Gut Rumbles

June 10, 2005

good books

My friend eric is feeling poorly beause he didn't do well in the meme quiz that kelly and I put on our blogs asking people to name literary characters we liked.

Eric feels depraved deprived because he wants to know TEN BOOKS that he should read before he dies. My REAL answer to that question is just READ, period. One man's trash is another man's treasure when it comes to books. It's better to read junk than not read at all.

But as an English major, I would suggest these ten, although there a lot more good ones out there. I just didn't want to violate the JB principle and leave this post as a comment on his page--- you know, where the commenter writes three fucking pages in response to your two-paragraph post.

I've read every one of these books more than once. They are THAT good. So here is my list, in no particular order:

1) Huckleberry Finn, by Sam Clemens. In MY humble opinion, that's the greatest AMERICAN novel ever wtitten.

2) Catch 22, by Joseph Heller. The greatest anti-war book ever written and it was published long before anti-war books became vouge.

3) Earth Abides, by George R. Stewart. THAT novel is one reason I believe that most "environmentalists" are full of shit.

4) The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand. That book changed my life.

5) The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein. ANYTHING by Heinlein is good, but I believe that this one is a masterpiece, especially considering where the world has gone since he wrote it.

6) An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser. I didn't like a lot of the writers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but Dreiser told a timeless story in that novel. You see the same thing happening in the news every day today.

7) Tortilla Flats, by John Steinbeck. The book is a hoot to read and it is perfect distillation of human nature.

8) Aztec, by Gary Jennings. It's a thick and juicy novel, well-researched and well-written. It will transport to to another world, and if you like that one, try his book about marco polo. That's another good one.

9) Alas, Babylon, by Pat Frank. That was written in the late 1950s about what nuclear war would do to America, as told by a family in Florida after the bombs fell. It's a damn good read.

10) PS--- Your Cat is Dead, by James Kirkwood, Jr. That book, which later became a play and a movie, both of which bombed, still makes me laugh when I read it. It's not for the homophobic, because the main character is of the gay persuasion, but it's so absurd that I couldn't help but like it. It's the story of a real shit-storm in a person's day--- and who HASN'T had one of those?

I could name a couple of dozen more good books, but if anybody reads those ten, literary education is on the way.


I preferred ATlas Shrugged over The Fountainhead. In any event Rand did more to make me think than any one I have ever read.Her logic is easy to follow with no gray areas.

Posted by: GUYK on June 10, 2005 12:14 PM

.. thanks, killer... I appreciate the insight...

Posted by: Eric on June 10, 2005 12:37 PM

My favorite non-political read of all time, if you can even find it - The Captain by Jan DeHartog. Damn near anyone can take multiple lessons from that one.

Posted by: Roy AlderseBaes on June 10, 2005 12:45 PM

Excellent choices. I'd also suggest "1984," "The Last Hurrah," (great book, lousy movie, even with Spencer Tracy) and, in non-fiction, anything by Eric Hoffer, the longshoreman/philosopher. "The True Believer" is probably his best, and as scathing an indictment of the modern Democrat party as you'll find.

BTW, A-man, what did you think of "Rambling Rose?" I can't remember the author, and never saw the movie, but it was a book that stayed with me for a long time after I'd read it - the whole innocent voluptuous girl-child and horny teen boy thing, you know.

Posted by: Ripper on June 10, 2005 12:50 PM

Let's not forget these three by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The Tragedy of Puddin' Head Wilson

Life on the Mississippi

He wrote a lot of short stories too. Anything you find by Mark Twain aka Samuel Clemens is well worth reading.

Posted by: assrot on June 10, 2005 12:54 PM

Tom Sawyer
Confederacy of Dunces
Catcher in the Rye
Flight of the Intruder
Any Louis L'Amour Novel
The Bible
The Sun Also Rises
A Separate Peace
Our Town
Post Captain by P O' Brian

Posted by: hoosierboy on June 10, 2005 01:08 PM

Damn, I thought I was the only person alive who ever read "PS your Cat is Dead"

Posted by: og on June 10, 2005 01:48 PM

And I thought I was the only one who'd read "Alas Babylon"

Posted by: Bill on June 10, 2005 02:06 PM

Maybe its because I lived in New Mexico at the time, but I found the Milagro Beanfield War very interesting.

Posted by: bottlestop on June 10, 2005 02:25 PM

"Alas Babylon" is great. When I was first reading it in 1972, I would wake up thinking "I need to go trade for coffee!!" and I still go grocery shopping with a different attitude. I got all my kids to read it and they were all changed by it.
I'll never forget at the end when Randy Bragg asks "Who won?". It puts a lot of things in perspective. LL

Posted by: LibraryLady on June 10, 2005 02:26 PM

Well, I've read three of them. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress is one of my all time favorites I've read a few times.

I, too, preferred Atlas to Fountainhead, though both were good. Atlas hold an interesting place in my life. It was 1981. I read the book 1984, which I'd somehow gotten to 20 without reading.

I left me with nightmares. I was not prone to them, and in fact that's the first time in my life I can remember having them. It also played at least a part in sparking a bout of depression.

Reading Atlas was the antidote.

Posted by: Jay on June 10, 2005 03:29 PM

I read "Alas, Babylon" when I was in middle school I think. Anyways, I was recently on a kick re-reading books from my school years. I went to the library and asked for it. The ~librarian~, and keep in mind she's in her 60s at least, says "Is that one of those LaHaye books?" Referring to those recent "Left Behind" books ... ummm, no.

In the end, the library didn't even have a copy. I need to find a copy of my own.

Posted by: Nick Wright on June 10, 2005 03:31 PM

Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday are super additions to Tortilla Flats.

Posted by: Earl on June 10, 2005 03:46 PM

Aztec was an amazing book

Posted by: Robert on June 10, 2005 04:36 PM

The only one of these I've read is Huck and I loved it.

I'm not well read enough to make my own list.

Posted by: Alli on June 10, 2005 05:04 PM

Wow. It's been at least 20 years since I've read Aztec. Probably time to re-read it.

If you liked Aztec, get Jenning's book 'Raptor'. Thorn is every bit as good a main character as Mixtli.

Posted by: El Capitan on June 10, 2005 05:06 PM

Haven't read "Alas Babylon" in years....if memory serves , followed it with " A Canticle for Leibowitz". And share your love for Heinlein (have most of his books, trying to get the kids into his *juvenile fiction* with limited success). Earth Abides was another good read. Huck Finn's adventures are always worth revisiting, but "The Innocents Abroad. A Book of Travels." is right up there as a Twain favorite.

Posted by: Guy S. on June 10, 2005 06:26 PM

I can remember reading P.S. when I was about 14/15.
Loved it.
Wish I could find it again.

Posted by: Stevie on June 10, 2005 06:47 PM

Go to, they have all sorts of out of print books, stuff you never thought you'd be able to find.

Posted by: Grace on June 10, 2005 10:33 PM

I recommend Roughing It by Mark Twain - it will change the way you look at the Old West. The stories of the Indians he saw on the way out there are fabulous and his stories of mining camps also.

Another book I really enjoyed was Charm School by Nelson DeMille.

For pleasure read almost any of the James Lee Burke
mysteries. You can almost feel the humidity and heat of New Orleans in his writing.

Try Stallion Gate by Martin Cruz Smith some time when you want to know about the atom bomb scientists. He captured the flavor of those flawed characters very well.

Posted by: dick on June 11, 2005 01:20 AM

We The Living was Ayn's first novel, but it was The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged that highlighted her philosophy of Objectivism....which basically argued for the justification of narcissism as a necessary component of a productive society. Without ego's and selfish agenda's, where would a capitalistic society be? Which in itself is a good question for today....Where does a democratic society draw the line on an individual's money, power and influence over what is good for the nation as a whole?

Posted by: PJ on June 11, 2005 03:46 AM

I wasn't surprised to see Heinlein on your list. I think I've read and reread them all. You realize, of course, that he's not considered to be a writer of Litrachoor. I like Asimov and some others of the genre too, but RAH is the champ. He imparts a philosophy that I can embrace.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Garry Jennings. Aztec, Raptor and Journeyer have stayed with me years after reading them. I dig 'em out too, for rereading, from time to time. Thanks for that link, btw, I'll have to get the ones I haven't read.

Okay, okay, I'll admit to not having read Ayn Rand. I'll be sure to correct that flaw as soon as possible.

A few of those others I've read too, the rest I'll have to look into.

Posted by: StinKerr on June 11, 2005 04:16 AM

Read your ten and agree but, as someone else noted, Canticle for Leibowitz is a keeper, also try to find Lee Maynard's "Crum."

Posted by: Old Fat Sailor on June 11, 2005 09:10 AM

Great choices and as you said even a terrible book read is better than not reading at all.

Posted by: arathorn on June 11, 2005 11:16 AM

For those interested in history James Mitchners earlier works such as "The Source" were outstanding. Some of his later stuff was pretty weak. But I did enjoy most of his work and reread some of it on occasion.

Posted by: GUYK on June 11, 2005 11:37 AM

Thanks, GuyK. That's all the more encouraging.

Posted by: StinKerr on June 11, 2005 01:54 PM

"Atlas Shrugged"... [snore]..."The Fountainhead"... [snore]...Objectivism... [snore]

Apart from that, the only quibble I have is the omission of Les Miserables and the Count of Monte Cristo.

Posted by: Kim du Toit on June 11, 2005 09:07 PM

Just read is good advise, but I need to add that you should not be afraid to get 10 pages in and say "This sucks" and move on to something else. Being forced, or forceing yourself to read bad books is a way to become a non-reader.

Posted by: Ivan Ivanovich on June 12, 2005 06:36 AM

the moon is a harsh mistress! i think you are a rational anarchist.

Posted by: other brother daryl on June 12, 2005 11:44 AM

Hey, I've read Les Miserables and The Count of Monte Cristo....the Classic Comics versions. In fact, Classic Comics did more to introduce me to literature than any teacher I ever had. They made me want to read the real versions. Still, in a pince one time I had to write a book report on Lord Jim and only read the Classic Comic. I got an A.

Posted by: rivlax on June 12, 2005 10:09 PM

How do you know it is a bad book if you are only 10 pages into it Ivan? Perhaps if you kept reading, you may surprise yourself and become more open minded.

Posted by: PJ on June 13, 2005 03:04 AM
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