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Top 10 Favorite Books of JFrater

Jamie Frater . . . Comments

As today is my birthday, I have decided to do a special list just for me! It is my top ten favorite books of all time. These are the books I would take to a desert island. If you have not read some of these, I cannot recommend them enough! So, onwards to my top 10 favorite books. In no particular order:

1. Atlas ShruggedAyn Rand

Atlasshrugged

Atlas Shrugged was Rand’s last work before she devoted her time exclusively to philosophical writing. This book contains a variety of themes that would later become the core of her philosophy Objectivism. She considered it to be her magnum opus and is it the most popular of her non-fiction work.

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Already read the book? Try the film adaptation of Atlas Shrugged at Amazon.com!

2. Naked LunchWilliam Burroughs

Naked Lunch

Naked Lunch consists of many loosely related vignettes in which several characters such as the sadistic, sociopathic and borderline incompetent Dr. Benway reappear. The primary character is agent Bill Lee. The book’s structure anticipates the cut-up technique Burroughs would later employ in novels such as the so-called “Nova Trilogy” (The Soft Machine, The Ticket That Exploded, and Nova Express). The book contains what is generally considered to be some of Burroughs’ most memorable and quoted passages.

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3. Stranger in a Strange LandRobert Heinlein

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Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) is an international best seller and a landmark in more ways than one: it opened the trade best sellers lists to sf writers, breaking down longstanding barriers that will never be seen again. At the same time Stranger became an emblem of the 1960s generation in its iconoclasm and free-love themes. Telling the story of an Earth baby raised by an existing, ancient Martian civilization, the novel often reads as if it were the “Playboy Philosophy” in dialog form.

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4. Brave New WorldAldous Huxley

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Aldous Huxley’s tour de force, Brave New World is a darkly satiric vision of a “utopian” future—where humans are genetically bred and pharmaceutically anesthetized to passively serve a ruling order. A powerful work of speculative fiction that has enthralled and terrified readers for generations, it remains remarkably relevant to this day as both a warning to be heeded as we head into tomorrow and as thought-provoking, satisfying entertainment.

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5. CandideVoltaire

Candide

Candide tells of the outrageous adventures of the naïve Candide, who doggedly believes that “all is for the best” even when faced with injustice, suffering, and despair. Controversial and entertaining, Candide is a book that is vitally relevant today in our world pervaded by—as Candide would say— “the mania for insisting that all is well when all is by no means well.” This book is full of hilarious people and moments – including the gentle ladies whose bottoms were cut off for dinner.

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6. The Rules of AttractionBrett Easton Ellis

Rules

This tale of privileged college students at their self- absorbed and childish worst is the very book that countless students have dreamed of writing at their most self-absorbed and childish moments. Through a series of brief first-person accounts, the novel chronicles one term at a fictional New England college, with particular emphasis on a decidedly contemporary love triangle (one woman and two men) in which all possible combinations have been explored, and each pines after the one who’s pining after the other. Theirs is a world of physical, chemical and emotional excessan adolescent fantasy of sex, drugs and sturm und drang wherein characters are distinguished only by the respective means by which they squander their health, wealth and youth.

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Or buy Bret Easton Ellis’s pseudo autobiography with a chilling twist: Lunar Park at Amazon.com!

7. In Youth is PleasureDenton Welch

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First published in 1945, In Youth is Pleasure is a beautiful and unassuming coming-of-age novel by the English writer and painter Denton Welch (1915-1948). Painfully sensitive and sad Orville Pym is 15 years old, and this novel recounts the summer holiday after his first miserable year at public school–but as in all of Welch’s work, what is most important are the details of his characters’ surroundings. Welch is a Proustian writer of uncanny powers of observation.

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8. Other Voices, Other RoomsTruman Capote

Capote

Published when Truman Capote was only twenty-three years old, Other Voices, Other Rooms is a literary touchstone of the mid-twentieth century. In this semiautobiographical coming-of-age novel, thirteen-year-old Joel Knox, after losing his mother, is sent from New Orleans to live with the father who abandoned him at birth. But when Joel arrives at Skully’s Landing, the decaying mansion in rural Alabama, his father is nowhere to be found. Instead, Joel meets his morose stepmother, Amy, eccentric cousin Randolph, and a defiant little girl named Idabel, who soon offers Joel the love and approval he seeks.

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9. The Diamond as big as the RitzScott Fitzgerald

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The story tells of John T. Unger, a teenager from the town of Hades, Mississippi, who was sent to a private boarding school in Boston. During the summer he would visit the homes of his classmates, the vast majority of whom were from wealthy families. Unger would later learn that he was in Montana, in the “only five square miles of land in the country that’s never been surveyed,” and the unusual and bizarre story that proved Percy’s boasts to be incredibly true. This is now in the public domain and can be read in its entirety here. I recommend buying the book anyway, as it has some of Fitzgerald’s other stories.

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10. The Sheltering SkyPaul Bowles

Sky-Jacket

Paul Bowles and his wife became icons of the American and European expatriates centered in Tangier. Here he concentrated on writing novels, short stories and travel pieces, and also wrote incidental music for nine plays. The Sheltering Sky is a 1949 novel by Paul Bowles. The story centers on Port and Kit Moresby, a married couple originally from New York who travel to the North African desert accompanied by their friend Tunner. The journey, initially an attempt by Port and Kit to resolve their marital difficulties, is quickly made fraught by the travelers’ ignorance of the dangers that surround them.

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Notable exclusions: Anything by Chuck Pahlaniuk, everything else by Brett Easton Ellis, Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco, The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde

Contributor: JFrater (who else?!)

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Jamie Frater

Jamie is the owner and chief-editor of Listverse. He spends his time working on the site, doing research for new lists, and collecting oddities. He is fascinated with all things historic, creepy, and bizarre.

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  • RobS

    Whew… pretty heady stuff there, Jamie. When I saw you starting the line up with “Atlas Shrugged”, I thought, “OK, OK… we’re all suitably impressed, but how do we know that his favorite, favorite book isn’t something like “Bored of the Rings”, by the writers at Natl. Lampoon, hmmmmm?”

    Jeez… and I’m really excited I get to start the new “Thursday Next” book this weekend…

    Oh and btw, HIPPY BIRD-HAY!

  • I have never ready anything by Jasper Fforde – what would you compare the novels to? Thanks for the birthday wishes :) I am going to stop writing lists for the day now (just published the last one for the day) so I can get started on the celebrations :)

  • RobS

    Have you read any of the Discworld books by Terry Pratchett? The Thursday next books are very similar, but with fewer typos.
    If you’ve never read any of the Discworld books… you’re reading too many serious novels and you run the risk of your brains drying up and blowing out your ears.
    Pratchett and Fforde are both a hoot! Wait… make that major hoot.
    It’s the dry British wit, ya know.
    In Pratchett’s “Going Postal” (I believe), I read the lines;

    “The people are lining the streets!”
    “With what?”

    And coffee shot out of my nose.

    Of course, I was actually drinking coffee at the time. I mean, this wasn’t some kind of metaphysical thing…

  • RobS: hehe – I haven’t read any books by pratchett – maybe I should give one a try.

  • Cyn

    enjoy your birthday!

  • Thanks Cyn :)

  • dalandzadgad

    i’ll have to check some of these out. and happy birthday!

  • Dan

    i was planning on reading the Voltaire book soon…right now I’m reading 4 or so books at the same time. i’m surprised you didn’t have the “classic” novels (basically, 19th century stuff), but oh well.

    happy birthday!

  • RobS

    Jamie,

    Yes, definitely read Pratchett. The Discworld book follow a progression, but it’s not mandatory to read them in order. I didn’t. They’re good, light reading.
    I’ve read Candide twice. Once in college and once just on a lark several years ago. “We must all tend to our own gardens.”
    Another of my favorites is “To Kill A Mockingbird”. Read that several times.
    “The Lord of the Rings”, I’ve read too many times to count, same with many of Larry Nivens’ Sci/Fi novels.
    Before I forget… birthday tip: When blowing out the candles on the cake, the more you spit, the less cake you have to share.
    Words to live by.

  • Dan: I am quite a fan of contemporary writing – same with poetry and classical music. In fact, I plan on doing a best 20th century composers at some point. I don’t mind older stuff (obviously not as I love Candide) – but the new stuff speaks to me more.

    You have to read Candide – don’t put it off – it is funny from the first page. Read it in the original French if you can, otherwise get a good modern English translation.

  • RobS

    Oh, and I once read somewhere that Dicken’s “Bleak House” was one of the finest novels written.
    I spent one summer fighting my way through it. It became my own personal Viet Nam. I hated the characters and couldn’t identify with one of them.
    And that’s one of the things I need when reading. I have to be able to identify with at least one character. It needn’t even be the protagonist. Many times it’s better to be Sancho than Don Quixote.

  • RobS: I haven’t read Bleak House but I saw a film adaptation of it (imdb page) – it was one of the best Dicken’s based films I have seen. As far as identifying with a character, I think you would have a lot of trouble finding one in Naked Lunch but you should still read it.

  • RobS

    Jamie,
    I think(?) I remember reading “Naked Lunch” in college… but it was soooooo many years ago, I might be wrong. The synopsis sounds really familiar, though. I’ll at least have to check it out.
    And I don’t always need to identify with a character, but in some novels, it just feels right.
    I saw that same film adaptation, btw. It was excellent.

  • RobS: the problem with Naked Lunch is that it is a cut up – so the characters come and go from sentence to sentence in random order and with no relation to the previous and successive sentence. Interestingly though, one does really seem to stand out and that is Dr Benway. He has an interesting connection to the first recognized online persona.

  • RobS

    Yeah… it’s all coming back to me now. i remember wondering what kind of serious drugs the author was on when he wrote it.
    I didn’t know much about Burroughs and the “beat generation” at the time.

  • mix2323

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • RobS: the Beat Generation have given me my favourite novels and poems.

    mix2323: thanks :)

  • RobS

    Jamie,
    BUT!
    I have been and always will be of the opinion that “On the Road” is not nearly as good as everyone seems to think.
    I have to agree with Capote, when he said of it, “That’s not writing… that’s typing”.

    Rob

  • fizzyfishfuzz

    not to sound cliched but…!!!!HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!
    ^*^*^*^*^^*^*^*^*^*^^*^*^*^*^^:):):):):):)^*^*^*^*^*^^*^*^^*^*^^*^*^*^^

  • Fe

    Jaime, not to be rude or dis your list, but why Brave New World? I’ll be honest, that’s one of the few books that I hate with a pure and violent passion. I read it in high school then had to summarize it for the class. If I remember correctly, I stood up, said ‘this books sucks, don’t waste your time’ and sat back down again. The teacher made me get back up and try again, so I ranted for a good 20 minutes about it.

    On a lighter note, have to recommend the DiscWorld books as well. It took me a while to get into them, but I’m glad I did, they are worth it. :) I’m also a huge fan of Neil Gaimen’s Sandman graphic novels, if you want a bit of a change of pace.

    Happy Birthday.

  • xasshern

    Hey! Happy Birthday JFrater! you have very good taste i must say.

  • HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

  • RobS: I have a copy of On The Road that I have not finished – I found it very dry compared to the other beat books and yet many consider it to the best of the beats. Weird.

    fizzyfishfuzz, and Vahid: thanks :) I had a great day.

    Fe: thanks :) I can’t believe you hated BNW! I just bought another Huxley book called the Island. It is a bit slow moving but I am sure it will pick up.

    xasshern: Thanks :) and thanks :)

  • Michael

    I’m a senior in high school, and two of your favorite books are also on my college english reading list.

    Brave New World and Candide.

  • Michael: you will love them both – they are great! Good luck at College.

  • J. Coustark.

    One of my favourites would have to be the Pillars of the earth by ken follet.
    a very good friend advised me to read foucaults pendulum as it was the best books he had read, unfortunately I found it hard goining and never finished it. any comments from anyone who has read it.

  • J Coustark: That does happen to be an excellent book that I have read and enjoyed a lot.

  • fs

    Have you read “The Third Policeman” by Flann O’Brien? Judging by your choices above I think you might like it.

  • fs: I haven’t – thanks for mentioning it though – I will put it on my amazon wishlist right away.

  • Peter

    You don’t have ‘Tales of the Blue Waters’

  • joshward

    a brave new world is my favorite book because its supposed to be set so far in the future but its really not i mean i hear of 10 year olds having sex and stuff all the time and who doesnt take a pill these days… just something to think about…

  • josh: Many of these books do seem to have parts that come true in our own time – it is probably because the authors saw that society was heading in that direction and took it to an extreme in their writing.

    Peter: who is that by?

  • Happy belated birthday. I would have said something sooner, but I took August 31 off to celebrate my own birthday.

  • Slublog: thanks :) Happy belated birthday to you too!

  • Simon Templar

    Not one of my favourites but definitely one of the most strange and disturbing books I’ve ever read is House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. Its about a physically impossible house and its new journalist owner who attempts to explore it. There is just too much going on in the book to describe in this short space, including inverted passages and a parallel story line happening in the footnotes, its an exhausting book to read. You should give it a try.

  • Barrett

    “To Kill A Mockingbird”-Harper Lee & “Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates”-Tom Robbins. Just my favs, if interested…

  • Not only don’t you have Life of Pi, but you also don’t have any Douglas Adams! I am disgusted!

    Happy uber belated birthday though.

    More people are born in August than other month.

  • ChrisG

    I am constantly baffled when people who seem reasonably intelligent profess an admiration for Ayn Rand. Atlas Shrugged is easily the WORST successful novel in history, and Objectivism is the most offensive and ridiculous ‘philosophy’ since fascism, taken seriously by precisely zero percent of the academic community. Ayn Rand was a sick, sick woman and an enormous hypocrite (read up on her life, seriously). The rest of the books on this list are superb, though.

  • ChrisG: I am not sure that her personal life should be used against her writing :)

  • ChrisG

    jfrater: I agree that the author’s personal life should not necessarily invalidate their arguments, but a full understanding of a novel requires a knowledge of the context in which it was written. One cannot understand the works of DH Lawrence, for example, without understanding his personal experiences with women. Ayn Rand was pathologically self-centred, and her entire body of work could be considered self-justification.

  • Barnacle

    I would have thought that through giving a list of his favourite books, the author is not-so-subtly giving us a very big insight into his own thought processes, a very unselfish gift to us rather than to himself. Rather like the hobbit’s tradition of giving presents away on their birthday instead of receiving them.

    Brave new world was contemporary to Zamyatin’s “We”, which i havent read, but is supposed to be the russian long-lost cousin of BNW and 1984. Just reading about it on wikipedia is mind-blowing.

    I think the discworld novels should be read in order, because you get to see something quite extraordinary: Terry Pratchett’s writing blossoming from a fantasy genre into a social commentary, disguised as fantasy.

    I am sorry that douglas adams departed this world so early, as it was in the middle of completing a book, much like how fitzgerald didn’t complete The last tycoon.

    The non-fiction book that i most highly recommend to anyone, old or young, is
    Godel escher bach: an eternal golden braid.
    If you can get through Atlas shrugged, then you can at least thumb through this tome. It has cool pictures as well.

  • Alexandra

    RobS I love Discworld! You know, I’ve never heard anyone else talk about them before, apart from my own family members.

    jfrater, I’ve never read any of your favourite books, but if I’m ever given the opportunity I think I now will!

    I love reading about other people’s taste in books/music/films!

    Have you ever read ‘The Forsyte Saga’? They’re hard to read (very long winded)b but definitely worth it.

    ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ is another great book. My mum made me (well, suggested..) that I read it, when I was 14, and I enjoyed it so much.

    Now, I know that this is a teen book, but I really think everyone should have read it at least once. It’s called ‘Looking for Alibrandi’ and I’m not sure how popular it is oversea’s, but in Australia its in most High School curriculum’s. You should definitely check it out. :D

  • Alexandra: I haven’t read the Forsyte Saga but I did see some of it on television when I was younger – it was an immensely popular series I recall.

    I haven’t heard of Looking for Alibrandi but I will check it out – I really loved all of the books on my High School curriculum.

  • Thanks boys287190f738f14c095e9fb44402dbd3f3

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  • Yikkity

    Brave New World is ingenious…Love it.

  • doz

    interesting choices. i remember reading ‘candide’ years ago in french class. it all seemed rather silly back then.

  • Mei

    Did u really read all those book Jamie? Or you are just doing some marketing job for Amazon? :)

  • Mei: of course I read them all – they are my favorite books! :) I recommend each and every one of them.

  • Brans

    Based on your taste in books, I highly recommened House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski. I can promise that you’ve never seen anything like it – and it’s brilliant.

  • Jon

    I just read ‘The Diamond as Big as the Ritz’… it was pretty cool, a very imaginative story with a sort of twisted humor in it

  • Mournblade

    Two things:

    1. _Atlas Shrugged_ is a work of fiction, not non-fiction.
    2. The comment about _Bored of the Rings_ being done by National Lampoon–well, it was the Harvard Lampoon (which licenses its name to National Lampoon).

    Just fyi. :-)

    Also sprach Mournblade, on a Soma Holiday.

  • jesuswept

    Good god man. Ayn Rand?

  • Jake

    I’m surprised that you didn’t find Atlas Shrugged immensely disappointing in comparison to The Fountainhead. While the latter work was written about 15 years prior, I thought the characters were essentially interchangeable; the story and relationships between them identical; and the writing itself unecessarily long and drawn out – much like this comment.

  • Jamie3039

    Diamond as big as the Ritz is my favourite Scott Fitz story and I love the daring Brave New World. As for Ayn Rand well I know she has a strong online following aswell as admirers and critics, I’ve gave Anthem a try and found it overwrought and quite ordinary in terms of story.

  • Mike

    Atlas Shrugged?
    LOL and Ewwwwwwww

    • Derek

      Wow. I must say, your concise and thoughtful critique of Ayn Rand’s magnum opus swayed me completely. I am now on my way to the nearest Communist party headquarters to sign up for the people’s struggle.

      Long live the workers revolution! Onward Comrades!

      /sarcasm

  • Davy

    Two years too late

  • myself_

    the books i would recommend would be

    -a clockwork orange
    -catch 22
    -lolita
    -catcher in the rye
    -maus (i don’t know if this counts, but its great)

  • alexman

    i have read but didnt like to kill a mocking bird or brave new world. They both had deep points to make but were just not very interesting for me. candide is brilliant however.

  • JPV

    I think the writer of this list would definitely like Michel Houellebecq

  • Sean

    My favorite book when I was a kid was Cider with Rosie.

  • tvcute

    Its all good book for reading

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  • tartan barmy

    Trainspotting and porno (the sequel, not actual porn ) i thought were great reads . maybe im biased because in scottish though

  • KimAnne31

    I can see candide & anything by Fitzgerald… But c’mon…pretentious much?

  • Kokolo

    Atlas Shrugged? hahaha
    Oh, you poor, poor thing.

  • joe blow

    “…Welch is a Proustian writer of uncanny powers of observation.” How would you know??? If you’d read Proust, then surely he’d be on your list. And of you haven’t read him, then how do you know Welch is “Proustian”? Too cool for school? As for Atlas Shrugged: ugh, a book by a morally vacuous hypocrite.

  • peter8172

    If I may, I would like to tell you my 3 favorite books : 1). “Sister Carrie” by
    Theodore Dreiser, 2). “Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas” by Hunter S. Thompson and 3). “A Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess

  • Louis-Alexandre Simard

    What a pretentious little list.

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