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    100 book challenge: part one: fiction

    Here are the first 25 picks, all from the Fiction shelves.

    • The Mezzanine, by Nicholson Baker
      [One of my favorite authors, and this is my favorite novel by him.]

    • Labyrinths, by Jorge Luis Borges
      [This book has enough provocative, imaginative ideas in it to last one a lifetime simply by itself.]

    • The Age of Wire and String, by Ben Marcus
      [Still a book I grab on a regular basis to read random passages out loud to people.]

    • Invisible Cities, by Italo Calvino
      [Like Labyrinths, this is a book that opens up onto a nearly infinite "possibility space."]

    • If On A Winter's Night A Traveler, by Italo Calvino [The other really essential Calvino novel.]

    • Story of the Eye, by Georges Bataille
      [A 1928 pornographic novel so mindbending it borders on the Surrealist.]

    • Crash, by J.G. Ballard
      [If we're bringing along experimental pornography, we should definitely include this.]

    • Naked Lunch, by William Burroughs
      [And this.]

    • I'm going to cheat here, and count Burroughs' "Cut-Up Trilogy" (Nova Express, Soft Machine, and The Ticket That Exploded) as one volume

    • Another cheat: William Gibson's Sprawl Trilogy (Neuromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive).

    • I actually don't need to cheat on this one, because I have the single volume that collects The Complete Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe, by Douglas Adams, but it's really the first only the first volume that matters deeply to me. I can, however, see myself enjoying re-reading the others at some point.

    • The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien.
      [I've still never made it all the way through all three of these, but it's good to bring an unfinished book along with some of the faves, and good to have a book you could feasibly read out loud for a year.]

    • The Annotated Alice, by Lewis Carroll [annotations by Martin Gardner]
      [Another good out-loud book, plus it's essential to have at least one book on hand that could entertain children. Having Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass together in one volume make this an absolutely indispensible choice. Not to mention the annotations, which are fascinating.]

    • Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace
      [I'm not entirely sure that I'll ever re-read this, but there are some great bits in it that often pop up in my mind, and I'd like to be able to refer to those bits at some point.]

    • The Crying of Lot 49, by Thomas Pynchon [I'll include Gravity's Rainbow later, if there's room]

    • Underworld, by Don DeLillo
      [Maybe my favorite "realistic" novel of the last 100 years.]

    • White Noise, by Don DeLillo
      [Fights with Underworld for the title.]

    • Time's Arrow, by Martin Amis
      [My favorite Amis novel, and the most successful and beautiful extended meditation on the flow of time that I've ever read.]

    • Blindness, by Jose Saramogo
      [Like Time's Arrow, this is a book that's effectively a fantasy, but nevertheless profoundly captures both the horror and the beauty of real-life humanity.]

    • Europeana, by Patrik Ourednik
      [An experimental novel that's also a concise history of the 20th century.]

    • Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov
      [Or maybe Pale Fire? Whew, tough choice.]

    • Valis, by Philip K. Dick
      [Far and away the best of his novels.]

    • My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist by Mark Leyner
      [An indescribable mish-mash of cyberpunk, experimental poetry, and humor writing.]

    • Schrodinger's Cat, by Robert Anton Wilson
      [More coherent and more intellectually provocative than the cluttered Illuminatus Trilogy.]

    • Magic For Beginners, by Kelly Link
      [A weird but often delightful collection of fantastical short stories.]

    Next up: poetry.

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    Saturday, June 28, 2008
    12:50 PM


    Wow, nice. I'm not nearly as well-read as I'd like to be, but I find myself agreeing with a lot of these picks. Maybe I'm better off than I thought. Great calls on both Calvinos, Borges (duh), DeLillo, Adams (though I'd probably also throw in the Dirk Gently books, which are just as good as Hitchhiker's), Burroughs, Pynchon, etc.

    As for Nabokov, I can't imagine doing without either Lolita or Pale Fire, two amazing and quite different books. As for PKD, I haven't read Valis yet but A Scanner, Darkly is my personal favorite of those I have read.

    Looking forward to seeing what else you include, the stuff I haven't read here is definitely going on my reading list now. I applaud you for the effort, I know I'd have real trouble with this -- especially if I had to throw in graphic novels and comic collections with novels and non-fiction.
    Thanks for the comment! Graphic novels and comic collections will be handled in an upcoming post... coming soon.
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