Sunday, August 24, 2008

100 Books Not About Physics

I am deep into pondering why Star Trek's transporter isn't really viable, reading The Physics of Star Trek.

(And forget the Wayback Machine, too.)

Meanwhile, via Cocktail Party Physics I came across this book meme, based on the National Endowment for the Arts top 100 reads. The NEA is sponsoring something called The Big Read.

Now I've gone and done it, I see it's a pretty obvious list of mostly-English-language standards, a bit updated. I read most of these before I was twenty-five, if they existed.

Sort of a List of Books You Need to Be Conversant With to Feel Comfortable Attending Cocktail Parties With College-Educated Americans, If Only to Disparage Them [the books, not the Americans; for instance, see #s 21, 42, and 88. Darn. I thought that was about to form a nice number sequence, but it doesn't--or not one I can see.].

I don't mean it's not a list of a great bunch of books--it is! (Mostly.) It's just boringly predicable, and a reader sure wouldn't want to stop with these.
Maybe I'll make a list of books I'd add (and remove--why three Charles Dickens? or any CS Lewis at all?)--suggestions welcome!

Anyway, doing the meme gave my brain a rest from string theory.

The rules are simple:

1) Bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you have started but haven't finished.
3) Place an asterisk by those you intend to read/finish someday.
4) Pass meme along to others, at your discretion.

+ I'm adding one, because I'm a movie fan:
5) Place a dollar sign $ next to ones you've seen as movies.

$1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
$2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
$3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
$4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
$5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman

$10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles
- Thomas Hardy
$13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
$15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
$21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
$22 The Great Gatsby -
F. Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
$25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
$26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh

27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows
- Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
$34 Emma - Jane Austen
$35 Persuasion
- Jane Austen
$36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis [odd bit of duplication re: #33]
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - A. A. Milne
41 Animal Farm
- George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude
- Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
$46 Anne of Green Gables
- LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel

52 Dune - Frank Herbert
$53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
$54 Sense and Sensibility
- Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
$62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo
- Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
$68. Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
$71 Oliver Twist
- Charles Dickens
$72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
$79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
$80 Possession - AS Byatt
$81 A Christmas Carol
- Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
$84 The Remains of the Day
- Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom [?Why?]
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection [never heard of it]
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince
- Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces
- John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
$97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare [again, why the duplication?]
$99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
- Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo many italics prove that I've never felt constrained to finish a book I didn't like, the way I hear some people say they feel. Though not finishing the Bible or the Complete Works of Shakespeare doesn't exactly fall in that category.


ddip said...

Yes, but where's Henry James??? ("The girl felt in italics and spoke in boldface....")

Manfred Allseasons said...

Ahh...You couldnt finish Moby Dick either?

Well, I feel a bit better...I've been trying to finish that book, (and Lord Jim) for about 20 years...

fresca said...

Henry James, yes! And many others. The more I think of it, the worse this list becomes.

I don't think anyone really has to finish Moby Dick, as it isn't a straight-through narrative.
But I am not of the "begin at the beginning and go through to the end" at the best of times--I am a "just skip the boring middle" reader.

So, Manfred, you shouldn't take comfort from a slacker reader like me, but should probably continue to feel a little bad...

I haven't even tried "Lord Jim," but "Heart of Darkness" is on my top 100 list--here the NEA and I do agree.

Matt_J said...

I made it five pages into His Dark Materials...can anybody tell me, does it get better? I will have to propagate your meme.

fresca said...

I think I made it to page 7, so I can't say.

bink said...

They have schlock like The Da Vinci Code and The Five People You Meet in Heaven on there? (Ok, I only saw the movie of "the five..."but it was soooo dreadful I can't image the book was anything but stupid too.)

Cheesy stories with a good idea that go lame like Time Traveler's Wife and Possession are hardly worth including either.

And where is Raymond Chandler? The man's plots leak like a sieve, but he sure could turn a descriptive sentence--better than almost anyone!

I was pleased to see Cold Comfort Farm on the list. Such a delightful book: often overlooked (at least in America). To me that stands out as the one book I wouldn't have expected but am happy to see (among the deserving books).

I bet any list you come up with, fresca, will be more interesting.

fresca said...

Bink: No reading list can possibly hold its head up if it doesn't include Raymond Chandler, you are right!
He is so exquisite, you don't even care that his plots make absolutely no sense. I tried hard, once, to figure one out, and just got a headache.
He's going on my list--thanks to your reminder.

DDIP said...

HENRY JAMES—now I’m thinking that THE GOLDEN BOWL is the better choice. It’s a more complex study of paranoia and sexual neurosis than is PORTRAIT OF A LADY.

MADAME BOVARY-- Flaubert totally nails boredom; and didn’t he famously say “Madame Bovary, c’est moi”?

MRS DALLOWAY and/or A ROOM OF ONE’s OWN—Virginia Woolf seems like a must-read to me, both for women’s political philosophy and for literature

SHERMAN ALEXIE—he’s so hip AND so smart. How about adding his YA graphic novel (True Diary of a Half-Blood, or whatever it is)? Either that or the Tonto one (can’t remember the full name; it’s one of the early adult novels, the one on which Smoke Signals was based). I thought the reading list was surprisingly not very multi-cultural, and Alexie’s an easy one to add for that.

NADINE GORDIMER and/or DORIS LESSING or some of the classic black African writers (Chinua Achebe is the one who comes to mind)?

evve said...

OMG!! OMG!!! I've only got to the His Dark Materials comments and have to say, insist, BELLOW that this trilogy is utterly superb, brilliant, genius and that to mention the execrable HP on the same page is a major crime.

Seriously. I can't recommend it highly enough. Huge inspiration from Milton and modern physics. You'd LOVE the science. There's a book about the science of HDM.

(Right. Calmed down a bit now. Going back to read the rest of the comments.) (Oh, and apparently the film is shit. I certainly wouldn't watch it.)

fresca said...

OK, evve, HDM didn't grab me, but I like Milton and physics, so I'll give it another try.

On my rewrite [unfinished as of now] of this list, I take Harry Potter off.