I am reading Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84. Murakami writes a kind of
magical realism that is quite languid and rambling. I never have any
idea of where his stories will end up. This one is 2 separate story
lines in alternating chapters that don’t seem to have any point of
convergence. At least not yet, and I’m about 1/3 of the way through
I recently finished a trilogy of Elmore Leonard novellas. I’m a fan.
He tended to write write grey characters. Rarely all good or all
bad; at the very least, flawed. Get Shorty was almost verbatim
the movie. (I think he generally wrote books that were easily adapted
to screenplays.) Tishomingo Blues had a happier ending that I
tend to expect from Leonard. Killshot had me nervous the whole
time I was reading it, waiting for something awful to happen to the
main characters because the bad guys were absolute psychopaths.
There was another “100 Books to Read Before You Die” list on FaceBook last year, and, of course, I took the quiz and, of course, I’ve read a bunch of them. I have always read a lot and I have made a point in my life of trying to see what They think is worthwhile before forming my own opinion. There are some books that always seem to make those lists that I think are crap. Or, I think they were good when they were written, but are dated, now.
Because I’m so opinionated, I’ve been thinking about books that I think people should have read at some point. I’m going to try making my own list and tell why I think the book matters. I’m curious to see what I come up with. Sometimes, I think it worth having read a thing in order to have an informed opinion whether or not it is a book you find entertaining.
- All 4 of the Gospels. In the US, Christianity is the predominant religion. It is, originally, based on the Gospels. If you are going to discuss anything based on Christian Faith, this is the best reference. Everything else is dogma, in my not particularly humble opinion.
- One each of Shakespeare’s comedies, tragedies and histories. His use of language is magnificent. I prefer the histories.
- The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway. This is the best thing Hemingway wrote.
- Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck. Or Grapes of Wrath. OM&M is shorter. They both tell the story of a particular people in a particular time and place. I enjoy Steinbeck as much for how he tells the story as for the stories themselves.
- Tao te Ching. I prefer the Stephen Mitchell translation. I’m not sure if that is because it is truly the best. It may simply be because it is the first one I read. I have a collection of several translations because I was curious to see the differences. Translating Chinese to English must be a daunting task because they are very varied.
- Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. LeGuin. An excellent starting place to look at gender prejudices of cispeople. It isn’t perfect, but it’s a good beginning
- A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens. The only book he ever wrote that wasn’t serial and it shows.
- Tomorrow’s Children edited by Isaac Asimov. It is a collection of short stories by most of the Golden Age writers. There isn’t a bad story in the book. Most have been made into movies. It was among the first science fiction I ever read and it opened a new world to me.
- Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka. It’s referred to too many times to skip it.
- The Picture of Dorian Grey, Oscar Wilde, see #9
- Frankenstein’s Monster, Mary Shelley, see #9
- Dracula, Bram Stoker, see #9
- A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess. OK. I will grant thi sisn’t for the faint of heart. It is violent. It is also the first book I remember reading that made me sympathetic to a psychopath. It is where I started learning that evil is a shade of grey, even thought it may be so dark that it appears black.
I’ll come back to this later. It requires more thought.