Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Five million words you’ve just gotta read

Upon reaching an entirely meaningless and inaccurate milestone on Goodreads, I've been inspired to put together a list of my favorite 50 books of all time. Ask me next week and it'll be different.

I reluctantly limited each author to only one book, otherwise I could never have winnowed the list down to just 50 entries. The books are in no particular order, but those marked with an asterisk are the ones I would, gun to my head and for highly varied reasons, call my top ten. (At this particular juncture in time.)

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* Big Sur (Jack Kerouac)
One of Kerouac's later works, Big Sur chronicles the author's terrifying, thinly fictionalized descent into desperate paranoia following his sudden celebrity after the publication of the generation-defining novel On the Road. Other Kerouac works that should be on this list: Tristessa, The Dharma Bums.
   
Whiteman (Tony D'Souza)
A fiercely written, deeply felt novel of Cote d'Ivoire. Recommended by a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer; it came out of nowhere to become one of my favorite books in years.
   
* The Divine Comedy (Dante Alighieri)
Poetic, gruesome, gorgeous, unapologetically political, repugnantly zealous. One of the most amazing achievements in the history of literature. And yes, you should read beyond Inferno.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (David Mitchell)
The story of a Dutch clerk on Dejima, the tiny island that is Japan's only outlet into the greater world as the 19th century dawns. Other Mitchell works that should be on this list: Cloud Atlas.