I’m Not Nearly Brainy Enough!

| December 1, 2004 | Comments (0)

Hugh Hewitt has decided to throw to the ravening wolves of the blogosphere a question: What books do you come back to re-read?

Well, let me just say that after looking at his list, and those of a few others, I’m an intellectual lightweight. A tiny candle compared to the blinding brainy luminescence some of these folks put forth.

Having said that, maybe my book list - Book List of the Common Geek, I call it - may strike a chord with some of you.

Non Fiction:
Modern Times, and Birth of the Modern - by Paul Johnson: Great history books. Everyone should read them.
Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid - by Douglas Hofstadter - I really don’t know how to describe this book. It’s a romp through music, art, history, fictional conversations, and science in order to answer the question “How do we think?”. I’ve read it a dozen times now and I never fail to get something new from it. Really, the word “romp” is by far the most accurate.
The Oxford Companion to Music - Yes I know it’s like reading an encyclopedia, but I can’t help but flip through and read a couple sections. The writing is excellent, the subjects varied, and there’s always something to learn, no matter what page you read. The same goes for the Oxford Companions to American History and English. Fascinating stuff. And if you don’t mind settling for an earlier version, they’re quite affordable.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings: J.R.R. Tolkien - The Big Dog of fantasy fiction. ‘Nuff said.
The Sword of Shannara trilogy: Terry Brooks - As much as Tolkien, Brooks fired my young imagination with his very rich, detailed, and most adventure-filled world.
The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever (and the Second Chronicles as well): Stephen Donaldson - Yes, I can hear all of you groaning and rolling your eyes. Thomas Covenant is perhaps the most repulsive “hero” I’ve ever encountered in fantasy fiction. I’ve never, in my many re-readings of these books, found a single likeable thing about him. But the world that Donaldson created around Covenant is one I thoroughly enjoy revisiting, even the scarred and blasted world of the Second Chronicles. Ur-Viles still give me the creeps.
The Anita Blake: Vampire Killer novels by Laurell K. Hamilton - I have to say that the farther Hamilton goes into the series, the worse the books get. But if you like good action, strong characters, and steamy sex, then you ought to stay with these novels a while. I used to be excited about the metaplots that were running through her books, but not so much anymore, since she’s telegraphing her punches (so to speak).
The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara - This book was, nearly word for word, the movie “Gettysburg”. It is a fascinating book, well worth reading a couple dozen times. The prequel and sequel books by his son, Jeff (“Gods and Generals” and “The Last Full Measure”) frame the entire Civil War.
Just about anything by STephen King, but mainly “Pet Semetary”, “The Dead Zone”, “Salem’s Lot”, The Gunslinger novels, “The Talisman”, and “Insomnia” - Makes the the raving heebie-jeebies, but what a ride King still delivers!
Ghost Story: Peter Straub - Perhaps the finest ghost story (duh!) ever written. The movie wasn’t half bad either.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson - This is, hands down, the scariest story I’ve ever read. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but…really. Shivers. Lots of them.

We can also throw the stories by H.P. Lovecraft in this list, too. You can find several good collections of his works, in hardcover and paperback. I recommend pretty much any collections of his stories, but especially one edited by the incomparable Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi. I recommend starting with either “The Dunwich Horror” or “The Colour out of Space” and going on from there. Leave the dreamy kind of stories alone until you get a few more under your belt, IMO.

Those are the books I’ve read and re-read often - at least the ones I can recall right now. I’m sure there are others and when they pop into memory, I’ll just put them right here.

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