January 04, 2004
52 Books In 52 Weeks
Kottke is reading a different magazine each week, Vegard is listening to a different album every seven days, and I'm jumping on the meme-wagon by committing to reading a book a week this year.
I'm an avid reader. Books, magazines,newspapers, toothpaste tubes... anything I can get my hands on. In the past couple of years, though, I've become enamored with the availability of online information, and my reading habits have slacked. To remedy this, I'm resolving to read a book every week, fiction and non-fiction, to hopefully reinvigorate the passion I have for the written word and learn a thing or two along the way.
I'm open to fascinating titles contributed by the interactive peanut gallery. I'm looking for the fascinating and enlightening, in a wide variety of subjects. Any suggestions?
From Beirut To Jerusalem, by Thomas Friedman
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, by Haruki Murakami
The Color Of Water, A Black Man's Tribute To His White Mother, by James McBride
Girl With A Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier
Carter Beats The Devil by Glen Gold
As Nature Made Him, The Boy Who Was Raised As A Girl, by John Colapinto
Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides
The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat
Our Cancer Year
Harvey Pekar, Frank Stack, with Joyce Brabner
The Miracle of Castel di Sangro
The General In His Labirynth
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Reading Lolita In Tehran: A Memoir In Books
The Lovely Bones
Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy
Jenny and the Jaws of Life: Short Stories
Small Wonder: Essays
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation
Joseph J. Ellis
Art and Ardor
The Namesake: A Novel
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World: A Novel
Perdido Street Station
Designing With Web Standards
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
#28/52 (three in one)
The Smiths' Meat Is Murder
The Kinks' The Village Green Preservation Society
Neil Young's Harvest
Yamuna's Table: Healthful Vegetarian Cuisine Inspired by the Flavors of India
Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991
Autobiography of Red
Posted by david on January 04, 2004
Bringing Down the House
You may have already read some or most of these, but here are a few suggestions:
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius - Dave Eggers
Hotel Sarajevo - Jack Kersh
An Instance of the Fingerpost - Iain Pears
Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson
A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
A Perfect Spy - John LeCarre
Dracula by Bram Stoker
The Berkut by Joseph Heywood
I'd go with Bill Bryson - "I'm A Strange Here Myself" and "The Lost Continent". Light and lurrvely.
As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl- John Colapinto
A Girl Named Zippy- Haven Kimmel
Brothel: Mustang Ranch and Its Women- Alexa Albert
The Circus Fire- Stewart O'Nan
Five Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History- Helene Stapinski
Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing- Jack Conover
Slackjaw- Jim Knipfel
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay- Michael Chabon
Middlesex- Jeffrey Eugenides
Last Days of Summer-Steve Kluger
Geek Love- Katherine Dunn
Blindness- Jose Saramago
Carter Beats the Devil- Glen Gold
The Barrytown Trilogy- Roddy Doyle
You may have already read these but they are a few of my favorites.
I came here to recommend Carter Beats the Devil and see I was myself beaten. so, seconded.
also, check anything out by Joe Queenan, he writes for Movieline and is a completely lovable asshole. he's got a few collections of essays that are actually funny.
Mark: I haven't read the first three on your list, I'll definitely look into them. the other three I have read (and enjoyed).
Rob: I rad Stoker's Dracula a long time ago, it is much better than the Hollywood-created version of the myth.
Adri: I just finished Bryson's book about teh Appalachian Trail, A Walk In The Woods last month. I'll add one of your selections to my list.
Valerie: Thanks for the recommendations. the only book I've read on your list is the Chabon book, he's my favorite author.
Troy: I'll definitely add Carter Beats The Devil to my reading list. I like Queenan, when Spy magazine was actually intersting and funny, he was the main reason.
You could do a lot worse than Vonnegut's _Cat's Cradle_, Dan Simmons' _Hyperion_/_Fall of Hyperion_, Nicholson Baker's _The Mezzanine_, Jonathan Carroll's _The Land of Laughs_, or Nicholas Christopher's _A Trip To the Stars_. Those are a few of my favorite novels, ranging from classic (Vonnegut/Baker) to outstanding SF (Simmons) to modern fantasy (Carroll/Christopher).
I also "third" the nomination of _Carter Beats the Devil_. Good stuff.
I've been enjoying your blog for a while now. If you're interested in more book suggestions, have a gander at mine ( http://96db.com ). Our music tastes overlap substantially; perhaps the same is true in fiction.
Hi David. Interestingly enough, I've made a similar pledge, though mine isn't so much a goal as a book a week as it is just to read til I can't read no more. Anyway, three days into the new year and I've finished three books.
-The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
-In the Cherry Tree by Dan Pope
-Best American Short Stories of 2003
All good reads; all worthy of your time and/or a spot on your list if they haven't been read by you otherwise.
"grendel" by john gardner (wonderfully written take on the beowulf tale from the perspective of the monster)
and "i'll probably cringe when i read this later" by bobby burgess .. unfortunetly it's currently only available in online manuscriptish form, but it's as good or better than any book i read last year.
Being the guy that I am, someone who fondly remembers the Atari 2600 as an artifact of a Golden Age, I found http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0761536434/qid=1073268491/sr=2-1/ref=sr_2_1/102-7186865-9224102 to be an absolutely enthralling read. Having a large appreciation for P. Jackson's cinematic interpretation of The Lord of the Rings, I'll be re-reading Tolkien's trilogy, and feel that you should consider doing so as well. And recently someone kindly gave me several copies of the wonderful Galaxy Science Fiction Magazine, dating from the early 60s, which I wish you all the success in the world locating for yourself.
i second the eggers book - just ordered his new one and the history of yodeling...
other than that: french revolutions ( a journalist tackles the tour de france route) buill brysons - a walk thru the woods - judith lasater - living your yoga - miles autobiography - take the canolli - sarah vowell - how to be good nick hornby (i'm in process) - wow - could go on and on...
you HAVE to read: salt a world history [or something like that, punctuation-wise] by mark kurlansky. totally one of the most fascinating books [not written by chuck palahniuk or steven pinker].
I made a similar resolution to myself last year. Penguin classics began re-releasing a long list of wonderful books, and i've been collecting them and reading them ever since. The one i've been enjoying lately is John Steinbeck's "America & Americans: Selected Non-Fiction". It's a really wonderful collection of short articles and essays.
Here's the list of the re-releases: http://us.penguinclassics.com/?10CS^
The Penguin classics is a GREAT suggestion! Mine is The Vehement Passions by Philip Fisher -- I think the best non-fiction 'book of ideas' out last year.
I'm reading "From Here To Eternity" by James Jones. Not only is it one of the Modern Library's 100 Greatest Novels, its film adaptation was voted one of the 100 Greatest Movies by the American Film Institute. And if you can read it in a week, I'd be damn impressed--my hardback version tips the scales at around 800 tightly printed pages.
One each from fiction, graphic novel, non-fiction, and classic categories for variety.
Hard Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World - Haruki Murakami
Maus (volumes 1&2) - Art Spiegelman (breeze through these and catch up on the lengthier stuff from last week.)
Undaunted Courage - Stephen Ambrose
The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway
Beware Stephenson's new one, Quicksilver, unless you're going to count that for multiple weeks. Fair by my count.
I always recommend Bryce Courtenay's "The Power of One".
"A People's History of the United States" by Howard Zinn
"The Ingenuity Gap" by Thomas Homer-Dixon
"Zorba the Greek" by Nikos Kazantzakis
"Disgrace" by J. M. Coetzee
Anything by Haruki Murakami (most of his books are also easily digestable within the span of a week), Foucault's Pendulum (if you haven't read it - it's a bit much to digest in a single week, though), etc. I also second the "Sun Also Rises" recommendation - great stuff (and an easy "one-weeker").
stoner, by john williams
anything by richard yates
Good recommendations, all. Currently on my list:
#1: From Beirut To Jerusalem, by Thomas Friedman
#2: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, by Haruki Murakami
I had started Friedman's book when I started this project, and was given the Murakami book this Christmas. My brother introduced me to this Japanese novelist this summer, after we found we had a nutual admiration for Banana Yoshimoto, and I've been devouring his works since.
Recommending books - so tempting :-)
- The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, by Oliver Sacks
- Fight Club, by Chuck Palahniuk - unless you've seen the film and hated it, I'd thoroughly recommend this. And as a guide, pick it up in a bookshop and read the first chapter (about 4 pages). If you're not hooked by then, forget about it :-)
- An Equal Music, by Vikram Seth - because everyone with a soul should read it
- The Secret History, by Donna Tartt - superb and astounding
- Things My Girlfriend And I Have Argued About, by Mil Millington - the plot's pretty much nailed on, but it really doesn't matter. If you liked his webpage (http://www.thingsmygirlfriendandihavearguedabout.com/), you should like this
- Last Chance To See, by Douglas Adams, Mark Carwardine - because it's beautifully written and a delight to read
- 1984, by George Orwell - because I think everyone should
- 253, by Geoff Ryman - which you can also read online at http://www.ryman-novel.com/, and in fact arguably works better on the web
- Einstein's Dreams, by Alan Lightman - a really beautiful book describing imaginary worlds chapter by chapter in which time runs differently
And http://www.bentbacktulips.co.uk/books.html has many more titles, should you need inspiration.
After all this, make sure you tell us what you decide to read!
Check out my reading list for ideas (but stay away from those computer books if you want to finish in a week!):
I am waiting on my dad to finish The DaVinci Code so that I can read it. I hear it's good.
Read overrated Murakami only if you're having trouble sleeping.
Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana is the better bet.
_Disturbing the Universe_ by Freeman Dyson
_The Circus of Dr. Lao_ by Charles Finney
i second _the circus of dr lao_
_the annotated alice in wonderland" - martin gardner
_down and out in paris and london_ - george orwell
_the art of looking sideways_ - alan fletcher
Martin Amis, "The Information" : Wicked fun. Not in that Boston way, either. *Evil* fun.
John Updike, "Rabbit, Run" : because if you like it, there are three more novels and a novella to finish the series... *excellent* for people whose reading gluttony makes volume, volume, volume a necessity.
Philip Roth, "Sabbath's Theater" : It's not pretty, but it is beautiful.
Joyce Carole Oats, "Foxfire" : Makes me want a poodle skirt, a switchblade, and a homemade tattoo.
Margaret Atwood, "The Handmaid's Tale" : Apocalyptic feminist cautionary tale... with a twist of sci-fi!
I second Valerie's recommendation of Jose Saramago's "Blindness" and Cathy's recommendation of Donna Tartt's "The Secret History." Hackmuth's Richard Yates suggestion is good too; I think most people believe "Revolutionary Road" is his best work. I would recommend you avoid Dave Eggers, however, because when you throw the book across the room in disgust with the man's UNSUFFERABLE SMUGNESS, you'll have that much less time in your week to start over with a better book.
Mary Roach's "Stiff" : Educational and morbid!
Eric Schlosser's "Reefer Madness" : Educational and subversive!
Simon Winchester's "The Professor and the Madman" : Academics, schizophrenics, and words words words.
Tracy Kidder's "The Soul of a New Machine" : For fervent believers in the power of computers to change the world: what it feels like to build one such paradigm-shifting oatmeal-colored box.
Susan Orlean's "The Orchid Thief" : The movie "Adaptation" minus the Streep, the Cage, and the gratuitous sordid tragedy.
Anthony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential" : He can't write for toffee, but he can make you laugh, gasp, and swear off the sirloin tips for the rest of your life.
"unsufferable" = a smooth blend of "insufferable" and "unbearable" :D
anything by Derrick Jensen, particularly The Culture of Make Believe - reading his stuff is absolutely turning my whole worldview upside down.
The Last Samurai - Helen DeWitt (NOT the Tom Cruise movie plot)
Motherless Brooklyn - Jonathan Lethem
American Gods - Neil Gaiman
The Dante Club - Matthew Pearl
The Eyre Affair - Jasper Fforde
The New York Trilogy - Paul Auster
The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
I don't think you can do it in a week, but my favorite book is House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski.
I also second Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides. Amazing stuff.
Just make sure you mix in some silly/stupid books too--I find I can't get through more than one serious book a month; but Harry Potters and Isaac Asimovs go down smooth...
Hello - please enjoy these:
The Miracle of Castel Di Sangro - Joe Mcginniss
The Snakebite Survivors' Club - Jeremy Seal
North to the Night - Alvah Simon
The Magus - John Fowles
The French Lieutenant's Woman - John Fowles
Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves - P.G. Wodehouse
A few books off the beaten track that you may want to try:
Sincerely, Willis Wayde by John P. Marquand
The Missolonghi Manuscript by Frederic Prokosch
Hunger by Knut Hamsun
Kevin Starr's "America and the California Dream" history series
The Fletch books by Gregory McDonald
The Gold Bug Variations by Richard Powers
The Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth
I second House of Leaves, but be warned, you'll need a mirror and a neck brace.
BTW, I failed to recommend a good Alabama writer, Tom Franklin's Hell at the Breech (just came out in paperback).
anything by tom robbins...the two most recent books are fun as are "half asleep in frog pajamas" and "skinny legs and all"...
The Rama Series. It's Arthur C Clarke's Best (arguably, of course). It's got a character called Nicole Des Jardins, one of the most beautiful characters in modern writing, I think.
I learn the value of decency in my childhood from this series... (I never said I stuck to it)
It also opened my mind to possibilities of the world, began my the cogs of my creative side turning.
You could. You should. Really.
Anything and everything by Kurt Vonnegut. It's all spectacular, especially Cats Cradle, Slaughterhouse Five, Bluebeard, GALAPAGOS, Hocus Pocus, Player Piano...
You can't go wrong with:
Witch Grass, Raymond Queneau (funny and philosophical)
The Recognitions, William Gaddis (a work of genius, but you'd never finish it in a week)
Wittgenstein's Mistress, David Markson
the master and margarita, by michaïl boulgakov!
Hard to find but well worth the effort:
Tom Chiarella's book of short stories "Foley's Luck."
Crying of Lot 49 - Pynchon
Invisible Man - Ellison
The Things They Carried - O'Brien
Fraud - David Rakoff
Anna Kareninna - Tolstoy
Executioner's Song - Mailer
A few more....
The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart
Being Dead by Jim Crace
Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth
Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder
Jernigan by David Gates
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The Bear Went Over the Mountain by William Kotzwinkle
Eurpoa by Tim Parks
White Noise by Don Delillo
The Ring of Brightest Angels Around Heaven by Rick Moody
A Fan's Notes by Frederick Exley
The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan
The Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell
Easy Riders, Raging Bulls by Peter Biskind
This Boy's Life by Tobias Wolff
Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer
Letters from the Earth by Mark Twain
Letters to a Young Contrarian by Christopher Hitchens
Good luck. We're all counting on you.
"The Brothers K" by David James Duncan (although it's quite long, so it should be sandwiched by shorter books)
"A Prayer for Owen Meany" by John Irving
"Survivor" by Chuck Palahniuk
Anything by Douglas Coupland
"E" by Matt Beaumont (easy/short - it's a novel entirely written in e-mails)
"Wicked" by Gregory Maguire
Since you obviously don't have enough, here are a few more book recommendations:
Very Cool Fiction:
Children of the Alley - Naguib Mahfouz
American Gods - Neil Gaiman
Wizard's First Rule - Terry Goodkind (this is the beginning of a very good fantasy series)
The Shining - Stephen King
The Great Divorce - C.S. Lewis
The Screwtape Letters - C.S. Lewis
God's Equation: The Einstein, Relativity, and the Expanding Universe - Amir D. Aczel
Language in Thought and Action, Fifth Edition - S.I. Hayakawa
Guns, Germs, and Steel -- Jared Diamond
An Intimate History of Humanity -- Theodore Zeldin
Godel, Escher, and Bach -- Douglas Hofstadter
Lonesome Dove -- Larry McMurtry
The Moviegoer -- Walker Percy
The Mezzanine -- Nicholson Baker
And what about poetry? Try
A worshipful company of fletchers -- James Tate
Anything by Mary Oliver, Wendell Berry, Jorie Graham
Whee! This is fun.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Kundera
I second the Vonnegut recommendation and Last Samurai by DeWitt
I third the Middlesex recommendation
Cannery Row - Steinbeck
Age of Innocence - Wharton
Good Omens - Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Sweet Hereafter - Banks
a keeper of sheep - william carpenter
the archivist - martha cooley
Hey, I'm doing the same thing -- who knew it's popular? Anyway, wishing you luck on our common endeavor (and bookmarking this page -- your readers have great suggestions!).
anything by John Fante.
this may or may not be considered cheesy-pop-fiction, but I got "the da vinci code" by dan brown for xmas. - i liked it so much I'm on my 4th book by him.(deception point), so hey! it's the 4th week of the year, and i'm on my 4th book... let's see if i can keep up with you.
What a great resolution! I might just borrow it myself next year...
Here's a recommendation that hasn't been made yet:
Hallucinating Foucault, Patricia Duncker
Easily readable in a week - it will stay with you all year.
The Issa Valley, Czeslaw Milsoz
A gorgeous Central European pastoral, and a Nobel Prize-winner! On a similarly CE nostaligia tip, Sandor Marai's Embers is also pretty special.
Partly Cloudy Patriot--witty and wonderful
Anything by David Sedaris to make you laught
The Partly Cloudy Patriot with Sarah Vowell
(to be read only after you read Take the Cannoli--not that they are related, but while Cannoli is good, Patriot is better and you should save the best for last)
Anything by David Sedaris when you need a laugh
I highly recommend anything by Ian McEwan. My personal favorites: The Child in Time, The Cement Garden, The Comfort of Strangers, Enduring Love and his latest Atonement
I have to add one more: Italo Calvino's The Baron in the Trees
I've resolved to read 52 NOVELS this year. The first one I read has been the best so far (of 13 read):
Crooked River Burning by Mark Winegardner.
I also strongly recommend anything by Richard Russo.
Also good was:
The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint - Brady Utall
John Henry Days - Colson Whitehead
Big If - Mark Costello
White Teeth - Zadie Smith
Motherless Brooklyn - Johnathan Lethem
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay - Michael Chabon
Lots of great reccomendations. Your readers have good taste.
I've embarked on my own resolution this year; I'm logging every book that I read. I'd blog it, but I read too much to get my ass online often enough to make it worthwhile. I'm up to 55 or so now.
Anyway, a few wonderful one's I've read this year so far:
Population 485 by Michael Perry
- A FANTASTIC memoir about moving back to the small town he grew up in, and weaving himself back into the town fabric by becoming a paramedic. I loved it.
Devil in the White City by Erik Larsen
- Murder and politics at Chicago's Columbian Exposition. Reads like a novel and is all true.
Eats, Shoots and Leaves - a zero tolerance approach to punctuation by Lynne Truss
- Funny and dead on. Makes persuasive arguments for the correct usage of language.
So Many Enemies, So little time (an American woman in all the wrong places) by Elinor Burkett
- Can you tell I like memoirs? Spot on political commentary told from the front.
I could go on, but I don't want to be overbearing.... I need to get out more.
I don't trust auto email posters.. if anyone would like to discuss, my email is fangrrl at external dot org.
The Dante Club - Matthew Pearl
Though it holds some interest if you're interested in reading The Divine Comedy (which would count as three books), and may serve as an interesting introduction to some themes, it is in no way a great read.
- Milan Kundera "The Joke" though Kari's recommendation of "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" is pretty great suggestion, too.
- Alexander Solzhenitsyn "Cancer Ward" (make sure it's a good translation)
- Janet Frame "Daughter Buffalo"
- Simon Winchester "Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883" (Non-fiction)
Agree with above comments about Tom Franklin's Hell at the Breech and Brady Udall's The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint.
Kellie Wells - Compression Scars
Dean Paschal - By the Light of the Jukebox
Brad Barkley - Another Perfect Catastrophe
Steve Yarbrough - Prisoners of War
Martin Clark - Plain Heathen Mischief
Erin McGraw - The Baby Tree
Owen Gingrich - The Book Nobody Read
Good luck and enjoy,
If you can, find something by Percival Everett. This will work twofold for you; a) you'll discover genius, and b)it'll get you ahead of schedule (his books are so damn good and alway around 200 pages, which means you end up getting sucked in and finishing them in a day or two). He has 2 new ones out (The History of African American People by Strom Thurmond is the better one), but, if you can, find Erasure.
Oh, and please consider this my way of thanking you for the Drive By Truckers version of Hey Ya.
i cannot believe not a single soul has suggested "everything is illuminated" by jonathan safran foer. not only is it brilliant, hilarious, heart-breaking; it is compact enough for rich reading in the span of the week. i hope you read it. it seems certain you will enjoy.
The Floating Opera by John Barth
Confederacy of Dunces John Kennedy Toole
If you haven't already read it, Douglas Coupland's Microserfs is my favorite book.
Things That Fall From the Sky - Kevin Brockmeier
Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman
Also, it would be great if you posted mini-reviews of the books you read. (If you've done this and I just haven't found it yet, my apologies... I'm new to this site.)
Try Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, The 60's and Beyond by Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain. Fiction wise, Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin.
Great picks. I'm doing 52 novels this year. Since my post in March, I have read a couple more good ones:
Ian McEwan, Atonement
Johnathan Franzen, The Corrections
I know, nothing new, but still good books.
You must read "Journey to the End of the Night" by Louis Ferdinand Celine. It is a precursor to Henry Miller, Kerouac etc... It is scabourous and irreverant!
Also, "I Served the King of England" by Bohumil Hrabal. He is Czech writer of masterful prose exploring human degradation and life under the communists. Don't ignore the Czechs, they are really good. If you like that try, "Love and Garbage" by Ivan Klima. Enjoy:>
Steven Millhauser - "The Knife Thrower" (seemingly innocent stories with sinister undercurrents...if you love the written word and lyrical writing, this is a must-read)
David Lodge - "Thinks" (explores the unconscious mind and fiction as reality)
Nabokov - "Lolita"
"Y: The Last Man" (graphic novel series)
Philip Gourevitch - "We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families"
Terry Pratchett's Discworld Novels are hilarious and relevant. "Small Gods" is good, as is his collaboration with Neil Gaiman, "Good Omens."
I'm also reading a book a week this year. These are some of my favorites-
Will Christopher Baer- "Kiss me Judas" (or any of his other books)
Chuck Palahniuk- "Lullaby" ot "Invisible monsters"
Craig Clevenger- "The contortionists handbook"
If I had to pick just one I'd say "Lullaby", but they are all killer books. If you are interested I can mail you a promo copy of the Baer book.
How about Alain de Botton or Jim Thompson? My roommate swears by Bukowski and Harry Crews. Give 'em a whirl.