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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.
1
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.
2
Three Novels: Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable
Joyce's counterpart, the minimalist immersion supplants his maximalist assault. Plunge in to your inner depths.
3
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.
4
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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.
5
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?
6
Lanark: Alasdair Gray
Glasgow gone surreal. Perfect novel for grey days. Half-humane, half-dystopian. Gray's a great artist too.
7
Book of Genesis: ed. Nahum Sarna
Rather than skim all the Bible, why not study its roots in Jewish commentary? Fascinating whatever you believe.
8
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!
9
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.
10
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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!
 
1
About the list creator
John L. Murphy ()
Ranked #51
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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