The top 16 books ever written, dammit.

For no good reason of which I am aware, I will list some of my favorite books in no apparent order and only as I am able to think of them and recall why they are liked.  Much of my reviews will come from a previous entry made on my now-nearly-defunct online diary at opendiary.com.

1.  Jingo by Terry Pratchett. 
Terry Pratchett started out as a purely funny author.  His early stuff is, for the most part, quite hilarious and only slightly containing meaning of any sort.  As time has gone on, his world has developed, as has his writing style.  His new stuff is mostly lacking in outright humor, but dripping with socio-political commentary in the form of satire.  I really enjoy his new stuff, but not for the same reason I enjoyed his old work.  The best work he did was right in what is now halfway through his writing history – when satire was balanced well with humor.  This would be right around the time of Jingo, Feet of Clay, Good Omens, and Small Gods.  The great thing about Terry Pratchett is that his books are all re-readable.  While other authors are funnier or more poignant the first time through, there’s always something new and good and valuable to find in a re-reading of most Pratchett books.  (excluding the very beginning of his work, I would say.)  Yes, I laughed out loud to the point of appearing to cry in my middle-school science class when I read about a chain of paperclips and a plastic swan in Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency,  but I didn’t laugh the second time reading it. 

2.  Small Gods by Terry Pratchett
Probably the top of my top 5 Pratchett books.  Worth reading again and again, despite what some wrong people may think about it or Terry Pratchett as an author.

3.  Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett
I think this is one of my favorites for the idea of ceasing to exist by fault of chocolate overload.   Also the recurring character of the sweeper is one of my favorites.

4.  Good Omens By Neil Gaiman… and Terry Pratchett.   HA!
Two of my favorite authors collaborate marvelously for one of the funniest and best books ever written.  If only they can decide on a director (Terry Gilliam having been shot down multiple times) this will be a movie someday.

Okay, I’ll get off the Terry Pratchett kick now.

5.  Rainbow Six by Tom Clancy
I have only read it once.  (and previously reviewed it.)  I love the John Clark character in this book.  I also remember finishing the book and walking around looking at everybody as if he or she was a spy.  Especially Jared.  He’s fishy.

6.  Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold
This is one of those books that was written to fit in with known reality, meaning the characters are all real and their locations and actions fit with recorded history.  While not as fantastic and mind-blowing as Declareby Tim Powers, (another book written to fit with reality but in a more sci-fi way) it is a great read.  The characters are amazing, and we get drawn in to the story and life of Charles Carter quickly and completely.  The story is believable and engaging.  By the end of the book you’ll find yourself wanting to follow the rest of Charles’ life through the years and seeing America pass by.

7. The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip by George Saunders
This book represents the status of my entire collection of children’s books.  That’s why it’s here.  Read it and understand me and my tastes a bit better.

8. Kingdom Comeby Mark Waid and Alex Ross
This is actually a comic book series.  Alex Ross paints his figures in (um…) photo-realistic watercolors for every beautiful panel of each book.  So we don’t have grotesquely deformed cartoons of humans in this book, we have nearly realistic looking super-heroes.  The story is something like 20 or 30 years in the future.  The world is populated by legions of super powered people amongst the normal humans.  Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and all the ‘big names’ in super hero-ing are in retirement – moved there by superman’s retirement after the murder of Lois Lane by The Joker.  The super humans of this world run rampant in groups that are more like street gangs than justice leagues.  They brawl with each other, wreaking havoc.  We follow Norman, a priest who has lost his faith, as he witnesses what might be the end of the world when the old-school heros come back to teach the new generation what it means to be a “Hero.”  Read it and believe that comics can actually have artistic and literary value.  Then go read something by Neil Gaiman. 

9. American Godsby Neil Gaiman
I put this on my list not because I liked it, but because it influenced me and my way of thinking since the time of reading up until now.  There’s a scene that I wish he had done without in the writing of this book, but otherwise it’s a fine and engaging piece of work.  If you’re not bothered, as I am, by disturbing and sexual imagery you should read this.  Otherwise ask a friend which chapter is the one to skip.

10.  Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
Again, this is on my list, not because I enjoyed it.  I hated it.  But I can’t deny that I can’t get it out of my head.  And it did manage to draw me through all 1000+ pages.  The images were vivid and the story educated me.  I just really hated it.  But I think it’s important to examine how valuable a book is based on how much effect it’s had on you since reading it.  Curse him, I have to put this one on the list.   (And I understand that other people enjoy it quite a bit.)

11.  Once and Future King by T. H. White
This is the Arthurian Legend re-told by T. H. White.  It’s astounding.  I have to admit that I meant to pick this book up for years, but never did. The thing that made me decide to finally get it was seeing magneto reading it in X-Men 2.  What can I say, I’m a geek.  When I read it and realized it was the book that Disney’s Sword in the Stone movie was based on the first third I got nervous.  I discovered that it was actually just amazing.  Read it.

12.  The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers
I reviewed this one a long time ago on my aged and defunct site, and I think I explain just a little about how much I like it.  It’s the most creative book by the one of the most creative writers I’ve ever read.  This is a story that is both fantasy and science fiction.  It has compelling characters and is easy to read.  If you’re a fantasy/sci-fi reader you will love this book.

13.  Last Call by Tim Powers
While this book was not as enjoyable as The Anubis Gates, it stuck with me a lotlonger.  When you read this book  you will never look at card games the same way again.  I love Tim Powers as an author.  He’s thoroughly disturbing and immensely creative.  Too bad he only writes about one book per decade.

14.  Our Search For Happiness by M. Russell Ballard
This is a book that explains something of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  It’s on my best books list because it’s one of the few unpretentious religious books I’ve read.  It’s a great book for those who want to understand their mormon neighbors better, or for mormons themselves to read. I’ve also reviewed this book in the past.

15.  The Peacegiver by James L. Ferrell
I just read this book about a week ago.  What I love about it is that it’s a religious book written in a story or parable style rather than overtly preaching.   It also reveals the multiple levels of meaning possible in reading the scriptures and shows me how much further I have to go in my own understanding.

16.  Jesus the Christby James Talmage
I don’t care who you are or what you’ve done.  You don’t know half of what this man knows about Jesus.   Also, reading this book will exercise your intellect.  

Obviously there are many other fine books out there.  This is just the list that fits my mood at this time.  I recommend you read all of these, except possibly the violent, sexual, or profane ones, which pretty much leaves the Pratchett  (Another point! Score!) and the religious.

-Greg 

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4 Responses to “The top 16 books ever written, dammit.”

  1. Benski Says:

    I remember you reading that Cryptonomicon. Looked pretty brutal, like a paperback dictionary. It’s probably like me and Scorsese’s film “Taxi Driver.” I hate it, but I’ve seen it numerous times and have written about it thrice.

  2. Cornelius Says:

    Is that the one with Jodie Foster as the thirteen-year-old hooker?

  3. Greg Says:

    I neglected to mention 2 other books: “Life of Pi” is a superb fiction that I try to get pretty much everybody to read. And “Jonathan Strange and Mister Norrell” is the best new fantasy book I’ve read since getting back from my mission. I have been recommending this book to anybody I know that likes fantasy even a little.

  4. Talia Lee Says:

    You haven’t recommended that book to me yet, Greg!


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