February 13, 2010
Books That Stick to Your Ribs

There was this little meme that ran around Facebook a while ago that challenged people to: "Quick! Name 15 books that have stuck with you!"

I resisted for a long while, but then finally decided to go ahead and play the game. Below is what I posted on Facebook, and it generated quite a fascinating discussion on my Facebook page. That said, I post it here for your perusal. Notice how I decided to use this meme to launch into a discussion about more than just 15 books. Hey, it's my Facebook page... I'll post to it however I see fit!


Rules: Don't take too long to think about it. List 15 books you've read that will always stick with you. They should be the first 15 you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. If you decide to play, tag me back, because I'm interested in seeing what books my friends choose. (To do this, go to your Notes tab on your Profile page, paste rules in a new Note, cast your 15 picks, and tag people in the Note, upper right-hand side.)

I could just as easily make this a list of fifteen authors....

In no particular order (I even filled in the numbers out of order, just to be truly random):

1. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
2. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
3. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams
4. 1984 by George Orwell
5. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
6. 2001 A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke (plus lots of others by him)
7. The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein (plus, almost everything else by RAH)
8. Animal Farm by George Orwell
9. The James Bond series by Ian Fleming
10. The Federalist Papers by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay
11. What the Anti-Federalists Were For by Herbert Storing
12. The Bonds of Womanhood: "Women's Sphere" in New England by Nancy Cott
13. The Boomer Bible by R. F. Laird
14. The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
15. The Stand by Stephen King
15.5. The Dead Zone by Stephen King (plus, almost everything else SK has written)
16. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
17. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
18. Selected Writings of Abraham Lincoln (And Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, etc., etc.)
19. The Dilbert series by Scott Adams
20. The Far Side series by Gary Larson
21. The Calvin and Hobbes series by Bill Watterson
22. The Pearls Before Swine series by Stephan Pastis


I re-read Catch-22 every few years or so, and it's brilliant every time. Brilliantly funny, razor sharp commentary. Just brilliant.

1984, as I found out later when I read Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler (for a Russian history class) and Anthem by Ayn Rand (recommended by a friend), is a complete rip-off of those two earlier works, but its message still resonates more profoundly than both of those works put together. Odd, but true.

With the exception of 1984, I've re-read 1-9 several times over, and re-read parts of 10-15 and 18-22 several times over.

I included Atlas Shrugged not only because it belongs on the list, but also because I know it'll cheese off some of my friends. I disagree with much of what Ms. Rand had to say, but she nonetheless spoke more truth than many people would like to admit.

Brave New World belongs on this list, too. Only read that one once, however. (Same with Atlas Shrugged.)

The Boomer Bible is one of the most scathingly funny books I've ever read, written in biblical verse. It is a satire on history, politics, religion, psychology, human nature, and in particular, so-called Western Civ.

Why "The Bonds of Womanhood" by Nancy Cott? I was a history major as an undergrad, and this was the first history book I'd read that made me realize just how much of our current social structure in the US is owed directly to the way the Puritans set up shop in New England. Why are most teachers in U.S. secondary schools women? Etc. Fascinating. I could have included many, many history texts regarding WWI and WWII, but this one was the first that really hooked me into history as a field of study.

While most kids have read at least parts of the Federalist Papers, it might surprise you to learn that there were many, many brilliant minds at the time who argued *against* adopting the US Constitution. "What the Anti-Federalists Were For" explains their positions, and it's a must read for anyone interested in US politics. (As I clearly am.)

Ah, hell. Add "Take Back Your Government" by Robert A. Heinlein, his best non-fiction work.

The James Bond books, upon a recent re-reading, are so truly awful it's bizarre. But I loved them. Loved them for years and years. Ate them up like candy.

Extra Credit:

I originally included these because I read them in book form, but since they are plays, I suppose they're not supposed to count. So, as extra credit, I include:

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller (plus, while we're at it, the Crucible)
Macbeth by Shakespeare (plus, while we're at it, Othello)
Inherit the Wind by the guy who wrote Inherit the Wind
Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Tag. You're it.

Posted by on February 13, 2010 08:38 PM in the following Department(s): Books/Movies/Music


I've read about 2/3 of the books on your list, but would only put HHGttG on my list.

In fact, your first, _Stranger in a Strange Land_, I found rather boring (even though I like slow, plodding tales). But I did like _The Moon is a Harsh Mistress_ a lot, but not enough to put it on a short list. _Starship Troopers_ was also not my cup of tea (though the almost completely unrelated movie is a fun romp).

At the top of my list would be _A Clockwork Orange_, both for it being memorable, my favorite, and a wonderful work of literature. The first time I read it, I did it without the glossary in newer editions, and it was a memorable reading experience. I've probably read it about 4 times since.

Others would be _Illusions_, _Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman_, _Dragon's Egg_, _Seven Days in May_, _Emprise_, _Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day_, the first book of _The Illumininatus Trilogy_, _The Paper Chase_, _Jailbird_, _Slapstick_, _Replay_, _Cuckoo's Egg_, _Visual Explanations_, _Ender's Game_, _The Adolescence of P-1_, _Millenium_, etc.

While those aren't necessarily my favorite or "best" books (though there is a lot of overlap), they're the ones that are memorable.

As far as plays go, probably my most memorable was _Happy Birthday, Wanda June_ by Vonnegut. It's not very good, but it's memorable. _Pygmalion_ is also memorable for the ending being so different from _My Fair Lady_. But yes, my favorite play is probably _MacBeth_.

Posted by: Taed on February 17, 2010 7:19 AM

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
Atlas Shrugged
Night Watch
A Town Like Alice
Moby Dick
Invaders from Rigel (My first Science Fiction book from when I was 6 or 7)
The Iowa Baseball Confederacy
Holiday's In Hell (PJ O'Rourke)
Foucault's Pendulum
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
Hitchiker's Guild to the Galaxy
Class: A Guide Through the American Status System (Paul Fussell)
The C Programming Language (aka K&R)
The Martian Chronicals
Hocus Pocus (Vonnegut)
Lucifer's Hammer

Posted by: Peter Schoaff on March 11, 2010 4:18 PM

_A Town Like Alice_ sure is a nice sweeping epic, but as Nevil Shute goes, my favorite has been _Round the Bend_.

I was disappointed with _The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay_. I did like it, but I didn't love it. I didn't feel that it deserved the Pulitzer, but I don't know what else was nominated.

_Maus_ is a wonderful Pulitzer-prize winner. It's the story of the author's Holocaust experiences told with pictures.

I started JFK's _Profiles in Courage_ recently (another Pulitzer winner), but dropped it about 1/3 through. The writing was kinda clunky and I didn't really get into the subject matter, though I thought that I would. It's short stories of US Senators throughout history that have stood up for their unpopular beliefs.

RFK's _Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis_ is a most excellent book, and is fairly short (100 pages or so as I recell). There was a movie made of it, but it just didn't gel for me.

And while in that genre, _Seven Days in May_ (both the book and film) is one of my favorites. It's the completely believable story of a US coup attempt. The movie adaption is excellent (done by Rod Serling).

Posted by: Taed on March 14, 2010 4:28 AM

Hi Allen! Just scrollin' through Cornell alums on Facebook. Funny how a face I haven't seen in 20 years jumps off the page like that.
I'll add The Innocents Abroad, or anything by Mark Twain....the Sherlock Holmes series....and PJ Wodehouse.

-Dan Timerman, BRB '90

Posted by: Dan Timerman on March 16, 2010 1:37 PM

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On Mar 16, Dan Timerman said:
"Hi Allen! Just scrollin' through Cornell alu..." on entry: Books That Stick to Your Ribs.

On Mar 14, Taed said:
"_A Town Like Alice_ sure is a nice sweeping e..." on entry: Books That Stick to Your Ribs.

On Mar 11, Peter Schoaff said:
"The Moon is a Harsh Mistress Atlas Shrugged ..." on entry: Books That Stick to Your Ribs.

On Feb 17, Taed said:
"I've read about 2/3 of the books on your list..." on entry: Books That Stick to Your Ribs.

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