My friend Liberty contributed a list of 50 book recommendations to a book called Read This!, which contains book recommendations from a number of indie bookstore folks. It’s pretty cool. I’ve gone through and checked off books that I’ve read and marked some that I want to read or at least learn more about.
With that in mind, I thought I’d compile a list of 50 book recommendations myself.
I think there’s a temptation to make yourself look really well-read by including books that are supposed to be great, but which you haven’t actually cracked. I thought that I would probably be better off only listing books that I actually have read. So if your favorite book is Finnegan’s Wake or Anna Karenina or something like that, I’m sure I would have loved it if I’d read it. . .
A few authors have written a lot of books that I would recommend and in these cases I just recommend one, but I’ll put a note that it is a stand in for the larger body of work (Elmore Leonard is one of these). I’m going to do these ten at a time and each time I’ll pick one title to talk a little bit more about.
So. . .here we go, in alphabetical order:
A Brief History of Everything
In Cold Blood
Arthur Conan Doyle
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Heart of Darkness
The Ipcress File (or many others)
The Sisters Brothers
I think there is a higher probability of a book getting on this list if I’ve read it recently. I know I’ve read plenty of great books that I’m either not remembering or not remembering them as being as great as they really were (like, say, The Martian Chronicles, which I remember really liking about 35 years ago, but don’t remember well enough to recommend). I say this because I just finished The Sisters Brothers and it is great, but who knows if I will remember it being this great in ten years. Anyway, it’s a western about two brothers who are essentially contract killers, but in the case of at least one of them, nice contract killers. The narrative voice is really strong, sounding cowboy-ish without devolving into camp (Hilary Mantel does the same thing in her Thomas Cromwell books). It’s a little bit like The Vaults in that it takes a genre — the Western, in this case — and inserts some weird elements.