Monday, August 3, 2009

15 Books

Blame this one on (((Billy))) the Atheist.
Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First 15 you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.
So here goes:

1. Red Planet by Robert A. Heinlein. Back in elementary school this book got me hooked on science fiction, a genre that's turned into a lifelong love. I loved all of Heinein's "juveniles" (Have Spacesuit, Will Travel; The Rolling Stones; Rocketship Galileo . . . ) and most of his adult books -- until he went off the deep end into dirty old man senility with the last two or three.

2. A Boy and His Dog, Harlan Ellison. Okay, technically it was first published as a novella, not an actual book, but that's a minor quibble. I'd probably add a couple of Ellison's short story collections, too, because gems like "Shattered like a Glass Goblin" and "Pennies Off a Dead Man's Eyes" are still sticking with me over 30 years after I first read them.

3. The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath. Along with I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Hannah Green it was one of the two "must read" books for adolescent females in the late 1960s.

4. The Royal Road to Romance, Richard Halliburton. Halliburton was an adventure traveler in the 1920s. He bummed around the world on tramp steamers and wrote about his experiences in far-off places.

5. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy. An amazing novel.

6. Jeeves, Jeeves, Jeeves, P. G. Wodehouse. Technically three novels (How Right You Are, Jeeves; Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves; and Jeeves & The Tie that Binds) but again a minor quibble.

7. A Fine and Private Place, Peter S. Beagle, and

8. I See By My Outfit, Peter S. Beagle. Two early works by a gifted author, #7 is Beagle's first novel, #8 is autobiographical, a description of a cross-country motor scooter trip taken by him and a friend in the early 1960s.

9. Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, Hunter S. Thompson. No explanation needed.

10. And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic, Randy Shilts. Examination of the AIDS epidemic and a devastating take-down of the American public health system and the Reagan administration that was quite willing to ignore disease until it became clear heterosexuals and kids could die from it, too.

11. Danny and the Boys, Robert Traver. A fun book by the author of Anatomy of a Murder.

12. The Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age, Walter A. MacDougall. There's a reason this one won a Pulitzer for history.

13. Can You Forgive Her?, Anthony Trollope. The first of the Palliser novels, and the one that turned me into a Trollope fan.

14. Two Years Before the Mast, Richard H. Dana. Fascinating true account of two years Dana spent as a common sailor in the 1830s on a ship that sailed from Boston to California.

15. Fatu-Hiva: Back to Nature, Thor Heyerdahl. An account of the year Heyerdahl and his bride spent on Fatu Hiva in the 1930s. Heyerdahl's observations there influenced his scholarship and later work, particularly the Kon-Tiki expedition in 1947.

I think #3 is the only one I have no interest in revisiting. It was memorable at the time, but once was enough.


  1. Love #9 ! Read that thing so many times the spine on the book is starting to give!

  2. I honestly tried to tackle War and Peace, but managed to always be drawn to other things. Now, I have the time and could probably enjoy the read - I may just have to do that soon. Interesting list Nan.

  3. Probably already told you that I am a huge fan of Heinlein's juveniles, and would undoubtedly include at least one on such a list. "Have Spacesuit," maybe, or "Citizen of the Galaxy," or indeed "Red Planet."

    Will freely affirm that RAH was a huge influence on my developing character: I took his "a man has to learn to think for himself" precept to heart to such an extant that I ended up rejecting a good deal of what he said otherwise.

    But I still go back and read his good stuff regularly.

    (And can you tell me, "Which one is Willis?")

  4. I've read many interesting books, but with age and the gaining of some wisdom I have discarded much of them.

    Having said that, there is a 24 book series called, "Wagons West" that is worth the read. By Dana Fuller Ross.

    Still, they have their flaws also if you see the larger picture as I do.

  5. I found Lansdale's Zeppelins West to be quite entertaining.

    Yeah, it's mind candy, but I found it to be quite satisfying mind candy.

    When I was young I used to read all the Edgar Rice Burroughs books, took me a while before I realised that it was all the same book, really. But hey! They had Frank Frazetta covers on them, so who cared?

    I also used to enjoy (and still dig out on occasion) A. Bertram Chandler. Yeah, the ships all landed on their tail fins, the instruments discribed had dials rather than other modes of display, but there was a real crew feel to them. Chandler was actually a ships captain, as Roddenbury had commanded a crew as a bomber pilot, so it really came through.

  6. Miss Nan, you're the only other person I know who's even heard of Danny And The Boys.

    I read it over forty years ago, and it was a really good laugh book.

    But you are a girl of the North Woods, are you not?

    I have quoted old Danny when I have been observed having an "inner dialogue" which goes a little "external": I like to listen to a smart man talk, and I like to talk to a smart man. Usually shuts 'em up...

  7. Sarge, not only have I read Danny and the Boys more than once, just like the author, John Voelker (aka Robert Traver), I'm originally from Ishpeming and old enough to remember the days when there'd be colorful characters (today we'd call them alcoholic bums) batching it in former logging camp buildings out in the woods.


My space, my rules: play nice and keep it on topic.