Tuesday, January 31, 2006

good books


This C&H comic says it all - when looking for a good book to read, people look at the reviews on the jacket, find out if the autor is famous, has been interviewed on TV etc. when the word of mouth is the best advice

After I had finished all the Enid Blyton books I could find in my childhood, I started reading authors for "older" people like Agatha Christie, Jeffery Archer, Michael Crichton and god forgive me, even Sidney Sheldon - other than Christie, most of the books were crap, where all the books followed the same pattern: have a handsome hero and a drop-dead gorgeous, techie heroin, a devious, secretive, well-connected villian; run their stories in alternate chapters, end each chapter with either a "and his head was reeling when he realized...." or "she screamed when she saw that...." ; and force the reader, through these cheap tactics to turn pages. When the novel ends, the reader thinks he has read a good book, only a couple of days later he realizes what shallow nonsense he has wasted his time on

So I decided to see what the great thing was about all books people called the classics and started reading the freely available books available online at gutenberg (many of the classics listed here can be found for free online, since their copyright has expired). And some of those books were definitely one of the best I had ever read

Below is my list of Must Read books followed by a list of Close To Must Read books, in no particular order:

1. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller - this book is probably the darkest and funniest book I have ever read - it was intitially rejected by many publishers because it was written in a very wacky way - as one review said "it gives the impression of having been shouted onto paper.”"

2. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho - a very good read, encourages you to follow your dreams etc. I would not suggest reading the rest of his books, his The Devil and Miss Prym was excreble - the problem with some writers including Douglas Adams (more about him below) is that they manage to write with some restraint in their first novel and after it's a huge success, they manage to divulge all their crazier, unpalatable, story-wrecking ideas in their following books

3. Cakes and Ale by Somerset Maugham - Maugham was an MD by profession, who turned to writing after the success of his first novel, Liza of Lambeth, which came out of observing how the poor lived in pre-WWII England - his philosophy towards life is the sopposite of Coelho's above, he warns people not to go into the arts unless they are absolutely sure they are extra-ordinary, otherwise an ordinary arist is almost a failure. All his books are very readable including the collections of Short Stories (in his Ant and the Grasshopper short story, the grasshopper wins :), Of Human Bondage and many others

4. The King's General by Daphne du Maurier - du Maurier belonged to an aristocratic family of Cornwall, in England and most of her stories centered around this area. She also wrote "The Birds", which was turned into the movie by Hitchcock, only in her story, the birds won - her stories are all fantastic reads, to say the least - other excellent books include The Scapegoat, Rebecca & Frenchman's Creek

5. Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott - this is a book full of excellent diatribe, chivalrous knights, a Jewish beauty, Knights Templars, King Richard and even Robin Hood - the best 18th century roller-coaster novel, in my opinion

6. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams - this started as a radio program on BBC in the late 70's and very soon became a cult classic - sequels to HHGG books are pretty useless though

7. Faraway Tree & Wishing Chair Series by Enid Blyton - I am not sure about other older readers but I still enjoy Enid Blyton books, these two series were the best :)

The following books I would recommend highly, although if you miss them, you would not miss a major part of life :)

1. Candide by Voltaire - the story of a young, naive man and his mentor - a classic

2. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes - pretty lengthy but very, very readable

3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin - forget the crappy movie made by holly/bollywood - read the real, unabridged novel - I must have read it 10-12 times by now

4. Harry Potter by JKR - I really mean this one, no subconscious media pressure :)

5. First Among Equals by Jeffrey Archer - by the end of the novel, you will have a very good idea of how the British parliamentry system works, very informative if you live in a country that is democracy-lite at the best of times and have no idea how civilzed countries run their political systems

6. Angels & Demons and Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown - I found the first one infinitely better, the other Dan Brown novels stink to high heaven though

All classics are not good reads though, Jane Austin's Emma was pretty boring and so was Madame Bovary - James Joyce's Ulysses was a torture to read, I guess you need more patience (and a degree in literature) to understand someone like him

One book that I would like to read ASAP is Anna Karenina....

1 comment:

Vaibhav said...

There are some I would like to add to this list.
Brief History of Time
Lord of The Rings
Atlas Shrugged
:-)