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Fun Novels That Aren't SF

By Fyndalf in Culture
Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 06:19:36 PM EST
Tags: Books (all tags)

I'm a tech person.  Like many of our ilk, I find myself enjoying escapist fiction -- for novels I primarily read science fiction and fantasy.

I doubt I will ever stop enjoying these and won't let anyone's opinion of their worth get in the way of that, but I would like a bit more variety.  Given the diverse group here on Kuro5hin, I figure many of you would have suggestions for myself and those of us in the same boat as to what book we should read next. What are your favourite non-SF/Fantasy novels and contemporary authours?

When I want something different and just grab one it's very hit and miss -- I don't have any idea on how their writing style will compare to what I've already seen.

It occurs to me that this would be a good place to ask, since the motto is "Technology and Culture from the trenches" and SF is a large part of the culture of technology.

I'm not looking for a rehash of the earlier story about the The Absolute Best Best Books to Read.  That article was about the best books of all time and kicked off the discussion with Adler's list of what he'd take with him on a deserted island.

The end result is a lot of deep and significant literature and such that requires a clear head and concentration.  I'm looking more for the other end of things, stuff that's got a strong enough storyline I can jump right back in where I left off so I can read it during those little pauses where you're waiting for something.

As one poster noted, "great books" is rather general and can mean many things to many people.  He suggested a number of better categories and under "entertaining" all the examples were fantasy and SF.  I figure there has to be more out there.

Perhaps a good way to address this would be to describe authours you know outside of SF in the context of SF authours?  Does someone write horror or romance novels with a similar tone to Terry Pratchet/Douglas Adams?  David Weber and Harry Turtledove novels often involve military strategy so if I like them would I be looking for Tom Clancy or not? Who is more similar?  Etc.


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Fun Novels That Aren't SF | 239 comments (231 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
Hi (1.68 / 22) (#1)
by tpsl2 on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 01:56:17 AM EST

I'm a Computer Science student.  Like many of our ilk, I find myself enjoying the opportunity to vote down bullshit articles such as this one.

Thank you for your time and for respecting my right to voice a dissenting opinion.

Huh? (3.00 / 3) (#18)
by phunhippy on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 05:21:20 AM EST

So your a computer science major.. what does any of that have to do with voting down the article?
New Jersey is like menthol, Its Just Wrong
[ Parent ]
being an asshole in the edit queue is trendy. (3.50 / 2) (#24)
by Shren on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 07:39:46 AM EST

After my first story posted to the queue, nothing could persuade me to post again. If I want to get treated like shit there are lots of ways to get treated thus that are a lot less work.

[ Parent ]
FYI (5.00 / 1) (#30)
by Irobot on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 08:32:57 AM EST

The first time this was submitted, it started "I'm a computer science student..." It was changed to "I'm a tech person..." - which isn't much stronger.


The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

Geek Love, by Katherine Dunn (3.00 / 1) (#7)
by driptray on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 02:21:23 AM EST

It's an easy-to-read novel that just rocks along, and I don't think you'll ever forget it.
We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. - Paul Keating

Oh yes (none / 0) (#10)
by sigwinch on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 03:01:11 AM EST

Geek Love is fab.

Another good odd one is Concrete Island, about a guy drives his car into a "traffic island" surrounded by three roads and can't get back out.

I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

What do you mean by Fantasy? (3.00 / 4) (#9)
by bodrius on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 02:58:47 AM EST

Depending on what you consider "Fantasy/SF", I would recommend the argentinian short-story author Jorge Luis Borges.

If by "Fantasy" you mean the typical "elves, dwarves, kingdoms and adventures" Tolkien-imitation genre, then Borges does not fit in it.

If by "Fantasy" you mean the, generally more respected, genre of "fantastic literature", then Borges fits in there, with Edgar Allan Poe and others.
Freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=4, everything else follows...

A relevance (1.50 / 6) (#12)
by medham on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 03:46:16 AM EST

Hello one and all, no marigolds in the promised land, he that would know what kind of idea it is to which we give the name of infinity cannot do it better than by considering to what infinity is by the mind more immediately attributed; and then how the mind comes to frame it.

FREE-TRADE: Cause of all the business troubles.
Flaubert, Dictionary of Received Ideas.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.

what i wrote last time you posted this story: (3.50 / 4) (#13)
by scatbubba on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 03:53:01 AM EST

Have you read 1984 yet? It's constant use in pop culture may make it seem to be cliche, but it's so much more then just the gov't spying on it's people. What about the works of Aldous Huxley (still sci fi, but something different)? Try "A Brave New World" and "Ape and Essence". Ayn Rand is interesting, and you don't have to turn into a raving objectivist to enjoy it. "The Fountainhead" is good, "Atlas Shrugged" is better. Speaking of "Atlas Shrugged", have you read the "End of the world" books? "Lucifer's Hammer", "On The Beach", etc. "The Trial" by Kafka or any of the existentialism authors are interesting. Another way to get fast exposure to non-sci fi is to use short stories. Pick up a second hand copy of "The Norton Anthology of American Literature" for a wide range of material. Then you can move on to Stephen King. You may think his work shoddy or cheezy. If you read anything he wrote recently, you might be right, but his early work is excellent. "The Stand" is 1200 pages long, 1/2 way through I was wishing it was 2400. "The Gunslinger" series can't be described. "The Long Walk" and the other Bachman books (King's attempt to write fiction under another name) have interesting concepts and great stories. You could read Tom Clancy for an interesting (although highly american) perspective on the cold war. His novel "Red Storm Rising" details a war between USSR and USA in great detail. On a related topic, there is a whole set of spy novels you could read. There is also Robert Ludlum who writes spy/thriller type books that are entertaining. "The Bourne Identity" which was recently made into a movie is one of his book, and is part of a three part series that is very good reading. Finally, you could step away from fiction all together. This is where things get real interesting. Want to learn about the big bang or quantum physics? John Gribbin can help with "In search of the big bang" and "In Search of Schrödinger's Cat" are better reading then you can imagine (assuming you are interested in science). In fact any John Gribbin book will be excellent. Alternately, pick a figure from the past and learn about him. I choose Alexander the Great, which lead to an excellent book by Xenophone called "Anabasis"..... I could write forever. I will stop now.

thoughts on the recommendations (3.00 / 1) (#19)
by petdr on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 05:24:34 AM EST

Personally I prefer Animal Farm by Geroge Orwell to 1984. I just couldn't get into 1984, but being around 13 at the time probably didn't help. Inspired me to try reading it again. Animal farm is a critical look at communism written as a story where the animals in a farm revolt. It is the book where the line "All animals are equal, just some more equal than others".

Also recommend Tom Clancy, but take note like most authors his early stuff is much better. Very well and believably plotted techo/spy thrillers.

[ Parent ]

why to read 1984 (none / 0) (#44)
by scatbubba on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 11:17:54 AM EST

1984 should be read for a number of different reasons, but the best reason of all is because of the shocking nature of the climax. It occures in one or two sentences near the end of the book but was such a shock to me i actually lost sleep over it. Tell you what, you read 1984, I'll read animal farm, we'll talk later ;)

[ Parent ]
animal farm vs 1984 (none / 0) (#137)
by kubalaa on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 08:26:56 AM EST

It's been a while since I read either one, but I recall that Animal Farm was much more blatant and transparent. I suppose that's why they usually have younger kids read it. 1984 was much, much deeper, in terms of psyochology and characters.

[ Parent ]
Aldous Huxley (none / 0) (#87)
by bodrius on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 06:13:39 PM EST

For both lighter reading and better literary style, I would highly recommend Huxley's non-SF material.

As a fiction writer he was extremely competent, witty and quite cynical when he wasn't trying to evangelize.

I prefer his SF because as utopias/dystopias they survive the test of time better; their depth is ideological.

But for some smart, fun reading that will encourage you to think about people and not social engineering, I would recommend the novel "Those Barren Leaves", his travel-log "Beyond the Mexique Bay", or his more mature (and serious) autobiographical fiction "Eyeless in Gaza".
Freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=4, everything else follows...
[ Parent ]

Dear God (5.00 / 1) (#163)
by davidduncanscott on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 02:25:51 PM EST

He asks for "Fun" and you suggest 1984, Ape and Essence, and On the Beach? What the hell do you do on a Saturday night -- scourge yourself with a flail?

[ Parent ]
sorry, i equate fun reading with interesting (none / 0) (#223)
by scatbubba on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 09:24:37 PM EST

Those are all very interesting to say the least.

[ Parent ]
Interesting, (none / 0) (#228)
by davidduncanscott on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 11:31:16 AM EST

yes, I agree, but they're also all written to give you the willies, and not the Stephen-King-we-all-enjoy-a-good-fright willies, but more like the kill-yourself-now-and-avoid-the-rush willies (well, maybe not the Shute, since the whole Cold War thing feels sort of dated now.) They're all good, but not exactly light, reading.

[ Parent ]
Both ... (3.75 / 4) (#15)
by loaf on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 04:28:47 AM EST

One author who writes both well is Iain Banks (SF/Fantasy as Iain M Banks) - the likes of The Wasp Factory, The Crow Road and Complicity are among the best examples of modern British fiction.

But if you're after tongue-in-cheek, reality fiction with a comic bite (and, coincidentally, with a Scottish edge), I'd recommend Chris Brookmyre. His first was "Quite Ugly One Morning" which was inspired - and there are a half dozen more where that came from.

Banks is alright (4.50 / 2) (#43)
by bc on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 11:16:37 AM EST

But there's a reason most Americans haven't heard of him - ultimately he is a middle ranking British author. He's good, competent, and spins a good yarn, but he's not in the top tier.

When it comes to Scottish authors, Alisdair Gray (especially for his magnum opus, Lanark, reasonably considered by many as the Scottish Ulysses) is certainly top rank. Lanark is an amazingly multilayered, complex and, well, downright bizarre tale about about a young man in Glasgow, Duncan Thaw, and a young man very much like Duncan in a strange parallel world where everybody lives off state grants given out by an unseen power. A powerful allegory and wonderfully written, classy in a way Banks can only dream of acheiving.

Also top tier is James Kelman, best known for his booker snagging How Late it Was, How Late, a wonderful work about a drunk awakening in Glasgow and being plunged into a Kafkaesque struggle for government benefits and forced to resist, and very much a character study, as the main character is blinded at the start, and comes to terms with it with the reader. It wonderfully shows up the shabby, populist Irvine Welsh, as Gray does Banks, as it defied the unspoken literary rules for both language and subject matter in a far more profound way than Trainspotting ever did.

Similarly powerful and rebellious is Swing Hammer Swing, by Jeff Torrington, about Tam Clay, stumbling through the drink sodden world of the Glasgow Gorbals underclass in a voyage of self discovery.

I recommend all these for the best of local literature. As usual, though, people will only support Iain Banks, Irvine Welsh, and other hacks who are really blights on the Scottish literary scene.

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]

Banks without the M (none / 0) (#53)
by Pac on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 12:08:40 PM EST

I never read the other authors you list, but Banks non-Culture work always looked, as you say, middle raking to me. Even the much praised "Wasp Factory" made me feel I should have waited for the movie.

I believe part if not most of Banks rank as a general writer is due to his sci-fi work.

Evolution doesn't take prisoners

[ Parent ]
Re: Banks middle ranked (none / 0) (#96)
by benw on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 07:26:15 PM EST

I agree about Iain Banks' non-culture stuff being a bit up & down.

I read Excession first, and was absolutely hooked, just could not put it down. I read one or two other of his culture novels, then went on to The Wasp Factory, A Song of Stone and Walking On Glass - all alright-but-not-really-that-good. A Song of Stone was particularly non-engaging. The Wasp Factory was pretty good i thought, very dark, but quite intriguing. Walking On Glass was, like A Song of Stone, not really very good.

On the other hand, every culture novel I've read, I've loved. Absolutely fantastic, scope, imagination, originality, engaging stories and characters, just wonderful. Some of my all-time favourite SF (even the really hard-to-read-almost-have-to-read-it-out-loud bits in Feersum Endjinn).

"vanilla-licking sofa-humpers". funny.
[ Parent ]
Well (none / 0) (#147)
by OAB on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 11:20:11 AM EST

I tend to think that A Song of Stone is Banks really trying to score points for style, and it bored me. You should try The Bridge or Complicity, the first could really be classed as fantasy, and the second is just good fun.

BTW, Feersum Endjinn is not a Culture book, even if it is SF.

[ Parent ]
The Bridge... (none / 0) (#196)
by rleyton on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 08:26:49 AM EST

I finished The Bridge just a few days ago (ironically when I was in Edinburgh/Fife, where much of the book - and Banks himself - is based), and wondered whether it was SF/Fantasy in parts. It's an interesting one... A bloke in a coma mixing dreams and memories.

Certainly his vision of the culture that was The Bridge (an immense bridge supporting a city, whose inhabitants have no knowledge of anything outside) compared to a lot of fantasy, but then it was all taking place inside his head, darting around, gradually unveiling a picture of what had happened to him.

Great stuff. Seems like Walking On Glass (I'm on a bit of a Banks run at the mo) is a bit of a cross-over too. Perhaps before Banks decided to write two classes of book. Certainly Complicity and The Crow Road don't cross-over.

Still, a great author. Highly recommended.

Ooooooooooooooh! What does this button do!? - DeeDee, Dexters Lab.
My Website
[ Parent ]

a few more fiction recommendations (4.33 / 3) (#16)
by pb on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 04:41:37 AM EST

Detective Fiction: Robert B. Parker (Spenser for Hire); John D. MacDonald

Bizarre/Conspiracy: Umberto Ecco (Foucault's Pendulum)

Classic Horror: H.P. Lovecraft and E.A. Poe

Fantasy: Zelazny (The Chronicles of Amber); Gibson (Neuromancer)

Also, I find some old radio shows to be quite entertaining, like Suspense!, and The Shadow.
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall

Eco's Focault's Pendulum (none / 0) (#23)
by Shren on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 07:36:18 AM EST

I'll recommend this too, but you have to be at least slightly interested in history or you'll never make it through the second half of the book.

[ Parent ]
Whew (none / 0) (#95)
by Happy Monkey on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 07:18:05 PM EST

I read it as a young lad. It was suggested by my Latin teacher. It turned out that he also taught an SAT-prep class, and "Focault's Pendulum" contains most of the SAT words. Sneaky.
Length 17, Width 3
[ Parent ]
Eco (none / 0) (#46)
by MeanGene on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 11:26:41 AM EST

"Foucault's Pendulum" is a great book if you're into medieval occult mysteries.  "The Island of the Day Before" would be more generally attractive.

[ Parent ]
Three comments about Eco... (none / 0) (#86)
by Ranieri on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 06:07:01 PM EST

... and nobody mentioned his undisputed masterpiece.

The Name of the Rose. Read it.
Taste cold steel, feeble cannon restraint rope!
[ Parent ]

re: the name of the rose (none / 0) (#90)
by benw on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 07:02:33 PM EST

Couldn't agree more! The Name of The Rose was an absolutely wonderful book that had me absolutely unable to wait to read the next bit, then the next little bit, then the next...

And what an ending! unexpected, and even somewhat unsatisfying to me, but boy was it good!

And as always, the movie, despite being quite good, was a let-down after the book. has there ever been a movie of a book that has been anywhere near as satisfying??

I've never read any of Eco's other stuff, i'll have to try them one of these days.

"vanilla-licking sofa-humpers". funny.
[ Parent ]
Re: Three comments about Eco... (none / 0) (#195)
by MeanGene on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 08:12:55 AM EST

I just assumed that everyone either saw the movie, read the book or both... ;-)

[ Parent ]
Non SF fiction? (3.00 / 2) (#17)
by SanSeveroPrince on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 04:59:31 AM EST

hmmm... let's see.

1) Non-SF titles with fantastic fiction elements:

- try both Terry Pratchett and Robert Rankin. Pratchett writes in a fantasy setting, but he's one of the best humourists in the world. Try any of his books. The first two are, admittedly, a bit rubbish nowadays;
Ranking is just off the wall humour with a modern setting. Both funny, both memorable.

- Neil Gaiman, American Gods. Modern setting, not sf or fantasy. DO NOT MISS IT. Excellent book, period.

2) Non-SF titles, 'straight' fiction

- Just about any Patterson novel; excellent detective fiction, Alex Cross rules

- Birdman, by Mo Hayder. Haven't read his new book yet, but if it's anywhere near as good as Birdman, it's a winner...

Just a few suggestions....


Life is a tragedy to those who feel, and a comedy to those who think

Gaiman (none / 0) (#93)
by Happy Monkey on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 07:15:02 PM EST

Neil Gaiman, American Gods. Modern setting, not sf or fantasy. DO NOT MISS IT. Excellent book, period.

When you say "not fantasy", do you mean "not like Tolkien or D&D"? American Gods is most definitely fantasy. But I do second the recommendation.
Length 17, Width 3
[ Parent ]
Fantasy (none / 0) (#129)
by SanSeveroPrince on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 04:07:45 AM EST

Yups. With 'Fantasy', I do mean sword and sorcery and hobbits :)

Gaiman definitely is fiction, and he definitely belongs to the 'SF&Fantasy' section in any bookstore... but there's not a sword or laser gun in sight, and I love it :)


Life is a tragedy to those who feel, and a comedy to those who think

[ Parent ]
Jeff Noon: {Vurt,Pollen} (4.33 / 3) (#20)
by Vs on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 05:36:33 AM EST

I recently bought Jeff Noons "Pollen" after reading some of his short stories. Although they seem to have a SciFi-quality because it seems to take place in the near future and features a few interesting technologies, it's hardly science but mere fiction. E.g. "Vurt feathers", which will let your mind enter a different world, similar to drugs. Another invention: a network of cabs, each having one part of the map of Manchester, the whole being more than the sum of the parts.

Other interesting things include new races resulting from a mixture of humans, dogs and cybernetics. As I said, these feature only in the background and only convey the different qualities of people.

"Vurt" is a predecessor to "Pollen", but I haven't read it yet.

Noon's stories have almost nothing in common with classical SF stories, yet (or even because of that?) are a very interesting read. And he's rather contemporary.

Assorted links.
Where are the immoderate submissions?

Jeff Noon is great! (5.00 / 1) (#31)
by PhadeRunner on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 09:34:46 AM EST

I'll agree with Vs here. I discovered Jeff Noon by accident and I think his work is excellent. Vurt is definitely his best so far closely followed by Nymphomation and then Pollen. These three books take place in a near future Manchester (UK) a very amusing place for these sort of stories to occur and a bit different from the East Coast US, SF Bay and Far Eastern spheres this sort of novel usually focuses on. He uses a very playful writing style which uses odd spacing, short sentence fragments and funny layouts to tell the story as well as the prose. Some parts are more like poerty than prose too. I'd recommend it highly if you want something that's a little off the beaten track.

He's written some more drug/party lifestyle based novels which are set in more current times. An example would be Needle in the Groove. I haven't read any of these works yet.

Start with Vurt and move on from there would be my advice.

[ Parent ]

Re: Jeff Noon is great! (none / 0) (#34)
by Vs on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 09:54:52 AM EST

<pre> I discovered Jeff Noon by accident </pre>

Me too: I was attracted by the cover of "Pixel Juice" and browsed a few pages. His style is quite catching.
Where are the immoderate submissions?
[ Parent ]

Escapist Literature for 500 (3.50 / 2) (#21)
by evilpenguin on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 07:01:39 AM EST

Personally, I hate sci-fi/fantasy (with the exception of Tolkien and the Dystopian authors -- Orwell, Huxley, etc). To be perfectly honest, this is what I picture when I think of a sci-fi fan -- it's probably not far from the truth.

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, in looking at my bookshelf I've found several titles which meet the criteria for being "escapist" literature. Here's two of the notable ones I just pulled off the shelf:
  • Hunter S. Thompson, "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" -- Two druggies take a trip down to Las Vegas, with the help of "...two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half-full of cocaine and a whole galaxy of multicolored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers ... Also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether, and two dozen amyls." If that doesn't make you want to read this book, nothing will. Hunter S. is quite a good author, so if you enjoy this you may also want to check out "Hell' s Angels" and "Generation of Swine"
  • Ian Banks, "The Wasp Factory" -- The life of a delusional, homicidal teenager as told through the eyes of said teenager. This book is _dark_, but somehow its most disturbing moments can also be some of its funniest. The plot twists in ways you'd never be able to guess.
  • Ken Kesey, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" -- The tale of an asylum, its residents, an oppressive head nurse and the man who sets out to change all of that (McMurphy).
I'd write more, but I have to get to work. Of course, there's always the authors like Stephen King and Dean Koontz who have a usually consistent output ("Tommyknockers" and "The Dark Tower" series are my favorites by King, neither one is really sci-fi, especially not the ladder).

Of course, if you want the most engrossing novels, you're not going to find it with any of the above authors. For that you move to Dostevesky, Tolstoy, Homer, etc. I, personally, carried around "The Brothers Karamazov" when I read it for the first time and jumped in and out of it quite frequently. You can jump in and out of any book, if you are genuinely interested in the subject.
# nohup cat /dev/dsp > /dev/hda & killall -9 getty
Probably why I don't call myself a fan (none / 0) (#149)
by janra on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:19:33 PM EST

"Fan" is short for "fanatic", after all. While my preferred fiction genres are Science Fiction and Fantasy and I read a lot of it, I'm not a "fan", I don't dress up like characters from the stories, I don't even go to conventions. I just read and write and enjoy.

There are a lot of SF readers who don't fit the "fanatic" description, and there's also a lot of SF that isn't Star Trek/Star Wars (those two seem to get the freaks in costume out a lot).

The thing I like the most about Science Fiction is that the author can explore themes that they'd never get away with in mainstream fiction, because the people involved aren't "us" - either because they're in the future and there are technological or cultural differences that make necessary something we find repugnant today, or because they're aliens and have a different set of assumptions to start with. If something like 1984 were set in the present (as of when it was written, of course) it would have been dismissed as the paranoid ramblings of a nutter. Instead, it's a warning, a dystopian future, but still - the characters are "not us". The warning comes in when people start thinking that they don't want to become like that, and start seeing patterns that hint toward the situation described in 1984.

Discuss the art and craft of writing
That's the problem with world domination... Nobody is willing to wait for it anymore, work slowly towards it, drink more and enjoy the ride more.
[ Parent ]
My personal favourite author... (4.00 / 2) (#22)
by kaemaril on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 07:33:31 AM EST

(Other than David Gemmell, who writes fantasy, so doesn't count here...) is Bernard Cornwell. The Richard Sharpe series of books are an excellent read (and not a bad series of movies either, but I digress...), but I can't help feeling that his best work is the Warlord Chronicles trilogy (The Winter King, Enemy Of God, Excalibur). Although based on "Arthurian myth", his take on the genre is refreshingly free of fantasy. No lady of the lake here, no swords in the stone, no shining armour. No jousting and chivalry. Basically it's Arthur as a warlord in post-Roman Britain. Merlin is here, but he's not a powerful half-human sorceror by any means. The twist on Lancelot alone is ... fascinating. Well worth a read!

And for another recommendation: anything featuring Horatio Hornblower!

Why, yes, I am being sarcastic. Why do you ask?

Marcus Didius Falco (4.66 / 3) (#25)
by IHCOYC on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 07:45:03 AM EST

For light but entertaining reading, I enjoy the Marcus Didius Falco mysteries by Lindsey Davis. These are detective stories set in the Roman Empire at the height of its power. The Brother Cadfael books by Ellis Peters are also pretty good; these too are mysteries, set in mediaeval England.
"Complecti antecessores tuos in spelæis stygiis Tartari appara," eructavit miles primus.
"Vix dum basiavisti vicarium velocem Mortis," rediit Grignr.
--- Livy
Books (4.00 / 1) (#26)
by Korimyr the Rat on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 08:09:19 AM EST

John Sandford's Prey novels. There's nearly a dozen of them, and they're all excellent. Believable, disturbing villains and a detective that's barely better than they are.

Thomas Harris is another good one, for crime fiction. He's the author of Hannibal and The Silence of the Lambs, both of which are better than the movie.

"Specialization is for insects." Robert Heinlein
Founding Member of 'Retarded Monkeys Against the Restriction of Weapons Privileges'

Leon Uris (3.00 / 1) (#27)
by DylanQuixote on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 08:21:47 AM EST

I recommend Leon Uris' Exodus, because it is the only non science fiction book I can remember reading.

Exodus certainly won't let you escape into a fantasy world. ;)
In my humble opinion, everyone should read Exodus, 'tis great book. (I also think everyone should read Heinlein's Revolt in 2100 (title might be incorrect), but that is a SciFi book)


...and read Trinity and Mila 18 by Uris [n/t] (none / 0) (#28)
by TunkeyMicket on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 08:27:22 AM EST

Chris "TunkeyMicket" Watford
[ Parent ]
Detective/suspense/intrigue (4.00 / 1) (#29)
by DesiredUsername on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 08:29:24 AM EST

I don't think Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Harry Turtledove or even Tom Clancy are all that far outside of SF, but whatever.

I really like the John D MacDonald Travis McGee books. They all have color names (Dress Her in Indigo, The Empty Copper Sea, etc) which makes them easy to find. The basic premise behind (almost) all the books is that a friend-of-a-friend of Trav's has lost something of value (a bag of diamonds, a rare stamp, a good reputation, etc) and Trav gets it back (through quasi-legal ruses and cons) and then keeps half the value. Great caper books, though Trav has a somewhat melancholy outlook which makes them a touch bleak.

MacDonald's non-McGee books I've found uninteresting, but his short stories rock the Casbah.

Play 囲碁

Some more to try (4.00 / 1) (#32)
by PhadeRunner on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 09:43:33 AM EST

Jon Courtney Grimwood is a writer I've just started reading. His books are set in an alternate reality where Germany won WWII and the USA, Germany/France and Russia are the main superpowers of this world. However his books tend to concentrate on North Africa (Morocco, Egypt etc.) and the effects that the three powers have on life there. The first two of a mystery trilogy set in this world have just been published. It is called the Arabeske trilogy and the first and second Arabeskes are Pashazade and Effendi. They're good no-nonsense crime novels set in an interesting world.

His earlier works include some more cyberpunk influenced novels such as Neo Addix , redRobe and reMix. I hope you enjoy him as much as I have.

people are weird (5.00 / 2) (#33)
by tps12 on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 09:53:14 AM EST

Slashdot had an article a long time ago that was pretty similar: someone asking for what the best books in the world are, outside of science fiction. Of course just about every comment (and there were many) listed science fiction novels, exclusively. In the same way, the majority of responses to this article appear to focus on science fiction.

In any case, I have to recommend Infinite Jest because, well, that's what I do. You could conceivably "read it during those little pauses where you're waiting for something," but will probably end up going out of your way to manufacture "little pauses" just for the chance to read it. It takes place in the near future, but isn't science fiction, I swear.

The REAL Infinite Jest is of course (5.00 / 1) (#108)
by thirstyfish on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 09:34:13 PM EST

was when it came out, watching peeps drag that book around on the subway.

I, on the other, went home and stayed up all night reading it.  

[ Parent ]
once I got about halfway through... (none / 0) (#134)
by tps12 on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 06:39:18 AM EST

I think I started doing both.

[ Parent ]
Infinite Jest, seconded (none / 0) (#152)
by Fantod5 on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:20:38 PM EST

Infinite Jest is the best novel I've read in years. I found it challenging and disturbing as well as rewarding. It's not light reading and I had to keep a dictionary handy, but I found it hard to put down anyway. I needed two bookmarks: one for the text and one for the endnotes -- you'll understand once you start reading it...

[ Parent ]
Ahh, but... (none / 0) (#160)
by ucblockhead on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 02:17:09 PM EST

Strictly speaking, "Infinite Jest" is science fiction.

Ok, maybe not in tone and derivation, but it is set in the future, after all...

Anyway, it's a great book. I dunno about escapist, though.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Some good ones (3.66 / 3) (#35)
by psychologist on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 10:26:17 AM EST

  • Edgar Poe
  • Michael Chrichton
  • Stephen King
  • Agatha Christie
  • Enid Blyton (turmeric should have had these)
  • Edgar Wallace
  • W. Somerset Maughan
  • William Hope Hodgson
What you should avoid if you don't want to be bored to death
  • James Joyce
  • R. Stallman

on what not to read (none / 0) (#45)
by scatbubba on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 11:23:46 AM EST

another strong reccomendation on what not to read: Jane Austin. I was forced while in school to read one of her novels. I couldn't believe it. Imagine a book which spends a full chapter describing how a room has been setup for a party. This is just one of many exciting chapters in the book "Emma".

[ Parent ]
Yeah, women can't write (none / 0) (#49)
by psychologist on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 11:36:05 AM EST

Oooh, ohh, cool down. That isn't a flame. But think about it - women have written a lot of excellent books, but in vastly less number than men. There has been equal education for men and women over the past century in the west, why are there still no really great women writers? Like Shakespeare?

[ Parent ]
Like Shakespeare (4.00 / 1) (#57)
by Rasman on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 12:51:41 PM EST

Are there any really great male writers in the past century in the west that can be called, "like Shakespeare"?

How can you add Shakespeare to your argument that you've confined to the last century??

Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
[ Parent ]
I'm Not Sure About Whether Or Not I'm Sarcastic... (none / 0) (#119)
by Canar on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 11:53:44 PM EST

... but how about Ayn Rand? *ducks*

[ Parent ]
Then you should try Jane Aust<i>e</i>n (4.50 / 2) (#88)
by mattbelcher on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 06:38:28 PM EST

She's a much better writer. Her "Emma" is quite good. Jane Austen's style is witty and light, but still goes in depth into a number of important themes. In particular, "Emma" is a touching story about a bright, ambitious, likable young woman who doesn't understand herself at all. If nothing else, young men may find practical value from Austen's novels as a psychological inquiry into the female mind.

[ Parent ]
Submarine Diary (none / 0) (#36)
by n8f8 on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 10:29:05 AM EST

I just finished reading Submarine Diary: The Silent Stalking of Japan . It is the diary of a young officer who was assigned to submarine duty during WWII. From the start the tiny Asiatic fleet was responsible for defending the Asian Pacific from the Japanese onslaught after the Pacific fleet had been decimated at Pearl Harbor. One in five men serving in the submarine force died aboard the fifty-two submarines that were lost during the war.

This book isn't a history book, but a real diary. Fascinating. Kind of like reading Ender's game, but without much thought being given to the people dying aboard the ships being sunk.

Sig: (This will get posted after your comments)

Cliche and trendy? (4.00 / 2) (#37)
by Xcyther on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 10:30:50 AM EST

it may be.. but ive always liked Steven King novels.

"Insydious" -- It's not as bad as you think

Louis L'Amour (none / 0) (#38)
by n8f8 on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 10:55:49 AM EST

If you've never read a good western before I highly recommend Louis L'Amour. If you like SciFi you probably would like L'Amour. Where Sci-Fi many times revolves a story around speculative science, westerns like those written by L'Amour revolve around survival in a savage land. I recommend every book he wrote. There's not a bad one in the bunch(100+).

Sig: (This will get posted after your comments)
Damned straight. (n/t) (none / 0) (#128)
by Korimyr the Rat on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 03:42:15 AM EST

"Specialization is for insects." Robert Heinlein
Founding Member of 'Retarded Monkeys Against the Restriction of Weapons Privileges'
[ Parent ]
A couple (none / 0) (#39)
by DeadBaby on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 11:00:02 AM EST

Anything by Carl Sagan or Stephen Hawking. Reading about real science will make you enjoy good science fiction even more.

"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Carl Sagan
I don't read them much, but some like it (none / 0) (#40)
by speek on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 11:04:50 AM EST

Tom Clancy
Dean R. Koontz
John Grisham(sp?)
Robert Ludlum

...and many other action/adventure stories on the NYTimes Best Seller List. Generally, they really are well-written, entertaining books. Some stuff I have read and liked:

Jonathan Lethem - some of it is sci-fi, but some is not at all. Motherless Brooklyn, for example, is not sci-fi.
Stephen Donaldson recently wrote a non-scifi/fantasy book, called "The Man Who Fought Alone". A detective/marshal arts story. Decent.

And then, there's that big ol' category of "girlie" books (y'know, the stuff Oprah recommends). Some of it is actually very good, and some of it makes me want to kill myself. But, let's see:

Wally Lamb - She's Come Undone (excellent book)
Joyce Carol Oates - very dark writer, very good. Read "Zombie" for something completely wacko.

There's others in this list. I don't read them much but I hear about them all from someone close to me (huh, guess).

And, lastly, there're the comics. Writers like Tom Robbins, etc. Can't say much more about this group cause I don't read it.

what would be cool, is if there was like a bat signal for tombuck -

How about Microserfs... (4.00 / 1) (#41)
by kaemaril on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 11:05:39 AM EST

By Douglas Coupland? I'd have thought a lot of people here might have given it a try ... :)

Why, yes, I am being sarcastic. Why do you ask?

Excellent book (none / 0) (#50)
by whojgalt on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 11:36:50 AM EST

It was very character driven, with little plot, in some ways it reminded me of Catcher in the Rye, though its been so long since I read it that I can't tell you why. It's very interesting to see the love/hate relationship with Microsoft that all the characters have. He had another book called, I think "Generation X" that was also excellent.

If you can't see it from the car, it's not really scenery.
Any code more than six months old was written by an idiot.
[ Parent ]

Also... (none / 0) (#62)
by pjc51 on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 01:15:07 PM EST

'Girlfriend in a Coma' is very good too, although fairly bleak. Apart from Girlfriend..., Microserfs and Generation X, the other Douglas Coupland books aren't particularly impressive, although maybe worth a look if you get a chance - they don't take very long to read.

[ Parent ]
2 good reads (none / 0) (#42)
by mattw on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 11:06:14 AM EST

I read a couple books my wife bought lately. Burger Wuss was one, and the other was Margaret Cho's I'm the One That I Want. Both were entertaining.

I've seen others mention Stephen King, but Horror is like the 3rd leg of SF/Fantasy. And it seems a lot of his books are more Sci-Fi/Fantasy than Horror anyhow. Certainly, you can't call something like The Green Mile Horror -- but since it isn't medieval, it won't qualify as Fantasy.

Crichton and Grisham are my other fiction staples. Crichton had a book or two under pseudonyms before he wrote as Crichton that are worth picking up -- I don't recall his pseudonym offhand, but the book that jumps to mind is A Case of Need, a book centered on abortion before Roe v Wade (with typical Crichton suspense). Of course, some of King's excellent work was done as Richard Bachman. I enjoyed The Long Walk.

I enjoyed The Jury and especially The List, from Steve Martini, and I liked Numbered Account, by Christopher Reich.

If you haven't read them, Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles are pretty good, although many people dislike the 3rd/4th, and spare yourself the pain of buying the 5th, but frankly, I enjoyed Tale of the Body Thief.

Although they'd qualify as fantasy, if you haven't read them, I also highly recommend the Harry Potter books, they're a fun read. (I wouldn't have picked htem up, except I look at Stephen King's reading list in On Writing, and he had every Potter book there.)

[Scrapbooking Supplies]
Anne Rice (none / 0) (#205)
by stipe42 on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 11:52:29 AM EST

The fifth one? I thought Memnoch the Devil was the best of the bunch. Telling the story of the bible from Lucifer's point of view was brilliant, especially in the way that it precisely matches up with the bible (God's version of events), yet paints Lucifer as the one being in the right. Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our point of view.

[ Parent ]
sorry, can't go with it (none / 0) (#220)
by mattw on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 07:35:16 PM EST

I snoozed my way through it, and it felt more like a gimmick than a real effort of exploration. Moreover, the characters seemed subjugated to the gimmick, like paper dolls set up to facilitate it.

[Scrapbooking Supplies]
[ Parent ]
Harry Potter (none / 0) (#238)
by bandy on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 07:57:14 PM EST

Two big thumbs up for Harry Potter from this corner as well. Lots of adults think that they couldn't possibly be worth reading as it's only "kid lit", but I've seen lots of folks change their minds after I cajoled them into reading the first book.
Marlboro: War ich Rindveh bin.
[ Parent ]
Carl Hiaasen (none / 0) (#47)
by King Salamander on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 11:27:01 AM EST

My sister has said very good things about Carl Hiaasen's fiction. His books are very funny and have multi-layered plots. The movie Strip Tease was based on his book of the same name. That is how my sister and parents got interested in his works.


In a very real sense, *anyone* who makes a public issue out of the fact that they are involved with Linux in any way is seen as an advocate. (Derek Glidden)
Some thoughts (5.00 / 1) (#48)
by aphrael on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 11:27:51 AM EST

_The Pillars of the Earth_, by Ken Follett -- a melodrama centering around the construction of a church in twelfth-century england.

Anything by Saramagao.

pillars of the earth (none / 0) (#54)
by majik on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 12:10:17 PM EST

Yes this is about as good as it gets for an entertaining read. This is one of the best stories I've had the pleasure of stumbling upon.

I would also recommend finding a few anthologies of short stories. Granted I really love short stories, but it also gives you a quick intro to new authors.
Funky fried chickens - they're what's for dinner
[ Parent ]
Act of the apostles (4.00 / 1) (#51)
by psychologist on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 11:42:47 AM EST

Yes "Act of the Apostles" by our very own johnny is one of the best books I have ever read. If you want to be thrilled, enthralled, entertained, led along and made to find your way, then read that book.

Johnny is better than Michael Crichton. He published himself, and I simply cannot understand why he has not been snapped up by some big publishing house.

Remember the thrill of "Congo" from Crichton? "Jurrasic Park"? Johnny's book is much better.

If you are planning on buying a book sometime soon, make it Acts of the Apostles. If you regret buying the book, send the bill to me, psychologist, and I will gladly refund the money*.

* This offer does not apply to residents of the United States, Canada, the UK, Africa or Australia.

Definitely (none / 0) (#61)
by pjc51 on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 01:12:41 PM EST

I had no idea that the author was on K5, but Acts Of The Apostles is definitely one that I'd recommend.

[ Parent ]
Have you read many books? (5.00 / 1) (#94)
by delmoi on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 07:15:11 PM EST

Seriously. AoA was OK, but hardly great liturature. It's also SF, which was not asked for in the artical.
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Damning with faint praise (none / 0) (#162)
by ucblockhead on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 02:21:26 PM EST

Better then Crichton? Well, one should hope so, since Crichton is shlocky shit.

As Delmoi said, "Acts of the Apostles" is worth reading, but it isn't one of the greats of American Literature by any means. (Sorry Johnny...I did love the book...but I can't place you up there with Faulkner yet...keep trying!)
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

try nonfiction (2.50 / 2) (#52)
by guyjin on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 12:07:49 PM EST

Look at a few nonfiction books. I read 'The hot zone' a few years back, and it was great.
-- 散弾銃でおうがいして ください
On the action front... (none / 0) (#55)
by undermyne on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 12:15:34 PM EST

All Tom Clancy (except the "op center" series) read in order
Clive Cussler (great books, quick reads) more of a naval theme (not navy, naval)
Dale Brown does a good action for those interested in planes/flight
Jeffery Deavers "Blue Nowhere"

Just a few off the top o the head....

"You're an asshole. You are the greatest troll on this site." Some nullo

Tom Clancy or his ghost written books (none / 0) (#78)
by 8ctavIan on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 02:59:53 PM EST

Which Tom Clancy books should I read, the ones that are actually written by him (whichever those are) or the ones written by the monkeys typing in the back room?

Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice. -- H.L. Mencken
[ Parent ]

can you tell the difference except by date? [nt] (none / 0) (#139)
by Shren on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 08:37:03 AM EST

[ Parent ]
thickness (none / 0) (#203)
by stipe42 on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 11:48:56 AM EST

Tongue in cheek, but honestly you can tell if Clancy wrote it by the length.  If it's one of the ghost written op-center hunks of wreckage, the book will only be about three to four hundred pages long in big type.  Clancy's novels are all at a minimum six hundred pages with very small type.


[ Parent ]

Dale Brown (none / 0) (#198)
by Jacques Chester on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 09:36:10 AM EST

I stopped reading Dale Brown years ago. He's a more techno-toys version of Tom Clancy. You could see his craft improving as he went along, but unfortunately his stories were always "Megadeath IV" things. All about the planes, the bombs, and why America Raaawks.

In a world where an Idea can get you killed, Thinking is the most dangerous act of all.
[ Parent ]
Dogs Days by Daniel Lyons (none / 0) (#56)
by d s oliver h on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 12:32:18 PM EST

I don't know how well-known this book is, but I just happened across it in a library and it's brilliant. It's about a computer programmer so I'm sure it would appeal to a lot of people here, though I'm not a programmer and I liked it. The guy steals a dog from a mafia guy and the mafia guy is going to cut his hands off, it's incredibly tense towards the end. There's a review here.

Last Chace To See... (5.00 / 1) (#58)
by Alias on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 01:04:35 PM EST

Since you mentioned Douglas Adams, I think I should mention the only non-fiction, first-person book Adams ever wrote (to my knowledge): Last Chance To See...

The book recounts a series of trip to various corners of the world, by Adams himself and British biologist Mark Carwardine, to have a look at some of the world's most endangered animal (and a few vegetal) species.

It's a great book, full of Adams-esque humor, on a vital issue. I had a great time reading it.

And no, I was not paid by the author, for quite obvious reasons...

Stéphane "Alias" Gallay -- Damn! My .sig is too lon

Thomas Harris! Black Sunday, Red Dragon, et al (none / 0) (#59)
by ClassicG on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 01:04:37 PM EST

Without a doubt, my favourite non-sci-fi author is Thomas Harris, who is best known for The Silence of the Lambs. He only has four books in total, Black Sunday, Red Dragon, The Silence of the Lambs, and Hannibal, and every single one of his books is worth reading, especially Red Dragon, which remains to date my favourite book of all time.

Black Sunday? (none / 0) (#100)
by LilDebbie on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 08:33:04 PM EST

I heard that was terrible. Tell me, do you recommend it to someone (myself) who's read all the others?

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
A different style than his other books, but yes (none / 0) (#106)
by ClassicG on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 09:13:17 PM EST

It's not at all related to the later books, and it's got a slightly different feel to it at times (a bit like a good Tom Clancy novel), but it's definitely worth reading.

[ Parent ]
Harris (none / 0) (#202)
by stipe42 on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 11:47:12 AM EST

I thought Black Sunday was a really bad novel, a hack imitation of Ludlum.  Silence of the Lambs was overrated, I actually preferred the movie to it.  Hannibal on the other hand I really liked, and in contrast to Silence of the Lambs thought the movie was a waste of time.


[ Parent ]

Get serm Scottish shite inta ya (none / 0) (#60)
by sien on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 01:07:05 PM EST

Ya gotta read some Irvine Welsh. The guy's friggin brilliant.

If yer havnae red any of his stuff it might take ye a wee while te get intae it, but once ya do its fuckin great. It's funny as fuck and goes aen aboot stuff thats actually interesting, like good drugs and shite. Ya ken whatae mean ?

BTW is there a tool on the net that'll scottishize yer text ?

Iain Banks (none / 0) (#67)
by Edgy Loner on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 01:57:34 PM EST

Very Trainspotting.
On that note you might try some of Iain's work. Although maybe better known for his SF work, which is excellent BTW, he also does more convential novels. I've read both Canal Dreams and The Business and found them to be very enjoyable. The SF novels are pblished under the name Iain M. Banks, the mainstream stuff as Iain Banks. He's a Scot to boot.

This is not my beautiful house.
This is not my beautiful knife.
[ Parent ]
Ian Banks (none / 0) (#73)
by sien on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 02:28:09 PM EST

I've read 'The Wasp Factory' that was quite cool but a bit to into being sick. I also read some fantasy sc-fi book of his that left me cold.

But I'll check the others out. Tar.

[ Parent ]

Use of Weapons (none / 0) (#84)
by Edgy Loner on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 05:38:55 PM EST

Pretty much my favorite novel. I haven't read Wasp Factory, I'll have to get a copy. A lot of his stuff is pretty bleak, especially Consider Phlebas and Against a Dark Background.

This is not my beautiful house.
This is not my beautiful knife.
[ Parent ]
More Iain Banks (none / 0) (#107)
by Spooky Possum on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 09:27:50 PM EST

I'd also recommend Espedair Street (the story of a 70s rock star facing up to life after fame) and The Wasp Factory (The story of a strange boy and  the murders he's committed). The later is a little gruesome and that may turn some people off,  although to be honest I enjoy his depraved imagination (unfortunately it hasn't really showed through lately). I enjoyed The Business, but found it rather light-weight compared to some of his other stuff, but still enjoyable. I've also read The Bridge and Whit, but wouldn't call either must-reads, although you're certainly not wasting your time with either.

[ Parent ]
Neal Stephenson (none / 0) (#63)
by ScuzzMonkey on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 01:20:16 PM EST

Although he's primarily thought of as a science-fiction author (although "Cryptonomicon" may have changed that), I think his other fiction falls into what you describe.

He has a style that does not take itself too seriously, which allows him to address serious or interesting issues without dragging the entire book down into the realm of 'seriousness'. I just finished re-reading "The Cobweb" for instance, a contemporary novel about bio-warfare set around the time of the Gulf War. But it's got a lot of funny bits, and it's a real page turner. "Zodiac" is also good, and "Interface" is okay. All of them are pretty absorbing and well-written, without being 'heavy'. "The Big U" is not quite as good but tolerable and fun in places.

"The Cobweb" and "Interface" are written under the pen-name Stephen Bury, incidentally, but it's still Stephenson.
No relation to Happy Monkey (User #5786)

Co-written, I think (none / 0) (#104)
by JWhiton on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 09:03:01 PM EST

I believe that the books published under the name Stephen Bury were written by Stephenson and his uncle.  I'm not 100% sure of that, though.

Personally, I can't wait until he finishes Quicksilver.

[ Parent ]

Cryptonomicon is hard SF/cyberpunk. [n/t] (none / 0) (#110)
by haflinger on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 09:54:57 PM EST

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]
Where's the fiction (none / 0) (#130)
by X3nocide on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 04:27:41 AM EST

Usually theres some sort of "what if," or a technological/scientific breakthrough. All there is in cryptology is stuff thats allready here.

[ Parent ]
Erm, banking? :) (none / 0) (#136)
by haflinger on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 07:59:46 AM EST

SF isn't always about new scientific discoveries, especially hard SF. Cryptonomicon posits some pretty large developments in the banking world.

You should read Dragon's Egg. There's no new science in there, but it's clearly SF.

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]

Well, then, where's the science? :p (n/t) (none / 0) (#146)
by ScuzzMonkey on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 10:54:16 AM EST

No relation to Happy Monkey (User #5786)
[ Parent ]
Didja miss the crypto? :) (none / 0) (#151)
by haflinger on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:30:05 PM EST

Cryptonomicon posits a known technology being used in a new way. If that isn't SF, I dunno what is. :)

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]
New discovery (none / 0) (#153)
by X3nocide on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:26:27 PM EST

Encryption can be used to make stuff secret.

[ Parent ]
New discovery. (none / 0) (#156)
by haflinger on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:35:13 PM EST

Rockets can be used to move things.

How much SF would that dismiss?

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]

I dunno how new that is... (none / 0) (#157)
by ScuzzMonkey on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:35:44 PM EST

Especially since half the novel (or more) is set during World War II and chronicles historical uses of the technology. I see what you're saying, now, but I'll have to think about whether I want to consider that science fiction, or contemporary thriller.

As a thought experiment, do you consider Bond novels to be science fiction? The various gadgets and devices are either known technology used in invented applications or are completely speculative science. Or take some of the more recent spate of mystery or thriller novels that are coming out which feature uses of the Internet in previously unexplored ways... do they remain mystery novels, or are they sci-fi?

No relation to Happy Monkey (User #5786)
[ Parent ]

But ... what is SF? :) (none / 0) (#158)
by haflinger on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:52:03 PM EST

half the novel (or more) is set during World War II and chronicles historical uses of the technology
Yeah. If Cryptonomicon had just consisted of the crazy Marine and his codebreaking buddies, then I'd classify it as a historical thriller.

It's the addition of the banking stuff that brings it over to SF. The book as a whole is discussing the impact of science on a culture. That's classic SF.

Re: Bond novels. I have not read any. However, the Science Fictionary lists quite a few Bond movies in its listings of films, and I agree with it. Bond movies are often campy, sometimes very bad, but often wander into the area of SF, although not hard SF. :) Particularly, I would classify You Only Live Twice, Moonraker, The Man With the Golden Gun, Octopussy, Thunderball and Goldeneye as SF. Probably some others too. I'm not sure about Goldfinger and Dr. No. Some aren't, though; License to Kill - for example - has no SF elements at all.

And on the mystery novels. I read very few mystery stories in general, so I can't say. I like Dashiell Hammett, but he can't qualify for this discussion, I don't think. :)

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]

Yeah, that's the question, isn't it? (none / 0) (#172)
by ScuzzMonkey on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 04:17:15 PM EST

I was hoping it wouldn't come down to the definition of science fiction, since that's not something anyone agrees upon, ever. :)

I suppose what I was getting at was, what element of science do you require in your fiction for it to be science fiction, rather than just fiction? For me, banking does not cut it... because it IS banking that is the difference, and not the cryptography, particularly. The cryptology described exists--was created, in fact, for the book. The fact that it is used in a novel manner (not really all that novel--it's been speculated on elsewhere) doesn't seem sufficient to term it science fiction, to me.

There are any number of books that describe the impact of science on culture that we don't typically (and properly, IMHO) consider science fiction. Does "High Fidelity" veer into SF because it describes how the ability to imprint sound upon vinyl has affected one man's life so deeply? I guess I can't really consider the application or existence of a current technology in a book to singularly define it as sci-fi, even when it's described applied in a way I may not have considered it before--not that "Cryptonomicon" even truly does that.

No relation to Happy Monkey (User #5786)
[ Parent ]

I've never seen High Fidelity. (none / 0) (#201)
by haflinger on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 11:23:03 AM EST

However, isn't it a movie that's about music, really? Like, for example, "Pump Up The Volume." Sure, the ham-radio set is important to the plot of PUTV. But it's (a) not being used in a new way (huh, pirate radio? :) and (b) it's not really what the movie is about.

Cryptonomicon suggests that the technology of cryptography has a built-in tendency to promote a certain kind of social order. Look at "The Difference Engine", by Gibson and Sterling, for a comparison. The Difference Engine is alternate-universe SF. Difference engines are not a new technology; they've actually been built in the real world. However, the book suggests that if they had been introduced on a large scale in the 19th century, when they were originally invented, then a different social order would have resulted. Cryptonomicon is that sort of SF.

Another possible problem with High Fidelity; it sounds as if the technology being featured had a personal impact on one person's life. In SF, the technology always has an impact on whole societies.

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]

The novel, not the movie, but anyway... (none / 0) (#207)
by ScuzzMonkey on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 12:20:20 PM EST

...close enough to the same thing.

"it's (a) not being used in a new way..."

Eh? From when, though? It's certainly new for pre-record player peoples! The point is that the uses of cryptography in "Cryptonomicon" are not necessarily new for everyone, either.

"(b)it's not really what the movie is about."

And I would say you could make this argument even about most science fiction--most science fiction, I would argue, is about contemporary issues, displayed through the mask of the future. And even in SF novels, a personalized impact of a technology is often used to illustrate an impact on the whole of society--just because "High Fidelity" features a central character does not mean he is not representative or is unique. But anyway, what I was trying to point out was that your previous definition of SF ("...the impact of science on a culture.") is somewhat lacking. You didn't say that it had to be new technology, nor could you have, since cryptography certainly isn't.

I'm not sure I have a better definition to propose, but will instead stick with the old 'know it when I see it' standard--and by that token, I'm not prepared to allow "Cryptonomicon" into my list of science fiction novels just yet. :)

No relation to Happy Monkey (User #5786)
[ Parent ]

Wonderin', just wonderin'... (none / 0) (#209)
by haflinger on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 02:09:55 PM EST

Certainly Star Trek is.
most science fiction, I would argue, is about contemporary issues, displayed through the mask of the future.
I'm not sure about other SF though. Okay. I have found a list of all Hugo-winning novels. Hopefully we can agree that the Hugos only go to SF novels. Anyway, I'm going to filter down to the ones I've read.
  • The Mule by Isaac Asimov, 1946

    This is about the idea that one could create a planned society, using mathematics on a large scale to model reactions. I see no contemporary issues.

  • Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein, 1960

    This is a pretty good candidate for your analysis, I think. It's about why war is a good thing, and morally uplifting. (Okay, I hate the book. I admit it. :)

  • Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein, 1962

    I am not sure what Heinlein was precisely thinking about when he wrote this book. It's certainly not what the hippie movement thought when they read it. But I'm not quite sure what Stranger is about, even when I read it now. It's fun though.

  • Dune by Frank Herbert, 1966

    This is a half-way bang-on book for your point. On the one hand, it's about ecology, a modern issue. On the other, it's about, well, the problems of running an aristocratic society based on psychoactive drugs, not a modern issue. :)

  • Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner, 1969

    This is actually my least favourite of Brunner's major books (although I did quite like it; I'm a huge Brunner fan, as my handle here might suggest to other huge Brunner fans :) --- I think it probably qualifies for the contemporary issues brigade, though, as do most Brunner novels (with some fabulous exceptions, like The Traveller in Black)

  • Ringworld by Larry Niven, 1971

    I doubt whether there are any social issues really raised in this book. It's really just a silly romp around, with some mind-blowing engineering concepts tossed out.

  • The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov, 1973

    I think this is Asimov's best book, and probably one of the ten or so best books of the 20th century. And part of the reason why is that the issues it deals with transcend the whole contemporary/futuristic dichotomy: that is, it talks about the problems of bringing in technology to humanity, and how it should be done.

  • The Forever War by Joe Haldeman, 1976

    Another winner for the contemporary issues brigade. A book about the problems of war winning an American award in 1976? What could it possibly be referring to? :)

  • Gateway by Frederik Pohl, 1978

    Wacky ideas, but nothing contemporary that I can see.

  • Foundation's Edge by Isaac Asimov, 1983

    The eventual destiny of the human race is not a contemporary issue. :) See my comments on the Mule.

  • Neuromancer by William Gibson, 1985

    Gibson claimed at one point that Neuromancer is about advertising. Well, it's more than just that; but the Sprawl stories in general I think function as dire-warning dystopic books, like Stand on Zanzibar, and so qualify pretty directly for the brigade.

  • Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, 1986

    This is a pretty abstract novel. I don't think it touches directly on any major social issues. It's more interested in psychology, I think.

  • Green Mars, 1994 and Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson, 1997

    I wish Red Mars had made it; in many ways, it's the best of the three. Certainly it's the hardest: the science gets wackier as the series progresses.

    Anyway, that aside. The Robinson Mars trilogy is quite interesting; I suggest it combines the two forms, future society & modern commentary. In a way, it's like a harder version of Dune.

So anyway, the point is that I think that a lot of SF fits into the Star Trek category, but probably not most. There's the abstract stuff, like Ender's Game and The Gods Themselves, the fluff, and the genuinely futuristic stuff, like the Foundation books, too.

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]
Oh, man... (none / 0) (#211)
by ScuzzMonkey on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 05:09:54 PM EST

As much as I'd like to, I don't have time to go down and address the list point by point at the moment. Instead, I'll throw in my objections to a few of your evaluations and possibly come back and hit the rest later. :)

"The Mule" and the Foundation Trilogy do share as a central tenet the predictability of man to mathematical formulas. But I think that is clearly an extrapolation of a very common contemporary trend toward mathematical analysis of human behavior. 'Scientific' polling, psychology, game theory... all Asimov is doing is extrapolating a society based on the ultimate functioning of those contemporary trends. I think those are both excellent examples of what I was talking about.

At the other end of the spectrum, "The Gods Themselves", dealing with, as you put it, 'the problems in bringing technology to humanity'. Not an extrapolation, but rather an age-old problem, one that has always existed and always will. I do not feel that its timelessness excludes it from being relevant contemporary commentary... it's as much an issue of 'the now' as it is of the future.

"Ender's Game" clearly extrapolates future consequences of global population growth, and examines the growing application of game technology to military training uses, and envisions the effects this has on how future soldiers are recruited and trained.

The rest, I either haven't read, agree with you on, or can't readily formulate a decent objection to. I'm full willing to stipulate that not all SF fits this pattern; I'm merely asserting that most of it does, intentionally or not, even if merely because the author's writing is necessarily a mirror of the times in which he lives and the cultural limits of imagination that we all hold to some greater or lesser degree. Verne (unfortunately never a Hugo candidate--price of being one of the first in your field, I guess ;) ) envisioned some spectacular things, but if you read his novels, you can readily see the imprint of the times in which he lived. It may not be as obvious to us today, but looking back from a hundred years hence, I would wager that most of our more contemporary SF will look the same way.

No relation to Happy Monkey (User #5786)
[ Parent ]

Let's focus on The Gods Themselves & Foundatio (none / 0) (#222)
by haflinger on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 09:08:40 PM EST

I've read them several (okay, probably hundreds of) times, and you seem to have a pretty good grasp of them. (You also seem to have a pretty good grasp of Ender's Game, but I read an old girlfriend's copy of it once; I'm going for strong common ground. Asimov I discovered when I was a preteen, and you can guess what I was like then :)

Okay. All writing shows the time in which it was written, timeless or otherwise. When I read Shakespeare, I do not wonder if he is a modern author. However, I'd argue that at least some of his work is timeless, in terms of its themes. Sure, Richard III is pretty pointless today, except as a way to convince Sir Olivier to make fun of himself for 161 minutes. But plays like A Midsummer Night's Dream, while obviously not being written for a 20th-century audience, have applicability to modern society.

But that aside. I guess we're coming down to what is probably a semantic difference. It's possible (to drift genres for the moment) to view Lord of the Rings as Tolkien's commentary on the decline of English culture, and for some elements of the story, that's clearly what it is. But it also clearly transcends that; it talks about control, and what kinds of control and centralization should be acceptable in society, as well as a multitude of other, smaller themes.

This subthread, BTW, has inspired me into posting a story to Radio Free Tomorrow. Head over there, vote it up. :) It's in the edit queue right now, but of course that only lasts a little while.

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]

I'll head over there, then (none / 0) (#227)
by ScuzzMonkey on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 10:57:32 AM EST

As we're dangerously off-topic here already. :)
No relation to Happy Monkey (User #5786)
[ Parent ]
some recs (none / 0) (#64)
by dTaylorSingletary on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 01:24:01 PM EST

My comments here were removed with the last round, so I'll repeat a lot of the same recommendations as they are all unclassifiable as SF.

In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan. I can think of no better novella or work of fiction in the universe. Follows a nameless narrator, told in simple, colorful prose, opening infinite layers of metaphorical meaning and never quite giving the whole game away. The charcters mostly all live at a place called iDEATH, where rivers run all over the place, through the sky, on the ground. They make all of their dreams come alive using Watermelon Sugar and Trout Oil. There used to be tigers, who ate the narrator's parents, taught him maths, and had the most lovely singing voices. But there is something nasty in the Forgotten Works, and inBOIL and his gang are trying to start some trouble...

Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle. Though PKD is often lumped into the SF category, he doesn't hold into the genre very easily. This is easily not an SF book, but a complex what-if literary novel of large proportions. Also recommend VALIS if you are into mystical philosophy.

Franz Kafka's The Trial I've seen mentioned belowed. Highly recommended, as are all of his short stories (especially the Burrow). I'd also recommend one of his German precursors, Robert Walser and his book of short stories, The Walk and his novel Jakob von Guten.

Tom Robbins' Still Life with Woodpecker and Skinny Legs and All both hold up after years of being released. Skinny Legs offering many good insights into the current situations in the middle east, as well as just being fun.

d. Taylor Singletary, reality technician
music: http://techra.elephantus.com

The Trial (possible spoiler ahead) (none / 0) (#65)
by nusuth on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 01:48:07 PM EST

The Turkish translation ends right in the middle of the book. The ending is shocking anyway but when it happens in the middle rather than when you expect it to finish makes it much more powerful. I wish all books end that way. (blah blah blah blah -The End- Now 120 pages of behind the desk extras, which you won't find interesting but hides where the book ends quite well.)

[ Parent ]
some good reads (4.00 / 1) (#66)
by dazzle on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 01:56:14 PM EST

'Name of the Rose' by Umberto Eco - a book to be taken on many different levels

'Perdido Street Station' by China Mieville - not quite fantasy, not quite horror, not quite sci-fi, not quite gothic; somewhere inbetween

'Vurt' / 'Pollen' / 'Nymphomation' by Jeff Noon - loose trilogy, sci-fi but warped

'The Land of Laughs' by Jonathan Carroll - fairytales for adults is the best description

'101 Reykjavic' by Hallgrimur Helgason - 30 something slacker not doing very much in Iceland; addictive

'The Glass Bead Game' by Hermann Hesse - my favourite all time book ever

'Death In Venice and other stories' by Thomas Mann - exquisite short stories

'Closer' by Dennis Cooper - fucked up lives living in fucked up families

'The Dice Man' by Luke Reinhart - a man who lives his life by the roll of a dice

'Tropic Of Cancer' by Henry Miller - sheer brilliance written down

'Ghost Written' by David Mitchell - just one of the most perfect novels written in recent years

I could go on and on and on....

the internet: a global network of small minded people

Miller (none / 0) (#123)
by bobjim on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:30:23 AM EST

Henry Miller is one of my favourite authors (although I still haven't read the Nexus, Sexus, Plexus series because all the bookshops and libraries I've tried never have the first one, which seems odd). If you don't immediately warm to Tropic of Cancer, try Quiet Days in Clichy. It's much, much shorter and not quite so angry.

Anais Nin can be entertaining (and not just her erotica). If you're into Miller, Henry and June is a good (if completely inaccurate) view of the man.
"I know your type quite well. Physically weak and intellectually stunted. Full of resentment against women." - Medham, talking about me.
[ Parent ]

How about (none / 0) (#68)
by unshaven on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 02:15:17 PM EST

  • White Teeth by Zadie Smith
  • The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead
  • Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins (his latest Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates is good, too)
  • The P. G. Wodehouse Jeeves books are great
  • Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
  • Word Freak by Stephen Fatsis -- I haven't read this in its entirety, but I glanced at a couple pages in a book store and just kept reading for a while.  Seemed really good (anyone read it)?
  • God of Small Things by Arundathi Roy

"I think we found a way to put the fun back in sin." -- Sleater-Kinney
Why read novels? (5.00 / 1) (#69)
by GGardner on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 02:19:57 PM EST

If you are looking for reading material for short sessions, why not try short stories instead of novels?  By their nature, they are easier to pick up, read to completion, and put down.

There's lots of short story collections in many genres outside of SF which are fun, escapist reading.

Hmmmm... (none / 0) (#70)
by ragabr on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 02:23:17 PM EST

I recently finished reading both Ancient Evenings by Norman Mailer and The Western Lands by William Burroughs. They were both fantastic, though I do suggest reading them in that order. Not necessary, but it helps a bit.

Masks of the Illuminati was R.A.W.'s best book, in my opinion, but it's out of print. Set in early 20th century Austria (I think that's the country) and starring Albert Einstein and James Joyce. Definitely a great read.

And my tongue would be made of chocolate. Mmmmm. Chocolate.
Exactly how much light fun do you want? (5.00 / 1) (#71)
by nusuth on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 02:24:48 PM EST

For blood, gore, spydom and bizarre sex, I would have recommended Kosinski novels. Too bad he didn't write any. Stay away from Being There at all costs. But he (or the real writers) rarely has a story with the exception of Pinball, Painted Bird and Being There; the books move from scene to scene without anything really tying them. Miller also have interesting things to say about sex.

Following is a random list of a few authors without any really bad novels I'm aware of, but they are not exactly Clancy type fun. They demand some concentration; far less than Crime and Punishment, but they do demand some. Also the stories are not action type, but they are not Joyce-boring *shrugs* either.

Calvino is very entertaining, but I can't say any of his books is a masterpiece. Zweig is probably most fun of the rest. He has somewhat fast moving story lines but those lines also tend to be sad. Kundera is also very good at both making a point and keeping a story together. Ten years ago, when I was a newage-wannabe Hesse made a lot of sense, but I suspect that it would now. For some strange reason, Sartre is the only existentialist writer I enjoy. Camus is not too bad either and he is possibly a better novel writer from an objective POW.

If you can devote some time remembering what were you reading before picking up, I can recommend Eco and Pamuk. The Black Book by Pamuk reads exactly at the pace of Pendulum of Foucault, which is measured in pages per week.

Your story made me realize for how long I haven't read anything but science fiction. I hope to it gets posted so I can pick a few recommendations by k5 to stop the "SF or surf the net" stupidity of mine.

Non-SF (4.50 / 4) (#72)
by ucblockhead on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 02:27:10 PM EST

I'm partial to Nick Hornby myself. High Fidelity is his most famous, though About a Boy and How to be Good are equally good.

And I hesitate to recommend Fight Club, since it seems that every geek's read it, but hey, I liked it...his other books are a bit repetitive of the same themes, though.

I'm currently reading Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister which despite what you might think, seems to be a historical, not fantasy (His Wicked is clearly fantasy.) It might be to serious for you, though.

That's about it...I'm not much into escapist novels...when I am, I read Pratchett or something. I've lots of other non-SF to recommend, but they're "serious". Though it is hard to tell, because there's plenty that is easy to read but also serious. ("Catch-22", anything by Vonnegut (though he's really SF even if no one says so.))

(It was just a couple days ago that I was reading someone who talked about the distinction between "funny" and "serious". (Pratchett, I think, or maybe Gaiman.) As he said, the opposite of "funny" is not "serious". The opposite of "funny" is "not funny" and the opposite of "serious" is "not serious". Something can be both serious and funny. Hornby's books go in that category, for instance.)
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup

+1 For High-Fidelity (none / 0) (#118)
by bsletten on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 11:47:06 PM EST

Just another vote for this excellent book.

[ Parent ]
Some suggestions (4.50 / 2) (#74)
by cr8dle2grave on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 02:40:05 PM EST

First off, don't dismiss the older stuff that gets read by literature students. Most of it really isn't headache inducing highbrow 'serious' literature. People continue to read, for instance, Jane Austen or E.M. Forrester because they are very good writers.

I'd suggest going even further back into the annals of literary history. I first read Boccaccio's Decameron when I was around 16 and I absolutely loved it and, if you happen to like that, give Chaucer's Canturbury Tales a spin. Both books are not so much novels, in the modern sense, as they are collections of short stories strung together by a meta-narrative which provides the occasion for various characters to tell their stories. I guarantee you'll be surprised and delighted by their lewd humor and decidedly unpious character. The late medieval period was not nearly as stuffy as most people believe. In this same vein, you should also read Cervantes' Don Quixote.

Moving on, I'd highly recommend Diderot's Jaques the Fatalist. Like the Demcameron and Canturbury Tales it is a meta-narrative enveloping various characters personal stories, but it is more unitary and singular -- it is, properly speaking, a novel in the modern sense of the word. The personal reveries thematically relate to one another and contribute to the books central theme of free will and determinism. This is a wildly entertaining and profoundly thoughtful book by one the western world's most original and sophisticated minds.

Give Alexander Dumas a try. He is the great granddaddy of escapist fiction and his books are just plain fun. You might also give Balzac a whirl. His writing is simply fantastic -- if a little long winded -- and his great genius is an uncanny ability to create and depict an amazing psychological depth in his characters. I'd suggest his collection of short stories, The Droll Stories, as good place to start. And speaking of short stories, by all means, read the short stories of Chekhov and Edgar Allen Poe.

As for more modern stuff, pick up a copy of Hemmingway's collected short stories and if like them give one of his novels a try. I'd suggest For Whom the Bell Tolls, which is about the Spanish Civil War and is a profound meditation on the nature heroism and human savagery.

If you are at all interested in the period of English history between WWI and WWII read Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, a coming of age story set in the era of a waning aristocratic culture.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a noble prize winner, is absolutely wonderful. A Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera are two of my favorite novels of all time.

I'd also suggest Milan Kundera. His later stuff is decidedly more 'intellectual' (while remaining very readable), but his earlier works such as The Joke, Life is Elsewhere, and The Farewell Party are more accessible and still very insightful. If you're at all interested in Eastern Europe during the Cold War era give Kundera a try.

I've found a lot of people who are into hard core science fiction (the stuff heavy on the science) really enjoy Umberto Eco. Eco's novels are incredibly dense and really manage to immerse you in a foreign world of ideas and culture. The Name of Rose manages to convey more about Medieval theology and the monastic life than most textbooks on the subject. Foucault's Pendulum does the same for world of hermetic mysticism and masonic conspiracies.

You might also give Salmon Rushdie a try. I've found that the first hundred pages of his books can be a little disorienting and you'll often find yourself wondering what in the world is going on, but if you persevere it all comes together and begins to make sense. Of all of his books The Moor's Last Sigh is my favorite.

Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera

James Clavell (5.00 / 1) (#75)
by Ruidh on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 02:40:11 PM EST

I rather enjoyed his series of books on the interaction between Asian cultures and Western culture.  I felt as if I had something of an insight into Asian culture after reading them.

Shogun -- 17th C. Japan
Tai-Pan -- 19th C. Hong Kong
Gai-Jin -- 19th C. Japan
King Rat -- WWII Japanese Prison Camp
Noble House -- 1960's Hong Kong

Also Aztec and Aztec Autumn by Gary Jennings (hmmm, I see he has a third volume out, Aztec Blood.  I haven't read it yet, so I can't recommend it.)  for a similar view of the interaction between the Spaniards and the Aztecs.

All of these have enough sex and violence to drag you through all that boring history.  ;^)
"Laissez-faire is a French term commonly interpreted by Conservatives to mean 'lazy fairy,' which is the belief that if governments are lazy enough, the Good Fairy will come down from heaven and do all their work for them."

Whirlwind (none / 0) (#210)
by johnny appleseid on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 04:30:34 PM EST

You won't find Whirlwind in book stores anymore (actually, I think there's a short bastardized version of it, don't remember what it's called), but it is also part of The Asian Saga. It takes place in 1979 Afghanistan, which makes it more than a little relevant. It was his second-to-last book, before Gai-Jin. He had issues with the publisher I believe, and that's why you can only get it on ebay or at your local used book store.

Since James Clavell died several years ago, The Asian Saga is a set six books; there will be no more. There's no reason not to own them all. They're wonderful.

[ Parent ]

Iran, actually. (none / 0) (#212)
by Ruidh on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 05:27:24 PM EST

During the fall of the Shah when the hostages were taken at the US Embassy.  

I remember reading it, but didn't care for it as much as the Far East books.  You're right, it dosn't seem to be in print anymore.  I certainly do have the others on my bookshelf and I've read each one at least twice.
"Laissez-faire is a French term commonly interpreted by Conservatives to mean 'lazy fairy,' which is the belief that if governments are lazy enough, the Good Fairy will come down from heaven and do all their work for them."
[ Parent ]

yes, you're right of course (none / 0) (#218)
by johnny appleseid on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 06:46:03 PM EST

I don't know why I wrote Afghanistan.

[ Parent ]
Haruki Murakami (5.00 / 1) (#76)
by trener on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 02:43:10 PM EST

I'd recommend virtually any book by Murakami, but I think my favorites are:

Norwegian Wood,
South of the Border, West of the Sun, and
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles

If I had to choose one, I'd recommend Norwegian Wood. It's a simple story, quite understated, but.. it was a fantastic read. I'm going to just swipe some random guy's amazon.com review, because it pretty much sums things up:

If someone had tried to tell me what this book was "about" I never would have read it. And don't ask me what it is about. It is not a love story. It is not simply a story about the hole loved ones leave when they are gone. It is not a story about mental illness, not really anyway. It is incredibly well written, riveting, funny sad and worth the time.

It's about all of those things, and at the same time, it's not. It's one of those books that really transcends description - not because it's too complicated to describe, or too strange (read some of Murakami's other works, and you'll see how truly this applies to him), but just because the description doesn't do the book justice.

Murakami (none / 0) (#124)
by bobjim on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:47:23 AM EST

I was thinking about Norweigan Wood when I got to this comment (of course, I couldn't actually remember the title...). It's possibly the most beautiful book I've ever read.

That is all.
"I know your type quite well. Physically weak and intellectually stunted. Full of resentment against women." - Medham, talking about me.
[ Parent ]

interesting (none / 0) (#133)
by tps12 on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 06:31:58 AM EST

I was surprised you didn't mention Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. Granted, it is a little science-fiction-y, but almost everyone I know who's read Murakami finds it his best, or one of his best, in any case.

[ Parent ]
Haruki Murakami (none / 0) (#173)
by charleskerr on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 04:17:36 PM EST

...was my first thought, but it since he's already been mentioned, I'll chime in with a MeToo. After a small starter book like Norwegian Wood, make sure to read Wind-Up Bird Chronicles.

The only other place I've talked about this author is on a music mailing list I'm on, where the topic had drifted to summer reading lists. As soon as I mentioned Murakami, a handful of people chimed in agreement. Odd how people find these authors...

[ Parent ]

idm mailing list? (none / 0) (#179)
by trener on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 05:16:57 PM EST

i seem to remember him coming up on that list, a little while ago..


wind-up bird is a great book, too.. the thing i love about it is that it sort of blindsides you with it's transition into weird. the first half of the book is mostly pretty normal; about a guy, his cat, his wife, etc.. it's got some crazy characters, but nothing too out of the ordinary. there's a point about halfway through the book, though, (fairly abrupt, to me at least) where you have no choice but to shake your head, laugh, and throw 'normal' out the window.

[ Parent ]
A couple of my non SF/Fantasy picks (none / 0) (#77)
by Xeriar on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 02:58:14 PM EST

My favorite Tom Clancy book is probably Red Storm Rising. It's not a part of any particular 'series', and is based on an actual early 1980's wargame.

I was forced through a lot of crap in 9th-12th grade, but To Kill a Mockingbird was also a pretty good book.

When I'm feeling blue, I start breathing again.

Red Storm Rising is just horrible (none / 0) (#80)
by Homburg on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 03:33:33 PM EST

What is it you like about Red Storm rising? The wargame influence is so obvious, Clancy might as well have replaced the descriptive passages with 'the d20s clattered to the table-top as Jack aimed his machine gun at another ee-vil Ruskie'.

Maybe I've missed something, 'cos I do usually quite like Clancy (despite the fact that he's a fascist who can't write - and I do mean fascist in the technical sense, I'm not just throwing it out as an insult). Red Storm Rising didn't seem particularly more realistic or plausible than any of his other books, and has much less of the cloak-and-dagger tension that makes them such fun.

[ Parent ]

Not horrible, just different (none / 0) (#81)
by JoshKnorr on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 03:54:59 PM EST

The great thing I felt about Red Storm Rising was that it was all over the map. It really tried encompass the full scale and scope of what a full bore, no-holds-barred, massive conventional war between NATO and the Warsaw Pact would have been like. He tries to cover the political, strategic, and tactical levels all at once - the execution may not have been perfect, but high marks for ambition.

I've never liked Clancy when he was doing cloak-and-dagger stuff as when he's being an unapologetic grognard/military science buff. His attention to detail and love for the subject shines through more than when he's doing the spy stuff which just never felt as good or polished.

[ Parent ]

Ambitious failure vs. Lazy success (5.00 / 1) (#83)
by Homburg on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 04:48:25 PM EST

Thanks, you've explained that very well. I dislike Red Storm Rising precisely because it's so ambitious and so flawed. Also, Clancy's obsessive military buff side strikes me as a bit creepy, so that was another strike against the book. But now I can see how someone coming at the book from a different angle could find what I thought were crucial flaws as at worst minor imperfections, maybe even attractions.

[ Parent ]
Nicholson Baker + resection. (none / 0) (#79)
by jeduthun on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 03:00:07 PM EST

Shouldn't this be under "Ask Kuro5hin?"

That said, I highly recommend Nicholson Baker's novels, especially The Mezzanine and Room Temperature.

Baker's work tends to be very different ... for instance, I'll spoil the plot of The Mezzanine for you: A man goes up an escalator. That's it. The entire book takes place in his mind during the ride, and over half the text is footnotes. It's fun to read, too -- the way the narrator associates things and digresses is simply fascinating.

My picks (3.00 / 1) (#82)
by hamsterboy on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 04:42:23 PM EST

Kane and Abel by Jeffrey Archer. Read this one, and then block out two or three months to read all of his other stuff.

Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott (as A. Square) is arguably SF/fantasy, but a classic all the same. I'm looking forward to reading Flatterland, by Ian Stewart.

Robert Ludlum is good for an action fix. I just finished The Bourne Identity, and I'm hooked.

For some dry, in-depth, non-fiction brain steak:

The Social Life of Information by John Seeley Brown et al

Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community by Robert D. Putnam.

I'm trying to avoid repeats of stuff I've seen elsewhere in this thread; otherwise, this list would be about 100 items long.


Somebody covered this over a google answers (4.00 / 3) (#85)
by zhiwenchong on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 05:56:08 PM EST

Question goes:
Hi! I would like to learn what are the best books to read in a life time. maybe a selection of classics. a list (or lists) of 10-20 books according to experts. thanks.
Here is the link

1. Random House lists the 100 best nonfiction and fiction books from the view of its board as well as from a public poll.
2.The American Library Association lists 100 best books for teenagers.
3. Guardian Unlimited of the United Kingdom has its own list of the 100 best.
4. Very nice list from the Hungry Mind Review, but I'd add Dr Zhivago
by Pasternak as one of them.
5.Interesting list by Barnes and Noble of the top 100 based on sales
6. By Book Magazine, this is great....a list of 100 best characters
and the related books.
7. My favorite list by Radcliffe Publishing

Although there are many other lists, this should give you a great idea
for a reading library.

The Book-of-the-Month club and the Library of Congress conducted a
survey in 1991 for the most influencial books in people's lives.  Here
you can find the result: http://www.loc.gov/loc/cfbook/bklists.html

It should be pointed out.. (5.00 / 1) (#99)
by Ni on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 08:26:43 PM EST

That, while you obviously meant well, this is exactly what the author of the article said he didn't want.

<mrgoat> I can't believe I just got a cyber-handjob from ni.
[ Parent ]
lists (4.50 / 2) (#141)
by oska on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 08:53:35 AM EST

wow, some of those lists you linked to are absolute crap - commercially minded or like the hungry minds list, too american biased

here's the top 6 books from the radcliffe list

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
6. Ulysses by James Joyce

ok, 2 books which are sentimental rubbish - mockingbird and colur purple - are placed above ulysses - and catcher in the rye which maybe should make the young adults top 100 certainly does not deserve a place in the top 100 of the century

the only list i've come across which has some real insight behind it is the list at the end of the western canon, by harold bloom

[ Parent ]

My English teacher was right (none / 0) (#89)
by mattbelcher on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 06:44:31 PM EST

I'm sure to get flamed for some of these, since they are sometimes required reading in school, and I rebelled against all that the same as anyone. I find though, on re-reading them with my presently more mature mind, they are actually quite good. Here are some that I have a new appreciation for:
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • Emma by Jane Austen
For a much more recent choice, read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by David Eggers.

James Clavell (5.00 / 1) (#91)
by lewiz on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 07:05:35 PM EST

  This is actually the first time I've posted a comment to any article on k5 - although I've been reading regularly for a little over three months now.  Anyhow, that's beside the point ;)

  I have been reading some of James Clavell's novels.  They relate mainly to China and the Japans (at least, the ones I'm about to mention) and have a gripping story and excellent continuity between each book.

  In order of when they are set they go: Shogun, Tai-Pan, Gai-Jin, King Rat and Noble House.  I have a feeling there is another after that but I can't recall now because I'm currently reading Noble House ;)  Shogun is probably my favorite so far, although King Rat (which is slightly off the general story going on in the other novels) is a close second.  Almost all of these novels have been made into films or dramatised for television and I would urge everybody to give them a chance!
  Not only do they have excellent stories but they also provide an excellent way of looking at different customs and have given me a totally different understanding of Japanese culture.  Of course - not all traits can be taken for gospel but in general most stuff he writes is sound, although names of important people in many of the books are changed.

  I also especially like Michael Crichton and would suggest you read Jurassic Park (if you've not already - it's lots better than the film), Timeline and Disclosure.  All are excellent books and I reckon that Timeline will be made into a film some time - it's relatively new - maybe two or three years old now.

  Hope this is maybe some help :)

`On this page you see a little girl giggling at a hippopotamus; I wonder why?'

Command of the language (5.00 / 1) (#92)
by borful on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 07:11:37 PM EST

If ever there was a writer with command of the English language, it was P.G. Wodehouse. English drawing room comedy, usually set before the war. Jeeves and Wooster are the place to start.

Detective fiction is usually fun and easy. For funny, you can't beat Donald Westlake, but Hiaasen may be matching the old master. I also like the characters in Robert Parker's Spenser series. It's more of the tough guy, understated style.

Clancy and Crichton are usually safe bets; with Clancy, I've found that the older the book, the better. Crichton has some lesser known stuff that is pretty good: The Great Train Robbery is my favorite.

Someone already mentioned Hot Zone by Richard Preston. I also recommend this; it's about an Ebola outbreak in the US, and is non-fiction. Very scary.

- Kevin
Money is how people with no talent keep score.

Only scary for monkeys. -NT- (none / 0) (#103)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 08:37:00 PM EST

NT means No Text.

[ Parent ]
Saki (none / 0) (#199)
by mr nutter on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 10:34:02 AM EST

If you like Wodehouse, try the work produced by H.H. Munro under the pen-name "Saki". It runs in a very similar vein but possibly even more acidic :)

My other recommendations would have to be E.M. Forster (especially A Passage To India) and something I've just finished: the "Molesworth" books by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle(illus.). A satirical account of publick skool life written in a sort of mispelt pidgin english which takes pot shots at topics from the brutality of the Soviet Union to the horrors of Uncles to great comic effect.

[ Parent ]

P.G. Wodehouse--Seconded (none / 0) (#235)
by epepke on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 09:35:10 PM EST

If you want to know why Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, and to some extent Connie Willis and Neil Gaiman write the way they do, the answer is Wodehouse.

He isn't exactly contemporary, but he wrote so much stuff that it will take you a while to get through it all.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
Eric Ambler. (none / 0) (#97)
by Apuleius on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 07:36:42 PM EST

The template for the early Amblers: a guy who has led a quiet life finds himself entangled with lowlives doing something that may or may not have major geopolitical consequences, and now has to figure out how the hell to stay alive. Not much action in the books, but a lot of realism and some good reasons to give a damn about the protegonist. I like'em.

There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
Vonnegut (none / 0) (#98)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 07:43:32 PM EST

Read Kurt Vonnegut. I would recommend first reading "Cat's Cradle", then "Slaughterhouse Five", and then find more.

"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."

most definitely (none / 0) (#101)
by tralfamadore on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 08:33:07 PM EST

add "breakfast of champions" and "sirens of titan" for the best.

[ Parent ]
and don't forget... (none / 0) (#113)
by BludPoot on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 10:39:25 PM EST

...Galopogos and even his more recent stuff like Hocus Pocus and TimeQuake.

[ Parent ]
Timequake is the worst possible intro to Vonnegut (none / 0) (#132)
by nusuth on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 06:19:29 AM EST

But Hocus Pocus, Mother Night and Galapagos are just brilliant. I would recommend reading them in that order for anyone not familiar with Vonnegut. I would call that route "mainstreamish literature introduction to Vonnegut", alternative might be an "SFish introduction" with Player Piano, Sirens of Titan and Cat's Cradle, again, in that order.

Anyway, unless you want people not to like Vonnegut, don't suggest reading Timequake, Bagombo(sp?) Snuff Box or Breakfast of Champions to someone who has never read any Vonegut before; not that they are bad (except Snuff Box) but they are too weird.

[ Parent ]

/me nod (none / 0) (#114)
by Fuzzwah on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 10:39:27 PM EST

Breakfast of Champions is brilliant. Strange and twisted yes, but brilliant none the less.

The best a human can do is to pick a delusion that helps him get through the day. - God's Debris
[ Parent ]

Cat's Cradle (none / 0) (#126)
by bobjim on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:54:28 AM EST

I hated Cat's Cradle. Most books I read, I either like or don't react to in any way. Heck, I even read some Ayn Rand without throwing it across the room. Cat's Cradle was different. I could not stand it. It just seemed pointless, boring, implausible and seemed to say "This book is written by a clever and witty author", at every possible point.

Slaughterhouse 5 is ok, although its central point does become wearying after a while (Yes, Kurt, we know, War Is Bad... now please stop telling us over and over again.)

Maybe it's just me.
"I know your type quite well. Physically weak and intellectually stunted. Full of resentment against women." - Medham, talking about me.
[ Parent ]

Contemporary non-SF fiction (none / 0) (#102)
by LilDebbie on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 08:36:16 PM EST

If you have the stomach for brutal, yet well-written horror fiction, I highly recommend Poppy Z. Brite. She's a beautifully descriptive writer who can give life to such unlikely scenes. However, it is rather brutal so if you aren't into that stuff, don't read her.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

My favorite authors and their works... (none / 0) (#105)
by merkri on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 09:12:11 PM EST

My favorite authors?

(1) Winston Churchill. I got hooked on Churchill after reading his memoirs of WWI, The World Crisis. It was amazing, a comprehensive history of the first world war told through memoir. Churchill had a way of brilliantly relating personal stories, political memoir, millitary history, and general history altogether at once. I've also read through The Second World War. I believe hundreds of years from now Churchill's works will be looked back on in the same way that we now see something like The History of the Peloponnesian War.

(2) Saul Bellow. Bellow really resonates with me in a big way. It's difficult to describe Bellow's work, but there is a general theme running through most of his pieces: individuals striving to maintain a sense of the sacred, the profound, amid the absurdity of modern life. His works seem to capture that angst associated with whether or not it is possible to be truly aware or contributive when you're bombarded by superficial nonsense--e.g., the tension between trying to contemplate the meaning of life and dealing with that catchy toothpaste commercial jingle that keeps running through your head. The great thing about Bellow is that usually he treats this theme in comic fashion, so the books are rather uplifting. Then again, maybe pop culture has been elevated so much by now, maybe we've embraced the absurdity of modern life so much, that Bellow is irrelevant. I don't think so, but I'm sure many might. Some of my favorite works by Bellow are Humboldt's Gift and The Adventures of Augie March.

(3). Pynchon. Really, there's only one work of his--Gravity's Rainbow--that I'm particularly enamored with, and even that I'm painfully ambivalent about. GR is difficult, abstruse, and often leaves you wondering whether or not it's worth reading. However, it's also one of the most rewarding, complex, and layered reads I've had in some time--comparable, I'd argue, to something like The Divine Comedy. The plot is difficult to explain, but it loosely centers around members of a British military intelligence paranormal research group during WWII, who are investigating why a certain officer's sexual escapades predict the locations of V2 rocket landings. It interweaves profound statements on life, WWII history, paranoid conspiracy theory, and african and germanic myth all through beautiful, iconoclastic prose and complex symbolism. It's an amusing, wonderful book. If you read it, though, prepare to struggle with its value, and get a concordance or something--otherwise you probably will miss a lot of it.

pynchon's gravity's rainbow (none / 0) (#138)
by oska on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 08:35:15 AM EST

GR is difficult, abstruse, and often leaves you wondering whether or not it's worth reading.

...all through beautiful, iconoclastic prose and complex symbolism.

and that's why it's worth reading - the prose that every once and a while leaps off the page and hits you between the eyes with it's freshness and strange beauty - not to mention often very funny

finally, GR makes a great warm up to finnegans wake - GR is a kid's reading primer compared to finnegans wake, but then finnegans wake is the ne plus ultra in beautiful prose and also amazingly funny

[ Parent ]
Churchill (none / 0) (#165)
by stipe42 on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 03:15:55 PM EST

I agree with you about Churchill, he is an incredible writer of history.  I also recommend his four volume "History of the English Speaking Peoples" which is just as approachable and enlightening as the works you cited.

I remember one passage in particular describing a nobleman brought before the king on charges of arson for burning down a monestary near his lands.  When confronted with the charges and evidence, the nobleman denied none of it and simply said "I thought that the archbishop was inside the monestary at the time."  The king summarily pardoned him.  A dozen pages of description and quotes could not have illuminated as well the conflict between the Catholic church and the Monarchy during that period.

That is one of Churchill's greatest strengths is finding anecdotes to illustrate points.


[ Parent ]

John Le Carre and Patrick O'Brian (none / 0) (#109)
by tudlio on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 09:35:02 PM EST

For spy novels, I like anything by John Le Carre. I finished The Constant Gardner not so long ago and highly recommend it. It's an indictment in literary form of the activities of multinational pharmaceutical corporations in the third world.

For other escapist fiction, I loved the Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian. I've read the entire series of twenty-odd books three times, and look forward to doing so again. Jack Aubrey is a captain in the Royal Navy during the Napoleanic wars, and Stephen Maturin is his close friend, a surgeon and secret agent. O'Brian can spend a chapter on describing a shipboard dinner and still leave you wanting more.

insert self-deprecatory humor here
Good Mysteries (none / 0) (#111)
by dmcnaught on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 10:12:36 PM EST

The Sherlock Holmes stories, by Arthur Conan Doyle.

The Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, by Dorothy Sayers.

More good mysteries (none / 0) (#159)
by jet_silver on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 02:06:56 PM EST

The Nero Wolfe series by Rex Stout; nearly anything by Nicolas Freeling (but it's worth reading them sequentially since Flanders Sky and A Dwarf Kingdom are very stripped-down and difficult to follow at first). The Van der Valk series is easier to begin with. The Jury / Plant series by Marsha Grimes. The Aurelio Zen series by Michael Dibdin. The Kramer series by James McClure. The Travis McGee series by John McDonald, though I believe most are out of print. (McDonald was a precursor of Hiaasen and Randy Wayne White, and I guess they prove him right since Florida is awfully over-developed and cynical about it.) The Mendoza series by Dell Shannon. The Kate Shugak series by Diana (sp?) Stabenow (the Liam Campbell books have been dull, though).

"What they really fear is machine-gunning politicians becoming a popular sport, like skate-boarding." -Nicolas Freeling
[ Parent ]

I scribble, I post (none / 0) (#112)
by thirstyfish on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 10:26:01 PM EST

I'll avoid the long list and revert to a sort of diary entry here, what's current.

Was looking for Nabikov's 'Lolita' (read everything else by him), but apparrently it's banned at the public lib. Found Sam Delany's 'Dhalgren' instead. Ya, strange how a books reputation factors into it being censored. Dhalgren is fairly explicit, but a good read although for this discussion, it's in the SF genre.

Will be starting up DeLillo's 'The Body Artist' this evening, copyright 2001 and I've never heard of it. Hopefully it's better than 'Underworld', however, it's possible that it's simply awful. 'Mao II', 'White Noise', and others from that period think are his best works.

Also been going through a book on management called 'Execution'. Not too bad.

oh wait, you wanted FUN
On that list, with some certainty, is 'Sick Puppy' by Carl Hiaasen. It's a hoot! Definitely going to read more from this guy.

Yay (none / 0) (#122)
by Josh A on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:09:06 AM EST

I thought The Body Artist was excellent, although it was somewhat different from White Noise.

Let me suggest John Fante's Ask The Dust, only because I read that at the same time I was reading the DeLillo books.

I also think anything by David Leavitt is fantastic+delicious. He wrote, among other things, Lost Language of Cranes, Arkansas, and Family Dancing.

Thank God for Canada, if only because they annoy the Republicans so much. – Blarney

[ Parent ]
John Fante is a good one - kinda historical in a (none / 0) (#127)
by thirstyfish on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 02:39:17 AM EST

kinda historical in a way, time place, 'hop-heads' kinda stuff, maybe before the beats?

'Ask the Dust' was suggested to me when I mentioned that I was going to read some Bukowski.

[ Parent ]

'Lolita' not porn (none / 0) (#131)
by dazzle on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 05:12:05 AM EST

'Was looking for Nabikov's 'Lolita' (read everything else by him), but apparrently it's banned at the public lib.'

Banned? Still?

If you like 'Lolita' then try 'The End of Alice' by A.M. Homes - similar themes

the internet: a global network of small minded people

[ Parent ]
the theme is unimportant, plus some clarifications (none / 0) (#186)
by thirstyfish on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 07:48:47 PM EST

Once I find an author that I like, I try to read everything I can by him/her. I haven't read the book, and have no idea whether I like it or not.

I guess the word "banned" or "censored" is inaccurate, haven't been able to check the catalog - the computer there is down, but I suspect that in this conservative town they decided not to include 'Lolita' on the shelves solely due to its reputation. This is what strikes me as odd - not that the book is pornography, but that it would cause a majority of people here to gather up torches and pitchforks and do the angry villagers routine.

[ Parent ]

ok (none / 0) (#194)
by dazzle on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 04:20:19 AM EST

Probably because of the knee jerk reaction to the themes of child abuse which the media has whipped up in recent times.

Strange though that there would be a torches and pitchforks atititude though when books aren't really bothered about so much now, all moralising is kept for films and tv.

the internet: a global network of small minded people

[ Parent ]
Banned Books (none / 0) (#143)
by booyeah451 on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 09:38:11 AM EST

How do you know that books are banned at your public library? Maybe they just don't carry it...

[ Parent ]
They have lists. (n/t) (none / 0) (#150)
by Korimyr the Rat on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:22:35 PM EST

"Specialization is for insects." Robert Heinlein
Founding Member of 'Retarded Monkeys Against the Restriction of Weapons Privileges'
[ Parent ]
I thought that was only in communist countries..nt (none / 0) (#188)
by booyeah451 on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 08:47:07 PM EST

[ Parent ]
"Banned Books" week (none / 0) (#216)
by ucblockhead on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 06:29:28 PM EST

The list of "Banned Books" lists the public libraries put out are very misleading. The list all books that people demanded be banned, not all the books that were actually banned.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
The irony of Lolita (none / 0) (#183)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 06:14:27 PM EST

It's truly unfortunate that Lolita is still subject to being banned -- not that it's not unfortunate that any book is banned -- as many a reader seeking to satisfy a prurient curiosity has been 'turned on' to one of the finest authors writing in the english language.

Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera

[ Parent ]
Wilbur Smith (none / 0) (#115)
by digdogger on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 10:50:02 PM EST

Try Wilbur Smith. He's a pretty prolific writer that writes about pirates/adventures on the high seas. It's pretty easy to jump right into these, and the action is usually pretty riveting. Start with 'Birds of Prey', and follow up with 'Monsoon'.

Good reading (4.00 / 1) (#116)
by Polverone on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 10:52:19 PM EST

I loved Michael Chabon's "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay." It was very easy and enjoyable to read, not at all a strain on the old bean. I will second the recommendation given elsewhere of Katherine Dunn's "Geek Love."

I've yet to read a bad book by Cormac McCarthy, but his style of writing isn't quite so easily digestible. Try some of Ray Bradbury's non-SF works, "Dandelion Wine" f'rinstance.

Joseph Heller's "Catch-22" is excellent if you enjoy satire. So is much of Kurt Vonnegut's work. I especially enjoyed "Player Piano," even more so than "The Sirens of Titan" or "Breakfast of Champions." His best known book, Slaughterhouse-5, is sometimes called a book "about the firebombing of Dresden," but it's not, for the most part.

I thought "The Joy Luck Club" was quite good, although it's past its peak of popularity now. You can read it as a short story collection if you like.

I don't much care for Tom Clancy, though I admit I've only tried a couple of his books. I think what he should really do is write a big list to Santa Claus about all the military hardware he wishes he got to play with. Then he can publish the list and other people can go "yeah! I think nuclear aircraft carriers are cool too!"
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.

Fun stuff (none / 0) (#117)
by zipper on Mon Aug 05, 2002 at 11:03:21 PM EST

"TEAM RODENT: How Disney Devours the World", by Carl Hiaasen

"Disney is so good at being good that it manifests an evil;" Hiaasen writes, "so uniformly efficient and courteous, so dependably clean and conscientious, so unfailingly entertaining that it's unreal, and therefore is an agent of pure wickedness...Disney isn't in the business of exploiting Natures so much as striving to improve on it, constantly fine-tuning God's work." here

Hunter S. Thompson.... I don't know, I'm a big fan of his, my two favorites are probably The Curse of Lono and The Rum Diary ... Thompson in Hawaii and Puerto Rico respectively... The Rum Diary is early Thompson, formative years, if you will... it's good stuff.

This account has been neutered by rusty and can no longer rate or post comments. Way to go fearless leader!

Alain De Botton and Dark-Twisted Novel Cookbooks (none / 0) (#120)
by bsletten on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:29:16 AM EST

One of my favorite authors is on the underappreciated side. His name is Alain de Botton. Although he tends to write about romance, understand this: he is a geek at heart. His attention to detail when it comes to relationships and falling into and out of love is remarkable. Not only will you probably find yourself nodding at the experiences, feelings and reactions of his characters, you'll probably find yourself understanding your own actions a little bit better too.

Of his "romance" books ("Kiss and Tell", "The Romantic Movement" and "On Love"), just pick one. Each has something to offer. He has a largeness of intellect and narrowness of interests (apologies to Louis Menand) but there is a complexity to what he tackles and he gets out of what might otherwise seem a rut. If you enjoy his novels, try out "How Proust Can Change Your Life" for a fun interpretation of Marcel's work.

If you have a dark side and an interest in food, I would recommend John Lanchester's "A Debt to Pleasure". It can get a little dense in places but is, on the whole, a refreshing, clever read that will make you hungry. It is part novel, part cookbook.

"The Debt to Pleasure" (none / 0) (#121)
by bsletten on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 12:38:49 AM EST

Sorry, typo.

[ Parent ]
Feynman! (5.00 / 1) (#125)
by bjlhct on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:48:21 AM EST

Feynman, Feynman, and Feynman.

Also, Don Quixote and Remembrance of Things Past.
"Sometimes a cheroot is just a cheroot." -Jung, in Pilgrim

John Irving (4.00 / 1) (#135)
by SlashDread on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 07:33:07 AM EST

Best modern Ussian Author I know.

Be damn sure to read:
- The World according to Garp (even IF you saw the movie)
- Cider House Rules (even IF you saw the movie)
- A Widow for one Year (Plays in Amsterdam mostly!)
- All the others.

Huggups, /Dread

Don't Forget (none / 0) (#189)
by MeowChow on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 08:51:08 PM EST

A Prayer for Owen Meany

[ Parent ]
It's Usian! ONE S! (none / 0) (#204)
by Shren on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 11:49:32 AM EST

If you're going to use the oft disliked abbreviation Usian, at least spell it right! *grin*

[ Parent ]
Horatio Hornblower (none / 0) (#140)
by richieb on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 08:51:47 AM EST

I've read the entire "Horatio Hornblower" series by C.S. Forester. The books were a blast to read - lots of adventure and suspense, along with technical details of life in the British Navy at the end of 18th century. Here is a link to a description of these books.

It is a good day to code.

Some books I've enjoyed (none / 0) (#142)
by jig on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 09:28:50 AM EST

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay
Billy Bathgate by E. L. Doctorow
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Jig by Campbell Armstrong (guess where my handle comes from?)

And the short stories by Edgar Allen Poe, especially The Premature Burial.

And none of you stand so tall
Pink moon gonna get ye all

Jonathan Coe (none / 0) (#144)
by xiox on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 10:11:00 AM EST

"What a Carve Up!" and "The House of Sleep" are excellent books.

As the Guardian says:

What a Carve-Up! - witty, politically angry, fantastically plotted and quietly moving - made his name; the follow-up The House of Sleep continued his personal themes of transformation and confusion, but dropped the political engagement and was less satisfying.

Also I'd try some Salman Rusdie. I found "The Ground Beneath Her Feet" very good, but others didn't like that one. "Midnight's Children" is excellent.

Nick Cave: And the Ass Saw the Angel (none / 0) (#145)
by Vs on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 10:33:37 AM EST

Hey, we don't want anything mainstream, don't we? :-)

Although this book resides in my memory on the plus-side, I distinctly remember something like having hot needles plugged under my finger nails from time to time, especially as I'm a NNR (non-native reader).

You should like Cave's morbidness, though. "Murder Ballads" would be the a good soundtrack for this book.
Where are the immoderate submissions?

Where to find this book? (none / 0) (#206)
by kisielk on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 12:07:16 PM EST

I am a big fan of Nick Cave's music, owning several albums, but I have never read any of his books. I've been looking for this one at the libraries here and on the web. Do you know where I could order it? Somewhere that is in Canada would be preferable. I was unable to find this book on Chapters or Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.com lists it as out of print. Any help would be appreciated, I would really like to find this book.

Talk, talk, it's only talk. Arguments, agreements, advice, answers, articulate announcements. It's all just talk."
- Elephant Talk, King Crimson

[ Parent ]
abebooks.de (none / 0) (#213)
by Vs on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 05:30:09 PM EST

Try e.g. www.abebooks.de. Although it`s German, it lists 21 hits, mostly in the US.
Where are the immoderate submissions?
[ Parent ]
My 2 cents... (none / 0) (#148)
by poopi on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 11:31:49 AM EST

...for pure escapist fluff you can try some Alexander Dumas. I'd start with The Count of Monte Cristo (The recent film did this book an injustice) and of course there is the Three Musketeers series (Three Musketeers, 10 years after, Man in the Iron Mask).

For non-fiction I just read Michael Pollan's Botany of Desire - a great book on the co-evolution of man and plant from the perspective of the Apple, Tulip, Marijuana and the Potato.

If you're a tech geek (then you've probably read it) Free as In Freedom a bio of Richard M Stallman (FSF, GNU, GPL).

Also a great little read (for the non-mathematician) Fermat's Last Theorem: Unlocking the Secret of an Ancient Mathematical Problem by Amir D. Aczel - a great historical perspective on one of the greatest mathematical achievements in recent history and a glimpse into the lives of professional mathematicians.


"It's always nice to see USA set the edgy standards. First for freedom, then for the police state." - chimera

Try Tom Sharpe (none / 0) (#154)
by gcmillwood on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:27:07 PM EST

As long as you don't mind the thoroughly politically incorrect, I would recommend almost anything by Tom Sharpe.  Almost invariably hilarious, these are possibly the first books which had me laughing out loud in bed.

'Wilt' follows the story of a college lecturer, Henry Wilt, when he gets falsely accused of murder.  The inspector investigating the case manages to keep making things worse, and Henry doesn't make things easy for anyone.  Henry's wife meanwhile is somehow dragged into a lesbian relationship without even noticing.  There are a couple of sequels to this which I have not yet bought.

'Indecent Exposure' and 'Riotous Assembly' are set in South Africa, and follow Kommandant van Heerden and his mentally unstable sidekick Konstable Els.  The first book deals with the death of Lady Hazlestone's Zulu cook Fivepence, the subsequent investigation by the police force, and climaxes with a far too realistic re-enactment of a famous battle, within the confines of a mental hospital.  These books are not recommended to those who are overly sensitive to racial discrimination - the books feature some exceedingly bigoted characters, not because they are deliberately racist, but because they just don't know any better.

Every Tom Sharpe book I have read has some pretty explicit sexual material which somehow manages to be entirely unsexy.  I think Mr. Sharpe manages to cover everything from rubber fetishes through to electric shocks in one book or another.  This just adds to the sense of absurdity that already pervades every page.

If'n you don't mind reading plays... (none / 0) (#155)
by randinah on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 01:30:54 PM EST

I would recommend John Guare. Six Degrees of Separation is absolutely hilarious, and brilliant.

Also, The House of Blue Leaves by the same author is quite good.

"Why waste time learning when ignorance is instantaneous?"
Good Reading (none / 0) (#161)
by protobob on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 02:19:17 PM EST

Italo Calvino: "Cosmicomics" (excerpt), "The Baron in the Trees"

Both these books are whimsical, enjoyable reads. "Cosmicomics" takes science as a stepping stone and then jumps into the deep end. "The Baron in the Trees" details the life of a boy who, not like being told what to eat by his parents, climbs into the trees and vows never to touch the ground again.

Solzhenitsyn: "The First Circle," "Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch"

Both of these works of fiction are based on Solzhenitsyn's experiences in the Stalin era prison camps. "The First Circle" is about technically minded prisoners who must choose between aiding the authorities in research, or returning to the much harsher camp system. "Day in the Life" details a single, typical day in the life of a prison camp worker in gritty detail.

Walker Percy: "The Second Coming," "Lost in the Cosmos" (excerpt)

These works are heavily psychological. "The Seconding Coming" is a novel about a man who, while playing golf, discovers a lost childhood memory about his father's suicide. "Lost in the Cosmos," billed as 'The Last Self Help Book' is a fun introduction to Percy's ideas about modern man (we are all existentialists, we just don't know it), language and sex. It even starts off with a quiz!

Solzhenitsyn (none / 0) (#164)
by stipe42 on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 03:06:41 PM EST

I found Solzhenitsyn's nonfiction more engaging than his fiction. 'The Gulag Archipelago' is a nonfiction account told from varying perspectives of the history of the communist purges from the twenties up into the fifties. To me, it was a better read than many novels out there. stipe42

[ Parent ]
I had the opposite reaction (none / 0) (#167)
by protobob on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 03:20:19 PM EST

I read the first volume of "Gulag," but I didn't enjoy it as much as his fiction. I will have to give it another go sometime. However, I do enjoy some of his other non-fiction, including the autobiographical memoir "The Oak and the Calf," and his 1978 Harvard speech, "A World Split Apart" (etext)."

[ Parent ]
Most engaging of all: (none / 0) (#174)
by spcmanspiff on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 04:27:11 PM EST

His short stories. (for me at least).

I'm not at home so I can't give title/etc of the anthology, but everything in it was a gem.


[ Parent ]

read this now (none / 0) (#166)
by AgentGray on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 03:19:13 PM EST


Er, that's fantasy (none / 0) (#168)
by tlhf on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 03:28:02 PM EST

From the story: "What are your favourite non-SF/Fantasy novels?"

Redwall, if I remember correctly, is about little mice who do battle with some evil rats. Which kinda excludes it from this discussion. I don't want to sound to harsh, but it's comments like these which make reading Kuro5hin a chore.


[ Parent ]

it might be fantasy to you... (none / 0) (#177)
by AgentGray on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 05:01:45 PM EST

...but it was pure escapist for me.


[ Parent ]
was it escapist for you in 6th grade? (none / 0) (#191)
by persimmon on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 01:20:07 AM EST

Because I tried reading a couple the summer after I graduated high school, and "Sa-la-man-da-ston" songs and recluses with hearts of gold and sweet cheery mousemaids in hobbit-knockoff settings caused me to return the entire set to my ex prematurely. I remember _everyone_ except me reading Redwall books when I was in middle school, but, come to think of it, everyone was reading Xanth and Phaze/Proton then, too.
So There.
[ Parent ]
Probably posting this too late... (none / 0) (#169)
by blixco on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 03:33:03 PM EST

....but the best book I have read recently is one that I tell everyone to go read, and so far all I've heard back are "I just bought four more copies." It's a book called Youth in Revolt. Don't let the sheer size throw you; I read it in one afternoon / night, and most people polish it off in two days (I was just very, very crazy about it). It's one of the most intelligent funny books I've ever read, without challenging *too* much. It's the story of a 14 year old boy, as told through his journals. Excellent stuff.

Not carried in most bookstores (it's self published now), and thankfully it has a sequel. Here's the website for the author (it's named after the lead character in the book).
The root of the problem has been isolated.

Historical Fiction is a personal favourite (none / 0) (#170)
by hatshepsut on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 03:46:14 PM EST

Some of my favourites:

Anything by Guy Gavriel Kay (The Fionavar Tapestry series is Fantasy, but his other books are historical fiction, with some liberties taken). He is one of my favourite authors.

Anything by Pauline Gedge (ancient Egypt, primarily).

Margaret George specializes in fake memoirs and autobiographies (Cleopatra, Mary Queen of Scots, Henry VIII, etc.). These are definitely fun reads, while being reasonably well researched.

I sometimes even read non-fiction, just for fun (science related: Gleick, Hawking, Feynman; biographies and some other stuff).

Off the top of my head... (none / 0) (#171)
by CarryTheZero on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 04:11:30 PM EST

Raymond Chandler: great 50's noir detective stories set in L.A. To start with, try The Long Goodbye or The Big Sleep.

Haruki Murakami: some other people have mentioned him already. Surreal, beautiful stories that are somehow both dense and compulsively readable. My favorite is The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, with Norwegian Wood a close second.

Mark Leyner: this is some of the funniest shit I have ever read. Totally bizarre, packed with pop-culture references, and absolutely hilarious. Read The Tetherballs of Bougainville first: the protagonist/narrator wears nothing but a pair of skintight leather pants throughout the book.

You said I'd wake up dead drunk / alone in the park / I called you a liar / but how right you were
iTunes users: want to download album artwork automatically? Now you can.

a few (none / 0) (#175)
by calimehtar on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 04:30:19 PM EST

The Grapes of Wrath and others by Steinbeck. While Steinbeck qualifies as 'great', he also writes readable, entertaining, and relevant books. I can't think of any author who writes such interesting subjects in such an accessible manner.

I'm also a fan of war novels. The Eagle has Landed by Jack Higgins stands out, as does The Great Escape by Paul Brickell.

One I Enjoyed (none / 0) (#176)
by armagideon on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 04:39:52 PM EST

Even more then I thought I would, I really enjoyed Blackhawk Down, by Mark Dowden. I'm also going to submit a vote for the Hunter S. Thompson books, they're absolutely hilarious.

want an enjoyable read? (none / 0) (#178)
by Burning Straw Man on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 05:10:40 PM EST

Roald Dahl. too bad it's the late Roald Dahl (1916-1990), but he left us with quite a few great, great reads. some fiction, some autobiography, nearly all of them great reads.

on the autobiographical side, "Going Solo" is absolutely a simply enjoyable read. easy style, flowing story of Roald as a Shell Oil employee in east africa, and then as a RAF fighter pilot in WW2.

on the fiction side, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", "James and the Giant Peach", and "The World According to Garp" are his most famous, but all are mostly considered as children's stories. but he also wrote quite a lot of good short stories for adult audiences, too, some are contained in The Best of Roald Dahl at amazon, among others.

in any case, check out your local public library and have a great summer.
your straw man is on fire...

wow i'm an idiot -- bad link description (none / 0) (#180)
by Burning Straw Man on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 05:18:50 PM EST

that link is to barnes and noble, apologies for being an idiot.
your straw man is on fire...
[ Parent ]
dahl wrote a garp book? (5.00 / 1) (#185)
by speek on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 07:24:01 PM EST

Wow, cause John Irving did one with that same exact title...

what would be cool, is if there was like a bat signal for tombuck - [ Parent ]

sometimes i surprise myself (none / 0) (#200)
by Burning Straw Man on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 10:35:02 AM EST

with the level of stupidity i can reach.
your straw man is on fire...
[ Parent ]
Yes, but... (5.00 / 1) (#215)
by ucblockhead on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 06:27:12 PM EST

Imagining "The World According to Garp" written in the style of Roald Dahl is damn amusing!
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
I thought so too (none / 0) (#226)
by speek on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 08:49:15 AM EST

That's why I actually googled, hoping I'd find such a beast.

what would be cool, is if there was like a bat signal for tombuck - [ Parent ]

Some fun, some funny, some not (none / 0) (#181)
by shindigo on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 05:23:11 PM EST

I second Steinbeck - particulary "Cannery Row" and "Sweet Thursday".

How about Woody Allen?  - "Without Feathers", "Getting Even" and "Side Effects".

How about Phillip Roth?  A cool and funny book about America's Pasttime (Baseball that is) "The Great American Novel" ... and speaking of sex... you could also check out "Portnoy's Complaint"

My all time favorite wacky novel is "A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole.  It'll be interesting to see what the geeks think of this geek and of the story of the book being published.

Not a novel or fiction, but how 'bout "The Letters of Mozart and his Family" - these folks wrote letters constantly and had a great sense of humor.

Poetry - e.e. cummings, the man who wrote:

"a politician is an arse upon
which everyone has sat except a man"

try out the collection "100 poems".

In the "not SF, not a novel, not fiction and not funny at all" category there's William L Shirer's "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich".  I read this in little bits jumping around from section to section.  Great insight into how one person can be the prime force behind a World War.


Meanwhile, in the black impenetrable void, Jean-Paul Sartre was a-movin' and a-groovin' - Crow

Dave Barry (none / 0) (#182)
by ctor on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 05:43:41 PM EST

If you want a good laugh, it's tough to go wrong with anything by Dave Barry.

Dortumunder (none / 0) (#184)
by charleskerr on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 06:34:50 PM EST

Donald Westlake's Dortmunder books are short, screwball-comedy books about Dortmunder, a small-time crook in NYC whose luck runs from bad to worse.

My favorites were The Hot Rock (the first one), Jimmy the Kid, and Bank Shot.

Nelson DeMille (none / 0) (#187)
by kentm on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 07:53:42 PM EST

I didn't see Nelson DeMille mentioned yet. He is one of my favorite fiction authors. Once I start reading one of his books, I have trouble stopping. Sleep be damned!

I would comfortably recommend anything he's written, but to start you off, here are my 2 favorites:

  • Word of Honor - Ben Tyson's platoon committed an atrocity in Vietnam, and now 20 years later, the story comes out, and he is being charged.
  • The Gold Coast - The story of a Lawyer living on the Gold Coast who is drawn into a Mafia don's world. This novel has less action than DeMille's other works, but I think it may be his best. If I hadn't loaned it out, I'd re-read it now that I'm thinking about it!

I find that DeMille's characters are cynical and funny and yet very poignant. I'll be laughing out loud at their comments or behaviours, but later, I'll by crying a river.

Thriller stylists (none / 0) (#197)
by johnny on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 08:55:21 AM EST

I like Nelson DeMille a lot, although I think he's coasting lately. I have read The Charm School, The Gold Coast, The General's Daughter, and Plum Island. I liked The Gold Coast the most, and by a wide margin. I think it's just brilliant, and it is both dark & depressing and laugh=out loud funny. Plum Island, on the other hand, has such a weak hackneyed ending that I nearly stopped reading five pages from the end. It was a big disappointment.

In writing my own thriller I tried to emulate DeMille more than any other thriller writer. Actually I think most thrillers suck: they have plot, but no interesting characters and generally atrocious prose. DeMille scores well on the plot and prose, but sometimes his characters are cardboard.

yr frn,
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
[ Parent ]

Plum Island (none / 0) (#219)
by kentm on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 07:16:21 PM EST

Hmmm, you could be right.  The fact that I can't remember how Plum Island ends probably isn't a great sign.  :)

But "Lion's Game" has the same main character as Plum Island, and I really enjoyed it.  (I actually read it before reading Plum Island.)

I'm eagerly awaiting the release of his new book in paperback so I can read it.  Hopefully its a good one!

btw, is The General's Daughter a good book?  I've stayed away from it because I didn't like the movie.  Is it worth reading?

[ Parent ]

a few good books (none / 0) (#190)
by jefu on Tue Aug 06, 2002 at 11:04:22 PM EST

I've read enough to know that there can be no "greatest book" list - books are good at a time and place that works for you and your interests.  Since you and your interests change, the books you find good will as well.

That said, I'd like to second the recommendations made for Tom Sharpe, Pynchon, Carl Hiassen (though the ex-governor with a fetish for roadkill can get to be a bit much), "The God of Small Things" (and others).  

But a few more notes - if you're going to read Pynchon, I'd recommend starting with "The Crying of Lot 49" - a much more approachable book than "Gravity's Rainbow".  Then do "GR".

Gabriel Garcia Marques' "100 Years of Solitude" is also a wonderful read.

Dan Simmons (probably better known as an SF writer has written some good horror), but I think his masterwork to date is "Song of Kali" - give it a try. Its one of the few novels I've read recently that made me pause and go "ick".

You were probably force fed the stuff in high school, but give Dickens a try too - you might find that your opinion has changed a bit (mine did). "David Copperfield" is probably his easiest read, but his later works are more rewarding with rereading.

Finally, I've recently found William Gaddis to be a quite interesting author - his books are not easy to read, but they are very funny once you get past the surface difficulty.  A good place to start is "A Frolic of His Own".  

Sinclar Lewis (none / 0) (#192)
by cashrefundman on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 02:01:07 AM EST

Really great novels are universal. As relevant today as when they were written.

It Can't Happen Here is the story of a fascism and the corporate state coming to America. The ending is like Brazil ( the film). Is it a dream?

Elmer Gantry Is about two people and the power and business of religion.

One that is hard to find that I really enjoyed is Gideon Planish. This is the story of the charity racket.

Others are worthwhile too, particularly Arrowsmith and Babbit and the short stories. Have a look.

Not fiction but good (none / 0) (#193)
by jesush on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 03:20:33 AM EST

The Forgotten Soldier by Guy Sayer - experiences of a german soldier on Eastern Front
Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond
Caesar and Christ by Will Durant

Popular science:
Anything by Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman

Ok, some fiction as well:
The Bridge on The Drina by Ivo Andric

The List of The Books (5.00 / 1) (#208)
by yooden on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 12:20:52 PM EST

Douglas Adams - Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
Douglas Adams - The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul
Less silly than the Guide but not less funny.

Richard Adams - Watership Down
So it is Fantasy, but certainly not the Elves & Hobbits kind of Fantasy. Adams manages to make believable characters from bunnies without antropomorphizing them. It's also suspenseful adventure story.

James Ellroy - L.A. Confidential
If you know the movie, you know about half the book. This is a very dark, very noir crime story set in L.A. around 1950. Do also read his White Jazz, The Black Dahlia and The Big Nowhere. If you like the genre, don't miss Frank Miller's Sin City series (see below).

Gert Ledig - Vergeltung
Gert Ledig - Die Stalinorgel
Vergeltung is a very, very bleak description of an allied air raid an a German town in WWII. Die Stalinorgel is about a day on the eastern front.

Frank Miller - The Dark Knight Returns
One of the two most praised graphic novels in history, this is worth it.

Frank Miller - Sin City Series
A graphical masterpiece - Miller uses only black and white (no gray) and is still able to tell colorful stories. These are noir crime stories like from Ellroy above, but more graphic (ha!) and more stylish. Start with the first, Sin City, though That Yellow Bastard is the best.

Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons - Watchmen
Another highly praised graphic novel, and just as good.

Patrick Süskind - Das Parfüm
This not only a thrilling story of a serial killer, but also a text about odors. This has the best crafted language of this list.

Bill Watterson - The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes
Bill Watterson - The Indispensible Calvin and Hobbes
Bill Watterson - The Essential Calvin and Hobbes
Just read them.

Yann/Conrad - Les Innommables
Very violent, very funny story about a group of friends in 1949's Hong Kong mixing up with chinese spies, british un-nobles and local scum.

Das Parfüm (none / 0) (#214)
by ucblockhead on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 06:25:36 PM EST

When you say "best crafted language", are you referring to the original text or the English translation?

(I thought it was good (the translation) but didn't find the language to be exceptionally crafted.)
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Das Parf&uuml;m (none / 0) (#225)
by yooden on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 04:57:04 AM EST

The original. I usually dig story-driven books, but Süskind can do more than this. Die Taube has no story to speak of and is a great read.

[ Parent ]
german (none / 0) (#229)
by ucblockhead on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 11:58:53 AM EST

Unfortunately, my German's not good enough for a real novel. :(
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
great 20th century fiction, my favs anyway... (none / 0) (#217)
by jimjamjoh on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 06:45:44 PM EST

  • Lolita -- Nabokov
  • Galapagos -- Vonnegut
  • A Clockwork Oragnge -- Burgess
  • One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovitch -- Solzhenitsyn
  • Catch-22 -- Heller

Ivan Denisovitch? (none / 0) (#236)
by thither on Tue Aug 13, 2002 at 07:27:15 AM EST

Wait a sec, I like Solzhenitsyn too, but would you honestly read One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovitch for fun? I'd put Tolstoy in there, though—Anna Karenina, say, is a really good read, surprisingly nimble and engaging for its length.

[ Parent ]
The Man Who Was Thursday (4.00 / 1) (#221)
by ape descendant on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 07:48:51 PM EST

The Man Who Was Thursday, by G.K. Chesterton, is a zany detective story about a "philosophical policeman" who infiltrates an organization of anarchists. It's fairly short, and very quotable. "Thieves respect property. They merely wish the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it."

The Man Who Was Thursday (none / 0) (#230)
by stipe42 on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 11:59:40 AM EST

Whoa, I had no idea that was a real book. It is quoted extensively in the game Deus Ex but I had assumed that it was made up.

[ Parent ]
Mish-mash (none / 0) (#224)
by TresOkies on Wed Aug 07, 2002 at 11:51:27 PM EST

OK, I'll take the literal meaning of the title and list books that I found fun...

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. I can't describe how much it made me laugh. We've all met Ignatius Reilly, the principal character, at one time or another in our lives.

The Tony Hillerman books are some of my favorite fiction. They are about a couple of policemen on the Navajo nation in Arizona. They have a lot of interesting bits about the Navajo culture and the stories are well-written.

I've enjoyed every one of the Gabriel Garcia Marquez books I have read, but I have to single out 100 Years of Solitude as the best of the lot. It is a fun read if you can just disassociate yourself from reality.

If you like baseball, you have to read Ball Four by Jim Bouton. It was written back when baseball players didn't talk about what went on away from the playing field. It's actually quite funny and I read it every March just to get psyched for the season.

Try I, the Jury by Mickey Spillane and then try some of the other Mike Hammer novels. Of course, you can't go wrong reading Raymond Chandler. If you want a fun hard-boiled detective, read the Levine books by Andrew Bergman. Unfortunately, most are out of print now, but you can get them if you look a little.

I've read two of the Carl Hiassen novels, including the one with the ex-governor, and I enjoyed them enough to keep him on my "peruse" list when I go to the MegaBookChain store.

I enjoy James Morrows' novels. They are funny in a blasphemous sort of way. Sometimes he is put in SF and some times in fiction. Bible Stories for Adults will entertain you if you are someone who doesn't take The Christian Bible too literally.

Can you call Tom Clancy "fun"? Most of his books, pre-1997, are good although his characters are pretty wooden. Bear and the Dragon is actually painful to read. Red Storm Rising does not have his Jack Ryan character but it's a good read (yes, I saw the previous thread). Of the Jack Ryan series, Cardinal of the Kremlin and Clear and Present Danger are my favorites.

I'm a history buff, so geek history titles like The Code Book by Simon Singh are enjoyable. If you are in to ciphering, The CodeBreakers by David Kahn is a must (don't buy the paperback, it's abridged).

The subtle difference (none / 0) (#231)
by X3nocide on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 02:00:29 PM EST

is that encryption allready existed when Mr. Stephenson adopted that technology to his book. Jules Verne on the otherhand did not have the luxery of Cape Carnavel for inspiration. Otherwise, the movie Apollo 13 was a sci fi.

Try Martin Amis (none / 0) (#232)
by lights on Thu Aug 08, 2002 at 05:57:50 PM EST

Several of his novels are very british so I don't know how well they'd translate to a US reader, but I'd still recommend reading "London Fields", "Money" and/or "Success". "Time's Arrow" messes with your head, and "Dead Babies" is downright weird. His "Einstein's Monsters" is a collection of short stories that may be more accessible. I found "The Information" slightly disappointing compared to his other work, but YMMV. "Night Train" is interesting, too. Amis is basically a brilliant writer with a real flair for descriptive writing, strong plots and silly names.

On a completely different tack, P. J. O'Rourke is always a fine and entertaining read - "All the Trouble In the World" is particularly good.

A couple of other people have recommended Hunter S. Thompson and I'd have to agree - he is one hell of a fine writer. "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" is just spectacular, and "Hell's Angels" intriguing (although according to Sonny Barger's autobiography, the Hell's Angels have a rather different view of things).

"Audrey Hepburn's Neck" by Alan Brown is funny and poignant at the same time and beautifully written.

I've read a few Iain Banks novels ("Whit", "Complicity" and "Walking on Glass") but they don't quite do it for me. The characterisation never seems that strong. "Walking on Glass" is probably the best of the three, though.

Finally, see if you can some George Orwell. As well as novels like "1984" and "Animal Farm", he also wrote some books on the condition of the working man in the early 20th century, such as "The Road to Wigan Pier" and "Down and Out in Paris and London". They are extraordinary books. Read them and see how far we have come.

Gibson (none / 0) (#233)
by andfarm on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 06:10:35 PM EST

Since nobody seems to have seriously mentioned him yet, I might suggest William Gibson, author of Neuromancer, Mona Lisa Overdrive, Count Zero, Burning Chrom, Virtual Light, Idoru, and a few others I don't remember.

His Cyberspace books (which are mostly[?] listed above) are about a semidystopian future world, somewhat reminiscent of Stephenson's Snow Crash. If you haven't read at least some of Gibson's works, do so.

Richard Preston (none / 0) (#234)
by hans on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 10:06:57 PM EST

Cobra Event and The Hot Zone were both excellent. I just read Cobra; its about bioterrorism. The book is from 1998; it's not some spouting bullshit riding on current events. Its quite well thought out & very well-researched. And the autopsy sections are detailed enough to make you ill. I can't say enough good things about this book.

Hot Zone was a nonfictional account of Ebola. I didn't know it was nonfiction until after I had read it; it was that good.

More suggested reading... (none / 0) (#237)
by ReverendTMac on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 01:29:10 PM EST

Someone mentioned Nick Hornby - just finished "How To Be Good" the other night, and as always, it was so enjoyable I almost forgot to notice how frigging good it was. His style reminds me of Neal Stephenson's, not too serious, but very real.

I haven't seen anyone mention Roddy Doyle yet; the Barrytown trilogy (The Committments, The Snapper, and The Van) are all very good, and "Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha" is wonderful; so is "A Star Called Henry".

Heller's "Catch-22" is one of my desert island books; so are Orwell's "1984" and Greene's "The Power and the Glory". The list keeps evolving.

Garth Ennis' "Preacher" is one of the better stories I've read in forever; especially the volume entitled "Ancient History", the story of the Saint of Killers. Violent, sticky fun.

Warren Ellis' "Transmetropolitian" is another suggestion, if you like the Hunter S. Thompson kind of manic journalism...

"...big hitter, the Lama..."
Andrew Vachss (none / 0) (#239)
by bandy on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 08:02:35 PM EST

Andrew Vachss has written a number of enjoyable hard-boiled detective novels, especially the "Burke" series. Some complain that they're a little too cookie-cutter, but if you enjoy the bad guys getting what's coming to them, you'll probably enjoy Vachss.
Marlboro: War ich Rindveh bin.
Fun Novels That Aren't SF | 239 comments (231 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
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