As most of you know Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., author of such classics as Slaughterhouse-five, Deadeye Dick, and Sirens of Titan passed away yesterday at 84 years old. I'm sure the so-called blogosphere is filled with memorials to this behemoth of literature. I can't say that I was his biggest fan, but I certainly appreciated his wit and social criticisms.
Yet since I heard of his passing today I can't help but think of some of the great things I've read through the years. True most of my teenage years were limited to science fiction/fantasy of varying degrees of awfulness, but I have read some great pieces over the years. That said I now give you my top ten works, now many of these you know but some you might not so bear with me. Oh and maybe if you're lucky Wife will give her list next though I think her favorites are 1-10 Anna Karenina.
1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkein--Now why would this be first? Well this is the one work that I've read more than anything else in my life. Tolkein's world is rich, varied, and morally relevant. I also believe that without my early introduction to these books (I think I read them for the first time when I was 12) I would never have learned to love reading as much as I do.
2. Watership Down, Richard Adams--This was perhaps my introduction to allegory outside of a scriptural setting. Adams paints a believable world of the struggles of individuals for freedom in face of tyranny using of all things rabbits. It's a wonderful piece of literature.
3. Candide, Voltaire--I wish I had read this earlier. I didn't read it until I TA'd a History of Civ. class in college. What a wonderful piece of satire.
4. South:The Endurance Expedition, Ernest Shackleton--This memoir of the struggles of Shackleton's expedition to Antarctica is absolutely revetting. Shackleton chronicles day by day his voyage into the deep south and his struggles as he watches his ship crushed by sea ice. It's absolutely unbelievable that he and his men could have survived such circumstances.
5. A Man Without a Country, Kurt Vonnegut--This is easily the most recent publication on this list. If you're a big fan of Bush don't read it as you'll find it obnoxious, but if you are open minded to critiques of this country you will see quite a bit of truth told from someone who has lived some of the worst times this country has experienced.
6. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card--This is the only Sci Fi book that could make this list. It's easily the most entertaining and accessible sci fi book I have ever read (unlike classics like Dune or the Foundation Trilogy). A little dated, the book is set in a future in which the Warsaw Pact and NATO were still vying for supremacy. It still appeals to me as Card is great at character development (though he uses the same plot for everyone of his books). I wish the battle room was real.
7. The Story of my Misfortunes, Pierre Abelard--Picture this story. A 12th century university teacher who happens to be a priest falls in love with a young female student in his charge. Already an enemy of the great men of the Church, he further alienates them by gaining disciples and impregnating said student. Fleeing for his life his enemies catch him, torture him, and castrate him. How can you go wrong with that story?
8. Hamlet, William Shakespeare--I don't care what people say when rating Shakespeare's works. I read this as a 15 year old and any play that could inspire a 15 year old must be good.
9. Les Rhinoceros, Eugene Ionesco--This was the first play I read entirely in French and so has stuck with me for a long time. Ionesco's writing was highly absurd which made his critiques of conformity that much more salient. I'm not sure if this English translation is any good so if you can read French, read it in French.
10. Pere Goriot, Honore de Balzac--This, like most French literature, is incredibly depressing. However like the rest of Balzac's Human Comedy, it shows the dangers that selfishness, ambition, and materialism pose for mankind. Like Vonnegut and Voltaire, Balzac offered a scathing critique of contemporary society in this 19th century work.
Well that's it for today. Now don't get the idea that I'm going to keep posting everyday, I really don't have that much to say. Or at least I do but you don't want to hear it. Let me end this post with a quote from Vonnegut:
I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center.R.I.P. Kurt