What are your must-read book recommendations?

This is no doubt a perennial thread, but if you’re like me, the answers change every few months or so. Also, I’m looking for something new to read and would like some suggestions. Right now I’d have to say my current faves are:

‘Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds’
by Charles MacKay

‘The Old Patagonia Express’
by Paul Theroux
(Really, just about any of Theroux’s travel books-this one is my favorite, tho)

‘Fast One’
by Paul Cain

‘White Jazz’
by James Ellroy

‘Mona Lisa Overdrive’
by Wlliam Gibson

(These are my favorite hard-boiled detective/crime books. I know Gibson is sci-fi, but I think of his stuff as being really rooted in hard-boiled pulp fiction.)

by Mary Shelley
(I had never actually read this before - it really is an excellent book! It wasn’t terribly frightening, but it’s really a well-thought-out rebuttal to the Enlightenment.)

That’s just a few I’d recommend. What say you?

Well, these aren’t going to be sci fi recommmendations, but I love them anyway:

A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving should be read by everyone alive.

My favorite book of all time is The Collector by John Fowles, I’ve read it a million times and it only takes about 3 hours to get through (less than 300 pages I believe)

The Secret History by Donna Tartt made me want to be a better writer, and also go back to college. It’s fascinating.

Those are definitely my top three.


My two absolute favorite books are:
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (get the unabridged version if you can find it)


Fletch by Gregory MacDonald (Much, much better than the movie. I believe the book won an Edgar award).


Well, the Straight Dope books, of course…
Bergen Evans’ books A Natural History of Nonsense and the other one I can’t recall.

Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi

Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal

David Macaulay’s The Great Bridge

Martin Gardner’s The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener

any of C.S. Forester’s “Horatio Hornblower” novels

Any of Robert S. van Gulik’s “Judge Dee” novels

Marvin Harris’ Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches

Richard Feynman’s Lectures on Physics

Michael Faraday’s Chemical History of a Candle

Neil Simon’s Plays

The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volumes I, IIA, and IIB

“Hot Zone”
Kind of introduced Americans to the ebola scare. It’s a true story and part of it happened just a few miles from where I lived at the time.

If the first chapter doesn’t scare the bejeezus out of you, then you’re not human.

My favorite novel is, by far, East of Eden by John Steinbeck. I think that everyone should read this novel.

I had to say that I just love these threads. I always open them with delight, can’t wait to see what people suggest.

Some of my best reads over the past year have been from Doper suggestions.

Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Yeah, you probably read it in high school, but read it again. It’s one of America’s greatest novels.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. I’ve read it three times. Incredible.

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. I have never read any other book like it. This book is painful and hilarious, and I mourn the fact that Toole killed himself before writing a follow-up.

Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut. This pretty much sums up what I feel about art.

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. The younger you are when you pick this one up, the better. I read it when I was 22, and I wish I’d found it earlier.

Alex Mendelsohn, Boy from Mars by Daniel Pinkwater. Technically, it’s a young-adult novel, but much of it works for adults, too.

Young Adult Novel (alternatively titles Young Adults by Daniel Pinkwater. Not really a young-adult novel. But it’s a corker!

I’m sure there are more, but this is all I’m coming up with off the top of my head. Read these books, folks. You’ll thank me.

Yeccccch. WHITE JAZZ was horrible. If you read closely (well, you don’t even have to read it THAT closely) you can tell where Sonny Mehta or his assistant threw up his hands and completely gave up on the editing.

If you MUST read Ellroy (and I don’t recommend it. the man is a grossly egotistical self-publicist, not a serious novelist) read THE BLACK DAHLIA. AT least he was still striving for coherence back in '87.

Now, if you want to read something really REALLY hot, try THE MANUSCRIPT FOUND IN SARAGOSSA by Jan Potocki. I’m up to the 27th Day, and I’m fascinated.

Some of those I would have suggested have already been named, so my list is pretty short. However, I must concur with Chance the Gardener; Catch-22. A great book, that.

1984, George Orwell - I barely survived that one with my sanity intact.

Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy collection, Douglas Adams - Not only hysterical, but includes slyly hidded satire at anything you can think of.

Not a book, but: the essay A Modest Proposal, Jonathan Swift - Hey, I love satire. And it’s all sooooo true.

Hmm. ‘White Jazz’ always seems to stir up controversy, especially among Ellroy fans. Seems like a love-or-hate thing. I loved it, although I haven’t gotten around to ‘Black Dahlia’ yet.

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond–An excellent book to rebut racists

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray–Absolutely one of the best satires of human behavior ever

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome–The ideal book to read by a riverside

Mathematics: From The Birth of Numbers by Jan Gullberg–Not a book to be devoured, but one to pick up and browse through. If you weren’t fascinated by numbers before, you will be after reading this book!

The Way Things Work by David McCaulay–It’s a profusely illustrated book that uses a perplexed mammoth to show how everyday technology works. Guranteed to demystify the gadgets in your life.

Anything by Terry Pratchett

Laff-out-loud books, all easily findable on sites like http://www.bookfinder.com

• Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, purportedly by Anita Loos (but I suspect they were ghosted by her hubby, John Emerson)

• Show Girl and Hollywood Girl, by J.P. McEvoy

• Little Me, by Patrick Dennis (of Mame fame)

• Pink & White Tyranny by Harriet Beecher Stowe (yes, she DID write something else besides Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and this is a delight!)

• Every Other Inch a Lady, Bea Lillie’s hilarious memoirs

The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker. An interesting book about linguistics (for a general audience).

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. Great Sci-Fi about a not too distant future.

Also by Neal Stephenson The Diamond Age. Really cool conception of nanotechnology. Both The Diamond Age and Snow Crash have great descriptions of the social structures in which they take place. (If that makes any sense. “Really cool futuristic worlds” may be easier to understand, but it doesn’t quite capture what I’m trying to describe).

Just about anything by Oliver Sacks. I particularly recommend The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, An Anthropologist on Mars, and Island of the Colorblind.

Umberto Eco is a good Author as well. In the Name of the Rose is a great book, especially after studying up on the Medieval world. (I reread it while I was taking an art history course on the art of the medieval world ans rennaisance and it was even better.) I also recommend Foucalt’s Pendulum this is a perfect book for Dopers. It combines virtually every conspiracy theory into one Mutha of a Conspiracy Theory. The cool thing is that the people who create this conspiracy know that they are just making it up, at least in the beginning. It is a perfect illustration of how the human mind creates patterns and draws connections whether they exist or not.

Top of them all:

“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith.

I also recommend “Our Kate” by Catherine Cookson.

There are far too many books to list, all in all. These are a good start, though.

Seriously? Several people recommended it to me, so I gave it a try. All twenty pages or so. I thought it was unbearable.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

And I am currently going through a very pro Westmark phase. This is a trilogy by Lloyd Alexander that everyone should be required to read when they are 12. Unfortunantly, the center book is out of print. Why do they do that!?

I have a photo on my desk here of Richard Preston, author of Hot Zone, signed, “Greetings Jill, from Kitum Cave.”

Yes, and his non-fiction is better/scarier than his fiction (better than most fiction)! I would also recommend The Coming Plague by Laurie Garrett.

The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea and Shödinger’s Cat by Wilson as well. Both have a very interesting writing style and are extremely thought-provoking.

Both books are hard to sum up, but in a nutshell, Illuminatus! is THE novel about conspiracy theories, conspiracy theorists and the supernatural. Maybe not the most “scientific” subjects, but the treatment is fascinating and even though the trilogy is about 800-900 pages, it’s a page turner.

Schrödinger’s Cat is, again in a very big nutshell, 3 days happening over and over again in alternate realities, with different parameters and different outcomes.

Schrödinger’s Cat is also a sequel of sorts to Illuminatus! and even though you don’t have to read them in order, if you plan on reading both I recommend to follow the order.

The style of writing in these books in very interesting.

Other recommendations:

William S. Burrough - Cities of the Red Night. Absolutely fascinating, but not for the faint of heart! Easily shocked sensibilities should definitely stay away from anything by Burroughs or Wilson.

Other favorites of mine were already mentionned, so there is no point in going over them again…

I’ve always enjoyed Ayn Rand, both Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead are books that I couldn’t put down. You have to be prepared to set aside a few days however…