A low-fi list of books I've read over the last 20 years or so. These entries in bold are the books I particularly liked.
What If by Robert Cowley
"The World's Foremost Historians Imagine What Might Have Been". Counterfactual supposes, would-haves, could-haves, might-haves, could-haves, possiblys, perhapses, probablys, and maybes, in all their dizzying permutations. The battle stuff is more interesting than I would have thought.
History of New Zealand by Michael King
King was a lovely storyteller and this is a really readable blast thru the country's life
The Machine Stops by EM Forster
1920s distopian scifi. A cute wee book of short stories that I've been carrying around in my man-bag since September to occasionally dip into.
He Died With a Falafel in His Hand by John Birmingham
Second or third time thru but first time for a while. I love this book. Absolutely crazy yet still makes you nostalgic! More than a trace of Hunter S. wiki
The Passion by Jeanette Winterson
From Hay on Wye in Wales.
Conan the Unconquered by Robert Jordan
He's not Howard, but this is a pretty good stab at what makes Conan Conan. A little self-parodying sometimes, perhaps. (That's not bad - Conan is after all pretty bloody laughable!)
The Autumn of the Patriarch by Gabriel García Márquez
The complete lack of paragraphs make this very 'string of consciousness', plus to make it even more confusing, you're never sure quite whose consciousness it is - the general? His mother? His lover? Anyway, I loved the crazy, evil, tragic old general, who measures his life in revisits of "the comet". reviews
Twitterature by Alexander Aciman & Emmett Rensin
Cute: 75 Western classics tweeted. Personal favourites:
From Macbeth: @LadyMac: THERE'S NOTHING ON YOUR HANDS, YOU'VE WASHED THEM 100 TIMES ALREADY!!
From The Old Man and the Sea: And he is too big for the boat so I will have to pull him And DiMaggio Di Maggio
From The Inferno: SATAN HAS THREE HEADS AND THEY ARE TOTALLY EATING DUDES
From Romeo and Juliet: @Montague, @Capulet: Can't we all just get along?
From Odyssey: @Suitors: You have defiled my house, dishonoured the gods and tried to seduce my wife. TIME TO TASTE MY BLUE STEEL.
From Don Quixote: WHAT THE FUCKIN FUCKITY FUCK ARE ALL THESE FUCKING GIANTS DOING. HOLY SHIT THEY HAVE 4 FUCKING SPINNING ARMS!!!
Cain by José Saramago
Cain inexplicably teleports from Biblical happening to Biblical happening, Forest Gump-style. I'm not sure where I stand on this novel. I love Cain. I love any Lilith. I loved the ending. (I loved the ending.) I loved the angels. I didn't mind the peculiar grammar. I did get a little bored of popping into all the stories between the Garden and the Flood. Great line: "The logical, natural and simply human response would have been for Abraham to tell the lord to piss off..."
I, Claudius by Robert Graves
Nicely written Roman novel from the pov of the emperor.
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
A spin-off from American Gods. Quite a bit sillier, which I didn't love as much, but I still devoured this in 12 hours.
Porno by Irvine Walsh
Sequel to Trainspotting (which I've never read, so here's hoping the film was accurate). Some of the phonetic Scots accents tough work, but you get into it.
Mysterious Monsters by Daniel Farson & Angus Hall
Another Hurlingham Books find. Great illustrations of my favourite things (Giant Squids!! Loch Ness Monster!! The Abominable Snowman!!). The writing is not great tho, in fact it's often just plain silly, even for a book about monsters. (Yes, I know I should have known that considering the quite silly title, but this was silly even considering that!)
Mr Pye by Mervyn Peake
Sweet little book. Found it at the fantabulous Hurlingham Books in Fulham, London - the Room of Requirements for book geeks.
Girl With Curious Hair by David Foster Wallace
A chance find at Castle Books, Hay on Wye. Magnificent short stories - the first I've ever read of DFW's but clearly I'll have to find more. The story "John Billy" is my favourite short story of all time (I have absolutely no idea what it means). review
No & Me by Delphine De Vigan
Tidy little kid lit story set in Paris. At Maxine's recommendation.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
Only my second time thru. The first third of the book hits you like a thunderbolt: You're left sitting thinking "WOW". Reading it straight after Irving was funny (actually, similar plots in the last sections of the novels in some ways).
Cider House Rules by John Irving
Amazing novel. Can't believe I'd never read it 'til now. If you read an Irving every year or two, you couldn't go wrong. Includes the ubiquitous Irving dwarves and wrestlers.
Light by M John Harrison
Clever scifi recommended by Messers Gaiman, Banks and Sowerbutts.
A breath of Lucifer by RK Narayan
Short stories by (the blurb reckons) India's foremost storyteller. I reckon: nah.
They Found Atlantis by Dennis Wheatley
Gloriously bad holiday pulp. Spoiler alert: they really did find Atlantis. Also the chap gets the girl, and the cad gets his come uppance, what what.
In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker
Catholic/England history was all pretty interesting.
Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
True story, and incredible for that. But the author a little too keen on the sound of his own voice. Too preachy.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory.
God's truth. This be stirring stuff, tho oft hard to penetrate. Nay matter, for peradventure my brainpan ist ever clove asunder by some vengeful knave for accidental discourtesy... having read this litany of offended Sirs and dolefully swooning damosels (and occasional swooning Sirs) wilt mean I'll perceive whysomuch I probably got what's coming.
Kim by Rudyard Kipling
Lot of fun.
Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman
To Have & Have Not by Ernest Hemingway
Great little story. Here's Harry, early morning when some Cuban is giving him grief: 'Listen', I told him. 'Dont be so tough so early in the morning.' I'm sure You've cut plenty people's throats. I haven't even had my coffee yet.'
No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
As stark and beautiful as The Road, and no more cheerful. I love his regional accents. Even tho I don't know the mannerisms, they sound right. Sadly, I'd already seen the film, so the shock of the end was diminished.
Luka & the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie
Fun home-spun fable with bits of Playstation etc. Hello Maui/Coyote/Prometheus! authors website
Say When by Catherine Deveny
Funny woman, funniest when she is filthy angry at someone, or something. (Usually Channel Nine.) I could only take a few stories at a time tho, perhaps cos of the themed grouping (men are pigs, men are pigs, men are pigs, etc).
The Ganymede Transfer by Philip K Dick
I do hope this is PKD's worst novel. It's fer-certain the worst I've read. High-school stuff.
Crime & Punishment by Dostoyevsky
At John's insistence. Stalled I'm afraid...
Six Easy Pieces by Richard Feynman
A bit of science to reactivate the brain. Inspired me to work out the mass of the Earth on a bit of paper (the answer I got was ~300kg - probably lucky I'm out of the science trade these days huh?).
FutureBabble. Why Expert Predictions Are Next to Worthless, and You Can Do Better by Dan Gardner
Loved this. I respect that Gardner isn't pushing too hard to sell his pet theory, giving evidence against as well as for. As he says, anyone with a pet theory, and who tries to shoehorn everything on Earth into that theory, is probably wrong. (I no doubt liked this bit because it fits with my own pet theory!) This is Hedgehogs vs foxes: foxes more likely to be right but hedgehogs always more popular! Sometimes the most correct answer is "we don't know".
Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings
Aloud with Max. Eddings' stories are great for kids. Just a touch past fairytale simple, but the characters are "classic" enough to instantly resonate.
I, Lucifer by Glen Duncan
Magnificent novel about the Cloven One living on Earth for a month. Filthy funny. I loved the various angelic/demonic characters and their foibles (Michael and his weight training). And this magnificent line from the chap himself (speaking in third person, as befits the character): "You don't, darling, 'summon' Lucifer. He's not a fucking butler"
Natural History by Justina Robson
Sci fi. Again, at a recommendation I couldn't ignore. Banks-esque, I thought.
Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini
Rollicking fun. Blood a fun character, oscillating between melancholy and rakish.
Two Towers by JRR
Aloud with Maxine. (Halfway thru)
Jekyll & Hyde by RLS
Hadn't read this for years but it's a great little mystery.
Living in the Maniototo by Janet Frame
Great Kiwi novel, long overdue.
Everything Explained through Flowcharts by Doogie Horner
Piss funny. review
Keeping it Real by Justina Robson
Sci fi. Enjoyed the Tolkien in-jokes.
Dreamland by Kevin Baker
Magnificently rich novel - the New York of evil kids, dwarves and moxies.
The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico
A lovely little story from school years. This was a standard text in Koro Hunt's class at Whakatane Intermediate.
Sandman by Neil Gaiman
The comic series thru which I first ever heard of Gaiman, tho I hadn't read it 'til now. Amazing. You can see why it won so many awards and so many people rave about it.
Some interesting people along the way: Fiddlers Green Death Emperor Norton Rustichello Astarte
Hamlet by W.S.
Men without Women by Hemingway
Short stories about men behaving badly. So badly.
Final Solution by Michael Chabon
Brilliant fun novel about (we assume) Sherlock Holmes in his dotage. Recommended by an author I couldnae ignore. I loved it so much I had to dig out some old Sherlock to continue with.
Medicine Road by Charles de Lint
Kinda cool fantasy/American folklore story. Writing a bit lame occasionally.
Fear & Loathing by Hunter S. Thompson
Lovely, crazy writing. From opening lines that blow your mind, it's a wicked, wicked trail. Which bit to choose... perhaps this... Every now and then when your life gets complicated and the weasels start closing in, the only real cure is to load up on heinous chemicals and drive like a bastard from Hollywood to Las Vegas.
The Histories by Herodotus
Loved this - the combination of the fantastic (men with no heads and their face in their chests) and the seemingly fantastic but now explained (small men, dog-headed men, the position of the sun in the sky as explorers rounded Africa).
AntiChrist by Bernard McGinn
"Two Thousand Years of the Human Fascination With Evil". Bernard seems to have a thesaurus stuck in his gullet, but despite the overly academic language, it's a great story and thoroughly researched with some really interesting insights. This description of the AC from a fifth-century writer is Worth noting, in case you ever run into AC in the street... (tho the first half of this could apply to me on a Saturday morning)... "the appearance of his face is gloomy; his hair like the points of arrows; his brows rough; his right eye as the morning star and the left like a lion's. His mouth is a cubit wide, his teeth a span in length, his fingers are like sickles. His footprints are two cubits long, and on his forehead is the writing "The Antichrist"." That end bit is the give-away, I reckon.