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An Incomplete List of Fifteen Books

In Books on November 14, 2010 at 5:43 pm

Okay, I’m doing one of these chain Facebook note things. I never do these, but this one’s about books. Apparently it has the following rules:

Rules: Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen novels you’ve read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. Tag 15 friends, including me because I’m interested in seeing what books my friends chose. (To do this, go to your Notes tab on your profile page, paste rules in a new note, cast your 15 picks, and tag people in the note.)

Okay, that’s nice. I guess the point is that you can’t pick books that say “Hey! Look at how awesome I am because of my refined taste in wordy things!” Being genuine and honest seems to be the point. Oh, well.  Here’s the (definitely incomplete) list:

1. Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
As a kid I identified tons with Calvin, with his endemic behavioral problems, overactive imagination, and love of very large words. I love comics to this day because of Calvin and Hobbes, and Watterson showed me from a very young age that there is no contradiction between being ironic and sincere, or both snarky and poignant. Calvin is a deeply realized character, and to this day I still see a lot of myself in him. He’s also a guy who imagines killer snowmen and time travel, and there’s no contradiction in that.

2. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Were’s in elementary school here. I was a little Catholic school kid in a dumb uniform and I was fully aware of the Christian allegorical elements of these things while I was reading them. Because, c’mon. Aslan is fucking Jesus. It’s not subtle, people. By the time I got to The Last Battle, I was fully disgusted with Lewis’ world-view, even at the young age. Lewis, in that book, is hugely judgmental of nonbelievers, casually racist, and generally thinks that dying is grand because that means you get to hang out with Jesus all the time.

This was my first inkling that religion was actually sort of fucked up. I think I was eight or something.

3. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Yes, everyone and their dog is going to choose this. This is not original. Whatever. It really is quite good, despite being hugely popular, and blew my mind into approximately 12,586,327 individual pieces back when I was twelve. I loved every overwrought word of it, and got turned into a ginormous nerd because of it. I roll funny-sided dice on a regular basis because of this trilogy, just like every else.

4. Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare.
This is the first Shakespeare play that I read, saw, and really understood. This was in middle school. Beatrice and Benedick’s relationship is defined by unspoken attraction that they act out by making fun of each other. There was this girl I liked in eighth grade, and I let her know as much by writing nasty columns about her in the school newspaper. (She happened to be the student body president, so it was kind of relevant.) Anyway, the point is that there was this girl, and I really liked her so I totally insulted her because I didn’t understand my feelings or girls or anything. Kind of like in Shakespeare.

5. 1984 by George Orwell
We’re back in eighth grade again, and this is where I learned about political satire, dystopia, and hot, hot politicized sexuality. Winston and Julia totally did it and it was political and that was totally awesome because not only were they having tons of sex, they were also totally Sticking It To The Man by bumping uglies. Jesus Christ, that was sexy back when I was, like fourteen. Also there was some other stuff. Stuff about the nature of power and control and mind-warping people into subservience. That was creepy.

6. Everything Isaac Asimov Ever Wrote by Isaac Asimov
Along with Star Trek, Asimov turned me into a total technophile. His stuff seems sort of dated at this point, but he made me believe in The Future

7. Neuromancer by William Gibson
I’m pretty sure that reading this book is a step on the road to enlightenment. Also, this really hot smart girl lent it to me. That was awesome. According to Gibson, even if The Future (which really, is where we live now) turned out to be horrible, it would still be pretty interesting. On top of that, it would be a place where we’d all look awesome whilst wearing leather and sunglasses, and have sex with hot cyborgs.

9. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
If I were to explain why this book is truly awesome, it would give away the ending. It’s neat, though, because it’s a medieval Sherlock Holmes pastiche. Really! The book is totally Holmes and Watson as monks in the Middle Ages investigating murders in a monastery that have something to do with books. If you like this book, you are automatically a giant nerd.

10. The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus
At this point I’m a college freshman and have a non-ironic Che Guevera poster on my wall. There was an unfortunate chin-beard in there somewhere. The Myth of Sisyphus is basically Existentialism 101, and I still regard it as great reading if you don’t want to get depressed about how repetitive life is. Meaning in life is self-generated, and that’s actually totally okay.

11. The Collected Stories of Ryunosuke Akutagawa
Whilst in Japan, I attempted to read Japanese literature. Granted, it was in English. Akutagawa stuck with me the most. He’s quite witty, and almost cruel with how he deploys irony (though never in a way that comes off as cliched, at least not by Western standards). His story Green Onions is a great example of an author hating his characters, and loving every moment of it.

12. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
I read this in Japan while thinking a lot about the direction my life was going and what sort of person I was. It was inspiring and thought provoking. I suppose that makes me a total cliche, utterly unoriginal, and something of a parody of the white-guy-in-foreign-country-finding-himself. Whatever. My experience was genuine and neato. Shut up!

13. Ulysses by James Joyce
For a long time I thought I hated Joyce because I thought he was impenetrable. He’s not, though. I totally penetrated him, and found it a very rewarding experience. Ulysses is a puzzle box with all kinds of references, puns, jokes, and Easter eggs in it. It’s not really about anything, but it’s a totally cool aesthetic experience that stretches your brain-parts out.

14. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
This book made me want to dig up Nabokov’s corpse, eat his brain, and absorb his writing talents. While reading it I wrote an essay all Nabokov-like, and successfully pitched it to a literary event. It was the first time that I ever got paid for anything I wrote, and Nabokov helped me get there.

15. Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace
I’ve read a few other of DFW’s books, but Consider the Lobster was the book that made me really love him, and sort of wish that I could be him (except without the depression part). There are very, very few authors whom I would call inspiring, but DFW is one of the most. He utterly charmed me with his wit, erudition, and utter genuine nature, and is one of the few writers whom I admire unreservedly.

Um, yes. there’s probably some other stuff, too, that I forgot.

  1. Sometimes something's popular because it's great, not because a bunch of dumbasses like it. There's no shame in liking LOTR, just shame in liking Tom Bombadil. Thanks, Joe! Here's my list: http://riptatermen.blogspot.com/2010/11/book-thingy.html

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