Tuesday, December 26, 2017
Evanston: a future neighbor?; books and authors
I found the above in my Christmas stocking yesterday, a gift from Carol of a future neighbor, assuming the Hilton Head condo purchase closes as scheduled this Friday. I say ‘assuming’ because the hoard who get their fingers into such transactions do not live by my precept not to do things at the last minute. To the contrary. They seem only to do things at the last minute, and tedious, but significant details keep appearing.
A few weeks ago Matt asked for a list of my favorite books of all time. I have since given that some thought and the result is below . Some books immediately came to mind. Some I remembered later. Some I found on our few remaining bookshelves. Some by reviewing my list of books read, which goes back eight years.
There are some perhaps surprising but deliberate omissions, among them WAR AND PEACE, HUCKLEBERRY FINN, MOBY DICK, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Ernest Hemingway.
I’ve read WAR AND PEACE three times, but I prefer ANNA KARENINA.
If I had prepared this list six months ago HUCKLEBERRY FINN would certainly have been included, but I recently reread it and found it to be perhaps two-thirds a great novel—when Huck and Jim are on the river, ruined by the last third or quarter when Tom Sawyer makes his appearance and the book becomes stupidly childish.
MOBY DICK, too, is uneven. Part is great, but too much is deadly boring.
I haven’t read Dostoevsky for decades and, though I recall being impressed by CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, that speaks for itself.
I am uncertain about Ernest Hemingway. Some of his books were good; some terrible. If I were to include him it would be his collected short stories, A MOVEABLE FEAST and maybe THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA. I just downloaded a Kindle edition of THE OLD MAN to reread and will let you know my opinion when I do. I very much liked a book titled BY-LINE: ERNEST HEMINGWAY, a collection of his journalism pieces.
They are in the order in which I thought of them.
For some prolific authors, many of whose works I admire, such as Conrad, Hardy, Zola, I arbitrarily picked a few books and then noted ‘others’.
For some I’ve suggested various translations.
Not all are of equal quality. I’ve included the Aubrey/Maturin and The Last Kingdom series because I enjoyed them, but I don’t remotely think them the equal of the other books on this list.
If I prepared this list a year from now, it would vary some, but mostly be the same. These are the books that for me have lasted through the years, now decades.
THE HORSE’S MOUTH Joyce Cary
Joseph Conrad HEART OF DARKNESS; TYPHOON; THE NIGER OF THE NARCISSIS, others
Thomas Hardy THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE, others
Emile Zola DEBACLE; BEAST IN MAN, others
Honore de Balzac OLD GORIOT; EUGENIE GRANDET, others
Jose Saramago THE YEAR OF THE DEATH OF RICARDO REIS, BATHASAR AND BLIMUDA, others
ILIAD Homer trans. Richard Lattimore, Robert Fagles, Robert Fitzgerald
ODYSSEY Homer trans. Emily Wilson, Robert Fagles
INFERNO Dante trans. Robert Pinsky
THE ODYSSEY: A MODERN SEQUEL Nikos Kazantzakis; also THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST
AENEID Virgil trans. Robert Fitzgerald
LUSIADS Luis de Camoes
THE CIVIL WAR trilogy Shelby Foote
THE PATH BETWEEN THE SEAS; TRUMAN; JOHN QUINCY ADAMS, others David McCullough
PARADE’S END Ford Madox Ford
SAILING ALONE AROUND THE WORLD Joshua Slocum
ANNA KARENINA Leo Tolstoy
A SENTIMENTAL EDUCATION Gustav Flaubert
ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT Erik Maria Remarque
POEMS William Butler Yeats
POEMS C.P. Cavafy
POEMS Fernando Pessoa
THE BOUNTY TRILOGY Nordhoff and Hall
A SOLDIER OF THE GREAT WAR; WINTER’S TALE Mark Helprin
VOSS ; THE VIVISECTOR Patrick White
THE WAR AT THE END OF THE WORLD Mario Vargus Llosa
A SAND COUNTY ALAMANAC Aldo Leopold
WEST WITH THE NIGHT Beryl Markham
NIGHT FLIGHT; WIND, SAND AND STARS Antoine de Saint-Exupery
OUT OF AFRICA Isak Dinesen
THE RIDDLE OF THE SANDS Erskine Childers
THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET Lawrence Durrell
SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE Kurt Vonnegut
THE STRANGER; THE PLAGUE Albert Camus
FAR TORTUGA Peter Matthiessen
DAVID COOPERFIELD Charles Dickens
REGENERATION TRILOGY Pat Barker
LIFE AND FATE Vasily Grossman
HARLAND’S HALF ACRE David Malouf
MEMOIRS U. S. Grant
GUNS OF AUGUST Barbara Tuchman
BY A SLOW RIVER Philippe Claudel
BIRDSONG Sebastian Faulks
RAGTIME E.L. Doctorow
THE DWARF Par Lagerkvisk
The Aubrey/Maturin novels Patrick O’Brian
The Last Kingdom novels Bernard Cornwell