Monday, January 19, 2009

Must Read Novels

O.k., so I always read these lists, but I never really like them...those "books everyone must read before they die" lists. One of the main reasons I don't ever like these lists is because for some Godforsaken reason Ulysses ALWAYS ends up on the list. If I were making a list of books I think people should stay far, far away from, Ulysses would be at the top of the list followed immediately by Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man. Now granted, I had to read it for a class in college and the professor was so incredibly horrible that I dreaded going to class - only lit class I ever dreaded. But even if I hadn't had that bad experience I still would not have liked the book - I think Joyce is cut out more for the "ole boys network." The point of all this rambling is that reading is a personal experience. And what I should read before I die isn't necessarily the same thing that EVERY person should read before they die. I think the idea is ludicrous. However, I still end up reading the lists. Here is one from The Guardian. I looked at the section that highlighted Crime Fiction - there's three parts to it. It's actually kind of interesting to look at; they try to span all sub-genres of crime fiction. There are a handful on the list I've read, but far more that I haven't. Some, I have no interest in ever reading (Stephen King), some I've had on my TBR list now for awhile (Raymond Chandler). I was kind of surprised not to see any Ross Macdonald...maybe I overlooked him. I also didn't notice any Conan Doyle; kind of strange. Mark Twain and William Faulker appear but Edgar Allen Poe does not. Again, a little odd. Of course I have a personal bias for Robert Crais and believe L.A. Requiem should be on any list of crime fiction, but that's my "personal experience." I was, however, a little shocked not to see Robert Parker on the list. And again, my personal experience coming in to play here, I think James Lee Burke is one of the greatest living American writers, period, so I would definitely have him on my list of recommended crime fiction reading.

But again, I don't think any one list suits every person. So, I thought maybe you all could help me to build MY list. You've been reading my reviews, and getting an idea of what I appreciate and what I'm not so thrilled with. What would YOU recommend I put on my list and why do you think I'd find it worthwhile to read before I die? I'll try to put together a list of 100 that I need to read before I die.

Alright, you're turn...tell me what you think!


Kaye Barley January 19, 2009 at 6:57 PM  

Jen - we seem to like an awful lot of the same books and writers. James Lee Burke in particular.

THE book I recommend is one I recommend to all my favorite people. Its old and out of print, but will be coming out soon as a re-issue.
Its FIVE SMOOTH STONES by Ann Fairbairn. Have you read it?

And another - WAY different, as different from Five Smooth Stones as day and night is Michael Malone's HANDLING SIN.

Jen January 19, 2009 at 7:04 PM  

No Kaye, I haven't read FIVE SMOOTH STONES. It's going at the top of my list. Do you know when it is going to be re-released? I'll keep my eyes open for it. I'll also check into HANDLING SIN! Thanks for the recommendations! And I LOVED reading Earl's guest post over at your blog today. How sweet!!

Kristie January 19, 2009 at 7:25 PM  

I am so glad you posted this... I always feel like such an idiot when I see some of these books that we MUST read. My guidlines are I MUST read a book I enjoy, one that has me turning the pages, and is a great escape for me. I will be looking forward to your list and all the suggestions.

Sam Sattler January 19, 2009 at 7:47 PM  

I'm also a longtime admirer of James Lee Burke. He's one of the few writers I buy the first week that the new hardcover is published...and I often regret that Burke's books get cheaper two or three weeks later when they hit the NYT bestseller list.

As for Parker, he was absolutely great at the beginning of his Spenser series, IMO, but has fizzled to the point that I haven't read one of his novels in years. I hate the large font and lots of white space in his books - they remind me of long short stories more than novels.

Have you tried the detective fiction of John Harvey (very character driven and introspective) or any Charles Dickinson novels?

Corey Wilde January 20, 2009 at 1:02 PM  

I'm so contrary, the second someone says I must read a book, then I become a skeptic. That's wrongheaded of me, but it does happen.

I don't have any books you must read, I only say that you must read, period.

Jen January 20, 2009 at 1:18 PM  

Corey, you're funny. YOU'RE not deciding what I must read, I'M're just recommending! LOL

Sam, I'm still in the early books of Parker, but I mentioned being surprised that he's not on the list because he's influenced so many other writers in the genre. No, I have not John Harvey, I'll have to look into him. Thanks for the recommendation.

le0pard13 January 20, 2009 at 5:20 PM  

We're in sync in that I very much agree that L.A. Requiem should be on any crime fiction list. My recommendations (for books that you may not have read) are Dune (Sci-Fi) and For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Re: that 'Crime' list from the Guardian, though. I guess I don't really understand Brit categories. How do techno/sci-fi books (Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park), spy thrillers (39 Steps, Bourne Identity, Ipcress File, Bond books), and classic melodramas (The Count of Monte Cristo, To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men) make it on to this list of _crime_ fiction? Did they need to pad the list to help reach a thousand? The books of Chandler, Cain, Leonard, Hammett, Thompson, etc. I get. But, the rest?

trish January 21, 2009 at 1:16 AM  

Have you read any Jeffery Deaver? I just read The Bodies Left Behind and really enjoyed it, though his regular fans seem to agree it's not his best. I'm sure you've read his stuff...but just in case you haven't. ;-)

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