Monday, May 21, 2007

Book meme (tag, you're IT!)

Kasia at The Clam Rampant has tagged me for a particularly juicy meme: recommended books. I'm glad I can go back and edit this post later; I find that when I try to come up with lists of books, I always think of better entries later on.

Three works of non-fiction everyone should read

1. 'The Everlasting Man', by G.K. Chesterton

2. 'The Life of Johnson', by James Boswell - so much good sense and inspiring wisdom packed into one book

3. 'Reflections on the Revolution in France', by Edmund Burke - living in another age of revolution, I find that this book is still as true as the day it was written.

and just to throw in one extra one, that's not particularly a book for the ages, but still a darn good read:

4. 'Forgiven' by Charles E. Shepard - the story of the rise and fall of the PTL Club. It's a fascinating story, just a perfect storm of greed and blindness, and it's very well-written.

Three works of fiction everyone should read

1. 'Mansfield Park', by Jane Austen - my favourite of her novels, because of the complexity of the story and quiet grace of the writing.

2. 'The Great Divorce', by C.S. Lewis - I gave this to my mom when she was dying, and I think it may have been instrumental in convincing her to be baptized on her deathbed. The images of the afterworld are something that I can't help adopting myself, even though I know that it's Lewis's own invention.

3. 'The Collected Ghost Stories of M.R. James' - ghost stories are a difficult genre to do well, and James was an absolute master. He never had to raise his voice, and he could create horror in the sober settings of a church, a library, a seaside hotel room. That's the scariest thing - imagining that it could happen to YOU, just sitting in your apartment or waiting for the bus.

Three authors everyone should read

1. G.K. Chesterton
2. Jane Austen
3. Mark Steyn

Three books no one should read

1. 'His Dark Materials' by Philip Pullman. Well, OK, you can read the first book, but not the others. The whole thing collapses under the weight of its author's malicious hatred for God.

2. 'Wuthering Heights' by Emily Bronte. It's just too hysterical and brutal.

3. 'Atlas Shrugged' by Ayn Rand. Teenagers go through a stage when they think this is a great book, but the older I get, the more I'm turned off by the crude materialism of the writer's viewpoint. The only part of it I enjoy now is what is generally thought of as its lesser quality - the action part, with the country collapsing into chaos as its leaders search for the superman who can rescue their rotten economic and moral system. The "love story" is laughable.


Blogger C. Andiron said...

I love the Great Divorce. I've often wondered what would happen if Spong, Schori, Griswold and Williams were forced to read chapter 5 and then asked, "EXCUSE ME, DOES THIS REMIND YOU OF ANYONE!?!?!?!?"

10:56 pm  
Blogger Matthew said...

I agree with you as to Atlas Shrugged. I recently re-read it. I wound up skipping all the speeches, but the descriptions of a country in decline were fascinating. I suspect that's due to being drawn from the author's experience.

5:57 am  
Anonymous ellie m said...

Books everyone should read:

1. the Bible
2. collected plays of Shakespeare
3. The Diary of Anne Frank

Books nobody should read:

1. The Celestine Prophecy
2. The Da Vinci Code
3. The Secret

5:05 pm  
Blogger The Bovina Bloviator said...

I also agree also with you about "Atlas Shrugged." It had utility when I was a foolish college kid by ridding me once and for all any notions the efficacy and morality of socialism. For that I am grateful to Miss Rand. But man, those hideous "love" scenes? Those dreary and endless screeds? That clumsy and leaden prose? God, that woman must have been a bore.

I consider "The Great Divorce" one of the greatest works of fiction. And my late pa used to read M. R. James' "Ghost Stories" to us boys as bedtime stories(!).

5:27 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

For years, fans of Atlas Shrugged have wanted it to be made into a movie, or maybe a TV series. Now, as we said, the action parts could make a really good movie - riots, starvation, civil war in America, pirates, the train crash in the tunnel, and generally a lot of stuff blowing up - that would be very cinematic. But the true Randites only consider that stuff a vehicle for the "important" speeches and messages. I remember a discussion about how Galt's speech should be treated - it was agreed that the best approach would be to have a completely blank screen, while Galt's voice read out the entire speech, word for word, thus duplicating the experience of the people in the story. I was thinking, Gee, couldn't we just cut it out altogether? But that would be considered desecration, and some Roark-like type would probably go nuts and blow up a theatre in response.

6:41 pm  
Blogger The Bovina Bloviator said...

I know some Randians: they are as consumed with their god as the Marxists are with theirs.

8:23 pm  
Blogger xavier said...

Dr Marbuse:
Ya know, I must be the only person that's never read the Fountainhead nor knew who Any Rand was until I came to Ontario to pursue my MA(!) I guess living in Quebec in an allophone family preserved me from her ;)
Wha's wrong with Wuthering heights?
Is Brontë considered a Romantic in British/English language letters?

1:11 am  

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