Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Top 5 Favorite Books

This list, friends, is constantly changing, but as of right now, it stands as (no order, just 5 books):
  1. The Fortress of Solitude, Jonathan Lethem. Really, it's three great books, each totally justifying its place on this list - the first for its writing, the second for its imagined world and economy, and the third for its pseudomemoir.
  2. From the Dust Returned, Ray Bradbury. I read this in 8th grade, after tackling Illustrated Man, and it stuck with me more, with its family of, I think, vampires.
  3. Nine Stories, J.D. Salinger - Special mention for the stories "For Esme, with Love and Squalor," "A Beautiful Day for Bananafish," and "De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period." Alternately, you could count all the Glass Family stories as one book and put it here instead, and shunt "For Esme" and "De Daumier-Smith" to a list of favorite short stories.
  4. Yes, We Have No: Adventures in the Other England, Nik Cohn. Sadly, criminally out of print. This is the book, read 3 times over a summer trip to St. Louis, that made me want to be a writer, in that bone-stupid, arrogant 15-year-old way. Given that Cohn admitted to having fabricated massive sections of "Saturday Night Fever," I'm a bit leery of putting this on the list, or trusting any of the people mentioned in the book to actually exist, but despite these doubts, it's one of the finest pieces of writing I've ever put in my brain. I can quote chunks of it from memory, and check at every used bookshop I go to for a copy. If it's non-fiction, it's one of the best pieces of nonfiction put out in the last century. If it's fiction, it needs to be put on the list of best fictional universes ever. The more I get drunk and walk around downtown Urbana and talk to the people at the bus stop, the more I incline towards the former.
  5. The Baroque Cycle, Neal Stephenson. I'm cheating a bit here, and counting the three volume, three-odd-thousand page monster as one book. I'm doing this for two reasons: I spend a good chunk of my waking hours researching the time period this book covers, and partially because of that (and more partially, because of Stephenson's skill), the character Daniel Waterhouse is as real to me as most actual human beings I know.

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