Favourite authors’ top books
Books. Favourite books. Top books. Any of them, some of them, all of them, none of them. I asked some of the Honest authors: Ferro, Kavanagh, Smith, Strang and Tiganov.
“Dear some of the Honest authors,”
“My favorite books are those that have a perfect mixture of elegant plot and great writing.
“One of my favorite books is The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories by H. P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft fuses the aesthetic of the unknown within a familiar setting: a real city or a real university. He casts his characters as somewhat normal people who he throws into surreal situations, so that almost a Netherworld is created. Strange beings, creatures, facts, and reality all meld into these dark worlds that one could envision the lonely Lovecraft escaping into himself.
“House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski came out in 2000 and was immediately hailed by those born of Generation X while it was assailed by everyone else. The plot is similar to the hit television series Lost, where reality is turned on its ear as a family moves into a new home that is larger on the inside than it is on the outside. Danielewski, who is the brother of the recording artist Poe, wrote the book in the unusual ergodic format, which features vertical footnotes, colored words, and unusual page layouts—some pages only contain a few words. It is the Ulysses of the 21st Century, but unlike Ulysses there seems to be a method to Danielewski’s madness. But what makes this book stunning is its breathtaking prose. This book is hip, modern, and experimental all at once. But at the heart of it is great writing and great storytelling.
“For me the greatest single expression of writing through narrative is The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. No single writer has ever had a way with words like Fitzgerald did. His command of the English language remains unparalleled. He was born with a gift that no one can simply learn. He is absolutely the Rembrandt of fiction, casting a magical hue onto the faces of his characters, and onto everything else he describes. The plot of The Great Gatsby is a work of genius, the symbolism lush and gorgeous, and its echo still powerful to this day.
“If you ask someone to tell you their favorite Hemingway novel you might get a lot of different answers. To me my favorite is the autobiographical A Moveable Feast. Here Hemingway is at his finest. In his understated style he documents with brutal honesty 1920’s Paris, where droves of American and British expatriates flocked immediately following WWI. Gertrude Stein, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos, Ezra Pound, Aleister Crowley and James Joyce all make an appearance. It is humorous, enlightening, and hauntingly sad. It also shows Hemingway at his most venerable. Truly one of the most remarkable nonfiction-novels of all time.
“Frog by Mo Yan is a chilling story of a midwife who witnesses forced late-term abortions as part of China’s new family planning laws. Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Mo Yan is a brilliant writer of magic realism. He has a keen sense of social commentary that always finds a subtle way of bleeding through his narratives. What makes Frog so special is the way Mo Yan infuses reality with surrealism. He does it so deftly that you hardly even notice. Without doubt, Mo Yan is one of the most unheralded writers from the perspective of the English speaking world.”
“It is the 10 December (it is a Monday), it is 10:03 AM, I had a good sleep (nine hours and some), it is warm outside, (74 f) I am in shorts and t-shirt, it is too early for breakfast, I am on my second cup of tea, I am taking a break from writing about a man that (who) wakes up and finds that he is dead, the cats are watching me, I am listening to Charles Mingus’s Mingus Ah Um (very loud). Here are my five top books today, tomorrow it will change, I am as capricious as the weather, (and it seems full of clichés).
“The War of the Worlds. H.G. Wells. Wells never tabulates the number of deaths, but I am sure there are more deaths than I can count on my fingers. The War of The Worlds is a great read, I first read it when I was twelve, and I try to reread it every couple of years. It has everything, even a great soundtrack. When it comes to entertain The War of The Worlds cannot be topped.
“Journal of the Plague Year. Daniel Defoe. Now this book is about death. Defoe is methodical, fastidious, obsessed with death, about the number of dead. Before Melville’s cetology, there was Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year. Even with the tables that show the death rates, the book is a great read. The Journal of the Plague Year has everything, except a great soundtrack.
“The Truthful History of the Conquest of New Spain. Bernal Díaz del Castillo. The pages of this book, the ink of this book are permeated with death. When I open this book, no matter the page, the room is filled with the reek of death. After reading this book, I dream of death for months. Bernal Díaz del Castillo’s is not a beach reading book. The nice person inside of me tells me that I should not like this book, that it is wrong to like this book, but I cannot help myself, The Truthful History of the Conquest of New Spain is a great read, one of the best, for me up there with Joyce’s Ulysses.
“Finnegans Wake. James Joyce. The book nearly killed me.
“Human Wishes / Enemy Combatant. Edmond Caldwell. Now, I am a hundred pages into this book, and I must say it’s a good book. You can buy the book on Amazon.
Well, it’s time for breakfast. As I stand, (typing) (I can’t help myself) my books have been superseded.”
“I’m low energy at the beginning of the workweek, but here are, as of this evening, my top five books: The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler; The Killer Inside Me, Jim Thompson; Shoot the Piano Player, David Goodis; Ulysses, James Joyce; The Odyssey, Homer (whoever he or she was).
“Why? Hm, that’s hard. Well… TBS because of the outlandish strength of the metaphors and the beauty of the style; TKIM because of the narrator’s delightfully satanic nature that only slowly becomes apparent as the story develops; STPP because of the overwhelming spontaneity of the emotion; U because it is the most amazing book ever written in English; O because it is simply the best book ever written, although it’s author likely never wrote it, simply sang it over and over to those who paid well enough for her or him to do so.”
“Here’s my penny’s worth:
“It’s impossible to select my top five books of all time because I’ve read so many of the darn things, and one’s tastes change with age. So what I’ve decided to do is send you a list of the best books I’ve read in the last year. Much more manageable. And the winners are, ladies and gentlemen:
“Middlemarch – George Eliot (because of Eliot’s wit - this book is often really funny).
“The Echoing Grove – Rosamond Lehmann (because of Lehmann’s profound understanding of the female psyche, and the way she orchestrates the different characters’ perspectives).
“The Wilder Shores of Love – Lesley Blanch (because this writer is so learned and she wears her erudition lightly – who knew that history lessons could be so enchanting?)
“Morality Play – Barry Unsworth (because of his insight into the effects of stagecraft on self and society – and his writing is so vivid).
“The Great Fortune – Olivia Manning (enchanting history lessons again – and wonderful characterization – I’m looking forward to reading the rest of The Balkan Trilogy).”
“The Road to Los Angeles – John Fante
John Fante is my favourite writer. For me, his writing bursts with feeling, is natural, amusing and human. The Road to Los Angeles was the first book I read by John Fante so it ranks highly.
“Imperium – Ryszard Kapuscinski
Can’t think of a better exploration of Russian history. A highly entertaining and informative book about Russia and all the countries that fell under the Imperium.
“A Childhood – Harry Crews
As I’m currently writing a childhood story I try to stay well away from this book. There’s a reason why Crews could never write a follow-up. And the reason is because A Childhood is perfect. Read it and read Maxim Gorky’s My Childhood while you’re at it.
“The Demon – Hubert Selby Jr.
I understood things better afterwards. I saw the dark clearly. I could look my fellow sinner in the eye and sympathise. Shame.
“Keep the Aspidistra Flying – George Orwell
George Orwell is my favourite writer. And yours. Thank God for that. What a novel this is. It was between this and Down and Out.”
So there it is. Thank me. A feast of our favourite authors’ favourite books.
Tags: Bogdan Tiganov, favourite authors, favourite books, jeanpaul ferro, Linda Ann Strang, middlemarch, paul kavanagh, the great gatsby, the odyssey, the war of the worlds, top books, ulysses, Willie Smith
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