Saturday, March 13, 2004

Another Book List

Return of the Ghost of Ferro Lad links to yet another set of "100 Best Books" lists, this time from the Modern Library. The "board's choice" list didn't look too exciting to me, and featured very few titles I've read, but the "reader's list" is... interesting. Here it is, then, with my own comments on the stuff I've read/intend to read:

1. ATLAS SHRUGGED by Ayn Rand
2. THE FOUNTAINHEAD by Ayn Rand
3. BATTLEFIELD EARTH by L. Ron Hubbard

What? What?! God damn, but Battlefield Earth is a serious, serious contender for "worst book I've ever read in my life." Hackwork prose, ludicrous science, a ridiculous plot, stupid (in several senses of the word) aliens, and oh, yeah, it's about a thousand pages too long. Ugh.

4. THE LORD OF THE RINGS by J.R.R. Tolkien

I've said it before: I can understand perfectly well why Tolkien's writing may not to be everyone's tastes, and he's not without a few fairly obvious flaws. But Lord of the Rings is still one of the great all-time stories ever produced by the human species. Truly.

5. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee
6. 1984 by George Orwell

Long, grim, dense, and difficult to read. I'm glad I got through it, but it's not exactly an enjoyable experience. Not that it's meant to be.

7. ANTHEM by Ayn Rand

The only Rand I've read. Starts off as a semi-decent, though not terribly memorable, little SF story, then turns into a boring political screed at the end. At least it's short. Definitely put me off trying her longer stuff, though.

8. WE THE LIVING by Ayn Rand
9. MISSION EARTH by L. Ron Hubbard

I say again: What?! Oh, wait, I see. There was a public vote on this, wasn't there? And clearly the ballot was stuffed by Scientologists. (And Objectivists, probably, judging by the prevalence of Ayn Rand.) I got three books into the 10-book Mission Earth series and just couldn't take it any more. I'm amazed I lasted that long, to be honest.

10. FEAR by L. Ron Hubbard
11. ULYSSES by James Joyce
12. CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller

Classic black comedy. Dark and disturbing and thought-provoking and funny.

13. THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Had to read this for English class in high school. Really didn't care for it.

14. DUNE by Frank Herbert

Excellent example of SF world-building, though the writing style isn't entirely to my taste.

15. THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS by Robert Heinlein

I read this one back in high school and remember it being one of his better works... Though my opinions have changed a lot since high school, and I might feel differently about it if I re-read it now.

16. STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND by Robert Heinlein

You can actually see Early Heinlein morphing abruptly into Late Heinlein during the course of the story, and it's a shame, because the book Heinlein started to write is much better than the one he finished.

17. A TOWN LIKE ALICE by Nevil Shute
18. BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley

Much more readable and interesting than 1984, in my opinion.

19. THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger
20. ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell

Also much more readable and interesting than 1984. The satire is a bit heavy-handed, as I recall, but, again, it's not exactly meant to be subtle.

21. GRAVITY'S RAINBOW by Thomas Pynchon
22. THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck
23. SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut

I read this back in high school, and still vividly remember the way it made me ache inside.

24. GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell
25. LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding
26. SHANE by Jack Schaefer
27. TRUSTEE FROM THE TOOLROOM by Nevil Shute
28. A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY by John Irving
29. THE STAND by Stephen King

I read the "uncut" version, which was almost certainly a mistake, because it really was too damn long. Good story, though, with great characters and a very vividly-realized post-apocalyptic world... and, unfortunately, an ending that really pissed me off.

30. THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN by John Fowles
31. BELOVED by Toni Morrison
32. THE WORM OUROBOROS by E.R. Eddison

On the To-Read Pile. I've heard Eddison is... interesting.

33. THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner
34. LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov
35. MOONHEART by Charles de Lint
36. ABSALOM, ABSALOM! by William Faulkner
37. OF HUMAN BONDAGE by W. Somerset Maugham
38. WISE BLOOD by Flannery O'Connor
39. UNDER THE VOLCANO by Malcolm Lowry
40. FIFTH BUSINESS by Robertson Davies
41. SOMEPLACE TO BE FLYING by Charles de Lint
42. ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac
43. HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad
44. YARROW by Charles de Lint
45. AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS by H.P. Lovecraft

I have a big omnibus volume of Lovecraft. I'm not sure whether that one is in it or not. I've definitely been thinking I ought to get around to reading that soon. I've actually read very little Lovecraft, and it seems like quite an oversight.

46. ONE LONELY NIGHT by Mickey Spillane
47. MEMORY AND DREAM by Charles de Lint

I've got several of de Lint's books on the To-Read stack, though I'm not sure whether that one is among them or not. His stuff looks really appealing to me, but somehow I've just never gotten around to reading it.

48. TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf
49. THE MOVIEGOER by Walker Percy
50. TRADER by Charles de Lint
51. THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY by Douglas Adams

The geek classic. What more needs be said? I've got large chunks of it memorized. Naturally.

52. THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER by Carson McCullers
53. THE HANDMAID'S TALE by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood has taken a lot of flack in genre circles for being one of those people who writes science fiction and then denies that that's what she's doing. This annoys people, not just because of the snob factor, but also because such mainstream writers tend to write science fiction that, um, isn't very good science fiction, simply because they're not used to doing the things that science fiction writers know how to do. The Handmaid's Tale, in my opinion, isn't terribly good science fiction. The future it postulates really just isn't very plausible to me, for a couple of reasons. But it is a good piece of social commentary, and a well-written book, and overall I liked it quite a bit.

54. BLOOD MERIDIAN by Cormac McCarthy
55. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess

On the Pile. The movie was good. It should be interesting to compare the book.

56. ON THE BEACH by Nevil Shute

Another book I read in high school whose emotional effect on me has stuck with me to this day. Such a terrible sense of oppressive hopelessness... It really did epitomize everything I felt about the cold war growing up.

57. A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN by James Joyce

Was forced to read this in high school English class. Loathed it beyond the telling.

58. GREENMANTLE by Charles de Lint
59. ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card

This is the sort of book that, if you'd described to me what it was about, I would have been quite sure that it wasn't the sort of thing I'd like. And I would have been dead wrong. It's a very good read. Haven't read any of the sequels yet, but I've got a couple and I keep meaning to get around to them.

60. THE LITTLE COUNTRY by Charles de Lint

I'm pretty sure I have this one on the Pile.

61. THE RECOGNITIONS by William Gaddis
62. STARSHIP TROOPERS by Robert Heinlein

Not a bad book, although, as is often the case, Heinlein's politics can get a little annoying after a while.

63. THE SUN ALSO RISES by Ernest Hemingway
64. THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP by John Irving

On the pile.

65. SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES by Ray Bradbury

Oooh, the perfect book to read on a dark Halloween night, with the bare branches scraping against the windows outside...

66. THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE by Shirley Jackson
67. AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner
68. TROPIC OF CANCER by Henry Miller
69. INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison
70. THE WOOD WIFE by Terri Windling
71. THE MAGUS by John Fowles
72. THE DOOR INTO SUMMER by Robert Heinlein

I read this a long time ago and remember thinking it was one of Heinlein's best, then re-read it recently and found that, while it had dated quite a bit, it was still pretty enjoyable.

73. ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE by Robert Pirsig

On the Pile.

74. I, CLAUDIUS by Robert Graves

On the Pile.

75. THE CALL OF THE WILD by Jack London
76. AT SWIM-TWO-BIRDS by Flann O'Brien
77. FARENHEIT 451 by Ray Bradbury

*shudder* My idea of a horror story! They'll take my books away when they pry 'em out of my cold, dead hands!

78. ARROWSMITH by Sinclair Lewis
79. WATERSHIP DOWN by Richard Adams

An excellent book. Do not be an idiot and refuse to read it because "it's about bunny rabbits." Or I will personally come and smack you.

80. NAKED LUNCH by William S. Burroughs
81. THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER by Tom Clancy

This was one of the rare cases where I actually thought the movie version was better. Because it's a good story, but Clancy likes to stop the plot cold every few pages to give you a forty-minute lecture on submarine engines or something. Of course, some people are into that...

82. GUILTY PLEASURES by Laurell K. Hamilton

I used to really like this series, but the last few books have grown less and less to my taste, which is a pity.

83. THE PUPPET MASTERS by Robert Heinlein

Another one I read ages ago and remember thinking was one of his better works. I really ought to re-read it sometime.

84. IT by Stephen King

King is genuinely a good writer, but in this one, as in so many of his other books, he really needed the services of a good editor. Very satisfyingly creepy, though, I'll definitely give it that.

85. V. by Thomas Pynchon
86. DOUBLE STAR by Robert Heinlein

OK, clearly the Heinlein fans were stuffing the ballot box along with the Objectivists and the Scientologists. I did read this one, but don't remember all that much about it.

87. CITIZEN OF THE GALAXY by Robert Heinlein
88. BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by Evelyn Waugh
89. LIGHT IN AUGUST by William Faulkner
90. ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST by Ken Kesey

I read this one in an "America in the 1960s" literature class I took in college and really liked it. Yes, the movie is good. The book was better.

91. A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway
92. THE SHELTERING SKY by Paul Bowles
93. SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION by Ken Kesey
94. MY ANTONIA by Willa Cather
95. MULENGRO by Charles de Lint
96. SUTTREE by Cormac McCarthy
97. MYTHAGO WOOD by Robert Holdstock

On the Pile.

98. ILLUSIONS by Richard Bach

I remember this as being an absorbing and thought-provoking little fantasy story, marred only by the sneaking suspicion that the author really believes all this stuff. Which is just... kooky.

99. THE CUNNING MAN by Robertson Davies
100. THE SATANIC VERSES by Salman Rushdie


Hmm. That's what, 30 read out of 100? Poo. I'd thought I'd have done better than that...

No comments:

Post a Comment