27 December 2006

25 Books

In a previous post, '25 Songs' (link in the sidebar), I detailed many of the songs I quite enjoy. So, with my attention diverted to some other gaming issues, I have decided to throw out a list of some of my favorite books, not necessarily in order, but those that have affected me deeply and have helped mold some of my thinking. Some are older favorites, others are new gems. Either way, I could make this about 50 to 100, but I did not really want to make anyone numb from boredom (not that it might happen anyway :)

1) The Stand by Stephen King: I am not really a fan of King, but I love the unabridged version of The Stand (and the miniseries is not bad either).

2) Chronicles by Froissart: One of the few primary sources for the early part of the Hundred Years War. The only problem is that Froissart was more biased to toward the English and likely exaggerates some of the casualty figures, as was common in the Middle Ages.

3) In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made by Norman F. Cantor: A fantastic book that postulates some intriguing theories about the Bubonic Plague and the other outbreaks during the time of the Black Death and how the Black Death helped create the modern era.

4) Sailing the Wine Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter by Thomas Cahill: This more recent book affected some of my thinking on ancient history and the philosophy of why it all matters using the context of The Iliad and The Odyssey. (It also inspired two poems, so never bad in that regard).

5) The Iliad and The Odyssey: Perhaps not surprisingly... reading the above book has
helped me understand better two of the greatest books in Western Literature.

6) The Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove: Robert E. Lee gets the Ak-47 during the Wilderness campaign... time-traveling Alternate History at its best.

7) Holy War by Karen Armstrong: Though I disagree with some of her assertions, Armstrong creates an interesting portrait of the struggle for the Holy Land.

8) Timeline by Michael Crichton: I did not care for the movie, but the book was fantastic and had one of the more extensive bibliographies you will ever see for a work of fiction.

9) Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke: An older book, but a true classic of science fiction and certainly the most philosophical book of early science fiction.

10) Robots of Dawn/Robots and Empire by Isaac Asimov: While I loved Foundation, I read these books first and found I was able to relate to them more. They also helped tie in the later Foundation books.

11) Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle: A classic, though technologically dated, disaster book of a rogue comet striking the Earth before Meteor, Armageddon and Deep Impact.

12) We Were Soldiers Once... And Young by Lt. Gen Harold Moore and Joe Galloway: A fantastic book and movie (regardless of your Mel Gibson feelings) that tells the story of the first major battle of the Vietnam War from the perspective of the soldiers on both sides.

13) Inventing the Middle Ages by Norman F. Cantor: Perhaps the seminal work on the history of Medieval History. (ie, intellectual history)

14) 12th Planet by Zechariah Sitchin- Written in the late 70's, this book proposes the ancient Sumerians knew far more about our past, and our future than we let on. Intriguing read, and he still has a strong following today, thanks to his many books.

15) Battle Cry of Freedom by James S. Mc Pherson- The finest single volume work on the War Between the States (Shelby Foote's versions are two or three volumes, I forget) and one that treats the conflict in a very fair manner. Very easy to read.

16) The Light of Other Days by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter: Simple story in some ways about the discovery of a time viewer, but complex in the area of philosophy. What one might expect from Clarke and Baxter.

17) Green Cathedrals by Philip J. Lowry: I read this before the local shrine (the Ballpark in Arlington) was built, so it is dated. Still, this book is a must for anyone interested in the history of baseball and its temples. Also has a great entry on a place in an Iowa cornfield.

18) The Albigensian Crusades by Joseph Strayer: One of the least known crusades, but one nonetheless and just as brutal as the others.

19) The Disappearance of God: A Divine Mystery by Richard Elliot Friedman: An intriguing look at how Yahweh's involvement in human affairs fades from Genesis to the end of the Old Testament.

20) Tales of the Dying Earth by Jack Vance: My dad would put this at number one, he being possibly the biggest Vance fan on the planet, but I find the collection of stories and novels of the Earth near the end of time to be simply great science fiction/fantasy.

21) The Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus by Thomas Cahill: A book that started my own quest for the historical Jesus.

22) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: One of my favorite books in high school, and I still have a soft spot for it. Also a book that greatly influenced the way I write.

23) Wilson's Ghost by Robert S. McNamarra: Not the book on which The Fog of War is loosely based, but this one is more relative than the Vietnam experience (not to diminish that in any way). This book looks at trying to stop the trend of violence borne from the end of the Great War.

24) Let the Sea Make a Noise: A History of the North Pacific by Walter A. MacDougall: This book was one of those that told me I should really study history. After reading it, I knew that I wanted to work with history. The book is written uniquely in a story narrative told by the voices of those involved in the history of the North Pacific, then switches perspectives via date and voice. Very, very well done.

25) The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara: Technically a novel because it uses dialogue, this history of the Battle of Gettysburg (and later became the movie Gettysburg) is one of the finest, with some incredible romantic and realistic imagery of the War Between the States.


Veronica said...

You might like Jack Miles' books on the Bible.

jedimerc said...

I have read Jack Miles... his biography of God is excellent. I will have to check out the Bible book (I assume it is a different one)

MadameBoffin said...

You're right, Timeline was a brilliant book. It's appalling how badly they mutilated it when it was brought to the screen though.

You might enjoy a sci-fi book called Wheelers, about Jovian life. One of the best sci-fi books I've read.

Have you read Stranger in a Strange Land? That was one of the most interesting sci-bi books I've read.

kate said...

#5 is on my list also.

Angela/SciFiChick said...

Great list.. though I've only read a few of them..

jedimerc said...

madameboffin: I read Stranger in a Strange Land a long time ago. Hienlen has had some great stuff.

A lot of Chrichton's books have suffered poorly on the big screen, alas... His last two books 'State of Fear' and 'Next' are great, but I doubt they will translate well to the screen (mostly because of the amount of technical information in them)

kate: Can't go wrong with the Iliad and the Odyssey :)

angela: thanks... really, I could have made it all sci fi or all non-fiction, but I tried to gather a broad spectrum of books, and these have been more influential than the rest.

Veronica said...

Sort of. The second one is a literary analysis of The New Testament.

jedimerc said...

I'll have to have a look at it then...

Janet said...

I really loved The Stand too. That book (and movie) came out at a time where the market was yet to be saturated with end of the world propaganda. Ahh, youth.:)

Sayre said...

I think I would want "The Stand" with me if I were ever marooned on a desert island... I like Stephen King, but he definitely has his ups and downs. "The Stand" and "The Green Mile" are definitely his best.

I also love Dean Koontz. He's another one of those that just doesn't translate to film. They made three attempts at getting "The Watchers" on celluloid before giving it up. Some things just work better in the imagination, I guess.

Nice list!

jedimerc said...

janet: Yeah, The Stand even went with what was thought not to be the typical end of the world baloney: a disease instead of nuclear armageddon. The movie was more consistent with the threat of the times, but The Stand remains a classic for others of the genre to follow.

sayre: Too bad about Koontz in that regard... he's had some great stuff, but a lot of King's work didn't do well on film either, though his work has had more critical success due to the volume of the amount put on film...

Becky said...

I have three in common with you that I've even read -- Timeline (and I agree with you on the book vs. the movie), The Great Gatsby and Killer Angels. I enjoyed the latter's trilogy. One of them (I forgot which one was the son vs. the father) and they did an American Revolution set that was good too.

jedimerc said...

It was the son... his dad only wrote The Killer Angels and Jeff Shaara finished the trilogy, which was awesome. I just finished his new book on WWII called The Rising Tide(though if you've seen 'Patton' you feel like you've read it before) focusing on North Africa to Italy... and I read the books on the American Revolution as well, very good stuff :)