Read These!

One of the more fun, and one of the more trite, exercises of the New Year is lists.

Resolution lists. Best movie lists. Best sports moments. Worst move star outfits. Whatever.

Always willing to clog up the world with one more list, I offer my "Books You Really Should Read at Some Point in Your Life So Why Not This Year" list. Moreover, I give you at least one reason why it's important to read each of these books. Here's the list:

"Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austin. Because you really should read at least one book by Jane Austin. And because you really should know how the female mind works (nearly 200 years later, and it's still basically the same).

"1984" by George Orwell. Because even though it was written a long time ago (1949), the concepts in it endure, and should continue to frighten us: doublethink, the memory hole, thought crime, and Big Brother.

"The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger. Because you need to understand teenage self-absorption, and know who Holden Caulfield is.

"The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Because you should treat yourself to really beautiful writing. And because you should be reminded that the rich are very different from you and me: they're shallow, vapid, and utimately, a waste of time.

"Space Triology" by C. S. Lewis. Because, whether you buy into it or not, you will at least understand the point of Christianity and Western mythology when you're done. And because it's just a really entertaining story.

"Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad. Because it's as eloquently written as any book ever written. And because how else are you going to understand "Apolcalypse, Now?"

"The DaVinci Code" by Dan Brown. Because you need to be reminded that P.T. Barnum was right, and that you don't have to be talented to make a lot of money.

"On the Road" by Jack Kerouac. Because you need to understand the zeitgeist of disaffected, young post-WWII Americans.

"Snow Crash" by Neal Stephenson. Because it will help you understand the cyber culture. Kinda.

"The Sun Also Rises" by Ernest Hemingway. Because it will help you understand the zeitgeist of disaffected, young post-WWI Americans.

"To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee. Because it is the book responsible for white kids getting involved in the Civil Rights Movement.

"Tropic of Cancer" by Henry Miller. Because it was considered a "dirty" book in 1934. Ha.

"Ulysses" by James Joyce. Because it's the manly thing to do.

"The Razor's Edge" by Somerset Maugham. Because Maugham wrote beautifully, touchingly, and painfully about the human condition.

"The Haunting of Hill House" by Shirley Jackson. Because it is one of, if not the scariest books in the English language.

"Neverwhere" by Neil Gaiman. Because it is the book I wish I had written.

"The Martian Chronicles" by  Ray Bradbury. Because you have to read something by Ray Bradbury, and this is one of his lesser known, but highly imaginative, works.

"The Hobbit" by J. R. R. Tolkien. Because you must read some Tolkien, and The Hobbit is the best of the bunch.

"Stranger in a Strange Land" by Robert Heinlein. Because you need to know, to really understand, to comprehend on a deep, even physical level, what "grok" means.

"The Shining" by Stephen King. Because it is the second most scary book in the English language.

"Wuthering Heights" by Emily Bronte. Because you have to understand the concept of the Romantic Hero.

"A Tale of Two Cities" by Charles Dickens. Because you have to read some books that make you weep.

"Shogun" by James Clavell. Because it will help you understand why someone would choose to die.

"Madame Bovary" by Gustave Flaubert. Because it is purportedly the first "modern" novel, and because it is  a brilliant study in female romantic obsession.

"Clan of the Cave Bear," followed by any of the subsequent novels by Jean Auel. Because it demonstrates how a first novel, which is quite good, can turn into soap opera trash on the second outing.

"The Life of Pi" by Yann Martel. Because you just should read this book!

"Hyperion" by Dan Simmons. Because this is imagination at its best.

"The Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand. Because you need to be able to talk about "Rand's books" in polite conversation.

"The Hound of the Baskervilles" by Arthur Conan Doyle. Because everyone should meet Holmes.

"Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" by Philip K. Dick. Because Dick was one of the finest, most original minds of his time.

"Jitterbug Perfume" by Tom Robbins. Because what other book can you name that includes striving for immortality, the meaning behind the sense of smell, individual expression, self-reliance, sex, love, religion, and beets?

"Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Because this is the book that convinced a lot of people that slavery was wrong.

"Foucoualt's Pendulum" by Umberto Eco. Because every so often we need to be reminded of how pathetically ignorant we are as compared to people like Eco.

"The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde. Because Oscar Wilde is a wonderfully entertaining writer; and because the theme of the book (wanting eternal youth) is just as important today as it ever was.

On that note, I give up. This list could go on forever. I'd be very interested in hearing from all of you: what book or books would you really like others to read, and why? Send your suggestions to:


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