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Old 06-22-2005, 09:02 AM
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Default Great books....*not* good, but great!

Hi Folks, :)

Pretty soon I will be doing a top up of 5 books or so from Amazon. Basically I am looking for some recommendations for books which you *really* enjoyed and you would class as one/some of the best you have ever read.

I dont really mind the subject matter/theme, all I ask is that you only recommend books you have read yourself!

Last 5 I got were...

The Player of Games [Iain M Banks]
Wasp Factory [Iain Banks]
The Clan of the Cave Bear [cant remember author!]
The Corrections [Jonathan Franzen]
Intervention [Julian May]


Cheers and thaks in advance. :wink:

In Peace, Mr Average
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Old 06-22-2005, 01:18 PM
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Default Re: Great books....*not* good, but great!

Okay, let's see... Just off the top of my head some of my all-time favorites from various genres:

Catch-22, Joseph Heller
MASH, Richard Hooker
-- war satire doesn't get any better than this.

Les Liaisons Dangereuses
, Choderlos de Laclos
-- the best epistolary novel I've ever read, and a mordant, scathing satire of pre-revolutionary French nobility.
A Distant Mirror, The Proud Tower, The Guns of August, Barbaba Tuchman
-- history written for the normal book-reading public by a fine historian and even better writer. She makes the 14th century, turn of the 19th century and the month of August, 1914 spring to life from the page.
The World According to Garp, John Irving
-- hilarious and terrible.
If On a Winter's Night a Traveler, Italo Calvino
-- There is no other book like this in the whole wide world. I'm not being artsy when I say that you have to totally resign yourself to its control. You can't try to follow along in the normal way of things. It redefines what literature can be.
The Neverending Story, Michael Ende
-- Ende is a great writer, very much underrated, imo, and this book says so much about creativity, about human relationships, without ever being heavyhanded or reductionist.
The Princess Bride, William Goldman
--Okay so I obviously like story-within-a-story books. :giggle: This is a classic of the genre, and has a flinty hardness you would never expect if you'd only seen the movie.
The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett
--historical fiction centering on church-building, monastic business, noble scheming/land-grabbing/killing, all that good stuff in 12th century England. A suprisingly excellent book from an otherwise unremarkable author.
Swanson on Swanson, Gloria Swanson
-- found it at a yard sale and picked it up because I love Sunset Boulevard and the history of silent films. As it turns out, Gloria Swanson was a fascinating woman with a blunt, honest, eminently readable writing style. I totally fell in awestruck love with her after reading this book.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Malcolm X
-- it's not just a book about an important man with an amazingly checkered past; it's a cultural fulcrum.
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Old 06-22-2005, 06:17 PM
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Default Re: Great books....*not* good, but great!

Try English Passengers by Mathew Kneale, I guarantee you won't regret it.

It is a novel both side-splittingly funny and yet deadly serious by turns. It probes some facets of British colonial history which the mainstream would rather forget. It also gives a nod to a forgotten people absorbed into Great Britain and looks at various issues of cultural and ethnic identity from unusual angles as well as exposing a number of farcical moral facades and racial theories.

Oh, and it also won the 2000 Whitbread Book of the Year award.

It is among the top ten best books in English I have ever read, I can't recommend it highly enough.

Last edited by Darren; 06-22-2005 at 06:29 PM.
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Old 06-22-2005, 07:17 PM
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Default Re: Great books....*not* good, but great!

Quote:
If On a Winter's Night a Traveler, Italo Calvino

-- There is no other book like this in the whole wide world. I'm not being artsy when I say that you have to totally resign yourself to its control. You can't try to follow along in the normal way of things. It redefines what literature can be.
I'd second each of liv's except the last two, which I haven't read. But Traveler in particular is remarkable.

Let me add In the Skin of a Lion, by Michael Ondaatje. Sexy, lyrical and a clever story to boot, it made me think of things in colour that I'd only ever thought of in black and white.
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Old 06-22-2005, 07:26 PM
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Default Re: Great books....*not* good, but great!

Oh, and My Traitor's Heart, by Rian Malan. Some of the politics has been overtaken by events in South Africa, but the overarching theme of trying to hold one's own social categories at arm's length is timeless. To say it's about race and class would be to make it sound dryly academic; in fact I couldn't put it down. It's confessional, dispassionate, searing, charming, sad and suspenseful altogether.
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Old 06-22-2005, 08:22 PM
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Default Re: Great books....*not* good, but great!

Stranger In A Strange Land - Robert A. Heinlein

I also echo liv's nomination of Catch-22.
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Old 06-22-2005, 10:31 PM
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Default Re: Great books....*not* good, but great!

Two Iain Banks (and you correctly differentiate the Ms), Jean Auel (she's clan of the cave bear) and Julian May in your list! I like your taste.

Prompted just by those, I have to suggest the whole Exiles series by Julian May, the next 2 or 3 books by Jean Auel, but steadily less the later ones, and Feersum Endjinn by Iain M Banks.

Not prompted: Titus Groan and Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake, The Worm Ouroboros by ER Eddison, Empire of the Sun and The Atrocity Exhibition (for example) by JG Ballard, ...

Zelazny. Le Guin. Primo Levi.
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Old 06-22-2005, 10:59 PM
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Default Re: Great books....*not* good, but great!

The Stand is still one of my all-time favorite books. I'll also heartily agree with A Distant Mirror...medieval Europe, Plague, excellent writing...what more could one ask for?
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Old 06-23-2005, 05:32 AM
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Default Re: Great books....*not* good, but great!

Let's see... The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco is amazingly good and entertaining. It combines a bunch of interesting (to me) historical background and with a great story, layers of meaning, and writing that, though you probably will get it through the layer of translation, you know is just plain awesome. I cannot recommend anything more than this, it's just that good.

Some others that I've enjoyed recently are The Curious Incident of the Dog at Nighttime (written from the perspective of an autistic boy), A Confederacy of Dunces (story of a ridiculously reactionary guy in LA, just plain hilarious), Grendel (if you're going to read this it's good but not absolutely necessary to have read Beowulf before, it's that story from Grendel's POV), and Life of Pi (a religious allegory, somewhat patchy in places I think but still probably worth the read).
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Old 06-23-2005, 09:28 AM
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Default Re: Great books....*not* good, but great!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zephyrus
Grendel (if you're going to read this it's good but not absolutely necessary to have read Beowulf before, it's that story from Grendel's POV)
Sounds interesting. Who's the author?

Oh, and :qwelc: to :ff:! :welcome4:
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Old 06-23-2005, 11:00 AM
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Default Re: Great books....*not* good, but great!

Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeP
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zephyrus
Grendel (if you're going to read this it's good but not absolutely necessary to have read Beowulf before, it's that story from Grendel's POV)
Sounds interesting. Who's the author?
John Gardner
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Old 06-23-2005, 01:01 PM
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Default Re: Great books....*not* good, but great!

Thanks for the recs so far! Great stuff! :wink: Plenty to add to my Amazon list, and keep them coming if you can!

In Peace, Mr Average
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Old 06-23-2005, 01:33 PM
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Default Re: Great books....*not* good, but great!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Clutch Munny
I'd second each of liv's except the last two, which I haven't read.
You haven't read the X Autobio? Isn't that de rigeur on any pinko liberal commie hippy English syllabus? Maybe that's only in the US.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zephyrus
Let's see... The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco is amazingly good and entertaining. It combines a bunch of interesting (to me) historical background and with a great story, layers of meaning, and writing that, though you probably will get it through the layer of translation, you know is just plain awesome. I cannot recommend anything more than this, it's just that good.
A hearty second from me. It's a great, great book and I can't believe I forgot to post in among my story-within-a-story classics.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zephyrus
A Confederacy of Dunces (story of a ridiculously reactionary guy in LA, just plain hilarious)
Another huge second. I hardly know how to describe the genius of this book, but it is uproariously funny and just plain brilliant from beginning to end. That razor-sharp humor is even more compelling in the context of the author's painfully premature death and how it finally got published.

Thank you, Zephyrus, for your excellent advice in an excellent first post. :thankee:

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Old 06-23-2005, 06:36 PM
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Default Re: Great books....*not* good, but great!

Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Far and away the best book I have ever read. Anything by Dickens, of course. I also second Roland98's choice of A Distant Mirror. On a lighter note, I can recommend the humor book Mind over Matters by Mike Nelson of MST3K fame, laugh out loud funny. Anything historical by Sharon Kay Penman. Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield about life in Sparta and the Battle of Thermopylae. Jeez, I could go on and on...

Julian
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Old 06-23-2005, 08:07 PM
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I also second Roland98's choice of A Distant Mirror.
Hey! :glare:
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Old 06-23-2005, 08:51 PM
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Default Re: Great books....*not* good, but great!

I'll add A Distant Mirror to my list of plague related books. Thanks Roland. :)
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Old 06-23-2005, 08:54 PM
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I'll add A Distant Mirror to my list of plague related books. Thanks Roland.
Double hey! :glare: :glare:
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Old 06-23-2005, 08:56 PM
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Default Re: Great books....*not* good, but great!

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Originally Posted by livius drusus
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ymir's blood
I'll add A Distant Mirror to my list of plague related books. Thanks Roland.
Double hey! :glare: :glare:
:D :P

To give credit where credit's due, liv mentioned that book in her first post...it just happens to be one I've recently read, and agreed with her that it kicked ass. To note, the plague portion is, IIRC, only one chapter--it's not a "plague book," per se, but obviously that played a role in 14th C Europe.
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Old 06-23-2005, 09:09 PM
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Ro speaks true, Ymir's blood. Not that that should discourage you from reading it, mind you. It'll help put all them plague books of yours in context.
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Old 06-23-2005, 09:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roland98
Quote:
Originally Posted by livius drusus
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ymir's blood
I'll add A Distant Mirror to my list of plague related books. Thanks Roland.
Double hey! :glare: :glare:
:D :P

To give credit where credit's due, liv mentioned that book in her first post...
Oh, I must have missed that. :innocent:
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Old 06-24-2005, 01:42 AM
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Default Re: Great books....*not* good, but great!

Good Omens (Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman) and American Gods (Neil Gaiman). Or fuck, anything by Neil Gaiman. Oh, and I'm currently reading an amazing book called At Swim Two Boys by Jamie O'Neill. Fucking awesome, if just for the fact it's written in Irish-English. Very cool.
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Old 06-24-2005, 12:41 PM
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Default Re: Great books....*not* good, but great!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Adora
Good Omens (Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman)
I'll second that, and if graphic novels count as "books," I'll throw in Gaiman's Sandman series, especially "Brief Lives."


Everyone should read Carl Sagan's Cosmos, for the stunningly-good job he does of explaining in very accessible language the wonders of the Universe around us, even though it's a bit dated now. And after reading Cosmos, grab a copy of The Demon-Haunted World.

There should be a law requiring every American citizen to read Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States and James Loewen's Lies My Teacher Told Me.

Everyone should read Jack London's The Call of the Wild and White Fang. If you don't at least sniffle at the end of TCotW and if you don't simply despise the man in the red sweater, your heart's made of stone.

Read Daniel Quinn's Ishmael and you'll never again be able to see the world quite as you did before, whether you agree with the basic premises or not.

Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire is an utterly fascinating look into the mind of a brilliant and yet very contradictory man. At the same time, it's a beautifully-written extended love note to the American Southwest. While we're on the subject of Abbey, his novel The Brave Cowboy is a very quick and enjoyable read, and yet much deeper than you might think at first glance.


Oh! And how could I have nearly forgotten T. H. White's magical retelling of the King Arthur legend, The Once and Future King? The "sequel," The Book of Merlyn is, if anything, even better.

Oh! Oh! And John Gardner's Grendel! Just don't start it when you're in a bad mood -- you'll wind up hating humanity.


Cheers,

Michael
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Old 06-24-2005, 09:11 PM
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Default Re: Great books....*not* good, but great!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ymir's blood
Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeP
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zephyrus
Grendel (if you're going to read this it's good but not absolutely necessary to have read Beowulf before, it's that story from Grendel's POV)
Sounds interesting. Who's the author?
John Gardner
Is that the same Gardner who wrote The Weirdstone of Brisingamen?
The Beowulf author was reasonably sympathetic towards Grendel, so it sounds like it might be complementary to the epic, which would be interesting. I think I might check it out.
The Beowulf connection makes me think of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (Gollum is a bit like Grendel in some ways, and Tolkien was definitely inspired by the Old English poem), just in case you haven't read them. The films, while excellent, do not substitute for a reading of the latter.
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Old 06-25-2005, 12:19 AM
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Default Re: Great books....*not* good, but great!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Darren
Is that the same Gardner who wrote The Weirdstone of Brisingamen?
Brisingamen, along with Elidor and Red Shift were written by Alan Garner. Red Shift is a *great* book, but afaik out of print and not necessarily to everyone's taste.

I have one book by Gardner, Freddy's Book. "mixes the swift, ironic wit of Nabokov with the dark, archetypal strength of Beowulf"
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Old 06-25-2005, 09:43 AM
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Default Re: Great books....*not* good, but great!

Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeP
Quote:
Originally Posted by Darren
Is that the same Gardner who wrote The Weirdstone of Brisingamen?
Brisingamen, along with Elidor and Red Shift were written by Alan Garner. Red Shift is a *great* book, but afaik out of print and not necessarily to everyone's taste.

I have one book by Gardner, Freddy's Book. "mixes the swift, ironic wit of Nabokov with the dark, archetypal strength of Beowulf"
Thanks for distinguishing the Garner from the Gardner for me, JoeP - where did I get that "d"?
This Gardner fellow sounds interesting.
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