Read This!

September 30, 2012

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:

T.C Boyle  
Drop City

Bill Bryson    
A Brief History of Everything

Albert Camus  
The Stranger

Truman Capote  
In Cold Blood

Arthur Conan Doyle  
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Joseph Conrad  
Heart of Darkness

Len Deighton  
The Ipcress File (or many others)

Nelson DeMille  
Up Country

Patrick deWitt  
The Sisters Brothers

David Eggers  
Zeitoun

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.

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