

106. Wizardry and Wild Romance, by Michael Moorcock
Probably the hundred and sixth or so time I've read this one. Moorcock still continues to anger and intrigue me in equal amounts.

So. Now for categories.

Books Everyone Should Read to be Human:
The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
Salome, by Oscar Wilde
The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde
De Profundis, by Oscar Wilde
The Urth of the New Sun, by Gene Wolfe (After reading the first 4 New Sun books)
The Abolition of Man, by C.S. Lewis
Manalive, by G.K. Chesterton
The Charwoman's Shadow, by Lord Dunsany
Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book, by Walker Percy
Anecdotes of Destiny, by Isak Dinesen (even if it's only "Babette's Feast.")
The Screwtape Letters, by CS Lewis

Books Everyone should Read Who Wants to be Literate:
The Critic as Artist, by Oscar Wilde
The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie
This Side of Paradise, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Adventures of Hucklberry Finn, by Mark Twain
Magic For Beginners, by Kelly Link
Nine Stories, by J.D. Salinger
Raise High The Roof Beams, Carpenters and Seymour, An Introduction, by J.D. Salinger
Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan
All the Shakespeare, of course
Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe
Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett
Oedipus Rex, by Sophocles
Franny and Zooey, by JD Salinger
Peace, by Gene Wolfe
Wizardry and Wild Romance, by Michael Moorcock

Books Not Part of the Previous Two Categories but Still Worth Reading:
Sailing to Byzantium, by Robert Silverberg
The Halfling and Other Stories, by Leigh Brackett
Our Town, by Thornton Wilder
Figures of Earth, by James Branch Cabell
The Man Who Came to Dinner, by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman
Nightside the Long Sun, by Gene Wolfe
Lake of the Long Sun, by Gene Wolfe
Calde of the Long Sun, by Gene Wolfe
Exodus From the Long Sun, by Gene Wolfe
The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman
The Name Above the Title, by Frank Capra
A Sentimental Journey, by Laurence Sterne
To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis
A City in Winter, by Mark Helprin
The Veil of Snows, by Mark Helprin
Swan Lake, by Mark Helprin
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
To Your Scattered Bodies Go, by Philip Jose Farmer
The Fabulous Riverboat, by Philip Jose Farmer
The Owl Service, by Alan Garner

Books to Avoid:
Dutchman, Amiri Baraka
Calculating God, by Robert J. Sawyer


And yet... I feel like I've barely put a dent in my "To Be Read" list.

5 comments:

wsxwhx610 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
NOT Freddy Jones said...

13. I've been reading this and it is excellent. You should try to finish it.

17. Ouch. I'm sorry. I was fortunate and I did Henle latin instead of Wheelock, but I've heard the horror stories..

74. I remember loving Pilgrim's Progress when my dad read it to me.. uh.. eight or nine years ago. But that was probably partly because I loved the picture book that someone had made about it. Not sure if I'd still love it(the original. I know I still love the picture book)

87. I haven't read anything else by Salinger but Catcher in the Rye was pretty awesome so it must be good. I shall add it to my never-ending reading list.

92. You? wanting to be English? Shocking.
But I know what you mean. It's the same feeling I get whenever I watch a BBC production of a Dickens book.

98. I have not read this, but have you read anything by Holly Black? If not, you must read her Modern Faerie Tale trilogy. Zeke has the first book so you can steal it from him.

Also, if you are a film major, and you enjoy reading a book about the history of film, do you still qualify as a nerd?

Ethan said...

13. I will. Though I may have to loan it to someone for a class this semester.

17. Is Henle good?

87. You should really read everything else by Salinger. Seriously.

98. As I mentioned to you in person, Zeke has MY first Holly Black book. I will get to her. You know. Sometime.

And yes. Yes you do.

NOT Freddy Jones said...

13. It's called a library Ethan. They have books in them. Books you can borrow for periods of time.

17. Henle is really really boring. I'm not sure how it compares in quality to Wheelock except it's easier.

98. That sounded vaguely sexual and made me laugh.
Also, have you read anything by O.R. Melling? As an irishman and someone who loves fantasy, you have to. Srsly.

Anan said...

I still think about "The Graveyard Book" every stinkin' day. That is either lame or awesome. Not sure which.