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My 10 Favorite Books

  • Jul 24, 2010
As with my 20 Albums, maybe not the best ever, but prose that transports me into a place and time that the writer had to create.
Ulysses - James Joyce
How can you get tired of so many ideas, so much invention? With a commentary, a guidebook, enter the Dublin labyrinth. Any other book will pale by comparison. Overwhelming, dull, funny, poignant, erotic, insane: that's life.
Three Novels: Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable
Joyce's counterpart, the minimalist immersion supplants his maximalist assault. Plunge in to your inner depths.
U.S.A.: John Dos Passos
A wonderfully paced, panoramic, rushed newsreel in narrative of the U.S. in the first third of the 20th century.
Very odd autobiographical novel, haunting and disturbingly immediate: an Irish dissident enters Nazi Germany. Francis Stuart angered more than he entertained with his semi-fictionalized exposure of mid-20c experiences.
Tibetan Book of Living and Dying: Sogyal Rinpoche
The title tells you: inspirational yet not sappy, deadly serious while life-affirming. A book any one curious about one's fate may reflect upon, and perhaps agree with. Or at least open your mind to new possibilities. Why not?
Lanark: Alasdair Gray
Glasgow gone surreal. Perfect novel for grey days. Half-humane, half-dystopian. Gray's a great artist too.
Book of Genesis: ed. Nahum Sarna
Rather than skim all the Bible, why not study its roots in Jewish commentary? Fascinating whatever you believe.
The Lord of the Rings (novel)
This inspired me at twelve to study medieval literature at twenty. Tolkien's linguistic acumen and prose mastery cannot be matched by any fantasy competitor-- he ruined me as I can't read anyone else in this genre!
Canterbury Tales: Geoffrey Chaucer
Every English major's scanned a few, but study rewards a return to them. Humanism blends with faith, medieval narratives with aspirations towards the whole range of desire, from the bawdy to the sublime. Rewarding.
Sometimes you need to let ideas drift and creation approach. California's beauty as seen by one who told us about its passing and its predicament; by doing so he popularized and pioneered conservation of forests for us.

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August 03, 2010
Thanks for comments, Lunchers. Fionnabhair, I've read all of "Ulysses" around four times, but I admit to dipping into it more. I have an audio reading as a radio adaptation from RTE (Irish radio/tv) that I like, and there' s also good versions by Donal Donnelly and by Jim Norton.
July 27, 2010
Great list, John! I'm most interested in #5, #9 and #10. Will have to check those out! :)
August 03, 2010
Devora, #9 the Canterbury Tales does exist in some modern translations-- I will be reviewing Peter Ackroyd's soon, although I think Chaucer's not much more difficult than Shakespeare if you have annotations for the original. After all, we don't "translate" the Bard.
July 27, 2010
Nice list!
About the list creator
John L. Murphy ()
Ranked #48
Medievalist turned humanities professor; unrepentant but not unskeptical Fenian; overconfident accumulator of books & music; overcurious seeker of trivia, quadrivia, esoterica.      … more
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