The Booklist 2005 Project

In the past, this has been my method for determining my reading list:

  1. Go to library
  2. Wander over to “new releases” section
  3. Judge books by cover

This has led me to some great stuff. Unfortunately, it has also resulted in long stretches of mediocrity.

One of those stretches was the year affectionately known as 2004, and I said as much in my annual recap. But then, as an afterthought, I asked readers to send me recommendations for future reading.

And boy-howdie, did I get ’em. And it would be a shame to let them go to waste. So this year I’m going to try the Booklist 2005 project, and try and plow through the majority of the books that were endorsed by dy readers. And although I was terribly lax about writing book reviews last year, I intend to comment on every B2K Project novel I read on these virtual pages.

Here is my current list of a dozen (Update: now 20) books. Below it are some 25 more, that I will add to the list if they receive seconds from commenters. And if you know of something that really, really ought to be on here but isn’t mentioned at all, you can put that in the comments as well. (Although, given the rate at which I read books, the list as it stands is probably sufficient to keep me in fiction until 2008).

The Current List
(i.e., books that received a second and/or intrigued me)

  • Annals of the Black Company, Glen Cook [Read first 20 pages, didn’t like. May try again later.]
  • Civilwarland in Bad Decline, George Saunders [Done!]
  • Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell [Done!]
  • The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon [Done!]
  • Eastern Standard Tribe, Cory Doctorow [Done!]
  • The Elementary Particles, Michel Houellebecq
  • Freedom & Necessity, Stephen Brust and Emma Bull
  • Game of Thrones, George Martin [Have — trying to find a sufficient block of time to read]
  • Gilead, Marilynne Robinson
  • Gringos, Charles Portis [Don’t like — abandoned.]
  • Hardboiled Wonderland And The End Of The World, Haruki Murakami
  • House of Leaves, Mark Z. Dainielewski [Done! One of my favorite books of all-time!]
  • An Instance of the Fingerpost, Iain Pears
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke
  • Oracle Night, Paul Auster [Done!]
  • Oryx and Crak, Margaret Atwood
  • Thief Lord, Cornelia Funke [Yeah, it was okay …]
  • The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon [Enjoyable, but not fantastic]
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger [Done!]
  • Wicked: The Life And Times Of The Wicked Witch Of The West, Gregory Maguire

Candidates
(i.e., books in need of a second)

  • The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton
  • Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
  • Dirt Music, Tim Winton
  • The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad, Minister Faust
  • Facing the Music, Larry Brown
  • The Fermata, Nicholson Baker
  • Little Children, Tom Perrotta
  • The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold
  • McCarthy’s Bar, Pete McCarthy
  • The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Pattern Recognition, William Gibson
  • Pest Control, Bill Fitzhugh
  • The Plot Against America, Philip Rothv
  • Seven Types of Ambiguity, Elliot Perlman
  • Sock, Penn Jillette
  • Star of the Sea, Joseph O’Conner
  • Sunshine, Robin McKinley
  • The Towers of Trebizond, Rose Macaulay
  • When the Nines Roll Over, David Benioff

P.S.1. These are all fiction recommendations, because that’s what I specifically asked for in my recap. But, if suggesting brand new titles, non-fiction is also welcomed.

P.S.2. Feel free to warn me away from any books I am considering if you’re so inclined. You guys are picking these, so the more input the better.

225 thoughts on “The Booklist 2005 Project

  1. I’m not sure if anyone else here has mentioned it, or if you have even read it yourself. The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery should literally go straight to the number one list of books you need to read, and be read before anything else in your life. It’s an amazing “children’s” book that not only will you love, but you will love reading to your kid. The story is so popular that it is the number 2 selling book of all time, only beat out by the bible. Art from the book is also on french money.
    I could go on and on and on about it, but once you read it you understand the glory that is this book. Plus since it is a kid’s book, it will probably take you about 20 minutes tops to finish it.
    I mean I would honestly be willing to place money bet that you would fall in love with this book if you moved it to the top of the list of books to read.

    Also, I know House of Leaves is already on your “to read” list, but I still recommend it anyway. Really amazing book, and if you can locate it try flipping through the book. Once you see how the type is set you will understand why you NEED to read this book.

  2. Some words on Sci-Fi:
    The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons, mentioned above, is absolutely fantastic cool awesome, and you’ll be thanking your stars that all four books are out, because it would be agony to have to wait for the next one.
    Those books are: “Hyperion” and “The Fall of Hyperion,” which are paired together, and followed decades later by “Endymion” and “The Rise of Endymion.”
    His current book, “Ilium,” features Greek Gods reenacting the Iliad on Mars. It will hopefully be wrapped up in this year’s “Olympos,” because I’d hate to wait another 2 years to see how it turns out.

    Someone mentioned Iain [M.] Banks’ “The Player of Games.” Excellent book, and one of the several excellent books of The Culture. My favorite is “Use of Weapons,” and there are other good ones, plus a couple of filler books. “Consider Phlebas” is the first, though it’s set some 800 years before most of the others.

    Iain Banks is evidently good friends with fellow Scottish writer and fellow recovering Marxist, Ken MacLeod, who wrote “The Fall Revolution” series: “The Star Fraction,” “The Stone Canal,” “The Cassini Division,” and “The Sky Road,” which span about 1000 years and a few hundred light years. It’s a absolutely rich brew of politics, technology, and humanity. Fantastic reading. He also wrote the 3-book “Engines of Light” series which I have not read, but look forward to.

    Tony Daniel wrote the exquisite books, “Metaplanetary” and “Superluminal,” and hopefully more, novels of an interplanetary war between a horrifying totalitarian inner-planet system, and the progressive, liberty-endowed outer moons. Both are endowed with amazing nanotech called Grist, the kind of tech that connects planets together with cables (yes, very strong physical cables), spread people’s personalites across the solar system, and let humans grow into massive clouds of rock. “Superluminal” didn’t finish the story, but the next book should be another amazing read– wait for it to come out before you start “Metaplanetary.”

    Seriously, man– where are you going to find time to read all this with a young child around?

  3. Vamped by Daniel Sosnowski. Quite funny and took an unconventional and entertaining approach to the much abused subject of vampires.

    The Innamorati by Midori Snyder. Just plain good.

    And a warning about Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I work in a library where we have had tons of requests for this book. Once people check it out only about half of them finish it. I tried reading it and simply couldn’t make it through the damn thing (and I hate not finishing books). It was about as exciting as a table water cracker. Thick as the unabridged Webster’s dictionary too. Makes for a great doorstop though.

  4. I didn’t like Oryx and Crake. I’m not even sure why I finished it because I really didn’t care about what was going to happen. Boring would be a good description.

    Are you looking for something new or are you willing to go back a few years? I just finished The Cider House Rules by John Irving and thought it was pretty good. Even better by Irving is The World According to Garp.

    My favorite book of all time is The Stranger by Albert Camus. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend that you do. It’s simplicity is deceiving.

  5. Here’s one you should know and love, especially with a kid on the way up. It’s fun bedtime reading, and the language is charming on its own. Good luck finding a copy in print somewhere, but you seem like the resourceful type.

    The 13 Clocks, by James Thurber

    dont’ be fooled, it’s only 70 pages long so it should be a fast read/review; and get an copy illustrated by Marc Simont.

    -Tom

  6. The Lovely Bones is well worth a read. When my son was born (the day before your Squirrelly in fact), it was difficult to get into any good books. I was exhausted, life seemed at an end (you remember), and it had to be something to *really* catch my attention. This one did. And the Curious Incedent of the Dog… was also a good read, but I see its already made your list.

  7. If you like the Wicked Witch book by Macguire, then I think you will also like Mirror, Mirror. That is my favorite by him at least

  8. I have 2 year old so my trips to the library involve running in, going to the express area and randomly grabbing a book. In the 20 seconds it takes to do this I ask my daughter to grab a book and occasionally I may like one. I liked Skinny Dip. Fast, funny and kind of senseless. I don’t think I have the mind capacity for much more these days.

    I don’t remember many other books as most were truly awful.

  9. I would heartily second Neal Stephenson’s “Snow Crash” which I rate as possibly the best SF I’ve read to date. How many authors can make a pizza delivery an edge-of-seat experience (I kid you not)?

    Non-fiction: William Dalrymple’s “City of Djinns” about Delhi. Travel writing at its best (and if you’ve ever visited the city it simply comes alive under your hand).

    Rob

  10. Brideshead Revisited -a long book which I have not read – must do so in 2005! But the television series is superb, one of the best things I’ve ever seen on screen. If short of time you could watch that and read instead Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop, a side-achingly funny novel based closely on bizarre real-life adventures of the press corps reporting in Africa.

  11. Just about anything by William Gibson I’ve enjoyed. Haven’t read Pattern Reconition, but have added it to my list.

    Do read Edith Wharton. A great look into a woman’s perspective on a definitely masculine era.

  12. Definitely add When the Nines Roll Over to your list. I also liked I Dream of Microwaves, another excellent collection of short stories.

    The Lovely Bones is good, but has a similar late-in-the-book breakdown to The Curious Incident…

    If you haven’t yet read Memoirs of the Geisha, add that one to your list, as well.

  13. I’ll second “The Fermata” by Nicholson Baker. It’s about a man who discovers he can stop time, yet still move about as if nothing is amiss. Also, he uses his talent for mostly perverted causes. And the author has a thing for the butthole. A++

  14. Definitely everyone in the English PDF viewing world needs to read:

    L E S S O N S I N
    V I R T U A L T O U R
    P H O T O G R A P H Y .

    BY CHRIS BACHELDER

    http://www.mcsweeneys.net/bachelder/

    Read just a few pages and you will learn the ways…

    P.S. It’s not just another McSweeney’s post, it’s actually a novel. A novel of DOOM.

  15. I second the virtual lesson guy!

    You should be reading this post sitting behind an oversized CRT monitor with a watered down big gulp. Note: download this PDF and you will not regret it!

  16. I second Straight Man by Russo! Excellent book. As is his book of short stories, The Whore’s Child.

  17. I’m going to come right out and say this: my taste in books doesn’t leave much for a middle ground, I’m a ‘love-it-or-hate-it’ kind of guy, for better or worse.
    With that caveat, I’m damn glad that some of the dreck mentioned by other posters didn’t make it onto your list. Case in point: “The Little Friend”, Donna Tartt. I was outwardly angry that so much of my time had been wasted on this doorstop. AND that’s after I found a hardback copy in mint condition in a box on the sidewalk, so I didn’t even pay good money for it. Only now do I realise why it was in that box. Pointless, pointless, pointless. And after such a promising debut with “The Secret History”.
    A good read that should make it onto the list: “Kavalier & Clay”, Chabon.

    But more importantly, please swap out the Murakami on your list. “Hard Boiled Wonderland” is a really sucky translation. If you like your fiction heavily laced with adverbs because the translator couldn’t find a better way of dealing with the subtleties of Japanese, then be my guest, but it doesn’t hold a match to Murakami’s other works in better translation. Jay Rubin’s texts of Murakami’s “Norwegian Wood” and “Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” are superb, and these novels will move you in many ways. Less successful plot-wise, but standout nonetheless, is a shorter Murakami work, “Sputnik Sweetheart”.
    I must also admit that I live in Tokyo so the books are far more resonant for me, but anyone with a brain and a heart could appreciate them.

  18. Here’s an old one that that I found quite funny: Microserfs by Douglas Coupland. I also liked 2 of his other books: Generation X and Shampoo Planet.

    Po Bronson has written a lot of good stuff, too.

  19. Regarding Evelyn Waugh: Yes, “Brideshead” is beautifully written, but it’s also terribly grim — partly because it’s a post-war lament, and partly because it’s steeped in self-abnegation. (Which isn’t even theologically justified, if I remember my catechism.) I’d suggest “The Loved One”, “Decline And Fall”, or, as someone else suggested, “Scoop” — Waugh had a wicked sense of humour when he chose to exercise it..

  20. I am a big fan of Haruki Murakami, and Hardboiled Wonderland was his first book I read. It is a mysterious, spooky, fascinating story, unlike any other I have read. It’s images and its mood linger in your mind, like a heavy perfume. While not the easiest plot to read, it pulls you along slowly and steadily. This book is a full meal, and one I’ve enjoyed ready again and again.

    I also recommend his other work, including The Windup Bird Chronicles and Wild Sheep Chase.

    Someone asked how well the translation to English fared. I have always found that Murakami (much like Stanislaw Lem) finds some of the best translators, who really convey the lyrical quality of his work.

  21. I also highly recommend Wicked. Well written and fascinating. I have noticed that some people don’t like it, because they are expecting something more amusing or child-like (and the new very-good musical doesn’t discourage this hope). But this is a dark book, a deep story of politics, oppression and prejudice, couched in the language of a familiar story.

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