Tuesday, July 8, 2014

My Massive To-Be-Read list


1. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1967)

One of the 20th century's enduring works, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a widely beloved and acclaimed novel known throughout the world, and the ultimate achievement of a Nobel Prize winning career.

The novel tells the story of the rise and fall of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the family. It is a rich and brilliant chronicle of life and death, and the tragicomedy of humankind. In the noble, ridiculous, beautiful, and tawdry story of the family, one sees all of humanity, just as in the history, myths, growth, and decay of Macondo, one sees all of Latin America.

Love and lust, war and revolution, riches and poverty, youth and senility -- the variety of life, the endlessness of death, the search for peace and truth -- these universal themes dominate the novel. Whether he is describing an affair of passion or the voracity of capitalism and the corruption of government, Gabriel Garcia Marquez always writes with the simplicity, ease, and purity that are the mark of a master.

Alternately reverential and comical, One Hundred Years of Solitudeweaves the political, personal, and spiritual to bring a new consciousness to storytelling. Translated into dozens of languages, this stunning work is no less than an accounting of the history of the human race.

2. Suttree by Cormac McCarthy (1979)

By the author of Blood Meridian and All the Pretty Horses,Suttree is the story of Cornelius Suttree, who has forsaken a life of privilege with his prominent family to live in a dilapidated houseboat on the Tennessee River near Knoxville.  Remaining on the margins of the outcast community there--a brilliantly imagined collection of eccentrics, criminals, and squatters--he rises above the physical and human squalor with detachment, humor, and dignity.

3. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (2011)

It's the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. 

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune -- and remarkable power -- to whoever can unlock them. 

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday's riddles are based in the pop culture he loved -- that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday's icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes's oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig. 

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle. 

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt -- among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life -- and love -- in the real world he's always been so desperate to escape. 

A world at stake. 
A quest for the ultimate prize. 
Are you ready?

4. The Wasp Factory by Iain M. Banks (1984)

Frank — no ordinary sixteen-year-old — lives with his father outside a remote Scottish village. Their life is, to say the least, unconventional. Frank's mother abandoned them years ago: his elder brother Eric is confined to a psychiatric hospital; & his father measures out his eccentricities on an imperial scale. Frank has turned to strange acts of violence to vent his frustrations. In the bizarre daily rituals there is some solace. But when news comes of Eric's escape from the hospital Frank has to prepare the ground for his brother's inevitable return — an event that explodes the mysteries of the past & changes Frank utterly.

5. Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison (1992)

Greenville County, South Carolina, a wild, lush place, is home to the Boatwright family—rough-hewn men who drink hard and shoot up each other's trucks, and indomitable women who marry young and age all too quickly. At the heart of this astonishing novel is Ruth Anne Boatwright, known simply as Bone, a South Carolina bastard with an annotated birth certificate to tell the tale. Observing everything with the mercilessly keen eye of a child, Bone finds herself caught in a family triangle that will test the loyalty of her mother, Anney. Her stepfather, Daddy Glen, calls Bone "cold as death, mean as a snake, and twice as twisty," yet Anney needs Glen. At first gentle with Bone, Daddy Glen becomes steadily colder and more furious—until their final, harrowing encounter, from which there can be no turning back.

6. The Savage Detectives by Robert Bolano (1998)

New Year’s Eve, 1975: Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima, founders of the visceral realist movement in poetry, leave Mexico City in a borrowed white Impala. Their quest: to track down the obscure, vanished poet Cesárea Tinajero. A violent showdown in the Sonora desert turns search to flight; twenty years later Belano and Lima are still on the run.

The explosive first long work by “the most exciting writer to come from south of the Rio Grande in a long time” (Ilan Stavans, Los Angeles Times), The Savage Detectives follows Belano and Lima through the eyes of the people whose paths they cross in Central America, Europe, Israel, and West Africa. This chorus includes the muses of visceral realism, the beautiful Font sisters; their father, an architect interned in a Mexico City asylum; a sensitive young follower of Octavio Paz; a foul-mouthed American graduate student; a French girl with a taste for the Marquis de Sade; the great-granddaughter of Leon Trotsky; a Chilean stowaway with a mystical gift for numbers; the anorexic heiress to a Mexican underwear empire; an Argentinian photojournalist in Angola; and assorted hangers-on, detractors, critics, lovers, employers, vagabonds, real-life literary figures, and random acquaintances.

A polymathic descendant of Borges and Pynchon, Roberto Bolaño traces the hidden connection between literature and violence in a world where national boundaries are fluid and death lurks in the shadow of the avant-garde. The Savage Detectives is a dazzling original, the first great Latin American novel of the twenty-first century.

7. Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Conner (1965)

Flannery O'Connor was working on Everything That Rises Must Converge at the time of her death. This collection is an exquisite legacy from a genius of the American short story, in which she scrutinizes territory familiar to her readers: race, faith, and morality. The stories encompass the comic and the tragic, the beautiful and the grotesque; each carries her highly individual stamp and could have been written by no one else.

8. Tenth of December by George Saunders (2013)

A new story collection, the first in six years, from one of our greatest living writers, MacArthur "genius grant" recipient and New Yorker contributor George Saunders.

George Saunders, one of our most important writers, is back with a masterful, deeply felt collection that takes his literary powers to a new level. In a recent interview, when asked how he saw the role of the writer, Saunders said: "To me, the writer's main job is to make the story unscroll in such a way that the reader is snared-she's right there, seeing things happen and caring about them. And if you dedicate yourself to this job, the meanings more or less take care of themselves." In Tenth of December, the reader is always right there, and the meanings are beautiful and profound and abundant. The title story is an exquisite, moving account of the intersection, at a frozen lake in the woods, of a young misfit and a middle-aged cancer patient who goes there to commit suicide, only to end up saving the boy's life. "Home" is the often funny, often poignant account of a soldier returning from the war. And "Victory Lap" is a taut, inventive story about the attempted abduction of a teenage girl. In all, Tenth of December is George Saunders at his absolute best, a collection of stories and characters that add up to something deep, irreducible, and uniquely American.

9. Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto (2010)

Recalling the moody violence of the early novels of Cormac McCarthy and Denis Johnson, a dark and visceral debut set along the seedy wastelands of Galveston by a young writer with a hard edge to his potent literary style. On the same day that Roy Cady is diagnosed with a terminal illness, he senses that his boss, a dangerous loan-sharking bar-owner, wants him dead. Known “without affection” to members of the boss’s crew as “Big Country” on account of his long hair, beard, and cowboy boots, Roy is alert to the possibility that a routine assignment could be a deathtrap. Which it is. Yet what the would-be killers do to Roy Cady is not the same as what he does to them, which is to say that after a smoking spasm of violence, they are mostly dead and he is mostly alive.

Before Roy makes his getaway, he realizes there are two women in the apartment, one of them still breathing, and he sees something in her frightened, defiant eyes that causes a fateful decision. He takes her with him as he goes on the run from New Orleans to Galveston, Texas—an action as ill-advised as it is inescapable. The girl’s name is Rocky, and she is too young, too tough, too sexy—and far too much trouble. Roy, Rocky, and her sister hide in the battered seascape of Galveston’s country-western bars and fleabag hotels, a world of treacherous drifters, pickup trucks, and ashed-out hopes. Any chance that they will find safety there is soon lost. Rocky is a girl with quite a story to tell, one that will pursue and damage Roy for a very long time to come in this powerful and atmospheric thriller, impossible to put down. Constructed with maximum tension and haunting aftereffect, written in darkly beautiful prose, Galveston announces the arrival of a major new literary talent.

10. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien (1991)

They carried malaria tablets, love letters, 28-pound mine detectors, dope, illustrated bibles, each other. And if they made it home alive, they carried unrelenting images of a nightmarish war that history is only beginning to absorb. Since its first publication, The Things They Carried has become an unparalleled Vietnam testament, a classic work of American literature, and a profound study of men at war that illuminates the capacity, and the limits, of the human heart and soul.

11. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates (1961)

In the hopeful 1950s, Frank and April Wheeler appear to be a model couple: bright, beautiful, talented, with two young children and a starter home in the suburbs. Perhaps they married too young and started a family too early. Maybe Frank's job is dull. And April never saw herself as a housewife. Yet they have always lived on the assumption that greatness is only just around the corner. But now that certainty is about to crumble.With heartbreaking compassion and remorseless clarity, Richard Yates shows how Frank and April mortgage their spiritual birthright, betraying not only each other, but their best selves.

12. A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick (1977)

Substance D is not known as Death for nothing. It is the most toxic drug ever to find its way on to the streets of LA. It destroys the links between the brain's two hemispheres, causing, first, disorientation and then complete and irreversible brain damage.

The undercover narcotics agent who calls himself Bob Arctor is desperate to discover the ultimate source of supply. But to find any kind of lead he has to pose as a user and, inevitably, without realising what is happening, Arctor is soon as addicted as the junkies he works among.

13. The Secret History by Donna Tartt (1992)

Richard Papen arrived at Hampden College in New England and was quickly seduced by an elite group of five students, all Greek scholars, all worldly, self-assured, and, at first glance, all highly unapproachable. As Richard is drawn into their inner circle, he learns a terrifying secret that binds them to one another...a secret about an incident in the woods in the dead of night where an ancient rite was brought to brutal life...and led to a gruesome death. And that was just the beginning....

14. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (2013)

It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love-and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

The Goldfinch is a novel of shocking narrative energy and power. It combines unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and breathtaking suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher's calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is a beautiful, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.

15. The Pale King by David Foster Wallace (2011)

The agents at the IRS Regional Examination Center in Peoria, Illinois, appear ordinary enough to newly arrived trainee David Foster Wallace. But as he immerses himself in a routine so tedious and repetitive that new employees receive boredom-survival training, he learns of the extraordinary variety of personalities drawn to this strange calling. And he has arrived at a moment when forces within the IRS are plotting to eliminate even what little humanity and dignity the work still has.

The Pale King remained unfinished at the time of David Foster Wallace's death, but it is a deeply compelling and satisfying novel, hilarious and fearless and as original as anything Wallace ever undertook. It grapples directly with ultimate questions--questions of life's meaning and of the value of work and society--through characters imagined with the interior force and generosity that were Wallace's unique gifts. Along the way it suggests a new idea of heroism and commands infinite respect for one of the most daring writers of our time.

16. East of Eden by John Steinbeck (1952)

Set in the rich farmland of California’s Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families—the Trasks and the Hamiltons—whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel. Here Steinbeck created some of his most memorable characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity; the inexplicability of love; and the murderous consequences of love’s absence.

17. 11/22/63 by Stephen King (2011)

If you had the chance to change the course of history, would you? Would the consequences be what you hoped?

Jake Epping, 35, teaches high-school English in Lisbon Falls, Maine, and cries reading the brain-damaged janitor's story of childhood Halloween massacre by their drunken father. On his deathbed, pal Al divulges a secret portal to 1958 in his diner back pantry, and enlists Jake to prevent the 11/22/1963 Dallas assassination of American President John F. Kennedy. Under the alias George Amberson, our hero joins the cigarette-hazed full-flavored world of Elvis rock'n'roll, Negro discrimination, and freeway gas-guzzlers without seat belts. Will Jake lurk in impoverished immigrant slums beside troubled loner Lee Harvey Oswald, or share small-town friendliness with beautiful high school librarian Sadie Dunhill, the love of his life?

18. American Tabloid by James Ellroy (1995)

We are behind, and below, the scenes of JFK's presidential election, the Bay of Pigs, the assassination--in the underworld that connects Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago, D.C. 

Where the CIA, the Mob, J. Edgar Hoover, Howard Hughes, Jimmy Hoffa, Cuban political exiles, and various loose cannons conspire in a covert anarchy . . . 

Where the right drugs, the right amount of cash, the right murder, buys a moment of a man's loyalty . . . 

Where three renegade law-enforcement officers--a former L.A. cop and two FBI agents--are shaping events with the virulence of their greed and hatred, riding full-blast shotgun into history. . . .

James Ellroy's trademark nothing-spared rendering of reality, blistering language, and relentless narrative pace are here in electrifying abundance, put to work in a novel as shocking and daring as anything he's written: a secret history that zeroes in on a time still shrouded in secrets and blows it wide open.

19. The Terror by Dan Simmons (2006)

The men on board HMS Terror have every expectation of triumph. As part of the 1845 Franklin Expedition, the first steam-powered vessels ever to search for the legendary Northwest Passage, they are as scientifically supported an enterprise as has ever set forth. As they enter a second summer in the Arctic Circle without a thaw, though, they are stranded in a nightmarish landscape of encroaching ice and darkness. Endlessly cold, with diminishing rations, 126 men fight to survive with poisonous food, a dwindling supply of coal, and ships buckling in the grip of crushing ice. But their real enemy is far more terrifying. There is something out there in the frigid darkness: an unseen predator stalking their ship, a monstrous terror constantly clawing to get in.When the expedition's leader, Sir John Franklin, meets a terrible death, Captain Francis Crozier takes command and leads his surviving crewmen on a last, desperate attempt to flee south across the ice. With them travels an Inuit woman who cannot speak and who may be the key to survival, or the harbinger of their deaths. But as another winter approaches, as scurvy and starvation grow more terrible, and as the terror on the ice stalks them southward, Crozier and his men begin to fear that there is no escape. The Terror swells with the heart-stopping suspense and heroic adventure that have won Dan Simmons praise as "a writer who not only makes big promises but keeps them" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer). With a haunting and constantly surprising story based on actual historical events, The Terror is a novel that will chill you to your core.

20. Going After Cacciato by Tim O'Brien (1979)

"To call Going After Cacciato a novel about war is like calling Moby-Dick a novel about whales."

So wrote the New York Times of Tim O'Brien's now classic novel of Vietnam. Winner of the 1979 National Book Award, Going After Cacciato captures the peculiar mixture of horror and hallucination that marked this strangest of wars.

In a blend of reality and fantasy, this novel tells the story of a young soldier who one day lays down his rifle and sets off on a quixotic journey from the jungles of Indochina to the streets of Paris. In its memorable evocation of men both fleeing from and meeting the demands of battle, Going After Cacciato stands as much more than just a great war novel. Ultimately it's about the forces of fear and heroism that do battle in the hearts of us all.

21. Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes (2009)
Intense, powerful, and compelling, Matterhorn is an epic war novel in the tradition of Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead and James Jones'sThe Thin Red Line. It is the timeless story of a young Marine lieutenant, Waino Mellas, and his comrades in Bravo Company, who are dropped into the mountain jungle of Vietnam as boys and forced to fight their way into manhood. Standing in their way are not merely the North Vietnamese but also monsoon rain and mud, leeches and tigers, disease and malnutrition. Almost as daunting, it turns out, are the obstacles they discover between each other: racial tension, competing ambitions, and duplicitous superior officers. But when the company finds itself surrounded and outnumbered by a massive enemy regiment, the Marines are thrust into the raw and all-consuming terror of combat. The experience will change them forever.
Written over the course of thirty years by a highly decorated Marine veteran, Matterhorn is a visceral and spellbinding novel about what it is like to be a young man at war. It is an unforgettable novel that transforms the tragedy of Vietnam into a powerful and universal story of courage, camaraderie, and sacrifice: a parable not only of the war in Vietnam but of all war, and a testament to the redemptive power of literature.
22. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
With a compassionate realism and narrative sweep that recall the work of Charles Dickens, this magnificent novel captures all the cruelty and corruption, dignity and heroism, of India. The time is 1975. The place is an unnamed city by the sea. The government has just declared a State of Emergency, in whose upheavals four strangers--a spirited widow, a young student uprooted from his idyllic hill station, and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village--will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future. 

As the characters move from distrust to friendship and from friendship to love, A Fine Balance creates an enduring panorama of the human spirit in an inhuman state.

23. The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson

Pak Jun Do is the haunted son of a lost mother—a singer “stolen” to Pyongyang—and an influential father who runs a work camp for orphans. Superiors in the state soon recognize the boy’s loyalty and keen instincts. Considering himself “a humble citizen of the greatest nation in the world,” Jun Do rises in the ranks. He becomes a professional kidnapper who must navigate the shifting rules, arbitrary violence, and baffling demands of his Korean overlords in order to stay alive. Driven to the absolute limit of what any human being could endure, he boldly takes on the treacherous role of rival to Kim Jong Il in an attempt to save the woman he loves, Sun Moon, a legendary actress “so pure, she didn’t know what starving people looked like.”

24. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939)

First published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s and tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads-driven from their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. Out of their trials and their repeated collisions against the hard realities of an America divided into Haves and Have-Nots evolves a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, elemental yet plainspoken, tragic but ultimately stirring in its human dignity.

25. Dead Stars by Bruce Wagner

At age thirteen, Telma is famous as the world’s youngest breast cancer survivor until threatened with obscurity by a four-year-old who’s just undergone a mastectomy…. Reeyonna believes that auditioning for pregnant teenage porn will help fulfill her dream of befriending Kanye West…. Jackie, a photographer once celebrated for arty nudes of her young daughter, is working at a Sears Family Portrait boutique…. And Oscar-winning Michael Douglas searches for meaning while his wife, Catherine, guest-stars on Glee.

Moving forward with the inexorable force of a tsunami, Dead Stars is Bruce Wagner’s most lavish and remarkable translation yet of the national zeitgeist: post-privacy porn culture, a Kardashianworld of rapid-cycling, disposable narrative where reality-show triumph is the new American narcotic.

26. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty (1979)

A love story, an adventure, and an epic of the frontier, Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize— winning classic, Lonesome Dove, the third book in the Lonesome Dove tetralogy, is the grandest novel ever written about the last defiant wilderness of America. Journey to the dusty little Texas town of Lonesome Dove and meet an unforgettable assortment of heroes and outlaws, whores and ladies, Indians and settlers. Richly authentic, beautifully written, always dramatic, Lonesome Dove is a book to make us laugh, weep, dream, and remember. 


1-4: Sea of Fertility tetralogy by Yukio Mishima

Graphic Novels:

1. Black Hole by Charles Burns (2000)
2. The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale (1997)


1. The Disaster Artist by Greg Sistero and Tom Bissell (2013)
2. Man's Search For Meaning by Victor Frankl (1946)
3. People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry (2010)
4. Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman (2003)
5. Last Words by George Carlin (2009)
6. Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lewis (2012)
7. Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (2010)
8. The Big Short by Michael Lewis (2009)
9. One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Kruschev and Castro and the Brink of Nuclear War by Michael Dobbs (2008)
10. The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror In the Golden Age of Hijacking by Daniel I. Koehrner (2013)
11. The Friedkin Connection by William Friedkin (2012)
12. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin (2005)
13. The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes (1986)
14. Raven: The Untold Story of Jim Jones and People's Temple by Tim Reiterman (1982)
15. Mad As Hell: The Making of Network by Dave Itzkoff (2014)
16. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (2003)
17. Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer (2003)
18. Hitchcock/Truffaut by Alfred Hitchcock and Francois Truffaut (1968)
19. The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright (2006)
20. Dark Spell: Surviving the Sentence by Mara Leveritt with Jason Baldwin (2014)
22. Kubrick by Michel Ciment (2001)
23. Being and Nothingness by Jean Paul Sartre (1943)
24. Pictures At A Revolution: 5 Films and the Birth of the New Hollywood by Mark Harris (2009)
25. Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives In North Korea (2009)
26. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin (1963)
27. Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain (2012)

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