Sunday, August 19, 2007

Top 5 Books You've Been Meaning to Read

Probably the only literature-based Top 5 wherein I have a fighting chance. The problem is that I have so many that I could probably make a Top 20.

Dan's Top 5:

1. Anthony Burgess - A Clockwork Orange - Probably the most literary of the list. I've recently started on this one again, but it is on hold while I read #2. I have a feeling that I am really going to enjoy it, as the language is not a problem for me and the movie was just so damn good.

2. Kurt Vonnegut - Mother Night - I should say I've been meaning to read Vonnegut for a long time. I was just unsure where to start, after I found Slaughterhouse V to be rather uninteresting. Huge thanks to Ryan for letting me know about this one.

3. Steven Runciman - A History of the Crusades (3 Vol.) - I remember the story behind this one. I was playing the demo of a medieval strategy game and went on a momentary love affair with the Crusades. (I have a love for anything desert-oriented, such as Dune and Lawrence of Arabia.) I found a .edu website online with summaries of all the Crusades for a college-level class (I was still in high school). I e-mailed the professor and he told me to read this set of books. However, I've only been able to find a copy recently.

4. Jared Diamond - Guns, Germs and Steel - I've been trying to read this for at least two years now. Since it's nonfiction, there's not really a narrative to follow, so I get bored with it easily. That's not to say I don't find the material fascinating, it's just that I really suck at reading.

5. Hunter S. Thompson - Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 - Having read two Thompson books already, I'm not sure if this belongs here, given my honorable mentions. But why stop at two books, especially when there's one which I'm sure will be filled with Nixon hatred?

Honorable Mentions: Truman Capote - In Cold Blood, Howard Zinn - A People's History of the United States, Christopher Moore - Fluke, Vladimir Nabokov - Lolita, Michael Chabon - The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Herman Melville - Moby Dick

Tim's Top 5:
I won't even attempt the last category, since it's just impossible for me to offer an adequate treatment of the topic. But this one...I'm uniquely suited for such a task...

1. Herman Melville - Moby Dick - Reading this book is my white whale. I may start tonight, since I've not read a book for a month and a half after averaging 6 1/2 books a month through July.

2. Don DeLillo - White Noise - I've read much of this book on no fewer than three occasions, and if I were forced to go on television and proclaim my five favorite authors, I think I'd have to include Don DeLillo even though I've yet to finish a single book he's written...after all, I have purchased most of them...just not finished one.

3. Michael Chabon - The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay - I have read most of Chabon's other work now, including Summerland, which I didn't enjoy at all, so I don't know why I've now read half this book twice without finishing. Granted, it was begun in momentum-less reading periods in my life, but I am afraid to go back to it, because it just seems like a task that's relatively insurmountable for me.

4. F. Scott Fitzgerald - Tender Is the Night - The only novel of his I've not completed, I blame the fact that there's a character named Dick Diver. I'll just be grateful he's not married to a woman named Muff, but I will read it someday.

5. James Joyce - Ulysses - Damn you, Modern Library, you've forced me to attempt to read James Joyce on several occasions. I've failed every time, and I've not even tried Finnegan's Wake.

Honorable mention: Oscar Wilde - The Picture of Dorian Gray -- phenomenal film, phenomenal start to the book...too bad I was in law school and had no hope of finishing it. I am proud to report that I no longer have to include Lord of the Flies (vastly overrated) or To Kill a Mockingbird (adequately praised) on this list.

Ryan's Top Five

Good topic, and almost certainly my most embarrassing list to date.

1. Joseph Heller - Catch-22 - Yes, I've not read Catch-22. Yes, I am an English teacher. I have no really good answers, other than every time I've started it has been at a very taxing time for school, work, etc. (not including the original time--when it was assigned in high school--where I was operating under the misapprehension that high school was difficult).

2. Anthony Burgess - A Clockwork Orange - See Catch-22. I've started this one slightly fewer times than #1, but I equally have no good excuse not to have read it; like Dan, I didn't have much of a problem with the language after the first little bit.

3. Ernest Hemingway - For Whom The Bell Tolls - I feel less guilty about this one, as A) I've read all his other "great ones" (loosely The Sun Also Rises, Old Man, Farewell to Arms, lots of short stories, etc.), and B) it's really freaking long. That said, I need to read it, as it doesn't make sense to've read all but one of Hemingway's great novels.

4. Truman Capote - In Cold Blood - This gets extra points because I've lived in Kansas for a combined 6 years now of my life, so it's approaching the longest time I've spent in one state (Florida still in the lead with 10). I've also been to Garden City, which is right by Holcomb. In my world, these two facts mean that I should be an expert on In Cold Blood, and by 'expert' I mean someone who will dominate any particular discussion on In Cold Blood...and not just resort to my standard "You know I've been to Holcomb, at night too."

5. Steve Yarbrough - The Oxygen Man - Prisoners of War was one of the best new (2004) books I've read, and I'm a sucker for talented Southern writers. (Something about the South spawns excellent writers--Faulkner, O'Connor, Richard Wright, Capote, Harper Lee, Twain, etc. etc. etc.) This book makes the list because A) it has an awesome title and B) I've started it probably four times now.

Honorables: Too many to mention--every book I've ever bought and not read. "Beasts of No Nation" by Uzodinma Iweala comes to mind; I bought it, and it's short, so why the hell don't I read it? This list reinforces how much more I enjoy buying books than reading them.

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