Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ten Things You Should Be Reading

As the ultimate voice of reason in this blog, it should be my place to share with you my vast knowledge in the form of a suggested reading list. I've told you what you shouldn't read (namely, anything being sold at Walmart), so now I'll let you know what sort of literature I suppose would be acceptable. This here is a list of books and authors to which and whom I'm rather partial, for various reasons. Not all of these are literary titans, not all are considered classic works, but they're all united by the fact that I think they are excellent, and my opinion is really the only one that matters anyway.

If you haven't read some or all of these books and would like to take my advice to do so, I've provided links to the cheapest copies for sale. Buy them, read them, love them, and then love me because I recommended them.

1. Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita
This is my favorite book. Coincidentally, it can passably be called erotic literature (although it isn't)! Humbert Humbert is one of the most well-written fictional characters ever; he also ranks pretty high on my "Favorite Pedophiles" list (which, naturally, is extensive). I know this is going to sound unprofessional, but I can't explain why I love this book so much. The prose itself is beautifully flambouyant, and the narrator is perfect, but I couldn't tell you what exactly makes it so extraordinary. I'm going to go ahead and suggest that you read it and get back to me on this.

2. Charles Bukowski's Factotum / Women / Love Is a Dog From Hell
A lot of Bukowski's fiction is semi-autobiographical, Factotum included. Henry Chinaski plays the author's alter-ego, and he appears in the majority of Bukowski's novels/short stories. If you are a woman, you'll probably hate both yourself and Chinaski after reading Women. Or maybe you won't, but I did - the entire novel is practically a catalog of things that are wrong with Chinaski's many lady acquaintances. Despite that little hurdle, it's an interesting read, and if you're open to being made suspicious of men for the rest of your life, I totally recommend it. As for Love Is a Dog From Hell, Bukowski isn't the greatest poet, but a few of his poems are very pleasant, if sort of trite ("Bluebird" is a good example of this). As an aside, I recently discovered this lovely tribute to Bukowski's writing style, which may be even more entertaining than his original work (just kidding, Charlie, I love you).

3. John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces
This book is both hilarious and extremely depressing. The former because it was written as a comedy, and the latter because I can't help but see my future self reflected in Ignatius J. Reilly, world's biggest douchebag. He's slovenly, obese, philosophical, agoraphobic, and I wish he were real so that we could date.

4. Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion
I'm afraid if I elaborate upon my feelings for this book too much, my mother won't love me anymore. So, just in case she reads this blog, I'm going to preface this little description by saying that I think that the idea of god(s) is pretty neat. I'd imagine it's pretty comforting to be able to have faith enough to believe in the existence of a higher power. But the operative word there is faith, and that's an attribute for which I'm apparently left wanting. Dawkins suggests that we take refuge in the beauty of the world as its own entity, but I think we all know that science won't be responding to your prayers for a while. Anyway, if you're having an existential crisis, this book could either be a good or bad thing. It'll leave you feeling empty and well-educated.

5. Daniel Keyes' Flowers for Algernon
I know this is generally required reading in high school, and that fact somehow qualifies Flowers for Algernon as lame, but I still think it's a fantastic book. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the biggest fan of the mentally incapable - I think natural selection should've taken care of them a while ago, but since things don't look good in that department, I sit with it. This book made me rethink my stance on inferior beings, if only for a short period of time. If you want to feel a little better about your questionable morals re: substandard intelligence, pick this one up. It's like a guilt trip, but enjoyable.

6. Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves
This book is a trip. Impressive both in content and form, which is really difficult for most writers to achieve. Initially I was a little pissed that I paid almost $30 for a book that's composed of 50% blank pages, but it was so worth it.

7. Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha
This one is a link to the full text online, so you have no excuse not to read it. It's a lovely allegorical novel about Siddhartha's struggles on his path to enlightenment. Read it, find your inner being/spirit animal/superhero, and take from it what you will.

8. Antoine de Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince
I laughed, I cried, I got a tattoo. Just kidding, this book didn't make me laugh. I do love it, though. Enough to get one of the characters permanently emblazoned on myself. Hopefully it'll have the same effect for you.

9. Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World
I didn't expect Carl Sagan to become a recurring theme in this blog, but I guess I was mistaken. Maybe he's just influencing me from beyond the grave. Whatever the explanation, Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World crushes every myth you might've hoped to believe in. Take comfort in the idea that Nessie's out there? Looking for a Yeti? Like astrology? Sorry, you're totally wrong, and you're also ruining society by believing in that bullshit. Or, you know, so said Sagan.

10. J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter (series)
I think there is something fundamentally wrong with people who can't enjoy Harry Potter or are ashamed to admit that they do. So here you go, Harry Potter, you've won yourself a coveted spot on some anonymous blog's recommended reading list. This, clearly, is the apex of your fame. Reach for the stars!