Thursday, April 17, 2008

Books, Boundless Pleasure for the Sickly Home Worker.

Good morning, nope, afternoon. Gusty sort of day ain't it?
I hope none of you feel as decidedly ropey as I do. I've been fighting/ignoring the beginnings of a cold for a few days now, but some time in the early hours of this morning it ambushed me and today it has me in it's germy grasp.
It's only a cold. Not flu or anything nearly as dramatic as that, just a common garden variety cold (ever notice how many people like to claim they have flu when quite clearly they have no such thing? I had flu once in my life, Gamma and I came down with it and sweet holy marmalade was it vile. Shivering, roasting, freezing, vomiting, aching limbs, coma lie sweaty sleeps, more vomiting. VIle thing, it knocked us for six. I've never had it since, but I'll never forget it either)
Because I work from home I am lucky enough to not have to deal with an overlord, or boss as some folk like to call them, this means I can be a bit poorly, stay in jammies and faff around at my sickly leisure. Sort of. Conversely because I work for myself I don't get sick pay, so nine times out of then the self employed sick person will haul their feverish ass out of bed and attend to some work, dribbling snot and whooshing over cups of tea, blearily jabbing the keyboard and pondering aloud to a disinterested Puddy whether or not they ought to go back to bed.
So I have decided to split my time so as to lesson my guilt. I will work until 5 and then I will sally forth and crack the spine of the new Wambaugh I've been waiting to dive into.
Which leads me dribblingly into my point.
The Telegraph has released a list of 110 best book needed to create a library. And I was pleasantly surprised to discover between me and the Paramour we own quite a good number of them. We fall down a bit in History, Poetry and Books that changed the World. but then I feel the list is somewhat lacking too. In the Name of the Rose is curiously missing, Lewis Carroll is absent from children's books, what about To Kill a Mocking Bird. Or Of Mice and Men? Catch 22 should be there too in my view. But then lists are subjective, still it's entertaining to read. And the comments are very funny, people get very bent out of shape over books.
Have a gander and see do you agree or agree with the entries.
What five books do you feel are the absolute cornerstone of a good modern library? (Also, am I the only one who gets bored rigid reading Hemingway?)



Blogger Twenty Major said...

From the comments:

There should be room on this list for 'Goedel, Escher and Bach' by Douglas R. Hofstadter. Read this and think.

I have this book about 5 years now and I still haven't managed to start it.

Can't possibly think of 5 books. None of them would be poetry though. I can't think of anything worse than to sit down and read poetry.

2:22 p.m.  
Blogger Andraste said...

As it happens, I'm reading Hemingway now. Never read him, finally picked up "The Sun Also Rises" for a wee taste.

Bored rigid is right. Here's a sample:

"I went to work and ran off a few bylines before leaving the office to eat dinner. Talked to a prostitute. Came home, had a shower. Brett came by and the concierge let her in. Brett is a damn fine looking woman. We had a drink."

Fucking hell. I've never been so bored in my life. And I thought I didn't like too much description, but I'm finding in its complete absence, you're really missing something...

Can't wait to finish this and read the phone book.

2:38 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

You ought to give it a bash though. I have some poetry books here, Goldsmith and Old Will included. Can't imagine how I ended up with them, but I suspect Blackberry Market played a part.

2:41 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Andraste, mee too. I find him as dull as dishwater.
After Wambaugh I've got George Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London, supposed to be cracking.

2:43 p.m.  
Blogger Conan Drumm said...

Barbara Tuchman's The March of Folly is brilliant. For anyone interested in writing Al ALvarez's The Writer's Voice is brief and to the point. They left out Laurence Sterne, how could they do that. Did they also leave out Wuthering Heights? I've a major soft spot for Somerville & Ross, especially The Real Charlotte and The Big House at Inver. Daniel Corkery's The Threshold of Quiet should be required reading for anyone interested in Frank O'Connor or Sean O'Faolain, neither of whom are on the list. But then it is the Telegraph!

2:43 p.m.  
Anonymous sheepworrier said...

You should give Paradise Lost a go for poetry, Twenty - its friggin brilliant.

Its a bit snobby of them to put LOTR in the children's section though.

2:46 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Yep no Wuthering Heights.
I'm not sure I'd consider Tolkien's LOTR a child's book either, certainly the first time I read it I was nineteen and I was totally absorbed by it.

2:49 p.m.  
Anonymous Shebah said...

It's an extraordinary list - for it's ommissions. Virtually no French/Russian/Indian writers - Asia almost completely ignored - no Kazuo Ishiguro,Haruki Murakami. Canada also ignored - no Margaret Attwood. What about Lord of the Flies? They have included works by writers such as George Elliott who would not have a hope in Hades of being published to-day. I think it might be a wind-up!

2:51 p.m.  
Anonymous Shebah said...

I've just finished The Gathering by Ann Enright - absolutely hated it. Can't understand how she won the Booker with this derivative, done before, cliched load of horseshit.

3:01 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

My elder sister just read it and hated it too. Actually used the word 'drivel' which is not like here.
The Booker is funny, I remember reading Banville's The Sea and falling into a coma of boredom three or four chapters in. What on earth are the judges looking for?

3:04 p.m.  
Blogger Medbh said...

I loved "Down and Out in Paris and London" and recommended that to Manuel a while back.

Since when is "Frankenstein" Science Fiction? Why is Henry James before Joyce? Lord, he's a tremendous bore.

Hemingway is a bore who also overused "and."

I've read most of the list except for the History and Lives section. It's hard to settle on 5 titles, but here goes:
1. Ulysses
2. Ben Franklin's Autobiography
3. Invisible Man
4. A Room of One's Own
5. Ralph Waldo Emerson's collected essays

3:19 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

"Hemingway is a bore who also overused "and.""
I noticed that too. I know his style is supposedly pared down and muscular, but sweet Chulutha, it gets very bloody wearing after a while.

4:05 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. Ulysses

In a word...tripe.

This is the most overated, overhyped load of codswallop between two covers

4:16 p.m.  
Anonymous sheepworrier said...

For modern writers I quite like Cormac McCarthy and Joseph O'Connor, but generally just stick to working my way through the classics. Don't really have a top 5.

4:17 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I couldn't do a top 5 - but I could not have a library without The Great Gatsby or Catcher in the Rye, Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks...all of the writers in my previous post....there are just too many great writers out there and I am truly delighted when someone recommends a book I find unputdownable. Rare, but like discovering a precious stone.

4:32 p.m.  
Anonymous Shebah said...

Sorry, FMC - that last Anonymous comment was me.

4:34 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

SHeepie, I'd definitely add Cormac McCarthy to my must have list too.
And JM Coetzee too, I loved Disgrace.
Shebah, Birdsong? I had it in my hands a few weeks ago in Waterstones, is it terrific?

4:47 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

I've never read Ulysses so I can't comment on it, but I wanted this post to be more about the books we would like to have in out libraries as opposed to book we didn't rate at all.

4:49 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am David by Anne Holm and
Flight of the Doves by Walter Macken
Two wonderful books that gave me a lifelong interest in reading

4:53 p.m.  
Anonymous Shebah said...

Birdsong is the sort of book you can't put down - for me, it was a sort of "stop all the clocks" experience.

5:09 p.m.  
Anonymous Sinéad said...

The Telegraph list left out a lot of classics and seems very Brit/US-centric.

Picking five? Oooo that's tricky.
If it has to be modern cornerstone books, probably Flannery O'Connor's short stories (she's easily the best writer of the genre), something by John Steinbeck (Of Mice and Men or East of Eden), Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, Toni Morrisson's Beloved and I would agree with the recommendations of Down and Out in Paris in London - it's a phenomenal book.

Apart from The Old Man and the Sea, I can't abide Hemingway. His short stories buck the hell outta m

8:31 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Good Lord Sinéad, I surprised you ever get a change to pick a book up these days.

8:51 p.m.  
Anonymous Sinéad said...

Alas most of the reading I get to do is stuff I have to read for work.

But I'd reread any of those five any time.

8:59 p.m.  
Blogger Dr. James McInerney said...

In the childrens section they should have had The Hobbit instead of LOTR.

For me it is:


1. The Origin of species by means of natural selection (or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life). - Chuckie Darwin.

2. I am David

3. Dubliners - James Joyce

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4. Sue Townsend.

The Troubles - Tim Pat Coogan

Pandora and I are in love! It is official! She told Claire Nelson, who told Nigel, who told me. I told Nigel to tell Claire to tell Pandora that I return her love. I am over the moon with joy. I can overlook the fact that Pandora smokes five Benson and Hedges a day and has her own lighter. When you are in love such things cease to matter.


9:47 p.m.  
Anonymous Sam, Problemchildbride said...

All fine choices. I'd add Philip Roth, Marilynne Robinson, Jhumpa Lahiri, Forster, and hell a whole heap others. I fell young and hard for Nabokov although i don't rate all his books equally. I'm on the Virginia Woolf listserve and talk a lot about her daily. Although I can't convince everyone about her, after I hit about 28, I began to love her. I know some of you guys don't like Ian McEwan so much but I think he's a beautiful writer. I'm less likely to evangelise about him than Woolf though. She might seem bloodless to many but, to me, there's room for pure aesthetics and padding about in a drier library from time to time. I'll shut up now.

For children I reckon Roald Dahl, Shel Silverstein and Edward Lear are all authors every child should be exposed to, if possible.

Drama wasn't listed as a category but I'd also add Tom Stoppard to the usual suspects. I reread him every year because he's such a chew adn there's always, always something new revealed. I won't ever tire of him.

Essays Christopher Hitchens - love him or hate him he's a brilliant essayist, entertaining, witty and beautiful. Despite despising some of his opinions I always end up forgiving him and getting re-smitten when I read some of his less topical essays. He's a big Orwell fan, dn wrote a brilliant biography on Jefferson. Joan Didion, Wislawa Szymborska and Emerson too.

Humour - Terry Pratchett, David Sedaris, Gary Shteyngart - masters all.

I can't see my bookshelf right now because I'm in a coffee-shop waiting for the girls to get out of their music class. That's a good thing because then I'd be forced to exchange some of these above, I bet. Your gain.

'k, that'll be me fucking off then. My family were great readers but I grew up in a place where talking about books outwith your family was a bit wanky - clever people up there, but anti-intellectual - "who does she think she is having opinions about book? kind of thing. Reading was a private rather than a public pleasure. You were supposed to read the great authors but not go on about it. Ridiculous attitude but it still makes me feel like a bit of a wanker. Anyone else feel that?

12:28 a.m.  
Anonymous Sam, Problemchildbride said...

Fuck, was Grahame Greene on their list? The Power and the Glory - bloody excellent.

12:33 a.m.  
Anonymous Sam, Problemchildbride said...

Poems - Emily Dickenson, if she wasn't on the list.

12:34 a.m.  
Anonymous nonny said...

Sam !!!Emily Dickenson, as in I felt a Funeral in my Brain, Emily Dickenson?

I lurves reading, you’d think I could spell by now. I have a shit load of books and despite living here months they are still in boxes everywhere. Good shelving is hard to come by.

My five favourites at the moments are, in first place, The Bible, I kid, Hardy’s, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Oh when the clergyman won’t let her bury her baby in the gave yard and she has to pay the night watch man and bury him herself, Ooooh it breaks my twittle heart. Second be Mrs Dalloway, Mrs Woolf was such a rebel particularly for her era, I love it. Third is Bob Dillon's, Chronicles. Mr Dillon is a master, I lurrrve him and would have his babies. Oooh there are so many, I also like the Big Sleep and 1984.

You know who I hate though, I fuken hate James Joyce. Pretentious, teadious fucker.

I like sneaky books, and funny books, I like reading case law, especially Irish case law, Irish people can be so thick and books about how people took over the world.

What about new comers, you never mentioned new favourite authors, my favourite new author this year is Arlene Hunt, particularly liked Vicious Circle, but I read it last of the four. If the amount of people I passed it on to had have actually bought the book, the lady’s purse would be much fatter. It’s good to see a an Irish women doing so well in the crime genre. An the worst new author, is that fucker, Khaled Hosseini, I wish he’d just take his poxy Kite and fuck off back to wherever the fuck he’s from.

If you’ll excuse me, I must be on my way, Guinness and red wine is bad.

1:33 a.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Sam, I loved Grahame Greene's End of the Affair. I thought it was really moving.

Nonny, I got the Kite Runner and didn't think a whole lot of it either. But I have a friend who read it and she thought it was the most awazing book she'd ever read, so it seems to be one of those, eitther/or books.

10:06 a.m.  
Blogger Dr. James McInerney said...

I liked "The Old Man and The Sea".

10:34 a.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Docky! I didn't see you there and snap for Adrian Mole, that should have been mentioned. I loved the first one.

11:09 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Five go to Kirrin Island...wunderbar

Enid Blyton is my hero, lashings and lashings of ginger ale, Mrs Trelawneys gigantic spreads and not a wog or fuzzy wuzzy in sight

12:23 p.m.  
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