So after reading the AOM list of 100 must read books, there is no denying that all of this literature is focussed mainly on the classics. I have lots of respect for the classics and one day hope to have read several of them. However, I feel that it has overlooked many modern day authors who are writing incredible books. Lets use this thread to discuss our favorite books from the last 10 years or so. Fiction, non fiction, sci fi, etc. Its all good. Here are some of mine:
I actually got up and went into my closet where I keep my books and pondered through the more recent ones.
Funny enough, the first one I found is about 27 years old.
The Tao of Pooh- by Benjamin Hoff is an insanely easy read about the principles of Taoism applied to the Pooh stories. In a world where everyone is striving to not only micromanage their worlds via their Blackberry but trying to calm down and enjoy life at the same time. Hoff offers some of the best advice, "just be." Be the un-carved block that Pooh was. I know it helps me to pick it up and reread it on a lazy afternoon.
Fever Pitch- by Nick Hornsby was written in 1992 when much of the US still thought that Pele was the only real soccer player in the world because he had played for the Metro Starts in the 80's. Hornsby's tale starts at a young age when his father takes him to see Arsenal play soccer and the kid falls in love with it. It is a moving story about how a sport can effect us and shape our overall perspective of life and love.
Legacy of Ashes- by Tim Weiner is the latest in "histories of" of the CIA. Before reading it, I recommend an older piece called The Defense of Duffers Drift. Many people who have read Weiner's book end up going bat-shit crazy because they believe that all that intelligence agencies do is screw things up. I recommend Duffers Drift before Ashes because it will put the reader into the proper mindset to understand that intelligence is not like looking into a crystal ball. The answers are never tantamount and the sources are likely lying. Ashes is long winded but is full of historical information.
Among The Thugs- by Bill Buford was the first book on hooliganism that I ever read. I had the opportunity to write on the subject for my British history class and Buford's book shook me. The masochistic nature that he paints pictures of are truly page turning and can offer insight into the mentality of any mob and what to expect when it "goes off."
These are all I can think of off the top of my head. I will have to look at my virtual bookshelf on facebook to see the books that I don't own that I highly recommend.
Seeing the acronyms for the Vietnam programs brings back my history of intel course that I took two years ago. I was assigned the hamlet study done by the Rand corporation. It is truly amazing to sit there and sift through nearly 1600 pages of information about what intelligence work use to be.
Since our time on the planet is finite, there must be a limit to the number of books any of us can read. Therefore, every book you read is a book you don't read. Sticking with the classics (and there are enough of them to last a lifetime) assures you won't spend precious time on a turkey.
I see your point of view, yet I digress. No doubt there are plenty of classics to keep our interests, but I find it important to open ourselves to new material. After all, if everyone focused on the classics, what reason is there for someone to write a novel? There is always an excellent new book coming up, and you would never hear of it if someone didn't tell you. Also, you can always check the reviews on amazon if you're worried about getting a turkey lol.
I'm certainly not arguing with you, you make good points. However, my answer to your questions, "If everyone focused on the classics, what reason is there for someone to write a novel?"...my answer is that writers will always write to satisfy the urge to write, whether we rea them of not. And who, having been raised Hardy or Hemingway, would not want to write in their league? But again, you make a good point that Anthony Lane made a few years ago; "The ideal literary diet should consist of equal parts trash and classics. Books you can read without thinking, and books you must read in order to be able to think at all."
Scott I would most heartily disagree with you on the subject of the classics. While it is true that many of them are good it is also true that many really have no purpose other then to bore a new generation. I loved Robinson Crusoe and The Swiss Family Robinson, but I happen to think that the Leatherstockings series really isn't that good. Many new bokos offer good insight into life and are just more fun to read.
For recent books that I really enjoyed and think are useful I would offer the following:
John Adams by David McCullough is the best biography I've read in a very long while.
Band of Brothers/Citizen Soldiers/D-Day by Stephen Ambrose are some of the best written books about WWII out there and are entertaining to boot.
Anything by Malcolm Gladwell. He is both thoughtful and entertaining. I am waiting for my dad to ship outliers to me whenever he's done and am looking forward to it.
I know there are a few others out there, but I'm about 4500 miles away from my library so I'll have to punt on the others.
Josh, I agree all the classics aren't wonderful. However, I've never been burned with Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Proust, Hemingway. Again, it's a matter of personal preference, and I am speaking here almost entirely of fiction. I love history and obviously read recent historical and biographical works because modern works offer the benefits of recent scholarship, new discoveries. But, it all comes down to time remaining. If I was twenty, I'd wade through contemporary poetry, but in my late Fifties, I don't have the time, and my experience tells me finding something worthwhile written in the last 50 years (other than Philip Larkin) is unlikely. So, I read Hardy and his predecessors and am not disappointed.
Scott, that is a point well made. I imagine that once i get a little older I'll start sticking to Tolkien, Lewis and a few of my favorite authors. I personnaly have never made any progress into a Russian novel becuase they are just too depressing. Well that and too long. I agree that most modern novels really are not that good. Most tend to be petty and self-absoebed claptrap with some feel good philosphy to make readers happy. Dan Brown springs to mind. I am not a big fan of modern poetry, or poetrry in general but there are a few poets I'll read. Tennyson and Kipling are my two favorites with Bill Watterson coming in a close third. Kipling for me is the current favorite. He had been called "The Soldier's" poet and I have to agree he knows what he's talking about and is still relevant a century later.
Most of what I read tends to be either historical or Science Fiction/Fantasy anyways. Better authors, plots and better escapism for the most part. When I read I want to get lost in a new world and not have to deal with the hum-drum existence of not having floating cars.
You sound like me thirty-years ago. Reading is, to a large extent, what you put into it. If I may quote Lex Luthor from the 1978 film Superman: “Some people can read War and Peace and come away thinking it’s just a simple adventure story, other people can read a chewing gum wrapper, and unlock the secrets of the universe.”