Aug. 2nd, 2009

packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (quarter-rear)
From [livejournal.com profile] peterchayward

Don't take too long to think about it. 15 books you've read that will always stick with you. They don't have to be the greatest books you've ever read, just the ones that stick with you. First 15 you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. Copy these instructions and do it yourself, because I'm interested in seeing what books are in your head.

(I spent more than 15 minutes. I r slo.)

1. A Gentleman's Agreement by Laura Z. Hobson. This is the book I often talk about when I'm talking about racism - the movie is good as well, although I prefer the text. The thing is: the problem doesn't stop with the people who go out hunting with baseball bats and chains and trucks on back roads. It's an education, for sure.

2. Watership Down by Richard Adams. This is merely one of the best written books in the English language. Adams is very simply a master of description, and he uses it in a way which flows seamlessly with the narration - I remember vividly scenes where a pause in the action is indicated, not by any explicit statement, but by the opening up of the world which occurs in the pauses, the sounds and sights that awaken in the silences of our conversations.

3 & 4. A Woman Of The Iron People by Eleanor Aranson, Islands in the Net by Bruce Sterling. These are simply good SF - books that take you to a place that does not exist and let you live with its natives. The former is one of the best anthropological SF stories I have read, better than Ursula Le Guin - simply very, very interesting. The latter is a political thriller in a world not unlike our own that is just a superb piece of storytelling - a story with all the tempo of a potboiler, but just intellectual in a way which those are not.

5. Transmetropolitan #1 by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson. I swear this book is the most anti-classy ode to Truth I have ever read. It's a series I haven't finished reading, but even Vol. 1 alone is a poem. A poem you wouldn't want to read in church, but still.

6. Abel's Island by William Steig. An illustrated talking-animals book for the younger set (not youngest set, but those to whom Watership Down is incorrectly marketed, I believe); a simple bildungsroman, but well done.

7. Proofs and Refutations by Imre Lakatos. A lesson in the form of dialogue (polylogue? "Dia" always seems wrong when many people are speaking) in the nature of mathematical proofs, surrounding Euler's formula and the counterexamples to it. Suggests many things, including (and this counters a widespread myth) that mathematical proofs aren't truly perfect and irrefutable deliverances of knowledge.

8. Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. It's just a fantastic example of someone breaking the rules of novels in a way which works, breaking narrative order, breaking the division between falsity and truth ... it's somehow still readable. And it has a reality to it, a coherency in the face of its manifest contradictions and blatant insertions of biography into fiction.

9. Consciousness Explained by Daniel Dennett. Just an impressive, impressive dissection of the thing that is us, destroying an army of illusions in its wake.

10. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome. One of the best humor books of all time. No more need be said. (Except that it's old, so you can find it for free online and for cheap in the shops.)

11. Still River by Hal Clement. This is not what you might call a great book - every flaw that Hal Clement's writing is prone to, this book suffers from ... but the setting! I will long remember this one fondly just as an utterly science-fiction potboiler - only no bodies, just the brute mystery of the research project the protagonists have to complete.

12. Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement. Probably one of his best books (although Needle might be more popular). Don't read Still River if you don't like Mission of Gravity, but Mission of Gravity is a classic. Especially if you have the edition with the discussion of the creation of the book, a discussion which I highly recommend to every SF fan.

13. Shardik by Richard Adams. I joked with [livejournal.com profile] toya121 that if I had a million dollars, I'd give everyone I know a copy of this book - like Watership Down, it is just magnificently written. Much more depressing, though, and epic on a grander scale.

14. A Fire Upon The Deep by Vernor Vinge. Science fiction rather than fantasy, but still greater in scope and grandeur. A real potboiler, too. Pay attention to the side stories.

15. I will cheat a little with the last slot: On War by Carl von Clausewitz. I have not finished reading it, but it is a simply muscular work. I anticipate much of it.

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