15 Books

by wjw on July 28, 2009

Ish tagged me with the 15 Books meme, in which— quickly, and without giving it a lot of thought— you write down the top 15 books that will always stay with you.

I’d like to start another meme, in which you actually think about this stuff before hurling a list before the public. Here’s the list I actually thought about.

1. Tales of Mystery and Imagination, by Poe.
2. Complete Works of Shakespeare
3. Have Space Suit, Will Travel by Heinlein
4 Lord of Light, by Roger Zelazny.
5. Nova, by Samuel R Delany
6. Lord of the Rings, by Tolkien
7. Take your pick of any Jeeves novel by P.G. Wodehouse
8. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
9. Ulysses by James Joyce
10. Gravity’s Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon
11. Lolita by Nabokov
12. Nostromo by Joseph Conrad
13. Night of the Cooters, by Howard Waldrop
14. House of Niccolo by Dorothy Dunnett
15. Mistress of Mistresses by E.R. Eddison

That last one is a stretch, by the way.

An observation: all of these works influenced the way I look at the world, and the way I choose to depict it in fiction. I don’t necessarily like all of them: Ulysses is a book I’ll never read again, but on the other hand I strip-mined it for technique, so it may have more influence on my writing than any other item here. (Well, except for the Shakespeare.)

Another observation: except for the Dunnett and the Waldrop, these are all books that I’d read before I was, say, 22. The first few I encountered when I was in grade school. So they all hit me at a time of life when I was ready to soak up influence from the outside world, and I sponged it right up.

And you?

robp July 28, 2009 at 7:10 am

Nice dodge on the Complete Works. Is that to give another handful of authors a spot?

15 books fast will always be wrong. So, in no order:

1 – The Yellow Wallpaper – Gilman
2 – Crime and Punishment – Dostoevski
3 – The Trial – Kafka
4 – King Lear – Shakespeare
5 – The Maltese Falcon – Hammett
6 – Catch-22 – Heller
7 – Naked Lunch – Burroughs
8 – Big Sur – Kerouac
9 – Blood Meridian – McCarthy
10 – A Clockwork Orange – Burgess
11 – Hunger – Hamsun
12 – The Tin Drum – Grass
13 – My Name Is Asher Lev – Potok
14 – Labyrinths – Borges
15 – Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 – Thompson

A list that I would no doubt revise in an instant, but I've loved all these books and they've meant the world to me and changed me. As have numerous others, but this was done quickly.

Allen July 28, 2009 at 7:41 pm

In no particular order:

1. The Hobbit
2. Lord of the Rings
3. Neuromancer
4. Voice of the Whirlwind
5. Blood Meridian
6. A Clockwork Orange
7. Dune
8. Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy
9. The Long Goodbye
10. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
11. Dragonlance Chronicles
12. Elric Saga – Moorcock
13. Money: A Suicide Note – Martin Amis
14. Permutation City – Egan
15. Player of Games – Banks

Deborah Roggie July 28, 2009 at 8:59 pm

1. JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings
2. Charlote Bronte, Jane Eyre
3. George Eliot, Middlemarch
4. Austin Tappan Wright, Islandia
5. Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness, The Disposessed, the Earthsea books
6. Jane Austen, Persuasion, Pride & Prejudice
7. Louise Fitzhugh, Harriet the Spy
8. Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own
9. A.S.Byatt, Posession
10. James Clavell, Shogun
11. Patrick O'Brian, Master & Commander etc.
12. Mary Renault, The Last of the Wine, The Mask of Apollo, The King Must Die, The Bull From the Sea
13. Dorothy Sayers, Gaudy Night
14. Grimm's Fairy Tales
15. Anderson's Fairy Tales
bonus: Tales from the Arabian Nights

Obviously I fudged the 15-book limit by making it more of a 15-author limit.

Zora July 28, 2009 at 10:08 pm

1. Pukui and Elbert Hawaiian Dictionary
2. Place Names of Hawai'i
3. Merriam Webster 11th
4. Chicago Manual of Style, 14th
5. Petit Larousse
6. Oxford Companion to Food
7. World of the East Vegetarian Cooking
8. My Bombay Kitchen
9. How to Cook Everything
10. The Cake Bible
11. Genji Mongatari, Waley translation
12. Complete Jane Austen, compact Oxford edition
13. The Dispossessed, LeGuin
14. A Fire Upon the Deep, Vinge
15. The Pillars of the House, Charlotte Yonge

Odd list? These are the books that I use daily, or reread fairly often. I'm an editor and I work on Hawaiiana and cookbooks ๐Ÿ™‚ The pleasure reading is far down on the list.

Dave Bishop July 28, 2009 at 10:40 pm

1 – The Eyes of the Overworld – Vance

2 – London labour and the London Poor – Mayhew

3 – Conditions of the English Working Class – Engels

4 – Selected Poems and Prose of John Clare – ed. Robinson & Summerfield

5 – Give Your Heart to The Hawks – Blevins

6 – Black Lamb and Grey Falcon – West

7 – The Wild Flowers of Britain and Northern Europe – Fitter, Fitter and Blamey

8 – The Gormenghast Trilogy – Peake

9 – A Shepherd's Life – Hudson

10 – Metropolitan – WJW

11 – Folk Song in England – Lloyd

12 – The History of the Countryside – Rackham

13 – Akenfield – Blythe

14 – Tales of Known Space – Niven

15 – Far From the Madding Crowd – Hardy

Bit of a weird selection that, I'm afraid, with quite a lot of stuff about the country of my birth, England. The Field Guide was literally a guide to my environment and several of the other books have shed even more light on that subject – how it evolved and how people have lived in it and interacted with it.
The books by Blevins and West are about two other parts of the world which have fascinated me over the years (N. America – which I have never visited and the Balkans – which I have).
I didn't include Metropolitan just to flatter you – I'm convinced that it is a great book which blew me away when I first read it.

Anonymous July 29, 2009 at 7:58 pm

In no particular order:
1 – The Glass Menagerie โ€“ Tennessee Williams (I read it before I saw the play)
2 – Caravans โ€“ James Michener
3 – Pride and Prejudice โ€“ Jane Austen
4 โ€“ The Hobbit โ€“ Tolkien
5 โ€“ The Left Hand of Darkness โ€“ LeGuin (just about anything LeGuin actually)
6 โ€“ Christy โ€“ Catherine Marshall
7 โ€“ Gone with the Wind โ€“ Margaret Mitchell
8 โ€“ Unto a Good Land โ€“ Wilhelm Moberg
9 โ€“ Angelaโ€™s Ashes โ€“ Frank McCourt (rereading for the umpteenth time)
10 โ€“ Hardwired โ€“ WJW (hooked me on WJW)
11 โ€“ Ride the Wind โ€“ Lucia St. Clair Robson
12 โ€“ China Mountain Zhang โ€“ Maureen McHugh
13 โ€“ The Gate to Womens Country โ€“ Sherri Tepper
14 โ€“ The Poisonwood Bible โ€“ Barbara Kingsolver
15 โ€“ I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings โ€“ Maya Angelou

The reasons they stick with me differ, but they all stick with me.


dubjay July 30, 2009 at 4:06 am

Thanks to all those who included me on their lists. Shucks, I'm flattered.

Usually, in any given 15-item list, my work comes in at #16. It's amazing how often that's happened.

Steve Stirling July 31, 2009 at 7:15 am

Well, just confining myself to fiction:

4 Lord of Light, by Roger Zelazny.

— yup, me too.

6. Lord of the Rings, by Tolkien

— ditto.

12. Nostromo by Joseph Conrad

— ok, another. Though "Lord Jim" might be more important for me.

My additional list:

1: Homer.

2: Tom Jones, by Fielding

3: News From Nowhere, by William Morris. (and a bunch of other Morris stuff; it was a hard call).

4: The Time Machine, H.G. Wells.

5: King Solomon's Mines, H. Rider Haggard.

6: Kim, Kipling. Only because you specified "book"; Kipling's my single biggest influence, I think.

7: the first 3 Mars books by E.R. Burroughs, which are a single story, really.

8: Captain Blood, Rafael Sabatini.

9: Jimgrim, Talbot Mundy.

10: Maker of Universes, Phillip Jose Farmer.

11: A lot of stuff by Poul Anderson, my main influence after Kipling.

12: The White Company, by Conan Doyle.

Chris McLaren August 1, 2009 at 4:02 am

After a little thought I came up with this list. (I put some justifications on my site.)

The Conquest Of Happiness โ€“ Bertrand Russell

The Unconscious Civilization โ€“ John Ralston Saul

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire โ€“ Edward Gibbon

The Travis McGee Books โ€“ John D. MacDonald

Star Of Gypsies โ€“ Robert Silverberg

Dinner At Deviantโ€™s Palace โ€“ Tim Powers

One of the Jeeves/Wooster books โ€“ P. G. Wodehouse

The Book Of The New Sun โ€“ Gene Wolfe

Flashman in the Great Game โ€“ George MacDonald Fraser

VALIS โ€“ Philip K. Dick

Codex Seraphinianus โ€“ Luigi Serafini

From Hell โ€“ Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell

Zen Without Zen Masters โ€“ Cam Benares

Blood Sugar โ€“ Nicole Blackman

The Kasรฎdah of Hรขjรฎ Abdรป El-Yezdรฎ โ€“ Richard Burton

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