Recommended Books



SCIENCE FICTION NOVELS

 

Blood Music, Greg Bear

  • Microbiological experiment goes very wrong

Eon, Greg Bear

  • Very big object arrives in Earth orbit; contains secrets
  • Bear is one of the few who can induce sense of wonder in adult sensibilities (or in me, anyway.)

Neuromancer, William Gibson

  • Wintermute loves Neuromancer
  • Our best stylist in his top form

Count Zero, William Gibson

  • Wannabe cybercowboy gets his money's worth

Holy Fire, Bruce Sterling

  • Longevity sucks, youth rules
  • Want to wear the heads of posthumans? Read this book

Distraction, Bruce Sterling

  • Genetic high-jinks in the Unraveled States of America
  • I think he put in the Air Force gun-point bake sale just to bug me

Distress, Greg Egan

  • If a journalist can conceive of a unified theory, the universe will change
  • I think, therefore you am
  • Best hook in SF: "All right. He's dead. Go ahead and talk to him."

Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson

  • Hiro Protagonist crosses katanas in cyberspace; girl gets villain

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert A. Heinlein

  • Artificial intelligence helps revolt on Moon colony

Tunnel in the Sky, Robert A. Heinlein

  • Stranded youths survive on alien planet

Red Planet, Robert A. Heinlein

  • Boy refuses to surrender pet Martian

Alas, Babylon, Pat Frank

  • Small-town Floridians survive nuclear holocaust

Animal Farm, George Orwell

  • Trotsky is a pig and the people is a horse

1984, George Orwell

  • Big Brother is watching

A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess

  • Do amoral monsters deserve free will? (God thinks so, why don't you?)

SCIENCE FICTION SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS

Dangerous Visions, Harlan Ellison

Burning Chrome, William Gibson

Crystal Express, Bruce Sterling

Mirror Shades, editor, Bruce Sterling

The Year's Best Science Fiction, editor, Gardner Dozois

The Year's Best SF, editor, David Hartwell



OTHER GENRE NOVELS


ESPIONAGE

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, John Le Carre

The Honourable Schoolboy. John Le Carre

Smiley's People, John Le Carre

  • George Smiley, British intelligence officer, quests against Karla, the master Soviet spy
  • None better; outstanding examples of craft transcending genre

THRILLER

The Odessa File, Frederick Forsyth

  • Hunting postwar SS thugs
  • All his books are good; No Comebacks is a tight collection

MYSTERY, MURDER, MAYHEM

Gorky Park, Martin Cruz Smith

  • Arkady Renko, Russian detective, investigates brutal murder involving a human face skinning

Polar Star, Martin Cruz Smith

  • Arkady, now a fugitive from the KGB working in a Russian fish factory ship, investigates a murder of a fellow crewmember

Rose, Martin Cruz Smith

  • Disappearing parsons and a mysterious explosion in a 19th century English coal mine
  • Smith is fine writer who excels in transporting us to lives in strange, grim but fascinating worlds

Silence of the Lambs, Thomas Harris

  • Chianti, anyone?

Red Dragon

  • Apparently there are family issues
  • Thomas Harris is an excellent writer, who shows excellence in preproduction (research), production (composition) and postproduction (rewriting and editing). His also shows a truly disturbing sensibility, well-fitted to his chosen genre

The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler

Farewell, My Lovely, Raymond Chandler

  • Philip Marlow, PI, wages a existential crusade against the dark forces of LA
  • Another outstanding example of craft transcending genre. A quintessentially American writer. Good, tight, acutely-observed prose

WESTERN NOVELS

Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurty

  • Epic cattle drive to Montana; troubles with Indians
  • Won the Pulitzer Prize

All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy

  • Boys cross into Mexico to avenge their parents' deaths
  • National Book Award winner

The Crossing, Cormac McCarthy

  • Boy crosses into Mexico to return she-wolf to wild

Cities of the Plain, Cormac McCarthy

  • Final part of the Crossing trilogy
  • McCarthy is an exquisite stylist and an original thinker. No one has demonstrated such a transcendence of genre since Hemingway


CONTEMPORARY NOVELS

Humboldt's Gift, Saul Bellow

  • A friend's legacy helps to untangle a life

Herzog, Saul Bellow

  • You have your life and if you read this book, you have Herzog's
  • Bellow won the Nobel Prize for Literature. For one of his books, Herzog, I think, he wrote 3000 pages of manuscript, then boiled it down to 350

A Flag for Sunrise, Robert Stone

  • An alcoholic professor, a nun and a homicidal Latin American military thug are on a collision course. A case study in converging subplots

Children of Light, Robert Stone

  • Two of Stone's typically damaged characters do what they shouldn't in Tinseltown
  • Stone is another National Book Award winner (one of the most telling prizes in literature.) He is a superb stylist, with a thoroughly modern sensibility, a wicked eye, a taste for low life and a very buried sense of humor. Readers who admire Gibson's ability to raise sympathy for damaged characters should read Stone

Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe

  • A Park Avenue bond trader and his beautiful mistress side-swipe a poor black youth in the Bronx
  • This is the latest installment in the Great American Novel. Wolfe has captured contemporary life in NYC, from the highest to the lowest economic strata. A Man in Full, his follow-up to this book, is also very good, despite a contrived ending


HISTORICAL NOVELS

A Soldier of the Great War, Mark Helprin

  • A lyric story of a young man who among his other adventures is an Alpine sniper during WWI
  • An exceptionally fine writer, Helprin's C.V. includes Harvard, Oxford, the British merchant navy and the Israeli Air Force. He is also a National Book Award winner

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn

  • A prisoner in a Soviet labor camp has a relatively good day
  • Kruschev allowed this novel to be published in the USSR, then pulled it after one day of publication. This short novel is a stunning example of testimony: cold and hunger inform everything in this book in a way that no fiction writer could imagine; reading it, we are inescapably convinced of the truth of life in the labor camps. First Circle and The Cancer Ward are also good, but Ivan Denisovich is essential

SWORD and SAIL

Beat to Quarters, C.S. Forester

Ship of the Line, C.S. Forester

Flying Colors, C.S. Forester

  • Captain Horatio Hornblower is the Ulysses of the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic wars
  • The central trilogy of the Hornblower stories. Read these while you're young and male

Master and Commander, Patrick O'Brian

  • Captain Jack Aubrey commands the Sophie; the ship's doctor, Stephen Maturin, is also a spy for naval intelligence. The two friends meet in this book, the first of the Aubrey/Maturin series
  • These books are a joy and a wonder. The reader is immersed in the late 18th century, both afloat and ashore. Observation of human traits and foibles, elegance of language, delicious humor are the hallmarks of these books. These books exemplify the ability of an author to build upon the conventions of a genre to reach dizzying heights of fiction in a very pure form


HISTORY

Bodyguard of Lies, Anthony Cave Brown

  • Comprehensive, eminently readable history of the deception industry behind the successful attempt to convince Hitler and Rommel that the allies were not going to land at Normandy. The definitive text on the 20th century's most important information operation

D-Day, Stephen Ambrose

  • Largely based on the oral histories of American survivors of the Normandy landings, this is the book to read if you wonder about the nature of battle

Treblinka, Jean-Francois Steiner

  • In August, 1943, after 700,000 men, women and children had been slaughtered in Treblinka, one thousand remaining prisoners revolted

The Harvest of Sorrow, Robert Conquest

  • In 1932, in an effort to subjugate the Ukrainians, Stalin had the Ukraine surrounded and removed all the food. Millions starved
  • If you don't think that anything is worse than war, read this book (and Treblinka), and consider the possibility that there is something even worse

The 900 Days: The Siege of Leningrad, Harrison E. Salisbury

  • For two and a half years, the Nazis besieged Leningrad, during which nearly a million and half people died, mostly from starvation
  • A gripping, detailed history of a city starved, with some driven to cannibalism

A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, Sir Winston Churchill

  • Two thousand years of gore and politics, told with zest and humor by a master of the language

Days of the Jungle, Mario Payeras

  • A small group climbs from the jungles of Mexico to the mountains of Guatemala to form the Guerrilla Army of the Poor

Fire from the Mountain, Omar Cabezas

  • A Sandinista commandante on the insurrection

Nicaragua: Revolution in the Family, Shirley Christian

  • A NY Times journalist gives an excellent overview of the revolution



PHILOSOPHY and RELIGION

Man's Search for Meaning, an Introduction to Logotherapy, Viktor E. Frankl

  • A Nazi death camp survivor advances his thesis that the human search for meaning is essential to our existence as food and water
  • A beautiful, ennobling and wise book that exemplifies the Jewish spirit

The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell

The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell

  • The essential texts for understanding the driving forces of myth in our lives and in history

The Myth-Maker, Paul and the Invention of Christianity, Hyam Maccoby

  • A good, sand-blasting, deconstructionist look at early Christianity. Not recommended for Christians in the fragile flower of their faith

Jesus, A Revolutionary Biography, John Dominic Crossan

  • Jesus as a "savvy and courageous Jewish Mediterranean peasant who challenged the sacrosanct social rules regarding class, gender and status." An important book that illustrates what debt western civilization owes the Nazarene, divinity taken aside

The Synoptic Gospels, Mathew, Mark and Luke.

  • "Love your enemies."

Tao te Ching, Lao Tse

  • "He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough."


BIOGRAPHY

Life of Johnson, James Bowswell

  • The life of Samuel Johnson, who single-handedly wrote the first definitive English dictionary, and who was one of the giants of 18th century letters. What to think? Listen to Johnson

Living My Life, Emma Goldman

  • The life of Emma Goldman, a turn-of-century anarchist, who horse-whipped former lovers and inspired a youth to assassinate McKinley

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