Friday, June 19, 2009

Desert Library Books?

{Photo by rocketlass.}

Being not much of a joiner, I generally fail to participate in online memes and list-making, but one that was passed on by Terry Teachout and CAAF of About Last Night earlier this week was impossible to resist:
Rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you've read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes.
Below is the list I came up with; I've added a link to those about which I've written before on this blog.
Anthony Powell/A Dance to the Music of Time
Jorge Luis Borges/Labyrinths
Italo Calvino/Invisible Cities
Haruki Murakami/Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
Wendell Berry/A Place on Earth
Homer/The Odyssey
Herman Melville/Moby-Dick
Roberto Bolaño/The Savage Detectives
James Gould Cozzens/Guard of Honor
Leo Tolstoy/Anna Karenina
James Boswell/Life of Johnson
Thomas Hardy/Tess of the D'Urbervilles
Raymond Chandler/The Long Goodbye
Marcel Proust/In Search of Lost Time
Sarah Orne Jewett/The Country of the Pointed Firs

Some that nearly made the cut, and on a different day might have done so:
Iris Murdoch/The Nice and the Good
Evelyn Waugh/A Handful of Dust
P. G. Wodehouse/Summer Lightning
Charles Dickens/Our Mutual Friend
Rebecca West/The Fountain Overflows
Claire Tomalin/Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self
John Crowley/Aegypt
F. Scott Fitzgerald/The Great Gatsby
Juan Rulfo/Pedro Paramo

I don't know that my list, even in its expanded version, tells you much about me; perhaps merely that my taste, though definitely biased towards the English, is fairly catholic, varying wildly depending on mood and circumstance.

Do take a look at CAAF's list (with which I have no titles in common) and Terry's list (with which I share three), both of which feature books worth recalling. Other lists worth checking out that I've come across so far are those of Patrick Kurp of Anecdotal Evidence (who eschews the term "meme," choosing instead the more pleasant and apt "literary parlor game"), who shares my fondness for Boswell and reminds me that Joseph Mitchell really ought to have found a place, and D. G. Myers, with whose list mine overlaps not a whit--though the titles I've read on his list are nonetheless favorites, which makes me think I ought to investigate the rest as well.

And yours, dear reader?


  1. Top o'head, fuelled by the grand Aventinus:
    1)Gravity's Rainbow
    2) The Tin Drum
    3) Great Gatsby
    4) Ghostwritten
    6)Brothers Karamazov
    7)Infinite Jest
    9) Great Expectations
    10) Terra Nostra
    12) One Hundred Years of Solitude
    13) Sound and the Fury
    14)Miss lonelyhearts
    15)Fathers and Sons

    I did not peruse anyone else's list, only reflected for a few seconds at most on each, I still consider this rather accurate. It would've been deceptive to exclude GGM Cien Anos, the others are rather foundational. Nothing from France or the Balkans: interesting. now the moveable feast of the selections of others. cheers

  2. I liked this meme a lot because of the absense of superaltive phrases like "15 best" or "15 most important"... my list:

    1. Gravity's Rainbow
    2. Snow
    3 Cat's Cradle
    4. Golden Compass
    5. Blindness
    6 Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
    7. Naked Lunch
    8. Bleak House
    9. Troilus and Cressida
    10. The Hobbit
    11. Universal History of Infamy
    12. Tarantula
    13. Howl
    14. The C Programming Language
    15. Oresteia

  3. OnlyaBlockhead (Julian)6:45 PM

    Still remembered, some since childhood:

    Possession (Byatt)
    Blindness (Saramago)
    Atonement (McEwan)
    Cloud Atlas (Mitchell)
    Charlotte Gray (Faulks)
    Middlesex (Eugenides)
    Captain Correlli's Mandolin (de Bernieres)
    The Road (McCarthy)
    My Family and Other Animals (Durrell)
    Cold Mountain (Frazier)
    Desolation Angels (Kerouac)
    The Grapes of Wrath (Steinbeck)
    The Railway Children (Nesbit)
    The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll (Mutis)
    The Line of Beauty (Hollinghurst)

  4. Some great books here to keep everyone busy on their islands.

    Modesto Kid, what's Tarantula? It's the only one I don't immediately recognize, and perfunctory searching isn't clearing it up.

  5. Anonymous6:37 PM

    w/r/t Tarantula, Jose Donoso?

  6. In no particular order:

    An Imaginary Life, David Malouf
    Poetical Works, John Donne
    History: A Novel, Elsa Morante
    Another Country, James Baldwin
    The Book of Disquiet, Fernando Pessoa
    To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
    The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer
    Duino Elegies and the Sonnets to Orpheus, Rainer Maria Rilke
    Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
    Broken April, Ismail Kadare
    Concerning the Book that Is the Body of the Beloved, Gregory Orr
    One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Gárcia Marquez
    The Book of Ebenezer Le Page, G.B. Edwards
    The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Milan Kundera
    Red and Black, Stendhal

    And on a desert island, I'd need the actual books, not a Kindle, since electricity will be scarce . .

  7. Oh, and

    Hard Boiled Wonderland & The End of the World, Haruki Murakami

    Who the hell's going to tell me that I can't take a 16th book to my desert island?

  8. Oh, Pessoa! That's the sort of oversight that would really ruin even the best desert island: you get your stockade all built, you Robinson Crusoe yourself some awesome leftovers from the wreckage of the ship, you settle into your new tropical library for some reading . . . and you realize you forgot Pessoa and start wondering how long it would take you to swim back to civilization.

  9. I'm a little surprised by the general absence of nonfiction. Mine in random order:

    1) The Brothers K by David James Duncan
    2) Notes From Underground by Dostoevsky
    3) Gilead by Robinson
    4) The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James
    5) William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism by Robert D. Richardson
    6) Collected stories of William Trevor
    7) Money by Martin Amis
    8) Collected poems of Philip Larkin
    9) It's All Right Now by Charles Chadwick
    10) Trail Fever by Michael Lewis
    11) All the Pretty Horses by McCarthy
    12) Atonement by Ian McEwan
    13) Essays in Disguise by Wilfrid Sheed
    14) The Myth of Sisyphus by Camus
    15) The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract

  10. Tarantula is Bob Dylan's book of poetry. Not a choice I'd be prepared to defend against someone's assertion that it's not worthwhile; but I've had a lot of fun reading it over the years.

  11. Some of it is readable at Google Books:

    Take a look at "Having a Weird Drink with a Long Tall Stranger" on p. 12, see if it draws you in.

  12. Levi, I made a few people do this on facebook recently -- some heavy readers like waggish, flowerville, Blind Pony, This Space, and your Invisible Library co-conspirator Ed. I'll drag up the lists for you if you're not on facebook.

    Here was mine:
    1. Jakob von Gunten (Robert Walser)
    2. Aurelia (Nerval)
    3. Six Memos for the Next Millennium (Calvino)
    4. Dead Souls (Gogol)
    5. Sanitarium Under the Sign of the Hourglass (Bruno Schulz)
    6. Moravagine (Cendrars)
    7. Molloy (Samuel Beckett)
    8. Maldoror (Lautreamont)
    9. Scarlett Letter (Hawthorne)
    10. Dr. Jekyl & Mr. Hyde (Stevenson)
    11. Ratsmagic (Wayne Anderson) - only book I still own from my childhood
    12. Correction (Thomas Bernhard)
    13. The Melancholy of Resistance (Krasznahorkai) - just read
    14. Roadside Picnic (Boris and Arkady Strugatsky)
    15. A Journey Round My Skull (Frigyes Karinthy)

  13. Great call on the Bill James, JMW--and on the William James as well, which I did think about when I was putting the list together.

    And Will, as I'm not on Facebook, I'd love to see those lists, though I doubt they're likely to be as wide-ranging and unusual as yours!

  14. Anonymous5:13 PM

    If I understand the question right, and it's neither an all time list, nor a true "desert island" list (truth is I would bring a lot of books I haven't read yet to such an island), and 15 is a ballpark, then my list would look something like this: (The first 11 are off the top of my head, the remainder came with reminders from you all and with a little extra thought).

    1. LOTR
    2. A Wrinkle in Time
    3. Collected Works (Flannery O’Connor)
    4. Up in the Old Hotel
    5. The Big Sleep
    6. Collected Stories of Patricia Highsmith
    7. The Coast of Chicago
    8. Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix
    9. Fantastic Four
    10. Amazing Spider-Man
    11. Killer on the Road (James Elroy)
    12. Ficciones
    13. Anna Karenina
    14. The Iliad (Fagles transl.)
    15. Golden Compass
    16. Raisin in the Sun
    17. Songs of Innoncence & Experience
    18. Pride & Prejudice
    19. The Jungle Book
    20. Death Comes for the Archbishop
    21. Rose (Li-Young Lee)
    22. The Isaac Asmiov Treasury of Humour